We got up, packed and were on our way to Cesky Krumlov by 11:00am. We took the number 16 to just outside of the coach station. We had six minutes before our coach was due to leave.
We couldn’t find it.
We found a yellow bus with “Cesky Krumlov” written on the list of stops on the side of the bus. “Could this be us?” I pointed.
“FlixBus are usually green. But they do sometimes contract out… I’m not sure.” We asked the driver, he nodded, or at least we thought he did, until we showed him our ticket before trying to board.
“THIS IS NOT FLIXBUS!” he shouted, pointing dramatically at the bus logo on the side, placing his hands on to it for extra emphasis. “NOT THIS BUS.” He took our bags out of the hold with dramatic exasperation, sighing loudly.
We wondered what to do. If this wasn’t our bus, then our bus wasn’t here. Had we missed it?
I waited with the bags while Stuart went to find the information desk. “This is the important bag. Please don’t let it get stolen.” He smiled and walked off, hands in pockets.
I slipped my fingers through a loop on the ‘important’ bag and thought about back-up plans.
As Stu walked back across the car park to me a big green bus pulled up with FlixBus printed on the side. This was us.
We boarded and sat on seats adjacent to one another with the aisle between us.
We met a girl who was also from Canada, travelling to Cesky Krumlov, but staying in a different hostel to us.
I listened to podcasts by Radiolab (thanks Dave for the recommendation) about the Apollo Space Missions I and II, and another on political imprisonment. Stuart pulled out a bag of muesli and ate it dry, offering me some. “If you chew it long enough, it turns to porridge in your cheek.”
I was in love with Cesky Krumlov before we’d even got off the coach.
Cesky Krumlov is best described as being located in the navel of a series of mountains. It is carved in to the heart of them. The roads go from high to low to high.
As we walked from the coach drop off to our hostel, we walked past a look-out point that looked out across the whole of the town. It was stunning. I squealed. Stuart laughed at me. “I want to live here!”
“We’ve only been here ten minutes.”
As we walked through the town, we kept stopping to look at things that caught our eye. The castle, the church, the river, mountains, trees, even ducks. Everything just had such a beautiful charm about it. It was so quaint. It was if it had been picked out of a fairytale.
I sent photos to Sion and friends. “You’re lying. Those buildings can’t be real. Look at them! This is all just an elaborate scheme to further your blog.”
I didn’t blame them for teasing me. The buildings really did have that ‘make believe’ look about them even in person.
When we got to Hostel Postel we were delighted. Czech Inn had been huge and lacked personality. This was small and homely. Three buildings and a wall enclosed a small courtyard that was our outside area. One of the buildings was the check-in desk, the second had the kitchen, bathroom, and one four bedroom room in it, and the third building had three bedrooms and another bathroom.
We unpacked our stuff and relished in how homely it was. How comfy and cosy.
Sitting outside, we enjoyed hot, black, bitter, fresh coffee. Stuart smoked and we talked.
We met two of the other people staying at the hostel. Jack and Kelly. We went for a walk around the town together, Jack and Kelly acting as our tour guides. They’d been here for a few days already.
We walked around, getting our bearings, Jack and Kelly offering us tips about things to do and places to visit. There was a Ghost Tour of the town on that night at 9pm. Jack recommended it.
We found somewhere to eat. We wanted to try traditional Czechian food.
We sat outside, the evening was cool but not unpleasant.
It was delicious.
The dumplings were these circular spongey disks. Nothing like the traditional British dumplings which are round and stodgy.
We drank the local beer. I wished Sion was there to share it with me. It was dark lager. Something we don’t have much of the UK, but seemed quite a popular craft beer in Czechia.
Jack, Kelly, Stuart and I discussed cultural differences. Stuart from Canada, Jack from USA, Kelly from Australia, and me from Britain. We avoided Trump, just in case. The Texas shooting still big in the news, we asked Jack how it was being reported from an at home perspective. He told us there was a lot of conspiracy surrounding it. The police were struggling to see how he could have managed it to do it without any help. It was interesting.
I said that for me, the whole concept seemed so alien. “Nothing like that could happen in the UK,” I said, “and if it did, it would be such a freak occurrence. Guns just aren’t things that we own. And if you do, the licensing laws are pretty strict. I don’t think I know anyone who owns a gun, except for maybe in the country where farmers own hunting rifles. That’s it.”
“But some people must own guns?” Jack asked.
“Not really… Why would we?”
“I find it strange that your police don’t carry guns,” said Stuart.
“Most of our police do. But why would they all need to? We don’t suffer from gun crime. Even knife crime isn’t a big thing in the UK.”
“I own loads of guns,” Jack said. I felt that he turned to me to note my reaction, I paused and connected with his gaze, nodding to show that it was OK. “It’s just so normal in the US.”
“I just can’t imagine that,” I reiterated, “it’s so far from a reality we experience in the UK. I can’t imagine a society where that’s… normal, I guess.”
The conversation moved on. We enjoyed our beer. Felt warmed by our food. Paid, and moved on.
When we got back to the hostel, we put another pot of coffee on, enjoying the luxury of free coffee and a coffee machine.
It was one of those ones with the drip filter and the pot that sits underneath. I had never used one before. Stuart showed me how. He was surprised that I’d never even come across one.
We met more of our hostel buddies. There was Nick, also from USA, Volmer from Thailand, and Jana from Malaysia. We roused the group into joining us for the Ghost Tour. It would be a Hostel Postel outing!
It was nice to be a part of a group. To be a member of a unit. It felt functional. Tangible. Something you could warm to.
The Ghost Tour was fun. We learnt about murders in the area, a bit of the history of the town, some spooky sights.
We sat in a cocktail bar afterwards and I ordered a Celery Slipper. Described as having mashed celery in it I anticipated it was going to be disgusting, but I was too intrigued not to try it.
I was wrong.
I will definitely be looking up the recipe and making it in the future.
I was the only non-smoker in the group, they asked me if I missed it. I said yes. Of course I did. I always would.
That night I dreamed of smoking. Sat at a picnic bench with a pint in hand, the smoke curling up from my mouth into the air. I looked over my shoulder into a street light and tapped ash onto the floor.
In the morning I told Stuart about it. He told me not to have a cigarette.