You know there is a zero tolerance law for drinking in the Eastern republics in Europe? I didn’t know that either. Conny informed me, after I gave her some vodka, she could not drive. I certainly couldn’t. It was up to Raul to get us from the venue to our place to stay, because he’d only had a few beers. We decided he’d had less, and that it was best to lie to ourselves and hope for the best.
Our guide and host was Shamo, at least I think that’s how you spell his name. We drove to his flat in Katowice. Well, his brother’s girlfriend’s flat. She’d had the final say on whether or not we could stay, and luckily I charmed the hell out of her. Okay, I actually probably just inspired pity, but whatever works. Though she was nervous, I think she warmed up soon, and we had a really good time. We’d brought a case of beer from the show, and I think there is no more universal a gift than more alcohol.
They were friendly enough at night, and the next morning, even friendlier. I woke up to crepes with jelly, coffee, and a shower. So nice! Then they started giving us gifts. Red absinth, dried coffee for the road, even two pairs of really nice studded gauntlets signed by their favorite bands. We uh, we… we hadn’t much. Raul gave them one of his stage shirts that wasn’t stinky and I gave them my tour pass. I figure it sucked, but dammit, I was unprepared for such generosity.
We took our leave around noon and Conny decided the plan was to visit the Polish, formerly German, village her grandfather grew up in. The fun thing was, she had the name of a nearby village, but the one her grandfather came from had been changed. Okay, so we went to the one she knew about, and then… drove. And drove. And drove. Endless adorable villages with nary a sign of the one we searched for. We went down dirt roads with farmers giving us quizzical looks. Chickens ran on the roads. It was really a whole different world. We think we must’ve made it the village, but who knows.
We headed out in the Chainsaw to Prague. It was fun, because Raul and I got to drive and it was just such an experience to go down a rural road that is basically the only freeway around and see countless tiny villages, churches, and just weirdness. The strange part was seeing an abandoned building, a burnt out tractor, then a new looking house with a satellite dish attached. You’d go buy a broken down old farmhouse but outside would be a woman who was so beautiful, she could be America’s Next Top Model. Wow, I really hope that show has been cancelled in my absence.
When we got to the border we had a bit of a scare. See, the Chainsaw only has two seats, and there’s three of us. We thought surely they wouldn’t care, they’re border patrol, not cops. Wrong. We sat there arguing for what seemed like an eternity before we convinced the lady Raul and I just caught a ride and would be going to the train in Prague. LIE! Whatever, it worked.
I was in the back with Radonski, after discovering Raul didn’t really have a good time with him slobbering on his pants. My pants had not been changed in 34 days or so, so I bit the bullet and promised he wouldn’t have to sit in the back again.
We stopped off first in a town called Hradek Kralove. Don’t even try to say it, you’ll hurt yourself. Conny couldn’t remember why her sister said we had to go, but we did, and never found out. So much for that. It was nice enough, we got some real Czech food, but didn’t stay long.
Once in Prague, Conny started talking about staying in a hostel. Side note… a Slovakian kid told me about that movie, Hostel, which I will not see. The premise of American’s being tortured by Europeans instead of the other way around breaks my suspension of disbelief. The kid told me it was a bad movie for Slovakia and I agree. Slovakia is a nice country, and I can honestly say I was never tortured there. Maybe some blue ball, but I think the Geneva Convention allows for that.
Back to Prague. We walked to one hostel that wasn’t open until May, so we decided upon visiting another one that was situated on an man-made island in the middle of the river under a bridge. Fucking rad. Problem: Raul. He, like I, had never stayed in a hostel. He, unlike I, had a super expensive digital video camera. He wasn’t so stoked on the idea of staying with other people and wanted to find a hotel room. Luckily, Conny gets what Conny wants. We ended up at the hostel around 2 am, asked about staying to the just awoken person working, and it was a go. Raul had little choice. We headed back to the car, put Radonski to bed there, and we got back to the hostel maybe around 4 after organizing, walking, getting lost, and picking up local money. The lady was not answering the bell. Aw shit, I thought, not only have I gotten Raul wrapped up in an adventure to a hostel, but now Conny was talking about sleeping in the park. Raul was talking about heading back to the truck, and I think there was a moment of tenseness. Eventually, after ringing the bell for about thirty minutes and drinking in the cold night, the lady answered. We got in, and Raul’s camera was secured in safety box. I think that allayed much of his fear, and we ended up really enjoying our hostel experience. Except for when they tortured us. Fucking Czechs.
The first plan was not to see Prague, per se, but a town called… holy fuck, I can’t remember the name. It had a lot of consonants in it, I’m sure. Anyway, it was about an hour outside of Prague, and in this town is a treasure I’d wanted to see for years. The Ossuary. The Bone Church. See, about 800 years ago they’d had to dig up a cemetary. Then another. This half-blind monk collected the bones into the bottom of the church. Then another guy, some artist years later, said, “Hey! That’s fucking rad! I bet I could totally do some shit with these bones!” I think that was the quote in the brochure, anyway.
The Ossuary was located in town, something I hadn’t imagined. I always thought it would be on some scary dirt road into the middle of rural Europe. Nope. This was a tourist town. Weird. Well, 70 kroners each later, we stepped in… and saw one the most amazing things I have or ever will see. Bones. So many bones. The bones of 40,000 humans stacked, arranged, put together in such beautiful artistic ways as you can’t even imagine. There were four probably 10-12′ high pyramids of just bones. Nothing holding them together, just stacked perfectly. There were columns of skulls from eye level to the ceiling, probably about 15-20′. An entire huge chandelier made of human skulls and hanging from interconnected jaw bones. Across the ceiling, ropes made of skulls and femurs and tibias and who knows what else. On one wall, an 6′ tall family crest made entirely of human bones. It was sunny outside, but we could see our breath made cold in this basement sepulchre. Of course, we took loads of pictures, but also just looked. Tour group after tour group came, but none stayed for long. Conny, Raul, and I had a lot of alone time, whispering, pointing things out… it was pretty indescribably and left me high on death.
Eventually, we decided to head back to Prague, because there was so much to see. The first thing we did was see the TV Tower. This is Conny’s favorite building. It’s a huge tower on three legs with giant bronzed babies with television heads fixed in crawling positions up and down the side. Eastern Europeans are god damned weird. I realized the next day from a different vantage point that the TV Tower was the highest point in all Prague. In European cities and villages, traditionally, the church is always supposed to be the highest point. I pointed out this still held true, at least in a way. Think about it… cause that’s about as deep as I got before hitting the booze.
We were going to go see Nile in Prague, but missed the time it started. Conny was really only interested in the supporting band, and Raul and I had no problem missing one metal show. We’d seen plenty. Instead, we went on a walk about around the city.
New York? Fuck New York. San Francisco? Total crap. Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, London, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona… I’ve seen all these places and I hold up one-thousand middle fingers to all of them after seeing Prague.
Every corner is a new wonder to behold. Fantastic old architecture, cobble stone streets, beautiful pubs… oh yes, the pubs. Did I mention this town is cheap as shit, too? The first night is so hard to remember, because we just walked so far and saw so much. The tourist center, the Charles Bridge… I think when we hit the city center, Raul and I just exploded. “Come on! This is too fucking much! What the fuck? This doesn’t exist!!!” Conny had a good time watching us scrape our jaws off the ground. The cathedral that looked like what Disney only wishes it could come up with, the giant bronze statues, the mystical clock with astrological hands along with mechanized characters. It’s just unreal.
We stayed out well past the other tourists and walked around completely silent city streets. We drank in the middle of the road. Did I mention that? Europe lets you drink in the middle of the road. Also, they let you take in a giant English Mastiff into restaurants. I enjoy all this, and think harshly about going to back to Oakland. Yarrrgh! Push it out, it’s not for a few days yet. HAVE FUN, SEWAGE!
So anyway, we ended up drinking Branik, the best of all beers and authentically Czech, drinking in the cellar of a pub that looked like a dungeon. I was wasted, Raul and Conny were wasted, even Dr. Radonski was wasted in his own way. We put the doctor to bed in the Chainsaw, and headed back to the hostel. Conny was in quite a mood, as we sat drinking more, and she grabbed a plant and started eating it. I headed to bed, and she and Raul sat around drinking in the women’s shower, so Conny could smoke. Raul, drinking in a women’s shower, til six in the morning, with a crazy German eating a houseplant. Ah, only in Europe!
We got up the next morning at 10. VERY reluctantly. Have you ever had to rub sandpaper across your face, wash it in lemon, and hold your eyes open over an electric range? Me neither, but I imagine it was similar to how we felt. Still, there was so much Prague to see. And we had less than a day.
We walked to the castle, saw the cathedral of St. Vitus (FUCKING METAL!), shot a crossbow, and I remembered after looking in a bookstore, Prague is home to the Golem, the mythical Jewish monster! COOL! Just one more reason to love this town. Any town with a monster is cool.
Again, totally indescribable. Just amazing architecture, rich history, and then weird things like the 40′ high dripping black wall dedicated to a general from the 30 Years War. You seriously cannot turn a corner without something catching your eye and dragging it a few yards. I’m pretty sure Raul broke his index finger taking so many photographs.
We walked the Charles Bridge again, and yes! We even got a crazy lady running down the street screaming things! Could this place get any better? The normally calm and relaxed and coolest dog ever, Dr. Radonski, freaked and lunged at her. Good dog. Get the Christian crazy.
At the sex toy museum, I found out there was a fetish called “impaling” in the nineteenth century that became so widespread that women started buying fitted iron underwear to keep from getting “impaled.” This explains a lot about my life, actually.
I think we were all sad to leave Prague, but alas, Dresden awaited. And Conny’s abode, situated in an old butcher shop. This time at the border, we opted to have Raul and I act like hitchhikers and meet Conny on the other side. This was… interesting. We were walking, and headed into the outdoor bathroom between the two borders with our backpacks on. We came out and some army looking guy comes and flashes a light in my eyes, so I can’t see him, and starts screaming something in one of these scary sounding teutonic languages. I would’ve shit my pants… good thing I’d already shat. After showing my passport, they guided us to the building where they were incredulous that we would be hitchhiking, but stamped our passports anyway. I think it helped that I have a goofy smile and stupid expression in my passport that the cute girl border guard laughed at. If you can’t charm them with words, charm them with stupidity.
Conny picked us up, literally, about twenty feet away. No problem. What a silly waste of time. We headed to Dresden. I was super excited to share Conny’s home after she’d stayed in mine. The first thing we did was stop in old Dresden. We walked around, again, drinking beers in front of Police(Europe RULES) and she showed us her old art academy, the opera house, the old king’s palace… then she apologized because it wasn’t as cool as Prague. This place was beautiful as well, stone statues everywhere, art, big cathedral, and the girl who I showed Oakland to is apologizing to me. What’s wrong with this picture? “Here’s our local liquor store with the funny Pakistani guy, here’s People’s Park, with a bunch of homeless crusties… nice, HUH???!?!”
We got to the Butcher’s Shop after Conny took the time to steal a “Hilton” sign and walk around with it for about 30 minutes. We planted the sign in the middle of her floor, our Hilton for the evening. Her art was all over, all beautiful. We dressed up in her presents to us, three surgical gowns, and drank the night away while dressed us pathologists and listening to metal. And here I thought Prague was the shit! It just keeps getting better.