Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Date: Friday, October 08, 1999 7:10 AM
Subject: Oct. 1 - Oct 6, 1999: Praha!!!

NOTE about OKTOBERFEST: I was somewhat disappointed that they do not really do any dancing at Oktoberfest...now, you will hear that people dance on the tables...this is more like standing on the table...and swaying because of all the alcohol they have been imbibing...hoping not to fall off...not much
dancing.

I had thought it would be somewhat like Wurstfest in New Braunfels, TEXAS (whereelse) where you also have a gathering of drunken beerlovers, an oompa band, too much lederhosen, lots of sausage...and a big beersoaked dancefloor that you slide around on in hopes of dancing a German Polka, Waltz or the
infamous Chicken Dance! I missed the dancing at Oktoberfest...but then again...I didn't have to do the damned Chicken Dance 8 times in one night.

Oct 1, 1999
You Make Your Own Luck!

Now...I am a big believer in this quote. Luck does happen to people...but sometimes you can help make your own luck. Let me give you an example:

The morning started at 0530am...I was supposed to catch a 0649 train out of Munich to Praha (Prague)...so I awoke...packed my bags quickly...ditched the tent (hey, if I hadn't used it so far...I didn't need it...and it only cost $15...good call dad!)...and went to check out...one problem...

The camping office (which had my passport as collateral for me paying) opened at 0700...this is a problem for someone who wants to be on the 0649 train...I waited anxiously after 6am...and yes...the office girl arrived at 0624...I handed her my money...and I was on my way by 0629...now, one problem...as some of you may know...camping sites are generally not located in the center of any major metropolis in the world...they are somewhat removed from the downtown activities...hmmmmm...problem. So I am literally running the 500-800 meters from the campground to the metro station...chanting "You Make Your Own Luck" (no kidding...I really was saying this to motivate myself)...not easy to run in full pack...anyway, I rounded the corner towards the metro station about 0636 and saw a taxi with
the door open...the driver had stopped and was peeing in the trees...I caught him as he was walking back to the cab...gestured frantically for the trainstation, and we were off!

Lot of street violations later, we arrived at the trainstation...at 0647! I literally ran out of the cab into the trainstation...and ofcourse it was on the last track! So I sprinted (in full backpack) towards the train (like OJ Simpson running through an airport after the Nicole Brown murder...did you know he flew AA that night???). Literally, the entire train was closed except for the first and last cars which had conductors who were signaling to each other that it was time to go...I asked the conductor "Praha! Praha!"...she nodded, and I jumped on...and the train started moving...exactly at 0649.

I made it! ...by literally seconds. I collapsed in the first seat I could find, exhausted. A couple of American ladies were on the train...they saw that I had just gotten on...and they said to me..."you are very lucky to
have caught the train"...

Now, don't get me wrong...luck was involved...I could not have predicted the taxi driver peeing in that location at that time...but by running I had caught him just as he was returning to his taxi to drive off and find a passenger...

MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK...words to live by.

...anyway, I eventually settled into a seat farther up in the train (the part going to Praha) and started talking to these 2 gals from Colorado (one living there...one living in Munich). They were very interesting...and after we arrived in Praha we walked around together. They were meeting a
friend who had flown in and was staying at a 5 star hotel...we went there...I dropped off my bag until I could find my friend Kim or a hostel...and we walked around the town.

Now, I must tell you...Praha is one of the most beautiful towns I have EVER been to. It is incredible...and we all felt it. The downtown has such ambiance and romance...it just exudes culture, class, and all the best that Europe has to offer...and none of those damn snotty French people (generally I am referring to Parisians...) the Czechs are sooooo nice...and everything is cheap here.

We walked around the Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, and the Charles Bridge...it is simply incredible. Surf the web and find some pictures of it all...it is great!

Oh...and did I mention that the weather was spectacular for our arrival in Prague? It was clear, sunny, and we had a wonderful sunset! (but, needless to say...it was not to last...the rains would come again...). We met up with my friend Kim and her roommate Kari at a place called Jo's Bar and had dinner. ...now for those who do not remember this Kim (different from the one in Amsterdam)...Kim and I had met in Interlaken...travelled and partied together at the Tomatina in Spain...she is a Canuck who is doing her student teaching abroad in the International School in Praha. We had dinner...then everyone was feeling like crashing...Kim and Kari were going home (they lived far outside town in a small flat, so we decided it would be better for me to go to a hostel in town)...the Colorado folks were going to sleep...so I got my bag from the hotel and checked into a hostel about 11:30pm...just intime to meetup with a group of folks who had just arrived from Dresden, Germany.

There were 2 Colombian guys, a girl from Slovakia, and a gal from Dresden. We stumbled around looking for food (the guys were hungry)...only to find that the only Czech cuisine available at that time was the ever present cultural icon of the city...McDonalds. So, a Big-Mac later, we were off to go dancing.

We found this cool Latin club called La Habana...we danced and hung out there until late. I ended up talking with the girl from Dresden, Kathleen, for quite a while. It was fascinating to hear of life in East Germany prior to the reunification...when it was all under Russian control. She was also
a law student...and I got into this long winded discussion (pretty onesided...me doing all the talking...) about the checks and balances of the US government (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial)...it was a strange topic of conversation for a bar...but she seemed interested...or just too polite to stop me. Anyway, we got along very well and danced the night away...we all headed out about 3-4am...crossing the Charles Bridge to get back to our hostel was amazing...it was soooo beautiful at night...with the stars, the moon, lots of statues to look at, and the lights of Prague...it literally probably took us an hour to cross the bridge...got back to the hostel around 4-5am...and crashed.

October 2, 1999
Woke...ran to a great place for breakfast (U Maleho Glenna) to meet Kim and Kari. Arrived late (11am for breakfast)...ate some wonderful blueberry pancakes (you miss these things when you are away from the USA). We then headed out to their school...they had to coach a girls soccer game.

Wanna talk about cute...it was awesome! These little girls were running all over the field...and even cuter was Kim and Kari running along the sidelines trying to coach, encourage, motivate and goad them into action! It was a wonderful time, and very relaxing. They teach at the International School of Praha...it is an American type school where only English is spoken, but it is very welcoming of all cultures and has kids from Russia, Czech Republic, USA, South Africa, etc. ...Literally from all over the world. Kim
is student teaching a class of 4th graders...only 13 in the class...and top notch facilities...an envy of any school that I have been to in the USA. Now, it is amazing...but the parents (or companies that employ the parents) pay about $15,000 per year to send their kids to this school...not cheap.

We went to a place called The Universe for dinner...had a 3 hour dinner which was great! We then rallied and hit U Maleho Glenna again for drinks that night, walked over the Charles Bridge and met a friend of theirs who works at the school...she said we should sit and watch the pickpockets at the corner...so we did...and it was amazing! Now, don't get me wrong...I am usually not one to stand around and watch a crime...but to some extent, to understand what is going on, one must watch and observe sometimes to discover the dangers of the world. There was a group of 5 people who would hang around the street crossing...and as people would cross the street, they would try to unzip their backpacks or reach into purses...now i didn't see anyone get robbed...but I saw several attempts and am much more aware of how it happens now...the police did come and take the names of the pickpockets...so I guess they weren't exactly completely discreet...anyway...we hit the disco.

Lavka is quite the funky place...it is a disco where thonged Go-Go dancers dance while tourists, locals, and girls looking for passports (those hoping to meet an American, Canadian, etc to marry and get a passport into a "better life") go to dance. Hard to describe the scene...but quite strange...Kim, Kari, and I were all glad we were only dancing with eachother and could merely observe the scene.

October 3, 1999
Wandered around the town with the group from Dresden...the beauty of the city has NOT worn off...it is great...and cheap!!! (Does my Scottish heart good). Unfortunately, their car had been broken into...but only the sleeping bags were there to steal...too bad. They left and I met up with Kim. We wandered around...hit a Dunkin Donuts (yes, there is one here...and Dunkin is practically my middle name...so we had a couple of fat juicy donuts!).

Not much going on...Sunday night...Crashed.

October 4, 1999
Checked out of the hostel...and moved to another one...the Clown and Bard Hostel. A much better choice...much more ambiance...in the form of one big room with lots of bunk beds that sleeps 38 people...let me tell you...it was quite the happening hostel!

In the room I met Dan (Kansas) and Sofie & Lena (Sweden)...we walked around for a while...visited the Jewish quarter of town. The Nazis did not spare many people in Praha during the war...of over 100,000 Jews in Praha, only an estimated 5,000 were still alive after the war...the Jewish quarter was really fascinating...not uplifting (but then again, the holocaust is not a cheery subject)...but nonetheless fascinating.

Met Kim and Kari...we went and had Mexican food...hit the grocery store...they went home...I returned to the hostel, met up with the others...and hung out in the downstairs bar until 1am.

October 5, 1999
Woke just intime to catch the guided tour of the city...at noon.

It was incredibly interesting...I will relate some of the highlights:
- Prague has been in religious turmoil for hundreds of years...with
both Protestants and Catholics at odds. The Protestants were big believers in the abilities of Catholics...and would often attempt to aide the Catholics in their quest to fly by throwing them out windows (a practice called Defenistration (sp?))...the Catholics never quite mastered the art of soaring with the birds and would quite often meet their maker at the same time that they met the cobblestones in the street. As you can imagine...the Catholics were equally generous with the Protestants at various points during history.

- Like much of Eastern Europe, freedom from the Iron Curtain of Russia was gained in 1989...this magnificent country has only been free for 10 years...they are still truly struggling with this freedom.

- During the Iron Curtain years a maryter for the cause of freedom doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire to protest the Communist occupation...imagine the conviction of that single act of courage. There is a wooden cross in Wenceclas Square in his honor.

...I had to leave the tour early so I could join Kim for dinner with a Czech family. Long story...but it is a kind of advisor/friend of the director of studies who tries (with mixed results) to assist Kim and Kari. We joined Jon and Johnna for dinner...a wonderful mousakka (yes, Greek food in the Czech Republic...I did not have approval/veto power on the menu...so shoot me...)...it was nice...but they did whip out the home video of the Israel trip at one point...Kim and I beat a hasty retreat and left!

I returned to the hostel...a big group rallied from the hostel...and we hit the club Radox/FX. It was cool...danced until 3am.

October 6, 1999

...woke late (ahhhhh...there are benefits to having no job...)...hit the internet (yes, I do sometimes take time out of my trip to write to ya'll)...met 2 Argentinian (sp?) gals (Florencia and Josefina)...Spanish
does come in handy once in a while...

We left the internet place and caught up with today's tour group (full of people from my hostel) in mid-tour walking around the city...we joined and I got the rest of the tour I had missed the day before...and they got the remainder of the tour for free (with some Spanish translation from me).

We had some drinks at a bar...Kim and Kari joined the group...and we all headed back towards the hostel for dinner. Dinner consisted of about 15 of us dining on Italian food...it was lovely. Kim and Kari had to call an early evening of it (10pm)...they actually have jobs and had to work the next day.

NOTE: Kim and Kari...thank you both for being sooooo awesome. I really hanging out with both of you in Praha...my memories would not be so sweet if it were not for you both being there! ...and for everyone else...did I mention that next week they are going to Spain for a week of vacation...guess where they are going to visit...look into my eyes...Ronda...RONDA!!! More followers of the faith! Have fun ya'll...let
me know how it goes!

We then headed to a club called The Roxy. The Roxy was not exactly rocking...the featured performances were coming from a group that played earth-ethno beats (digeridoo and everything...really)...we danced for a while...quite a group...Swedes, Americans, Argentinians, Aussies, Kiwis, etc...while dancing a friend spotted me and came up...it was Sarah who I had hung out with in Ronda, Spain (RONDA! RONDA!)! She had been in Praha for 8 days and was having a blast. It was great to see her. Eventually we headed back to our hostel and crashed...Praha had been great...but it was time to sleep...

NOTE: Current Itinerary:
Budapest - Oct 7-10ish
Firenze, Italy - Oct 11-13ish
Italy (somewhere) - Oct 14th-about Oct 19th
Unknown after that...any suggestions?
Eurail pass expires Nov. 7
Maybe Israel/Egypt in early/Mid November
Doug