Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Praha and home
Our last full day of Eastern Europe was again spent in Prague, or Praha as the say it over there. We were able to connect with Nancy Hugg once again for pivo near the Charles Bridge and got to meet a couple of her friends from Minneapolis who were visiting. Nancy was in the process of packing stuff and giving away things she had acquired during the last year. She was scheduled to take a couple of weeks of travel and then back to Minneapolis on the 15th.
As we strolled around this last day, it was with a little less enthusiam. Perhaps the most came from Susan and Joan when they realized they could still do a little more shopping. I have one picture here of Sue as she posed in front of a statue dedicated to failed ballerinas everywhere. Although many of you know the story, for those of you that don't, Susan was an aspiring ballerina in her youth. Unfortunately that all ended when her brother dropped a six pack on her ankle. And now you know the rest of the story.
Although I was just too tired to take any more pictures, I regret not taking one of a 5 person construction crew in Old Town. We watched as 2 people on the 3rd floor with a hoist and wench attempted to bring up a single bag of cement on a wooded pallet. The other part of the story is there were an additional 3 men on the ground supervising the loading of the one bag and watching it as it inched skyward. Both the patriarch and I looked longingly at the situation and dreamed of being the paid union steward for this local organization.
We got back to the hotel fairly early and spent the rest of the day improving the Pivo economics at the hotel. We continued imbibing and playing pinochle. The only incident of the day was when Susan erected a beer glass barricade which I very appropriately crashed into. Dinner was sumptuous as usual.
Saint Joan has a bit of a phobia about being on time for our flights, so we were out the door on the hotel shuttle bus that took us a whole 2 blocks a few minutes after 7am for our 9:35am flight. In retrospect, it was a good thing we did go early. We stood in line for close to 45 minutes where only 2 agents were working. Mind you there were only 6 other people in front of us. Finally another agent opened up and "helped" us. First she gave us hell for using their web site to try and get our reservations confirmed. Then we were scolded for trying to get seat assignments via the same method. After about 15 minutes she checked our bags, somewhat grudgingly and gave us our boarding passes. As we left her station, she abruptly left. This left the orginal 2 agents with what was now a line of about 80 passengers waiting to check in.
And it gets worse. As we looked at the boarding passes, she issued 2 to me and none to Joan. Guess this was retribution for Joan trying to be so damn nice to this chicklet. I sensed a little anger in Saint Joan's eyes as we looked on in disbelief. Armed with what could have been unmentionable 4 letter words in her arsenal, Joan proceeded back to the counter to one of the 2 agents and promptly got our correct boarding passes. Hey, the look in her eyes would have been enough to scare me. As it turned out, the temporary agent had the last laugh. She issued 3 of the baggage claims to me and none to Joan and Frank who each had 2 bags. At MSP, it was determined that 2 of Joan and Frank's bags did not make it.
In a nutshell, I think much of the Czech economy still operates in union mode with a small dash of the old days of communism thrown in for good measure.
Prior to boarding the plane we did a little more shopping to get rid of those Czech Klotchies. A few reasonably priced $40 airport t-shirts and we were ready to roll once again.
Shopping was again at the top of the list for Susan when we reached Schipol international in Amsterdam. Frank and I went to the gate and waited. We were a little amazed to see the lines to get on the flight. After waiting for a short period, the Patriarch instructed me to go find the shoppers and hurry them up. I did and we were able to make our plane. A couple of things of note were that Northwest had apparently cancelled some flights and people were waiting to get home on standby. And, for some reason security and the interview process you go through in Amsterdam seemed a little more tight than usual. Perhaps it had something to do with the recent Glasgow event, but we will probably never know.
And such ends the cousin's trip to the Czech Republic and Poland. As I may have said before, it was a once in a lifetime trip and very enjoyable by all measures. And, regardless of my comments in these blogs, all members of our crew were great to travel with. I'd do it again, but I can't imagine every getting another invitation after all of these shots.
If anyone wants a CD of all the pictures, just let me know and I'll ship you one.