And I'm here

Posted on April 7, 2008 by Chris Lumens in travel, work.

Sometime around 10pm Sunday night, I got to the office apartment in Brno, which was a quick 30 hours after leaving my apartment in Nashua. Sure that includes six hours of time difference, but it’s still a very long trip. As I write this it’s 4:25PM local time on Monday. Who knows what time it is where you are. There was some confusion at the office as to whether I made it or not so this post is mostly directed at them to let them know I’m still alive.

I left the apartment around 3:30 on Saturday. I had to catch a cab to the bus station because the city buses don’t run when I need them to on Saturday. Stupid small towns and its stupid transportation system. Then I caught a bus to Logan airport. The bus ride was uneventful though I wondered about how profitable it was to run a bus when only seven people were on it. Anyway I got to the international terminal with plenty of time to spare since my flight was at 9:40PM. Getting through security with a passport was way less interesting than I thought. The international terminal was too. It was just like a regular terminal, except with a currency exchange and a duty free store. It was kind of boring, really. Anyway I grabbed some food, talked on the phone, played video games, and eventually it was time to go.

Nothing notable happened on my transatlantic flight to Amsterdam. I actually ate a real meal on the plane for the first time since I can remember and I got free booze. But neither of those are really noteworthy events. I was able to carry out stage one of my plan to beat jet lag by sleeping a little bit on the plane. I got woken up when the sun came out and ate a little breakfast. Then we landed in Amsterdam around 11AM local time.

The Amsterdam airport was nice, but food was very expensive. My lunch of a sandwich and Coke cost 8 Euro. To get to lunch, I first had to pass through passport control. Once again, it was not very interesting. I stood in line for ten minutes or so, the guy looked at my passport, asked me where I was going, and stamped it. I was expecting more of an interrogation. I ate, wandered around aimlessly for a while, checked out the duty free shops and other stores, and started working on “Against the Day”. Most everything in Amsterdam was in both Dutch and English so I got around with no troubles. The liquor in the duty free shops was very cheap. I should remember this for the way back. Overall it was a very modern and clean, though pricy, airport.

The flight to Prague was on a Czech Airlines flight. Here is where I noticed things were getting more interesting. I was no longer in the land of English-first. All the announcements were in Czech, usually followed by English. Fine, it’s their airline so their language should be first. Also it was kind of nice. If I wanted to be able to understand everything, I would have stayed home. I got a snack and a free beer on this flight which was only a little longer than an hour. The in-flight magazine was bilingual so I read that.

At the Prague airport, most thing were still in two languages. I recovered my checked luggage without incident and got through the lack of customs too. It seems that the theme of this trip is no bureaucracy. I wandered around for a while and found the bankomat (ATM) to get some local currency then went in search of a phone card to call people and let them know I was down. No luck - they were either all sold out or they didn’t have cards that worked at the airport. That was pretty surprising. And since my international roaming rate is $2.49 a minute, I didn’t call anyone to tell them I had landed.

The bus to downtown Prague was also easy to find. I was beginning to think that maybe this whole trip would go without a hitch. Well, I was wrong. All I had for a bus ticket was a printout with a reservation number on it. I mumbled something to the lady working at the bus that I was going to Brno, and she responded to get on and I would have to change buses downtown. I knew that. We weaved through Prague which looked pretty dirty to me. I guess the bus station side of town is not the best side. Also, it was overcast and raining. I have been assured that I brought the bad weather to town.

When I got to the downtown station to transfer, I assumed I would be getting on the next bus to Brno. But no, I got to the front of the line, explained how I only had the number and not an actual ticket, and the lady told me I would be on the next bus. Then she promptly stepped onto the bus and off it went. She had a clipboard with a bunch of numbers on it, and my reservation number was nowhere to be found. This was at 5:30PM. At 6 I repeated this procedure but with a different lady. Same thing at 6:30. I was beginning to get really anxious, not to mention cold and tired of travelling. Were these people just telling me I was always going to be on the next bus just to get rid me of? Finally I went and asked at the information booth which bus I should be on. She told me I would be on the 7PM bus. Okay, I’ll get my hopes up. When that bus pulled up I got back in line and got the same answer - no, you’re not on this bus. Lucky for me, there were two buses to Brno at that time and I was really supposed to be on the second. It sure was nice to hear her say “seat 45” instead of “no, you’re not on this bus” like I’ve been getting for the last ninety minutes.

I guess this is where people at the office started to worry, since I was supposed to be in Brno around 7:30 to meet with my coworkers and see where the apartment is. I of course didn’t have my phone on. So two hours later when I got to the bus station in Brno, I had old messages asking me where I was. I responded and soon after stepping off the bus I saw Martin wearing his red work fedora so I knew just who he was.

The apartment was only about a five minute walk away, which gave my knees some time to stop screaming at me from all the cramped transportation seating. Once there, we debated going to get some food (not a lot of options at 10PM on a Sunday, but still) but I decided bed was a better plan. So I sat around the place for a little while just checking things out and got to sleep.

And that is my transportation story. Want to hear about the office or the apartment or my first impressions of this place? You’ll have to wait until tomorrow.