Prague’s weather forecast was wrong and the sun was still out. So I went to catch the sunset. I crossed the Vltava River and climbed one of the many staircases that criss cross the steep hill to the park. There from the plateau amongst the trees you can almost reach across the river and grab the steeples and copper clad domes of the old town.
At one end of the park is a beer garden. The tables there at the edge of the hill have a great view. Perhaps because of the forecast the place was lonely. There were lots of tables and they were made to survive heavy use. Constructed with thick gauge steel extrusions and stout boards bolted over short spans, you could total a car if you hit one. No cars are allowed anywhere near this park though.
At the kiosk, for pocket change, I got a half liter of pilsner in a plastic cup. Then from a table I watched the setting sun as clouds blocked it and then let it out again. It was late winter and the trees didn’t block the view but the spindly bare shrubs and saplings were a problem. I stood on my table in an effort to get clear shots of the old town. And then the rain finally arrived. It was just sprinkle and I am from the Pacific Northwest so I got another beer, dark lager this time.
But then the rain came on for real. With wind to back it up. In Czechia they don’t much care where you drink so I suited up and walked my beer down the hill back towards town for dinner. The sensation of drinking beer with a cold wet hand and a raincoat with its hood up struck me the way sensations can, more forcefully than daydreaming, and I felt suddenly like I was in Portland’s Forest Park again. A picnic with friends spoiled by the rain? Or perhaps drinking beer in the rain was the plan all along? It felt familiar in a primal way.
Feeling sentimental I took a selfie to commemorate the Oregonian moment. The selfie makes no sense at all. I take terrible selfies. I got some good shots of Prague though.
As I walked down the stairs I could hear a rowdy group catching up to me. I turned around to see a group of 10 or so women in matching pink t-shirts, tiny skirts, fishnets and sneakers. Three of them shared a wool blanket over their heads. They all had beers, except for the woman carrying the 1.5 meter tall inflatable penis. The penis had testicles, and in calmer weather they would probably have worked together with the shaft as a tripod. I chugged my beer, dropped the empty plastic cup in a municipal bin and tried to retake the lead.
The girls were cold though, and walking with a purpose. I couldn’t shake them. Cars honked. Their shirts were made for this event, “Amy’s something or other”. I think they were Irish, but not very Irish. Maybe they were just from some part of Britain that talks funnier than the rest.
By the other side of the bridge I finally put some distance between us. But even so as I crossed the street and disappeared down the stone stairs of a restaurant I could still hear their off-key rendition of Dionne Warwick’s “That’s What Friends Are For”. “Through good times… and baaaaad times”. It wasn’t just off key. It was merciless. I think some of them were trying to sober up by screaming. Thankfully they were also each singing at their own pace, so the atonality could never build to truly dangerous levels. I closed the heavy door behind me with gratitude.
You say: "how does it feel to be travelling?
How’s it feel to live your life on a train?
And the aeroplane?"
Well, I ain’t gonna' lie to you
Well, every town is all the same
When you’ve left your heart in the Portland rain…
M. Ward - Paul’s Song