Notes from Prague to Greece

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Yep, we’re here, Naxos Island Greece. Arrived at 0:30 (that’s a.m.!) from Prague. Veging today. As soon as I finish this blog, I’m gunna hop in that swimming pool. It’s almost right outside our room.

But 1st the journey. We arose at 5:30a.m. And headed off on what would be a 19 hour journey on which we had a few bizarre experiences.

We’ve said to each other a few times how the enjoyment is not just in the physical places we are seeing but also the mix of people and their culture and customs. Certainly there was a good mix of that yesterday.

Our wonderful lisping Russian guide on our Prague tour said that it will probably take a couple of generations to overcome the effect that Communism had on their country. This particularly applied to religion, but also to their worldview.

Remember Brunehilde at the Prague Hotel? On Saturday I asked her to book us a taxi for 6.00 a.m. the following morning. With a ‘well, if I must!’ kind of look, she agreed. We both were sure that she’d have an uncle or nephew who would be called into service.

After 9 reassuring yellow taxis had sped past, a nondescript car with no taxi markings pulled up at 6:08, a young guy ran into the hotel (we were waiting outside), came back out and informed us he was our ‘taxi’. He could not speak ONE word of English – I kid you not! (We are sure he was a nephew.)

We got in, he took off and suddenly I thought, ‘Here we are, we’ve hopped into a strange car, doesn’t appear to be a taxi, we have no idea where the airport is, what if we’ve been kidnapped?’

Interestingly, C must have been thinking the same as at one stage she leaned over and told me she’d seen an airport sign and we appeared to be going in the right direction. The driver slouched in his seat, drove at about 10 k’s under the speed limit, played with his mobile phone, wrote messages on paper on the steering wheel and nearly ran into a steel barrier whilst doing so!

Then a 2 way radio squawked into life and guttural voices seemed to be telling him to take us to the old forest, where body bags had been prepared and the holes pre dug. I’m not sure my translation was exactly correct, but it went something like that.

A photo to ease the stress you must be feeling:

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So you can see I’m not dead, just in case you were worried. Whilst we were in Prague there were big, beefy police everywhere, pulling over drivers and glaring at the public. The male police were even worse! I suspect their presence explained the absence of those helpful men from the Congo selling Prada bags. A pity really as I was starting to hanker after a man bag again.

However, there were many men in grey raincoats who would come up and flash not watches, nor questionable postcards, but Czech money and offer me amazing currency rates. C had to pull me away several times as I was in the process of finalising a brilliant deal.

Anyway, at 06:15 I was wondering why there weren’t any Police around I could surreptitiously signal to. Luckily all went well and we arrived at the airport for the next instalment. We flew on Czech Airlines. There was one person actually doing check in and about 6 or 7 others giving him encouragement.

The queue built and finally another young lady swung into action and processed one person in front of us. That left us with only a young couple before us. She finished with the 1st person, then stood up and had a nice long chat with her cheer squad. The queue built. Meanwhile the other pesky passenger was still being dealt with.

Finally the young lady called the couple in front of us. They were dealt with quickly. Phew, I thought, our turn. Nope. Up she got again, had a playful time with fellow staff members, which included them sitting on her seat and swinging around a bit. All the time ignoring the queue that continued to grow.

Finally, the other guy was clear and we went to him, leaving Miss Precious to her flirting. He weighed our bags and C’s was 22.6 kg (amazing I know!). Phew again, I thought limit is 23kg. But guy said, ‘you haff exceeded your limit! Limit ist 20kg! You cannot travel unless you pay me 500,000 kronor!’ Or something like that.

Luckily, I’d actually checked their website the day before and informed him that the limit was 23kg. With a muttered curse, he sent us on our way. The flight was uneventful.

Second bizarre taxi ride. I’ve always yearned to arrive at an airport to be met by an official looking man holding up a sign saying ‘Mr Wilson’. A sort of a ‘meet & greet’ experience. Well, it half happened. We were by the ‘Mr Wilson’ carrying man who never looked at us and were driven straight to Piraeus. However, we only received the ‘Meet’ component, the taxi driver grunted when we arrived and did not speak another word until he dropped us off – about 45 minutes! He also saw the speed limit as a challenge, consistently going at least 20 kph over. However, it was an air-conditioned Merc with leather seats – much was forgiven.

Our ferry wasn’t leaving for another 6 hours or so, so he dropped us off at this large open area cafe and said it was better to wait there. He was right, it wasn’t too bad and was nicely under trees so was cool.

There were signs everywhere saying street vendors were not allowed. Well, that’s a challenge isn’t it? Every few minutes one would dash through with watches draped up their arms, binoculars, jewelry, you name it.

I think they may be related to those nice men from the Congo. Nearly picked up a couple of Tag Heur watches and a spare set of Leica binoculars at a great price. C wouldn’t let me.

Then the ferry:

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We’ve travelled on a few ferries in our time and inevitably the process goes like this: they open the gangplank, everybody rushes in for the best seats and then you sit around for hours wondering why you were so early as there are plenty of seats.

We boarded at 3:30 for a 5:30 sailing, hunted around for some good seats, elbowed a few old Greek ladies out of the way, tripped a pregnant mother and picked some beauties. Then I went wandering.

Found a door leading into a swank looking area, opened it and this officious and very large (read fat, but I’m being polite) Greek steward superciliously informed me that this was business class, so go back to the peasants and closed the door. I had indicated I was happy to do some business but I think he missed that one.

Later a couple of English young ladies we’d seen at the cafe came past looking for numbers on seats. Oops, I thought. Questioned them and found out each seat was allocated. They showed me their tickets with the codes. I showed them the ones we had which had DKN as the class. None of us knew what it meant. My guess was Do Knot No.

So, I went to ‘reception’ and was told it was Business Class!!!! Woohoo. Did I have fun with the fat Greek guy! Waltzed back up to him, shoved my tickets under his nose and strutted past! That was soooo good!

Business Class is right up the pointy end and the photo above shows C gazing out the window as we left Piraeus. Here’s a photo looking back into the lounge:

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Knew it was too good to last. Young families with very young children kept arriving and sitting all around us – in Business Class! Where was the fat Greek guy when I needed him? The final straw was some passengers coming in with dogs. However, several bewdiful glasses of Greek vino helped and we survived what was a very calm journey.

Another man with a ‘Mr Wilson’ sign met us on Naxos. He was your classic Greek Tour Guide. ‘Anything you need, call me, always there. Need a tour, need food, need vino, whatever. Just call me. My name is Demetrios.’ This is true!

There were 4 others in the mini taxi – yep, they were all Australians! All with rellies in Kingston, or they’d visited or they wanted to move to Tassie. Nice people.

Booked in, fell into bed and this was the view from our balcony the next morning:

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Ah, time for a swim I think….

Adios

Jim

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About jimrobwilson

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3 Responses to Notes from Prague to Greece

  1. Gail Foster says:

    Cheryl, I see you near the pool. Did you get in the pool??
    I am hoping Brunehilda doesn’t have relatives on Naxos!
    Peter has just spent two hours working out how our backpacks go together. I am so glad he was a boy scout!
    Weather here has been beautiful – sunny with a little autumnal chill – good gardening weather – moving a few wheelbarrow loads of soil and some light mattocking, brings the temperature up nicely!
    See you soon!
    Kalinikta! Good night!

  2. BILL PERRY says:

    Jim, I was thinking Bill Bryson, but now, maybe Chevvy Chase,
    Running into long lost relatives and generally wreaking havoc over much of Europe!!
    Keep up the good work.

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