Prague Spring

May 18, 2018

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To be anonymous and traveling in an interesting place is an intoxication.

                                            — Paul Theroux

   When Carolyn and I first dated in 1972, the good times lasted six weeks. I came to refer to that halcyon period as the Prague Spring, after the similar period enjoyed by Czechoslovakia back in 1968 before Soviet tanks rolled in on the streets of Prague. And it hasn’t occurred to me until this minute, that this train trip of mine has also lasted as long as both my and the Czech Republic’s previous Prague Springs. But that’s where the comparison ends.

   First, there were no tanks rolling through the streets of Kirkland when I arrived home. And I wasn’t in the process of losing a girlfriend due to my complete incompetence in understanding how to hold on to one. In fact…no, we’ll discuss that down the road a ways, maybe.

   For the most part, however, I arrived back home with my embrace of solitude and solo traveling still intact. Six weeks seemed to pass like six days; if it weren’t for the blog, I would have no idea what I’d done for those weeks. (The fact that I did very little of anything is beside the point. That I can recount it is what is meaningful for me.)

   I learned I could pack light, and not run out of clean skivvies. I proved my eVest was a shrewd travel solution to feeling secure from my own irrational fear of being robbed at every wrong turn I made looking for my hotel. (Mostly what the eVest accomplished was to eliminate the need for checking a hotel room obsessive compulsively looking for things I was already holding in my hands.) Once I put on the vest, I knew I had everything vital with me, and I could afford to cut down on my last minute room checks to maybe four or five times at the most.

   The trip also confirmed that Carolyn has made me a traveler again. Not in the traditional sense of expanding one’s knowledge of the world and embracing the family of man, mind you. Mostly what I learned is that Americans continue to stand out as sore thumbs, whether by tasteless dress, or a steadfast refusal to speak any other language than English. (My Romanian breakfast server clearly spoke Romanian, French, German and enough English to explain to me what gibberish Luxembourgish sounded like to her.) America we need to be ashamed!

   What I also learned is that the train is by far the best way to travel, when invested in properly. And that means not seeking to make a profit eventually or at all. Train travel is about quality of life, about comfortably boarding and arriving at your destination and already in the center of town, without the humiliation of a public strip search at the airport, and then being jammed into an aluminum tube elbow to elbow with a traveling public that no longer sees a connection between airline travel and personal hygiene. To say nothing of cramped seating that is almost designed to produce sexual harassment claims.

   And I don’t even have to mention the frazzle that has become highway travel. At the end of last year, I got rid of both my cars, and between buses, uber, a bicycle and the occasional car rental, I haven’t missed owning a car for even a day.

   The wonderful people at Eurail have already emailed me with a nearly 40% discount on their global pass. I would jump on it in a New York minute, except happily, I must discuss that with someone first.

   But not with Carolyn this time. This time it appears the Prague Spring has become more akin to the 1989 Fall of the Wall.

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