Monday 18 September – Australia to Czech Republic:
Friday 15th of September saw in the beginning of the longest portion of my neverending trip – 23 hours of flying in about 28 hours. A 7 hour flight from Brisbane to Singapore, a 3.5hour flight from Singapore to Hong Kong culminating in a 12 hour flight from Hong Kong to Munich. I do NOT recommend this itinerary to you unless you are a glutton for punishment. You lose all sense of time and space – life being reduced to three constants – seat backs in front of you – uncomfortable economy class sleep-naps – and hurrying through miles of concourses and security lineups. The ONLY thing that made these flights bearable was that I happened to fly Singapore Airlines from Brisbane to HK.
Without becoming a shill for SIA, I can state with complete honesty that they are the best airline I have ever flown. Their economy class seats and service are better than any similar class of service I have ever encountered. Everyone received an amenity kit – the seats are wider and the pitch (distance front to back between rows of seats) is greater than that available in Air Canada economy class. I was fortunate to have an entire row of seats to myself on both SIA flights, so I was able to rest / sleep sideways. To cap it off, they have the most attractive flight attendants period.
I wasn’t looking forward at all to the 12 hour flight on Lufthansa from HK to Munich, but in the end it worked out well. I asked for and received an exit row seat which offered substantial leg room, and then was able to cage about 9 hours of sleep bracketed by meals at either end.
Upon arrival in Germany I headed directly to Prague to meet up with good friends who co-incidently happended to be on a three week vacation in the Czech Republic. Friends of Junior (FofJ) had obtained a lease on an apartment right in the heart of the old town – which made it both proximate to every popular destination and extremely difficult to find.
West of Prague the Czech countryside undulates in a pleasing tableau of picturesque hills and valleys – neither mountainous nor flat plains but something in between. My impression is that much of Czech Republic is comprised of many smaller towns with a few quite large industrial centres dominating the surrounding regions. I suspect that by now many of the smaller towns are becoming economically unviable as younger folks move to the city to pursue opportunities.
Getting to Prague was not at all difficult – the motorway is direct from the Germany – however getting to their apartment was an exercise in patience. My first attempt had me washed up on the south shore of the city – somehow missing the last sign to ‘Centrum’ and then not being able to find a return route. I was fortunately able to find a gas station and obtain directions (in German) from the clerk. On my second attempt I arrived at what I thought was the Charles Bridge (Karlovy Most) at about the exact time that FoJ phoned me. It turned out that while I was close, I wasn’t quite close enough – something to do with not being able to dicipher street names. I cast no aspersions on the Czech language, but clearly I was not equipped to process running translations as I passed streets and tried to relate them to my map. Fortunately Bruce and Alice found me and led me to safety.
The next 24hours were spent quickly absorbing the cultural hotspots of Prague. The city could be fairly characterised as a great city suffering from a bit of neglect. It has countless beautiful vistas, stunning cathedrals and public buildings and the old city was spared the ravages of the Second World War so entire quarters of the city remain intact. Unfortunately the City government seems unable to keep ahead of grafitti and general cleanliness – probably a result of the fact that the number of tourists which it must absorb are far in excess of its ability to host them. One of my enduring memories of my visit will be the simply immense horde(s) of tourists encountered at every turn. My impression is that the Czech Republic and Prague in particular will integrate more quickly and easily with the European Union than some other applicants.
I returned Sunday to Greding, ready to begin my MIP meeting – where I am now.