Sunday, May 15

Divine intervention
So, Prague eh....

We stayed at a place called the Church Pension. No, not a benefit given to elderly Christians, but a hotel run by The Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. Why? Well I hadn't undergone a sudden religious conversion, but it was cheap!

With some trepidation we set out to Prague. Would I have to pretend to be a devout Christian? Would me and Fincho have to pretend to be married? Would we have to say grace before meals?

We took an early evening flight so arrived quite late to the hotel where we were told to expect the evening receptionist. It soon transpired that it was his first day on the job and he was a little underprepared.

The trip was booking in haste and I was already a bit worried that everything was booked OK when he couldn't find us on the computer. After five minutes of searching, to our relief, he finally found us on the system. Excellent.

As we were about to go up to our room I made the fatal mistake of asking what time breakfast was. He wasn't sure, so decided to phone the manager - no problem I thought...

What followed was a few minutes of loud, animated conversation in Czech. I heard the words England and my name being mentioned. It sounded quite serious and I wasn't sure of the Czech for atheist, so wondered if I'd been rumbled. Surely the time for breakfast couldn't be this complicated!

"He wants to talk to you" said the confused looking receptionist beckoning me over to the phone. This was it, the big moment when I had to prove my faith. I recited the names of the disciples in my head...John...Matthew...Colin...Nigel...Judas, he was definitely one, yeah.

"Hello" I tentatively mumbled into the mouthpiece. What followed was a couple of sentences of loud, broken English that I didn't understand a word of (This perhaps now makes sense as it later transpired that Jarloslav the manager had spent several months in Birmingham learning English!). "So you understand?" said Jaroslav. No I didn't, what was he asking me to do? Thoughts of a windswept monastery in the Czech hills sprung to mind.

I asked him to repeat what he said and it eventually turned out it was a simple misunderstanding involving the cleaners - oh how we laughed... And I never did find out when breakfast was.

We soon overcame the language barrier, but as Jaroslav was driving us to the airport on the way home he told us a Czech legend of a horned woman who lived in the hills outside Prague and tortured men "on the whale"...

In the end I didn't end up undergoing a religious conversion. We merely had to eat our breakfast beneath a giant crucifix...

Beer was 60p, everything was really cheap but the tour parties, there were millions of them and I don't think that there was any shop or business in the centre of Prague that wasn't aimed at them/us.

One day I'll go back and try to find the real Prague. And if I do I'll give Jaroslav a call.