I’ve never actually been to Prague.
I have been to the airport.
But I’ve never actually been to Prague.
…if you see what I mean
I was on my way home from Macedonia (how often do you get to say that?), and had to switch planes in the Czech Republic in order to facilitate my return. But with only 75-minutes between flights, any chance of exploring the capital was very much ‘out the window’.
Not that I was going to allow this minor setback to defeat me, especially since Rule 89f of the Traveller’s Code states that, ‘a connecting flight is a whimsical and unacceptable excuse for failure.’ Instead I concocted a cunning plan to remedy the issue: with some clever use of airport resources, I was going to artificially recreate the feel of the city in all its glory right here in the comfort of Terminal 2.
It was an optimistic plan, however, as airport resources are the single most frustrating thing known to mankind. Though they are seductively promising due to the variety of businesses, the range and quality of the products are somewhat up for question. Also, they never stock what you want unless you’re seeking a kilogram bag of sweets or a teddy bear dressed in national costume.
© Amadeus Finlay
Nevertheless, I decided to persevere and so made a bee-line for a bar with hazy views of a very distant Prague. I ordered a local lager beer, a bag of pretzels and a plate of local meats. I pretended to read a Czech language newspaper. I smoked a cigarette given to me by an old man with a moustache and a fedora. Yes, you could still smoke inside. Then came the ceremonial acquisition of cardboard bar mats, in this case Pilsner Urquell, before I headed outside to inhale the air and pick up a handful of dirt.
Now, this may sound like utter madness - and I assure you that it most certainly is - but I am on a mission to collect soil from every country on the planet. The idea is that after many years of bumming about the place I will be able to fulfil my desire to own a representative cross-section of the world.
Which will be housed in a Bushmills whiskey bottle, kept in a box, and stored in a Northern Irish attic.
But I digress…
© Amadeus Finlay
The air was crisp and sharp, and the sky a vibrant swash of icy blue. But on a day such as this the ground was inevitably frozen, so I had to scrape the topsoil with my passport to get it to shift. This of course looked like the height of madness to anybody who witnessed my endeavours, but since my mantra is, ‘so long as you haven’t yet been arrested, proceed’, I was not worried. When the soil rummaging project was eventually complete and the crowds of onlookers had dispersed, I dusted myself off and dandered back indoors to pay homage to that great rigmarole that is gaining re-entry to an airport.
“Why were you outside?”
“Did you have any other reason to be outside aside from the reason you gave?”
“Do you have any bags checked in?” I told him I’d gone to indulge in pedology, before changing tack altogether and asking whether or not it would be possible for him to stamp my passport.
It transpired that it was not, and that asking the question had been foolish as this lead to me becoming the subject of further interrogation. A bag search and some intimate frisking followed before the guard decided I was less a threat to national security and more an eccentric - but harmless - nutcase, and so permitted me to proceed back to departures. I checked my watch: 24-minutes until the connection.
Time to get a move on. I jogged to the nearest newsagent and bought a handful of postcards and a Czech dictionary. A flurry of yarn-spinning followed as I told the recipients of the postcards that I was, ‘in Prague and having a great time.’ Suitably vague, suitably suggestive, and suitably in line with the plan. Another objective reached.
I then sprinted to departures – 12-minutes to go - and flicked open the dictionary. Page 69, the Czech word for objectionable: problematický. More flicking… page 24, the Czech word for conundrum: hádanka. Unconventional, but better than nothing. Satisfied that I had done my synthetic Prague experience justice, I stepped forth to join the queue to the boarding desk for the flight to London.
But not before I introduced myself to the flight manager as Objectionable Conundrum...