Sunday, July 24, 2016

Day 14: Prague - Zurich - E-ville, Observations

Day 14:  Prague to Zurich to E-ville, Observations
David Cerny Babies

Weather:  In the 80s in Prague (as always), Zurich airport very pleasant, E-ville in the mid 60s

Department of Corrections: 
At Sansho, there was also a Pork Belly in Pepper Sauce dish; so good THB forgot to take a pic. 

It's the Naked Tour, not the Naked Guy Tour (though given how much sun tan lotion Marcus applied, maybe it is the same thing)

QOTD:  From Bob Dylan’s Highlands (hopefully you knew that earlier every-other-day lyrics were from The Sound of Music, The Hills Are Alive (or the prelude)

I'm listening to Neil Young, I gotta turn up the sound
Someone's always yellin', "Turn him down"
Feel like I'm driftin', driftin' from scene to scene
I'm wondering what in the devil could it all possibly mean.

We’re the only ones in the dining room this morning at the (expansive) breakfast buffet; it’s 6:45 and we’re packed for our 8am departure to the airport. The four nights at the Hotel Josef, including breakfasts, comes to a bit less than $800; $200/night is a great bargain for a very nice inner city hotel, one with a terrific buffet (plus hot entrees). The transfers to and from the airport were $35 each and the ride to the Villa Muller was $20. If THB had kept the hotel-supplied adapter, that would have been another $1.60 (where in the world can you buy an adapter from a hotel for $1.60? Prague).

Delivered smoothly to the airport, checked our bags, eased through security and in the airport lounge by 8:40, plenty of time to relax and catch up on e-mail and start drafting the final posting for the trip. The flight to Zurich leaves a few minutes late, we hit the ground in Zurich right on time.

That leaves 1 hour 20 minutes to make our connection. Unlike Chuck duh Gaul, it’s doable here: no bus to the terminal, we walk through a jetway; a 5 minute walk and escalator down to passport control #1 where the staff is doing a good job distributing the crowd among the 15 passport stations. Now we’re on a train between terminals and a short wait and a 2 minute ride, out and up another tall escalator and of course our flight is at the far end of the concourse.

Walk around 10 minutes, feeling pretty good, and run into a US passport control and one more search of our passports. Great, done in around 35 minutes and the flight is on time. Nope, the flight is not on time. Maybe 20 minutes late boarding, then another 40 minutes sitting in the plane that does not pull back from terminal.

Almost 45 minutes to escape SFO after a pretty much on time delivery. Long wait for bags. Another 45 minutes in a cab ride home in heavy traffic through the city (yep, 5:30 on a Saturday night and everyone's trying to get to the East Bay). $100 which included a generous tip. 

Book Review: The Adventurist, J. Bradford Hipps (novel): Gosh, a good book written by a former programmer, and a novel at that. Four months in the life of a software manager (hmmmm, THB was one of those; this guy is way more technically competent than THB ever was), dealing with the company’s struggles, the recent death of his mother, the failing health of his father, a close sister taking care of dad, and intra-company infatuations and machinations. Real life on all fronts. Recommended


1.     #TrumpisnotlikedinEurope Story 1: Jan, our tour guide on the Taste of Prague tour, very smoothly cut short any group discussion of US politics at our last spot (a sit-down mini-dinner in an empty restaurant) by saying that we didn’t have the space to discuss it (meaning: there are 7 US citizens sitting at the table and he has no idea if they are in agreement on something as simple as voting for president) and made a statement to the effect that xenophobia has become a world-wide phenomenon and that what is going on in the US is a part of the Brexit and everywhere 3rd party isolationists growing in membership. Maybe this wasn’t an anti-Trump moment, THB sure thought so at the time. (Jan left out the impact of the Great Recession on this world-wide vocalization; THB thinks it is huge part of what is going on now). 

2.     #TrumpisnotlikedinEurope Story 2: On the Naked tour lunch break, after much discussion of 600 years of history affecting Prague (at the “national” level more than the “city” level), from monarchy and church to nationalism to fascism to democracy to local communism to Soviet communism and finally back to democracy, Marcus stated (unsolicited) to his only two tour members: somebody should shoot him. Who, we asked? Trump. Really? Yes; if you (or someone) had a chance to shoot Hitler in the early 30s and put an end to brown shirts and Kristallnacht (let alone WWII and the holocaust), wouldn’t we all be better off. THB and DB are pretty much speechless. Really? Marcus is (dead) serious (refresher: college educated, young, gay, knows his history well). He also thought the Brits didn’t understand the Brexit and that the new government will negotiate, find out the EU is driving a very hard bargain (they don’t want any other defections) and get back to the Brits that the deal is too onerous, we did our best, and we recommend we stay in (after all, it was only 52-48, what’s a few percentage points?). THB normally wouldn’t feel he had to go on the record about this: he does not think anyone should be shot, let alone presidential candidates. Having said that, THB thinks the Manchurian Candidate is one great film.

3.      #TrumpisnotlikedinEurope Story 3: We’re at the first passport control point in the Zurich airport on our way back to the US and the Swiss Immigration Control guy is just about to stamp our passports (literally holding the stamp above DB’s passport) when he gets a grin on his face and asks: who are you voting for? DB responds quickly and forcibly: Clinton! His grin gets larger: STAMP! STAMP! and we’re on our way to catch our flight. As DB said afterward:  when’s the last time an official at an airport made a joke of any type? THB thought: #Bushsucks has been replaced big time with #Trumpsucks (and unlike Bush, Trump hasn’t invaded another country or two yet or forgot to regulate the economy as the credit crises exploded).

4.     If you can hit it just right, the hiking in the Swiss Alps is spectacular: a great combo of unbeatable vistas and gorgeous wildflowers, plus many options of hikes and relative ease of getting to the trailheads via public transportation.

5.     No matter where we were, there was a lot of integration: groups of travelers of different ethnicities and nations, mixed couples, local service people from all over the place (our waiter the last night in Prague was Fijian).

6.     English continues to dominate as the common language; we did hear about the increasing number of Chinese travelers. To our eyes Japanese and then Korean seem to be the majority of Asian travelers, and in the Alps there were many East Asians (though they could just as easily have been from the US than India or Pakistan).

7.     Smokers were fairly rare in the Alps, somewhat rare in Zurich, and very common in Prague. THB didn’t notice the woman next to him at the outdoor table at Sansho was smoking. DB was facing her, and definitely noticed.
This man must be on drugs

8.     Going drug-free for three days in Prague did seem to have some impact on THB: he produced longgggggg screeds and posted them to the internet (oh, wait, those were the normal travel postings); his hands did start shaking worse than normal, so the Propanolol (even in very small doses) does work; and he slept through the night all four nights, so something in the Propanolol (blood pressure and essential tremors), Levoxyl (thyroid) or Brilinta (cholesterol) must be doing something to disrupt his sleep patterns. The only drug THB stayed on was the baby aspirin: wait, he slept like a baby!

9.     Prague is worth a visit! Plenty to do in three full days (though we did take some sort of lengthy tour every day), eating is actually better than in Switzerland (well, that’s a low bar to get over), and easy to cover via foot or public transportation.

10. Zurich if fine if you are a Dada fan, otherwise THB found it pretty bland. DB liked it a lot.

11.  If you think that leaving your home for long extended periods will expedite your kitchen remodel, give THB a shout out. THB is now hoping for end of August (and that his partner doesn’t mind having to reassemble everything while he’s gone).

12. THB’s waterproof shoes (unnecessary on the Kumano Kodo, essential in Swiss Alps) were fabulous: sloshing in snow, dunking in streams, dunking waterfalls, dunking in mountain lakes…didn’t matter, socks always dry! Salomon low tops, Ortholife model, purchases at REI

1 comment:

  1. Welcome home. Glad you had fun and enjoyed the eating (and drinking). Also, glad your Salomon's kept your feet dry. I bought my third pair in the Lake District (over a number of years) and have had dry feet, too amidst the rain and streams on the trail. Your blog is great and very enjoyable to read/view. I am amazed at the number of photos you attach. I can never attach as many - it takes too long to 'upload.' We look forward to following your adventure in Rio - go Team USA.