Like hopefully the rest of you, we are home, keeping a low profile. And with no travel plans in the foreseeable future, i have had a chance to start going thru 35+ yrs of travel pics and at least 20 journals of various trips, that were written the old fashion way, by hand! So, as I try to digitalize the journals, I thought i would post a couple of them to our blog. Most of these pics were printed 4x6s, and so i have taken pictures of the pics, not the best quality, but my scanner is worse 😊.
I have also been making lots
of my photo cards. Its very therapeutic and I keep finding lots of 'new' pics that i like. No idea what i might do with all of the cards, but... if anyone is interested in some photo cards, drop me an email with your address. I love making them and sharing them!
There once was a time – without the internet! No email, no ATMs, no GPS, nor blogs. We did not prebook rooms. Finding a place was showing up and asking to see a room. Changing money,
we planned the entire day around, and sometimes it almost took that long. Staying in touch, was reading a copy of the International Herald Tribune once a week or two. Most times it worked out quite well for us. And sometimes, it was a completely unplanned adventure.
“Ok, it was right here”. Ed and I look at each other. Both stunned. “Are we going crazy? We were only gone 20 minutes”. This is our 5th
trip to Europe, one that included 7 months with our own car, camping. Now 5 days into this trip and we seemed to have lost our car in Prague!
“Let’s retrace our steps, maybe we are on the wrong street.” Prague is a big city, but it was only a two minute walk to the Cedok office to pick up a map, which has nice little tent signs to show us where the campground is. Although we speak no Czech and the woman at the office speaks no English, the symbols get us what we need. There is a nice big “I” sign on the map which tells us where the information office is, and
we can pretty much see how to drive to the campground. Quite pleased with ourselves until we turn the corner, look up and see an empty spot where we parked our car.
As we retrace our steps, it is beginning to dawn on us, our car with all our stuff (fortunately we both are wearing our money belts) has gone missing. Panic begins to set in. An elderly lady sweeping the street near where our car was parked, looks up, as I almost accost her, in a foreign tongue – “Where is our Car? Have you seen our car?’ I think I have frightened her, as she speaks no English and quickly goes back inside her store.
But first, she motions to a younger gentleman walking by, who has slowed down at our commotion. We quickly run to him and in very fast English try to explain – our car, it was parked right here, we just went to the tourist office, we weren’t gone 20 minutes, and now its gone, with everything in it, can you help us. It would have been difficult for a native English speaker to have understood our panic-ed
One of the first private business' - shining shoes
Ladi said the sign said he plans to be the first millionaire businessman or something like that...
speech. We later learn Ladi, our new friend, learned English listening to Beatles songs when he was young. Prague has just received their independence from the Soviet Union with the peaceful Velvet Revolution the prior November. Tourists are beginning to discover this beautiful city, but they are primarily Germans or other Europeans. We are the first Americans Ladi has met.
“I think we should call the police, maybe it has been towed” Ladi tells us. ok, maybe not quite that clearly, but we did understand police and tow. He tries to call but it is busy. After about 10 minutes, as Ed and I keep walking up and down the street, determined to will the car back, Ladi sees his wife across the street. She has been waiting for him, as they are beginning their 2 week vacation. Ladi explains the situation to Marcela and they quickly agree, we should probably go the police station. They flag down a police car, explain the situation to the police officer and he agrees to take all 4 of us in his police car. It’s a tiny car and provides a bit of entertainment for Ed and I, as we
all load into the back seat, reminding us of The Pink Panther. We take off, lights and horn blaring, racing thru the narrow winding streets of Prague.
For the next 4 hours we sit in a small 6x10’ room in the station while they search for our car. As Ladddie explains the situation to the first Officer, he shakes his head sympathetically and the only words we understand are ‘chop, chop’. Panic returns as we look at Laddie and ask “chop, chop??” Ladi looks uncomfortable as he explains – “oh, yes, we are having abit of a problem. As foreign cars enter the city, there are some organizations that are stealing the cars, chopping them up and then selling the parts thru the Black market. “ “Or because your car is a nice VW Golf” he says abit more optimistically, “they may have just stolen the car and will resell it. They may not chop it up’. I look at him abit blankly, as I am not sure that difference is of any benefit to us. Ed and I look at each other, wondering how we will explain this to American Express (who we rented the car
thru) and if we are covered for this…
“But first, they will call all the tow companies. They are privatized now, and there are about 10 of them.” It is a long 4 hours as with each phone call, they shake their head no. And with each new officer that comes into the room, they explain the situation and one more sympathetic head shake and once again we hear the words – oh, chop, chop.
At times we are quite frustrated with the very slow process, but since these companies are new, it is difficult to find phone numbers, most don’t answer on the first attempt, and they do have other things to do, as various people come into the room with their own tales of woe. We meet a French woman who had her money stolen in a store where she had just set her wallet down for a second…. They allow her to fill out a Police report and tell her they will try to contact her if anyone turns it in. A Group of 4 Brits bring in a girl they caught stealing from them. They also tell us the older
man was hit over the head and had his wallet stolen in Pilsen. Only later do they tell us it was 3AM and he had been drinking. But all of it is quite unnerving, while we stew about our car. The later in the day, we begin to try to come to terms with the thought we might not get the car back. And Ladi and Marcella stay with us the entire time. At one point Marcela leaves and comes back with sandwiches. It is so incredibly kind, considering they don’t know us and had their own plans for the day.
Finally, one of the police officers comes over to us and thru Ladi’s translation says “we have contacted all but one of the Tow companies. None of them have your vehicle. The only one left is a new company and they do not have a phone. I am getting off my shift and can take you there.” We climb back into the Police car and drive to the new Tow company. And as we pull up, Ed and I both yell in shear delight, there in the middle of a fenced in a eld sits @
12 cars, and our beautiful Golf is one of them. We all jump out of the car and as I turn to give Marcela a hug, there are tears running down her face. The kindness of both of them to 2 strangers is incredible!
Ladi goes over to the Manager and starts to talk to him. As we approach we can see Ladi is visibly very angry. Oh no, we quickly go over to Laddie and ask him, what is the problem. He tells us, he wants to charge you a fine. At this point, we are quite willing to pay quite abit of money to just get in the Golf and drive away. “Its ok, Ladi, how much is he asking” . Ladi tells us, it is outrageous. Finally we get the amount out of him, it is 350 Czech kr. @ $14. We reassure Ladi, that is a lot, but we really, really just want to get our car back, so we will pay it. The reason it was towed – you can not park with in 3 meters of a tram line and we were within 1.5 meters. The fact there were other cars
parked in front of, and behind us and were not towed, did not seem to be of any concern to the manager.
Ladi is still quite upset as we drive away. “This is one of the first sectors that has been privatized, and I do not think this is right.” We try to explain that they would have charged us in our country, too. We all drive to the campground where we finally are able to set up our tent. Ladi keeps looking at our site in a very full campground and I think is a bit disappointed. We keep trying to reassure him, this is perfect for us. Marcela later tells us, he hates camping.
And for the next 2 weeks, we share out time with Ladi and Marcela, meeting their wonderful families and seeing a beautiful Czechoslovakia. There were many times during that visit, we kept saying to each other “None of this would have happened, if we had not had our car taken”. And many trips since then, when things begin to go abit side ways, we will just look at each other and say ”hmm, wonder where this is going
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