It is an unusual sensation when the prey spots the predator first yet still knows that there can be no escape. The senses heighten, the heart beats in time with the falling rain drops only momentarily before racing off to its own thumping rhythm. Those vibrations are carried over the thick air along with silent prayers that they don’t reach the ears of the hunter. Hopes that maybe, just maybe, things will be alright after all.
He was an impressive specimen. Well over six feet tall, easily. In his forties or fifties. It was hard to tell without knowing the kind of life he had led up until this point. What he had lost in speed and agility he had made up for in experience. No movement was wasted as he plucked off one target after another. His bright blue coat, matted with spots of rain standing out from the crowd of which he was a head taller than most anyway.
Our brains can make millions of decisions in a fraction of a second. At least that is roughly what I’ve learned from reading Jack Reacher novels. And they wouldn’t massage the truth would they? My inner-Reacher came to the fore as analytics flashed through my brain. I was in the hunter’s target audience without a doubt. Go for the kneecaps. That’s what Reacher would do. Get your defence in first. At that moment I heard his roar and my hastily best laid plans went out of the window.
“Any team sir, any team.” Some were hooked, others feigned ignorance. This is a tactic I am loath to take, I feel it lacks basic manners, even if the person propositioning you is trying to take your money. Outside a restaurant a simple, “no thanks, I’ve already eaten,” is the best defence. I didn’t know what wares this man had to push but the beginnings of a plan were shaping in my mind. A condemned man already, I looked down at the deli ticket in my hand as the queue edged forwards. I, well my wallet, was the meat and I was next in line. Time to put this plan in to action.
Powerless to resist as he repeated his catchphrase I was dragged into a shop full of Russian dolls painted in football kits. In previous posts I have noted that I follow Tottenham. I do, however they are the team I follow due to my family and upbringing. The team I support is Stevenage FC. I can hear you laughing. I take some perverse pleasure in playing the football hipster card whenever I get the chance so I was always going to bite when the “any team,” gauntlet was laid before me. “Stevenage, ah I sold Stevenage yesterday. It may be that I have another.” You didn’t and you don’t, this is a technique to build my expectation before I’m fobbed off with an England national team stack. “Let’s look.” So we looked. The dolls were laid out in alphabetic order but he insisted on working from top to bottom, left to right, coming and going like the waves. A mixture of emotions bubbled inside me, on the one hand I wanted to see a set of Stevenage Russian dolls, on the other hand I wanted the taste of victory having come up with the team to stump the salesman. Hundreds of eyes watched the scene unfolding before them, they had seen it all before from their perch on the shelves. They knew what was coming next… “Stevenage.” A doll resplendent in the red and white kit was thrust into my hand. “750 Koruna.” I got my wallet out. When you’re the mouse in the trap then you should at least enjoy eating the cheese.
It appeared that the clouds and my wallet were in cahoots as they continued to drop their contents at a steady rate during my time in Prague. Where the dolls had been an impulse purchase, necessity decreed that I had to track down an electric shaver during my time in the Czech Republic otherwise I would be walking the fine line of being arrested for vagrancy. Beard growth is not my forte. You can read all about shower gel-gate in my post on Vienna. Covering every nook and cranny of a Czech shopping centre wasn’t part of the interrail dream but my mission was accomplished eventually and as I walked back into the rain I was another 750 Koruna lighter. Ouch. At this juncture I should point out that 750 Koruna at the time was roughly £30. You get more geezer points for saying, “I weighed out one and a half grand in a day in Prague,” though.
In reality that one and a half grand then expanded even further with a trip to one of the best sweet shops I have ever visited for pick and mix (less geezer points) where I weighed out more than I budgeted for. Who doesn’t when the pick and mix is on the table though? Followed by an evening in the pub watching football, drinking pilsner and eating nachos. Geezer points restored.
The next day I traded in my geezer points for entry to the beer museum. The fare was a little different to the normal brewery tours that I have been on, mainly as it isn’t affiliated to one set beer brand. The displays were not as hi-tech as those found at the likes of Heineken, Guinness or Carlsberg (tours I will cover in future posts) but the key ingredient of all brewery tours more than delivered. The beer tasting. On entering the bar, located in the cellar, adorned with long wooden tables and benches in traditional European style, I was given a card with a list of four beers and their descriptions. I read through the list and decided which beer I would like to sample. When I came to cashing in my literal beer token I was given a glass of each beer. As I sat and worked my way through the beverages I went into full Sunday Brunch mode comparing the beer to its description on the card beside me. By the time I had finished the last I was getting distinct notes of… drunk. Cheers Tim, cheers Simon!
With my insides as wet as my outside it seemed like a logical idea to move on to another indoor activity. A quick photoshoot was completed in front of the astronomical clock, a Prague landmark, then it was time for the tried and tested formula to be used again. A museum based on a consumable item. In this case chocolate. Now I’ve used up my fair share of Willy Wonka references in previous posts so now that a logical time has arrived to shoehorn one in I will refrain for fear of Roald Dahl’s estate sending an Oompa Loompa round to my house with a writ. I have a pet snozzwangler in the attic if you’re reading this. You’ve been warned.
The chocolate museum offered no everlasting gobstoppers nor did it contain a chocolate lake, but it did give an insight into the history of chocolate, both worldwide and within Prague. If you’re like me, then you’ll be judging the value for money on the samples offered. There weren’t many. While ultimately it is because I’m greedy, it wouldn’t hurt having some more chocolate around the place for the patrons to sample. I guess this is why the exit is, as per most museums, through the chocolate laden gift shop.
My sweet tooth remained unsatisfied so Trdelnik called. I’m not sure how it got my number. My tip for pronouncing Trdelnik is to imagine you are saying “turtle neck” with little regard for vowels. The pastry also resembles a turtle neck, so it is somewhat surprising that knitwear has nothing to do with the naming of the delicacy. You don’t even have to wear one while eating it. During the interrail trip I had mixed experiences of trying local foodstuffs, Trdelnik was a resounding success and on days when it isn’t raining offers the opportunity for some #instagoals photography if you can resist the temptation to tuck in as soon as you are handed it.
The weather wasn’t kind to me during my time in Prague, this didn’t diminish the beauty of the city but it did leave me with the feeling that I had unfinished business there. My last act before turning in on my last evening was to buy souvenirs for my family and I had just the idea of what to pick up for my brother. The man was taken aback to see someone walk straight into the trap without much by the way of coercion but he soon settled into his rhythm, “Stevenage, ah I sold Stevenage yesterday. It may be that I have another.” He had, and he did.