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RUNNER UP 2010 - Clueless... by Kate Baggott
Congratulations to Kate Baggott - a runner up of our 2010 Travel Story Competition.Details of this year's competition here .The story was published in our newsletter .
The Clueless Girl’s Guide to Prague
By Kate Baggott
I loved-loved-loved him.
He was intelligent and passionate about conversation. Especially conversation with me. Throughout the long Toronto winter we shared coffee, course work and childhood stories. We became dependent on shared laughter and confidences. Days we didn’t see each other felt incomplete.
At a spring party, he asked if we could speak in the garden.
“We’ve spent so much time together I know I want you in my life for a long time,” he said. “I can tell you anything.”
I waited for his kiss.
“I’m gay,” he said.
My friends were incredulous.
“You had no idea?” they asked. “Not a clue?”
I was young and heartbroken. I had reason to travel.
I chose to heal in Prague. Misery and Eastern Europe are always paired, but fresh hope was moving through the region in the early-nineties. Prague, it was said, had the energy of Paris in the 20s.
I arrived via Germany and immediately went to a student-run nightclub with another Canadian I’d met on the train. We were curiosities. Everyone wanted to know where we were from and how the taxi drivers had cheated us.
A tall man with wavy hair and broad cheekbones stood nearby, listening to all the questions. His facial expression held a soft scowl. Could this serious man, I asked myself, understand my emotional devastation?
He stared at me intently, but didn’t speak.
“Do you know him?” I wanted to ask a student I’d met, but he was telling me about his uncle in Calgary. I was nodding politely when the scowling man shrugged and went to talk to another woman at the bar.
I didn’t have time to be disappointed.
“Let me show you Prague,” another man whispered. He was standing on tiptoe to reach my ear. I agreed to meet him the next morning. Unfortunately, he didn’t leave it at that.
“I would buy you a drink, but my money finished. I have more in my chamber. Would you come there now?” he asked. His obviousness, or else the word “chamber,” ruined everything.
My hostel was full the next day and I had to find other accommodation. The assistant at the tourist office was very helpful.
“May I recommend you our botels?” He asked. “It’s like hotel, but a boat and private. I see you are a nice girl and want privacy.”
I couldn’t afford a botel.
“No matter,” he said, finding me another hostel. “There are more interesting things in Prague than botel. Someone show you, yes?”
He held onto my reservation slip when I reached for it.
“I’m afraid I finish only at midnight,” he said apologetically.
“Oh,” I said. We held opposite ends of my slip. He waited.
“That must be tiring,” I added, confused.
“Yes,” he nodded. “Not really.”
Later, I realised he didn’t mean “nice girl” as in “good girl,” but as in nice-looking. I’d never make that mistake again.
At breakfast the matron directed me toward a table for two.
“Sit mit das mann.“
He was reading an English newspaper. He was no brooding Slav, but bohemian enough.
“Good morning,” I said.
“You’re English!” he said delightedly.
“I’m Canadian, actually.”
“Oh,” he said. “I thought I heard a proper British accent.”
My ego whimpered.
The Charles Bridge soothed me. I was caressed by the sunlight reflecting off its’ ancient stone walls. Blossoms perfumed the walk to Hradčany, the city castle that houses its government offices, museums and cathedral.
Everyone flocked to see religious art, freed from Soviet warehouses. Tour guides told of Christian virgins who opposed their arranged marriages. Their fathers forced them to the altar, but God answered their prayers with long beards that repelled the Pagan fiancés.
Those virgins are now Saints.
That evening I heard the Statini Opera perform Tosca. Dead bodies of lovers littered the stage and I shouted “Bravo!”
Being without love can be a beautiful fate. In Prague.
Kate Baggott is a Canadian writer currently living in Germany. Her work ranges from creative non-fiction to technology journalism and from experimental fiction to chick lit. http://www.katebaggott.com
The State Opera of Prague schedules can be found on the English-language site at http://www.opera.cz/en/
Hostels in the city can be booked online at http://www.hostelbookers.com/hostels/czech-republic/prague/