Every traveling human should be in this scenario.
· 23 December 2004 ·

This is an adventure story sent to me from a Portland friend rousting about Europe. And it’s also for the sake of changing material.

There are 2 main bus stations in Prague. The hostel where we were staying in Prague told us to go to this one station, Florenc, to catch the 13:03 bus to Loket. We got to the bus station at 12:40 or so. Plenty early. But the guy at the ticket window told us that there was no 13:03 bus. If we wanted to go to Loket our options were take the bus that left from Florenc at 16:10, or we could go to the bus station across town and catch the 14:25 bus. Also, the 14:25 bus takes less time and is cheaper than the 16:10 bus. Cool, right? Let’s do it. So we take the metro to Roztyly (bus station #2. The shitty one near the T-mobile where claire used to work. haha. Good joke, right?) and we wait:

We get on the bus. We sit on the bus. We watch road signs.

“We must be on some sort of ring road because these signs say Brno. Brno is in the other direction. That’s weird. But it’s cool because we asked the bus driver when we got on if this was the bus to Loket. He said it was.”

We leave the zone that looks anything like Prague, or any kind of city for that matter. Almost an hour after we get on the bus, the bus pulls off the highway into this truck-stop style parking lot and the driver indicates to us that this is Loket. “This is Loket? Umm. Ok.” We get off. “Where’s the river? Where’s the castle? What the fuck? I know it’s supposed to be a small town, but all I see is a semi truck, one long road, and a giant giant pile of hay.” The sign on this building doesn’t say “Lazy River Hostel.” It says “MOTOREST.”

“The directions on the hostel pamphlet do say to walk uphill into town from the bus stop. I don’t see a hill, but maybe we should try walking down the road to see what we see.”
We walked for maybe 20 minutes in the direction away from the Kia dealership (me hobbling on my sprained ankle). We saw cows. We saw chickens. We saw more big piles of hay. We felt winter wind blow in our faces. By this point we knew something was wrong, but we weren’t exactly sure what to do about it. All of the sudden Claire says, “ooh! A phone booth!” What? Yes. In this little meadow next to a falling-apart-house. Weird place for a phone booth, but also, thank god. We call the hostel and explain the situation. This is what we hear from Doug, hostel guy.
“If you didn’t take the bus from the Florenc bus station, you are in the wrong part of the country. This has happened before. I remember somebody called 2 years ago and told me he was in the middle of nowhere. That’s probably where you are. The only thing to do is get back to Prague. I don’t know how to get back to Prague from there, though. We’re going to a hockey game in Karlovy Vary in a couple hours. You can call me on my cell while we’re there if you need to. We’re going to take the last bus back to Loket from Karlovy Vary. If you can be at the Karlovy Vary bus station by 10:20 tonight we’ll take you back to the hostel. Good Luck.”

Oh shit. Those road signs that said Brno. Fuck. WHY DID THAT GUY SELL US THIS TICKET? (Turns out that the 16:10 bus goes to Loket and the 14:25 bus, the one that we got on, goes to Loket U Cechtic. The guy in Prague didn’t know the difference. Thanks a lot, jerk. Now we’re stranded in Locket U Cechtic. It’s early January we have maybe 40 minutes of daylight left.)
We decide that the best thing to do is go back to where the bus dropped us off. It’s only 3:45pm. It’s not a holiday. There is sure to be another bus back to Prague before the end of the day.
We go back there and scope out the scene. There are poles with signs that make them seem like they are bus stops in this parking lot. The signs have schedules on them. Kind of. They seem like they might be schedules, but they are in a completely different language and they seem like they are upside down. And one of them is partly torn off the sign.

After much study of these signs, and much deliberation Claire and I figure that there should be a bus stopping at 17:10, 18:10, 18:30, and 19:25. One at each pole. That’s if they are all running and stuff. But we are relatively confident. Less than an hour and a half to wait. We put our stuff down in front of the closed restaurant—the one with the picture of the wolf on the sign. “U Vlka.”

We put on extra sweaters and scarves and pull up our hoods because it’s getting cold. We have yogurts we took from the “all you can eat breakfast” at the hostel in prague that morning. We eat those. We stand around. We jump around and wiggle and try to keep warm. We play a fun game of “kick around this random object.” We are in surprisingly high spirits.
I take this picture as the sun begins to go down for real. That’s the highway pull off ramp there in the background.

It’s dark now. At 10minutes to 5 or so, the door of the semi truck opens and the man who was inside starts to walk toward us. If only we could speak czech we’d have some idea of what he was saying to us. Actually, I’m pretty sure he was saying, “What are you girls doing here? It’s freezing cold! Do you need help? You shouldn’t be here. This is the middle of nowhere.” All we had to say was “Nerozumim.” “I don’t understand.” (Well, we could have said “dva pivo prosim,” but ordering 2 beers from this guy didn’t exactly seem appropriate.) When he realized we didn’t speak or understand czech he went back to his truck. “If we’re still stranded here in a several hours we might be able to sleep in that guy’s truck so as to not freeze to death. It’s a long time before the sun comes up.”

5:10. 5:15. 5:20. 5:25. It becomes very clear that the 5:10 bus is not coming.

We start to get worried for real. We open up our bags and put on the rest of our clothes because the temperature is plummeting. What do we do? Do we go to that gas station we saw on the other side of the highway? Go there and do what? Do we go back to the pay phone? Who would we call? Doug at the hockey game? What could he do for us? If we leave we might miss the next bus, if one comes. We can’t stop talking about how easy it was to get this lost. We’re mad at the guy who sold us the bus ticket in Prague. Neither of us is a stupid or inexperienced traveller. “I’ve had to try MUCH harder to get in situations like this in the past,” Claire says.
We decide to wait for the next bus. Different bus companies. Different poles. Maybe we read the schedule wrong. It’s still only 5:30pm. Not that late yet.

An hour later a bus finally comes by. It’s not a bus we were expecting, though, because it’s not a bus that’s on its way to Prague.

We try to communicate to the bus driver to ask him if there’s a bus coming or whatever but he’s brusque and wants to close the door of the bus because the cold air is rushing in. We’re not about to let the bus drive away, though, because at this point we want to get on any bus that will take us to any town with an actual bus or train station. It turns out that there is a very nice young woman who speaks english on the bus. She gets out of her seat and translates for us. Finally she says, “I think you should get on this bus and go to Pblahblahblahzvstufftown. There is a bus station there.” Absolutely. That’s what we do. She tells us it’s another 40 minutes. Do we need to buy a ticket from the bus driver now? The bus driver makes some “words” and some gestures. Claire gives him 50 crowns. He seems ok with it. We sit down.
We look at the map in our book.

Loket U Cechtic is certainly not on it, but we do see a town called Pehlrimov. We decide that’s probably the town where she told us to get off.

But she gets off before Pehlrimov. We hope that Pehlrimov will be an obvious stop. Just when we start to feel lost again the two people sitting in front of us strike up a conversation. In english!!! They speak a little. We tell them that we had been trying to get to the other Loket. “I have been there. It’s a very nice town,” the man says. (haha. Thanks, guy.) “I do not think you will be going there tonight.”

These people tell us that they will let us know when we get to Pehlrimov. They also tell us that it’s probably too late to take a bus back to Prague tonight, but maybe we can take a train if we go through Tabor. They explain to us how to get to the bus and train stations from the bus stop where we are dropped off. We thank them profusely.

It seems like the schedule at the bus station says a bus to Prague will stop there at 20.10. That’s in an hour. We have time to check out the situation at the train station. It seems like the next train to Tabor isn’t until 22.27.

I take this picture of the schedule at the train station because it has this awesome glossary of important schedule-reading terminology.

Vysvetlivky means explanation. How ironic is that?

Written by Izak Elvrum

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  1. Patrick    Jan 14, 09:28 PM    #

  2. kate    Jan 30, 05:50 PM    #