I am very good at getting lost. Fortunately, I am pretty good at getting found too, which makes being lost somewhat less of a problem. It wasn’t always like that. At one time it frustrated me a lot. I have always hated being late, for anything, and being lost usually meant being late. I still hate being late, but I have gotten over both being lost and being late when I travel. Being retired helps; my motto is: I have nothing to do and all day to do it in. I couldn’t care less about being late for anything except for my flight home. That, I admit, has caused some concern.
Anyway, I have never known why I get lost. I know that we all wonder about why we do the things we do, and that is one thing that seems to pop into my mind on occasion. Lack of paying attention to where I am going, having a terrible sense of direction are some answers, but I can get lost anywhere. Some people can walk or drive a route once and remember it. Not I.
I got lost in Prague. Really lost - 15 hours worth of lost. Getting lost is nothing new. I frequently get lost in a new place, but for only a couple of hours, not the whole day and night. I was going to the "meeting place" for a walking tour when I saw a really lovely side street that was very photogenic. I was half an hour early for the tour so I kept following the street, taking photographs all the way. After about fifteen minutes, I turned around and headed back the way I came. I didn’t come out where I thought I would. Damn! Oh well...
But the story is not about getting lost, and it’s not about how I returned to civilization. It’s about that period of time being lost and what I learned during that period, because, for me, travel is about learning and seeing or seeing and learning. I know that if I don't do both on a particular trip, the trip will be at least partially wasted. Seeing is going to happen unless I go blind, and some learning will always take place just because I can see; some, but not much. There has to be a desire to learn and fortunately, I am the inquisitive type.
It takes a while to become comfortable with walking up to a total stranger and asking for help, knowing that that person may not speak your language. It took a couple of years for me to be able to do that. Every success leads to more confidence and that is what I forced myself to do. Today that is one of my greatest joys in traveling – learning about others.
Before I get into my thoughts about what Prague is, I’m going to tell you what I think Prague isn’t. Prague is beginning to not go quietly into the night. It isn’t going into the night kicking and gouging and screaming and scratching yet, but I believe that some of that is coming. Like all of the countries in the old Soviet bloc, government is not to be trusted. Corruption in government still exists as it has for centuries plus they have lost and continue to lose a good portion of their brain trust to more lucrative jobs in other countries. The people have been very passive and cynical for many years, decades, generations, but new voices are beginning to be heard. With the increase in tourism, more and more ideas are being brought in and passed among the young people of the country, and much of the new thought begins in Prague. Most young people were not born when the power of the Soviet system was fully engaged and are unaware of the persecution of the Czech people and how corrupt and difficult things were. It seems like they don't believe their parents about that past and how difficult it was. They read about Alexander Dubcek and 1968, but they were not living at the time. The past is just "history" to them. The Velvet Revolution in 1989 was a complete surprise to everyone. A coup without a drop of blood spilled. Freedom arrived quickly - overnight. But things change slowly. Optimism about the future is increasing among the young people, but pessimism is still the order of the day. At least that is what was expressed to me.
End of Part 1
Note: Most of the photographs are identified on the lower part of the image, but it is necessary to view them in "Full" mode.