Out on the water, making our way downstream, our raft stood out. Cap’n Soup Boy standing tall, waving the battered Jolly Roger, wearing his pirate gear, while Izzy and I acted in a generally piratic way… it worked. Those on shore called out and took pictures. There was no doubt that the ladies were particularly impressed (I kept a low profile). Izzy was making plans. When we got to Krumlov, he was going to tear that place up. Rock and roll all night, etc.
We pulled up at our final stop (“Let’s keep going!” Little John called), dried off, and boarded the van to Krumlov. It dropped us off right in front of our hostel. (Total cost per person for the rafts and the lift into town: $12. Just try to beat that.)
The van brought our baggage with us, and most of that was of the personal kind. While we on the Zen Boat had had a most enjoyable pull, there was dissent on the other boat. Nothing major, but there were some larger-than-average personalities crowded onto the raft, and friction occurred. I was surprised, then, when later there was friction between Zen Boat members, and that I was one of them. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We were delivered safe and sound at our hostel, and the seven of us checked in. We were put in an eight-bed room, with the last bed already occupied by a chinese guy traveling alone. He was nowhere to be seen, but already I felt sorry for him. It was pushing nine o’clock when we invaded the place, and I groaned when Soup Boy declared that he was going to take a shower before we went out. I was hungry after paddling his ass around all day. Soup Boy showered. Izzy declared his intention to shower as well. I said I wasn’t going to wait while everyone showered, and if that’s what was going to happen, I’d just go on ahead. Rosa also objected.
Izzy got pissed off. Not at me, though, at Rosa. If he’d gotten pissed off at me, I could have apologized and explained that it was my stomach talking and I would continue to be a pushy jerk until I was fed. His anger was directed at Rosa, however, because for much of the day her advice sounded like criticism, and even though Izzy was not the target for most of it, it still bugged him. (In retrospect, I realize I could have stepped in an apologized and intercepted the anger. That’s hindsight for you.)
Advice and criticism. The distinction is not simple, and it’s more complex when you consider friendly criticism. Rosa, however, could improve her delivery. Like me, she was among strangers, and I think she wanted to present her most competent and assertive self. With two exceptions on this trip, I just paddled. Exception one was getting our collective ass out the door for food before everything closed. Izzy knew of a place with a dish called Bohemian Feast, which translates into English as “Big plate of food for not so much money”. Were it not for this special knowledge he held, I might have taken off on my own.
The castle tower in Český Krumlov, taken from the riverside table where we ate out feast.
I’m glad I didn’t. The bohemian feast is awesome. We sat at a table by the river, and the food was plentiful and bohemian. Izzy made the right call, and not for the last time. We ate, we drank spiced mead, and fun was had by all. We toasted Soup Boy and I officially thanked him for putting the trip together. We ate more.
Finally it was time to go. Izzy and Little John, both determined previously to get laid seventeen times each, declared they were tired and going back to the hostel. I was up for a bit of nocturnal walking around, and when Soup Boy signed up, the rest of the party expressed interest as well. Where we ate was on the riverside, with the castle soaring above us on the opposite bank. We headed that way.
We strolled through the castle grounds. I was mostly with Rosa, and we chatted about nothing important. Jane was dedicated to talking with Soup, which left Beau on his own. That made me a bit uneasy, since he was Jane’s boyfriend and all. Beau, I think, has a traditional streak like mine. It was peaceful at night, and during one moment of solitude I saw flashes away behind the hills. Lightning, still too distant for me to make out the thunder. I noticed later that the flashes were getting closer. Eventually we moseyed down into town, and looked around for a place to have one final birthday toast. Although it was the weekend during tourist season, most places were closing up by then, with the exception of clubs that looked loud and uncomfortable.
Shadows on the castle wall
Eventually we found a spot that wasn’t quite closed yet, and I voted for the patio. Others thought maybe we should get home before the rain started, but for me the right choice was to be under a big umbrella outdoors when the deluge happened. I carried the argument for a while, and when Beau complained of getting wet I managed to get us to move to another table with better umbrellage, rather than go inside.
The rain came down. Torrents of big, fat drops splattered into the street, quickly soaking anyone caught out in it. Lightning flashed, thunder rumbled, I sipped my beer and wondered how it could get any better. When the waiter came to suggest we go inside for shelter, Beau and Jane jumped at the chance, however, and so we went into the closing restaurant and sat next to a table full of smokers. Even so, the conversation was pleasant, and I had a good time. The storm passed, we paid our bill, and headed back to the hostel, with only one wrong turn.
When we got there the light was on, Little John and Izzy were sacked out, and Chinese Guy was asleep on the bunk underneath mine. I tried not to jiggle the bed too much as I climbed up. Soon I was asleep.
But not for long. I awoke a short time later to the sound of Chinese Guy snoring gently, and the feeling of my shoulder stiffening up. Hours of steady paddling was going to take its toll on muscles more accustomed to typing. I rolled over to put my arm in a more comfortable position. The bed shook. The snoring stopped.
That set the theme for the rest of the night. Short sleep, snoring and stiff muscles, roll over. I didn’t sleep that much, but I was pleasantly surprised to awaken in the morning, (after Izzy’s alarm went off at 4:30 and Chinese Guy got up early and quietly left) with my muscles in relatively good shape. After a bit of that very pleasant lazy-morning snoozing I climbed out of bed, planning to write while others slept. Izzy and Little John both got up as well, however, and without a single word being spoken we headed out to find breakfast. Not one damn word. That, friends, is how decisions should be made. I enjoyed everyone’s company on the trip, but I was glad to get out into the morning air before other people got up and the inevitable decision paralysis set in.
The streets were deserted that early in the morning. We headed back toward the middle of town, where the most touristy places were, and eventually Izzy landed us at another great place to eat. It was a hostel with a full kitchen that served true English breakfasts, and had unlimited self-serve tea and coffee. On top of that, it was cheap. Breakfast was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip, hanging with a couple of guys, not having to talk but finding things to discuss, some of them even meaningful.
Eventually it was time to go back and join the others and catch the bus back to Prague. As smoothly and calmly as the morning had been to that point, going from a cluster size of three to one of seven increases complexity by several orders of magnitude. Eventually I went out to the hostel’s garden to wait for the others to unknot. Izzy was already there, and Rosa was not far behind me. Beau, it seems, is not a fast starter in the mornings.
Finally we were moving (after Beau ran back to get his phone), but we didn’t get far before some people wanted to stop for breakfast. It was cutting the time a bit close, but I figured that the absolute worst thing that could happen was that we’d be stuck in a truly pleasant little town for another day. From my point of view, that wasn’t so bad, so once again I forced myself to relax and not worry so much about missing the bus.
The bus ride home (artist’s rendition).
Photo stolen from here
We did not miss the bus, thanks largely to Izzy and Little John. I’m not sure if it wouldn’t have been better, however, if perhaps we had. When we got on, there were no seats left, so we stood in the aisle. A few more people got on, and the driver called out for everyone standing to squish together more so we could squeeze more people on. Some of our group ended up standing the entire way back to Prague. When people needed to get off the bus, it was a major chore for them to make their way to an exit.
At least there were no chickens. There was a fat guy who wheezed on my head for a few kilometers, and I wondered if there would be more rainstorms in Český Krumlov that night, and why I had wedged onto the bus just because everyone else did. The bus the next day would have been much less crowded. Still, I got to sit much of the way, which is more than some of the others had.
Home at last, tired, happy to be away from the crush of people, I truncated my goodbyes as much as possible without being too impolite and headed for home.
Happy Birthday, Soup Boy, and thanks for putting together a fantastic weekend.