“Všude dobře, doma nejlépe,” as the Czech proverb goes, or if you prefer the English equivalent saying, “There’s no place like home.”
The difficulty I faced yesterday was getting there from Prague airport after my recent sojurn in a Spanish village. More on the quirks of the Spanish Village People vs. their Czech counterparts another time.
I would like to stress that getting from Prague airport to the centre of town by public transport is a straightforward business. The only reason I wanted to take a taxi is that I could feel a migraine coming on. Or perhaps, if I’m being brutally honest, I was feeling lazy. The wheels on my suitcase are less wheely than they ought to be and I was frankly sick of dragging it around.
I made my way to the taxi rank with my rather heavy suitcase. A waiting driver leapt out of his vehicle and eagerly seized it.
Part of me was tempted just to sink into the comfy backseat and speed off towards Czechman and the tasty leftovers which remained from his Mamka’s weekend visit — she ironed our sheets too because apparently she was bored — but I knew better than to give into that temptation.
—How much will it be to Holesovice? I ask in Czech, just to be sure that he knows this Angličanka has been here before.
—I don’t know. It depends on the traffic.
I push our taxi driver friend for a figure. —So approximately?
—700 or 800 CZK.
Seven hundred crowns! Gasp! That’s a lot of nice lunches or spoilt and western coffees — not to mention good old fashioned half litres of lovely Czech beer.
It’s time to be assertive.
—I’ll pay 500 CZK but that’s it.
The response is lots of angry handwaving. I snatch back my suitcase and storm off to the bus stop in disgust while Airport Taxi Driver shouts “TRAFFIC! TRAFFIC!” at me in English.
It turns out that there is indeed a lot of traffic on the road. The bus is packed with returning Czech holidaymakers, assorted tourists and all their huge suitcases. It takes far longer than usual to get to Dejvicka; even munching on several digestive biscuits does little to boost my morale. I can’t cope with getting on the metro, then getting off and hauling my not very wheely suitcase up the steps onto a tram — the handle has fallen off which makes this operation still more challenging — then off again.
I decide to compromise. I’ll take a taxi from Vítězné náměstí, which ought to be a reasonable 150CZK. Or at least it was that time last year when I got drunk, took the wrong tram then had to quickly find an alternative means of transport to get home.
Taxi Driver Number 2 — and it will soon become apparent that he is indeed a bit of a Number 2* — spots that I’m English. After a preliminary attempt to talk to me in my native language, the rest of this conversation took place in Czech. It could be therefore that I’ve missed some of its important nuances but the general gist went something like this:
—Ah London. I’ve been there. I didn’t really like it much though. Too many different people from different places, you know? I understand it’s because of your colonial history but it’s really not for me. Of course it’s good to travel, to see different things, experience different cultures, but everyone belongs somewhere. To me, for example, it’s strange that the children of those Vietnamese people have Czech passports. I mean, it’s really weird and not right in my opinion.
Arrgh! I’m stuck in an enclosed space with Politically Incorrect Cab Driver! Of course I don’t agree with any of this — and how could I, given that I’ve chosen to live outside the country of origin — but I’m tired and weak and unwilling to fight back.
I hate these situations because if you remain silent, as I did on this occasion, the person you’re talking to just assumes you agree with them. Which is of course A Bad Thing. However, I was in no mood to start a fight. I must have used up all my assertiveness for the day snatching my suitcase back from Taxi Driver Number 1.
Taxi drivers. Perhaps they’re the same the world over. If they’re not trying to rip you off, they’re forcing you to listen to their racist diatribes.
Czechman, playing devil’s advocate as always, claims that Number 2’s views aren’t exactly racist. Whatever. No-one’s going to be offering the bloke a job at the United Nations any time soon, that’s for sure.
And he charged me 211CZK, which I think is a bit steep. Perhaps I’m becoming more Czech by the minute.
I didn’t tip him. As if to show just how affronted he was by that fact, he counted each coin out into my hand individually.
All of this makes travelling from Prague Airport via good old public transport seem even more appealing.
Mamka’s leftovers were good though. As was the fantastic blueberry cake ( or buchta) you see below. Like I said at the beginning, “Všude dobře, doma nejlépe“.