Czechs love to travel
As I write in my memoir “Greenwich Meridian,” Czechs have an obsession with travel; partially due to the fact that during communism, travel was only allowed to the countries in the Eastern Block. And just like with anything else, what is prohibited attracts the most.
The only semi-capitalist country that the government allowed people to go to was Yugoslavia, and even that one required exit visa. For a Czech person, Yugoslavia was expensive. So, they canned their food and bought potatoes to bring with them. Usually, they slept in tents there.
But, it was a yuppie thing to do. Because of my immigration past to the USA, I was not allowed to go to any Western country, and not even to the coveted Yugoslavia. I just heard about it from a friend at school who went there the year Elvis died.
On the other hand, I’ve been to two Eastern European countries, and that was Bulgaria in the summer of 1982, and Hungary in 1987.
My husband Ludek and I took a train from Prague to Burgas on the Sunny Coast of the Black Sea. We travelled the distance of 811 miles for two days and one night.
The train became very local in Rumania. It stopped in every village, where people were either begging for food or selling some. You could see gypsies on their wagons, and we did travel through the Transylvanian Alps, home of the famous count Dracula. The train had trouble climbing up the hills and the curves. You could see both locomotives chugging the long train from the back cars.
Somewhere along the way in Rumania we stopped for a break. We walked into a store to buy some food for the road, and it was completely empty. I wondered why it was opened.
Sunny Burgas welcomed us with a surprise. The vacation was advertised with a stay in a hotel in a Czech travel catalogue. The reality was a trailer camp. I remember crying.
Bulgaria also had so called Russian toilets which were just holes in the ground with two sidesteps to put your feet on. Much like in the rest of Europe, all the restaurants were directly on the beach.
My favorite food was chorba, a hearty stew with home made bread. I’ve been making it ever since. I bought some Bulgarian ceramic souvenirs that I brought with me to the USA.
People were friendly and we spoke Russian, which we all had to learn in schools of the Eastern Block. It came in handy. After many years, when I returned back to the USA with my family, and met a Russian man in a store, I could not remember anything except for “Zdravstvuj tovariscz” which means hello comrade.
…….. to be continued
Copyright © 2013 story by Emma Palova