Europe 1987

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 2018

Europe 1987

We had an early start today.  I left at 6:30am to take the car to the mechanic for its service, as it had been booked in for 7:00am, while Di stayed at the flat with the children to undertake a hair washing marathon.

I had to wait for quite a while for the workshop to open as they were running late, but I didn’t mind as it was located right under the flight path for Prague Airport, and I had a wonderful time watching exotic (to my eyes) low flying airliners on their final approach right above me in the golden light of the early morning – Ilyushin Il-62s and Tupolev Tu-134s; I felt I was in plane spotter’s heaven.

Eventually the workshop opened.  I walked in and was greeted immediately with the important opening question, which was not “Good morning, how are you?”, but simply “Do you have the Castrol oil”?  It was a great feeling to take the two bottles of oil out of the grey paper bag I was using to carry them and hand them across.  I remember thinking “if only he knew what I went through to get this oil”, but then I realised as a resident of Czechoslovakia he doubtless not only knew, but experienced far greater frustrations on an almost daily basis.

I caught a couple of trams to get back to the flat, and I arrived at about 9:00am.  Di was ready with the children, so we headed off to catch some different trams and explore Prague Castle (Hradčany).  It was quite a walk, but Phillip was easily entertained as he was becoming quite skilled in identifying the various types of Eastern European cars that were parked at angles beside the street.  Having said that, there wasn’t a huge or difficult variety, which became evident as he walked along, pointing at each car and saying “Škoda, Škoda, Škoda, Lada, Škoda, Škoda, Trabant, Tatra, Škoda, Škoda, Škoda …”.

We caught the trams to Hradčany and then walked down to Golden Lane (Zlatá ulica), a beautiful little laneway where the goldsmiths and alchemists used to live and work, lined by buildings that seemed to be miniature in size.  The views from the hill were stunning, and gave a great impression of this beautiful city.  Unlike almost every city in Europe, Prague was spared destruction in World War II as the Germans just marched in unopposed in 1939 and the Soviet Red Army did the same in 1945.

Liesl and I took the tram from Hradčany to collect the car from the mechanic while Di took different trams with Phil and Tim to a park to play for an hour and a quarter, which is when Liesl and I re-joined them.  It was 3:00pm, so we had a late lunch before taking a drive north through Líbeznice to Mělníck, a beautiful town on a hill that overlooks the confluence of the Vltava and Elbe Rivers.  The centre of a wine growing region, we had a lovely time exploring the town’s market square and baroque church.  Surprisingly, the old town square was almost deserted because it was the town’s “half-day”, so we were able to enjoy the quiet gurgling sound of the fountain echoing from the walls of the old buildings and cobble-stoned paving almost entirely alone. 

We returned to Prague, stopping on the northern outskirts in the Nový Prosek and Starý Střižkov districts to explore several of Prague’s new excessively long high-rise housing estates, a distinctive feature of Eastern Europe’s socialist urban planning.  The estates, especially those lining a main road named Vysočanská, looked surprisingly attractive in the late afternoon sunlight despite their uniform grey appearance and drab concrete construction.

Our late lunch meant that I was the only one in the family with any appetite for dinner, a nice saving on food expenses and perhaps a slight loss of weight as well.  So rather than taking time for dinner, we went for a lovely dusk walk, taking a circular route from Mr Blaha’s flat at Podskalská 22 south to Vyšehrad, a fortified medieval castle complex, around its boundary and east to the southern end of the massive Klement Gottwald Bridge (later to be re-named Nuselský Bridge) at Vyšehrad Metro Station.  This impressive, modern, six-lane wide, half-kilometre long, concrete bridge spanned a deep valley that contained the entire Nusle district beneath it.  We returned to our flat by crossing the Gottwald Bridge, which provided some delightful views of suburban Prague beneath us, and then walked along some lovely suburban streets back to the flat.

Day 10

Prague and Mělníck

Wednesday 22 July 1987