Sunday, October 29, 2006

Tales From The Little Stalin Cottage,
We stayed in Praha for about a week. The occasion was an international conference of the WSAVA, and, of course, we stayed in the cheapest hotel recommended by the Association. This was mistake #1. It's easy for me to avoid these "recommendations" in a country that speaks English or French, and I've always done such. I can get a cheap hotel easy in such a situation, but here I am depending on an international veterinary association. This was a "screw-around" in Granada en Espana, and it was a screw-around here as well. It wasn't bad in Rodos in Greece only because you simply can't go wrong in Rodos.
In any case we got off the plane in Praha and were approached by a shark taxi driver. The equivalent of $80 Canadian later we were deposited at the 'Opatov Twin'. You walk up to the door, and the first thing you notice is that they have an ad for the nearest detox centre displayed prominently to the right of the entrance. The hotel "catered" to a "student" crowd who seemed to be in town basically for kopana (soccer) games. All the lights in the hotel's neon sign were operating on the day that we arrived. This didn't last. Each day as we came back to the hotel another letter or 2 or 3 had burned out. It was similar at the parent hotel, the 'Opatov' around the corner. The last three or 4 days no lights were operating in the "Twin", and they were blinking out one by one in the main hotel. Nobody seemed to give a flying fuck.
We walked into the joint. No problem at the front desk, but there are a few stairs to carry your heavy luggage up to get to the elevator. We get there. The "students" are having a great time. The "halls" are covered with graffiti to the 7 foot high level. The elevator was completely covered, right up to and on the ceiling. I'm into my "come into my personal space and I'll kill you" mode.
We pass out of the elevator to more graffiti, hallways that have cheap paneling held up with cheaper glue (ie falling off the base) and finally get to the room. We pass a stairway that says "out of order" in Czech. How can a set of stairs be "out of order" ? I don't know. I tried to get in to see what the problem was, but the door was locked solid.
The room was truly bizarre. You enter and there is a short hallway. One door that creaks like the main gate to Dracula's Castle leads into the bedroom. This, like another door leading to another room containing one very stained cot and nothing else, has an opaque glass upper portion. The veneer is even less attached to the walls in the room than it is to the walls in the halls. The toilet is separated from the washroom by a panel about 1 cm thick.
We finally got some sleep. When I wake up and my head is clear I finally figure out what this building was before it became an "hotel". This was an office building during the days of Communism, and the ghosts of a billion scraps of paper are haunting the place. Actually I think they rendered them, added a little brown dye, and made them into the veneer that coats the walls. Speaking of "rendering" all the rooms of the hotel were decorated (?) with framed pictures of old maps. This wasn't just the guest rooms, but also every other room in the building. I wonder where they found the remainders sale.
Like all things the aspect of the "hotel" falls into place given a little time. The clincher, however, was coming back one night. Another veterinarian, from Honduras of all places, got off at the same subway stop that we did. She joined up with us in the trek through the field to reach our lodgings. Yak,yak. Turns out that she was chilled by the local scene as well, and she was very grateful to have company in getting to her room. What is impressive about this is that Honduras is perhaps the most crime ridden country in Central America. If the building in Praha can chill her it can chill anybody.
Perhaps I'm just too stupid to be scared, but I don't think that the lodgings were particularly dangerous. Nowhere in the Czech Republic is. Just very sad.
So this was our stay as the "maly Stalin domek", loosely translated as "the little Stalin cottage". My guess is that a "convert" from the old ruling class of aparatchiks picked the property up for a total of 10 kronas (about 40 cents) and a half full bottle of beer when the old rulers became the new rulers. The owner obviously has no interest in maintaining the place. As long as it brings in a little money it's best ignored.
The subways of Praha, however, were great. But more about this later.

No comments: