Thursday, November 17, 2016

Spontaneous Spa Town

As firmly established in my last post, my wife loves to drag my lardy ass out of the house randomly and for no purpose other than to watch me sweat, squeal, bitch and moan. Of course she says she is doing it out of love—and to make me do healthy things in nature to keep me from having a heart attack. But the very nature of these healthy things usually places me at high risk of a heart attack. So it goes.

On this particular day, the usual bribery was in place: I promised to get my ass out of the house, walk medium-to-great distances for no reason, then I get to have fried cheese and beer in a village pub as a reward for my efforts (if I'm not killed in the process). I had a brilliant plan: take a 15 minute tram ride over to Hloubětin Chateau (like we did last week), get pics from the opposite side (for better lighting), and to retire to the Old Czech Pub in the 18th century house just down the road. It was easy peasy, no major hiking, and minimum effort for maximum reward. I'm just going to cut to the chase: gray skies. Bad lighting. No photography possible. No chateau walk. No old pub possible as a bribe/reward. Fuck.

Plan B: Is This Where I Get Cheated Out of My Fried Cheese?

Then she pulled a plan out of the spontaneity hat: 'Let's go to Poděbrady! It's got spas and springs and blah blah blah.' I tuned out due to a short attention span. But since the train trip was an hour each way, there would be no chance for her to finagle her way out of the promised land of beer and fried cheese.

Poděbrady, like all Euro-towns, has a history. And it is either unintelligible or unpronounceable. The hipsters and trustafarians living near Jiřiho z Poděbrad metro station can only call it JZP. But Jiři is George and he is from Poděbrady. But he was also the King of Bohemia in the 1400s, a Hussite (Protestants Against Catholics, or PAC man, if they'd had acronyms back then). You've gotta give Prague credit for fighting the Catholic power: Jan Hus (Statue and Church in the Old Town Square) and Jan Žižka (One-eyed general and Catholic-ass-kicking patron of the whole Žižkov quarter of Prague). The Two Honzas (nickname for Jan) won many battles, but lost the war. Catholicism ended up dominating most of Europe, but the Czechs settled on good-old-fashioned Atheism as a final result. A most excellent tie breaker if I do say so myself.

Healing Waters and Horny Old Folks

Poděbrady is also a spa town. Bohemia has many of these, the more famous of which lie in the mountain range between Germany and Czech (Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně, etc.). If you have the geographic blessing of spring water for drinking and soaking, some of the best beer in the world, and a history of treating heart patients—well, it was fate that I would have to go there. If I had a heart attack during the hours of walking, I would be in the right place.

As we walked down the long promenade-slash-park from the train station to the Old Town, several fountains enclosed in glass greeted our gaze. Sadly, most of the fountains were as dried up as the old ladies milling about aimlessly. Then my wife said something really frightening: 'This place is famous for old people getting laid.'

'UGH! Why would you say that? Now I can't UNHEAR that!'

Then she proceeded with the tired old 'you prude' argument, saying it was perfectly normal for crotchety old farts to chase wizened old prunes around in the sauna. Just because they 'can' do something, doesn't mean that I need to hear about it. I blame the damn Viagra. It's like Bill Maher said regarding boner pills for old folks: 'Grandpa! Leave that old bag of bones in the next room alone!'

So with the awful imagery of fragile fossils fornicating, we continued on until my first requisite stop, the old castle. To many Americans, the European castle is a fantastic remnant of a steel-and-stone history, and a reminder that America isn't old enough to have castles. So I've spent the last 20-odd years drifting around Europe catching castle pics and stomping around stone ruins. My full imagination employs itself: high stone walls with tiny windows strong against the barbaric hordes, lofty round towers seemingly made with the sole purpose of keeping the peasants out of the princess's knickers, and cold, hard halls filled with the smell of roasting meat and the sounds of heavy mugs of beers clunking together with HOORAHS and hey...

...Is that a pub over in the castle courtyard?! Yes! Maybe they'll have swarthy barmaids swinging swine clubs amid drunken lords. Or at least have a slab of sýr for me to slide down my gullet. Sadly, it was only a cafe. But still. A cafe with a view to a 12 century castle is better than a sharp lance in the eye. For some strange reason, my babe didn't like the castle. It was too square and well, too military for her. She prefers the quaint, frilly castles of the renaissance and baroque periods. In the 12 century, castles were built for function more than form. But we wouldn't get to find out what lies in the hallowed halls of Poděbrady Castle on that day. All castles close to the public at the end of October. Which is a pity. Just when the cold and wet air whips clouds into battle formation, filling the skies with castle clouds (my phrase for heavy, black/gray puffy clouds which add to the mystery of a castle picture), they close the fuckers.

A Dram of Whiskey, A Jug of Water, A Slab of Cheese

Well, at least I got a warm whiskey in the cafe to bolster my spirits. Then we finally found a working tap which dispenses the famous Poděbrady mineral water, right there in the castle courtyard below the maiden's tower. After filling up a jug with the water (which tastes of salt and iron), we slowly wended our way back through town, stopping for my (YES!!!) smaženy sýr, hranolky and tartarka, washed down with local beer.

Carrying a backpack with a tall jug of water in it can be challenging, and the jug often flopped over in my backpack, requiring my wife to get into the pack and wrestle it back into shape, muttering under her breath, “Damn thing handles like a bag of dicks.”

I am so glad I took the time to teach her my favorite redneck aphorisms.

Photos by Gabriela Sarževská


  1. I'm still rolling in laughter here, imagining Gabi saying those hilarious and unexpected things!

    Too bad the food wasn't what you'd hoped for...and I can't even imagine warm whiskey. Was the beer cold?

    Happy, happy birthday!

    1. Yeah, we do loves our Redneckery. I just learned that particular gem above while visiting you in Fresno! No, you didn't say it (though that would be hilarious). I was shopping parts for El Luz, and someone posted on the review section: 'Why would you want THAT car? Handles like a bag of dicks.' After laughing myself stupid, I passed the joke on to Gabi. :D

      Thanks for reading and replying,

      -Big Sir


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