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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Prague: Our Czech Adventures!

9 May 2014 - Saboteurs catch us in Prague

Back in 2010, Shirl and I stayed in a fine hotel in Lukovit, Bulgaria.  There we found this sign on our room's window:
Please do not open windows.  The air conditioning system is automatic, and opening the window will cause it to turn off to save energy.  We ask that you keep the windows closed to prevent entry into the hotel of insects and saboteurs.
At the time, we laughed at this sign.  But this time, in Prague, Czech Republic, the saboteurs caught up with us.

The latest stop on our tour was Prague.  Having spent two cheap nights in a hostel in Krakow, Poland, I decided to splurge on a four-star hotel in Prague's famous Old Town.  We found what seemed to be an ideal parking spot on the street, just around the corner from the entrance to the 1.Republic [First Republic] Hotel, where I had made our reservation online (and thus was not aware that the hotel had a parking garage).  The hotel met all our expectations, and the restaurant some two hundred meters down the street provided a fine Czech-cusine meal.  Following a glass of wine for Shirl, and for me, a couple of beers, Shirl and I bedded down for a restful sleep after the 400-mile (600 Km) drive from Poland.  Alex, 29, went back out to try the world-famous Prague night-life. Returning at about 2:00 AM, he had stopped at the car to retrieve some items, and all was well with Klaus.

The next morning, we checked out, and went to our car, expecting to depart westward, toward Germany.  Alex went first, carrying the heaviest bags, and I followed with more luggage, half a minute later.  As I rounded the corner, I saw Alex's face drop, and heard him say, "Oh, oh!"  Not good signals.

Klaus had been broken into.  His right-rear window was shattered, with small shards all over the car's interior.  Missing were my electric cooler, which had kept my insulin cool, our GPS, and my business suit, which had been in a hanging bag behind the driver's seat.  Of less value, but of greater importance, the thieves had taken Klaus' registration and insurance cards. Without these, driving Klaus home to Germany would represent an unacceptable risk.

We went back to the hotel, where the excellent receptionist named Jasmine called the police.  The local police did not answer their phone, so she used her cell phone, and dialed 112, the emergency number. The operator at 112 took the car's type, location, country (D) and plate number, and told her he would contact the local police.  Then, I asked Jasmine to see if she could find an auto-glass repair specialist in the city, who might be able to repair Klaus that afternoon.  I also asked if our room would be available again that night, and learned that the hotel was fully booked, as the Prague Marathon would be run on Sunday.  We would have to move for the night.

I booted my computer and booked us into another Prague hotel, of lesser stature, but fully acceptable, called the Rubicon.

The police told us they might be there in 40 minutes.  We waited on the curb across the street from the unlockable Klaus.  An hour passed, and I returned to see Jasmine.  She had located a company named "Autosklo Servis," had determined that they had the glass for the right-rear window of a 1993 BMW 520i, and would fix Klaus that afternoon, if we could get him there by 3:00 PM.

The police arrived after about 80 minutes, at 1:20 P.M.  The two uniformed officers, a man and a higher-ranked woman of uncommonly feminine appearance (for a cop), worked through Jasmine, as interpreter, to gather full details of the event, what was stolen, the car's ownership (nico-Norbert Schmid, GmbH), my passport number and home address, etc.  They also needed the car's VIN code, so I went looking for it in the glove box.  No luck there.  I looked on the dashboard, inside the door, and finally, we found it under the hood.  I returned the car's manuals to the glovebox, and closed it.  We went back into the hotel, where the police woman, aided by Jasmine as translator, asked me to come to her police station at nine that evening to deal with the registration issue.  So, it was well after 2:00 before we hired a taxi to lead us to the repair shop.  There was traffic.  Shirl and I rode in the taxi, and Alex followed in Klaus.  In traffic, Klaus has been known to overheat.  He started to show increasing water temperature, just as we began again to move.  Before 3:00, we made it to the repair shop.  
At Autosklo, I learned that the car would be ready by 5:00.  We transferred the most-needed luggage to the taxi, so that Shirl and Alex could go to Hotel Rubicon, and check-in.  I waited for Klaus.  

The people at Autosklo do not speak much English, and I speak no Czech.  Still, they were fully professional, and most kind to me.  They have a customer waiting room with a TV, wherein I watched a geographic documentary on the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, in Arizona.  It was dubbed in Czech, but pretty easy to follow.  When I learned they had Wifi, I asked permission, went to the car for my computer bag, and tried to log on.  I could not get their password right.  I think it contained a special character - a sort of cupped underscore, that is not on my keyboard.  So I gave up on the Internet from there.

Next, I checked for my passport, normally kept near my computer.  Not there.  Well, I told myself, I know I had it to show the police, so the thieves did not get it.  But, I knew I would not feel secure until I had it in hand.  I asked again to go to my car.  I rummaged through the broken glass and maps strewn around the car, and found it finally beneath the owner's books in the glove box.  Whew!  One major stress, relieved.

Klaus was ready early, at a fair price of under $200.  The glass had all been vacuumed out of him, and all his windows had been cleaned, as well.  Thoroughly professional service.  A second stress element was relieved.  I asked the woman at the Autosklo office where to buy a new GPS.  She drew me a map to Europark, a shopping mall, and on her Internet connection, determined that they had an electronic store selling GPS navigation devices.

I drove to Europark, and bought a TomTom.  Then I went looking for a simple picnic cooler for my insulin.  Both a cooler and plastic ice blocks were available at the grocery and variety store at the far end of the mall.  Now, I was hungry.  No time had been allotted for lunch.  Also, I needed some ice immediately, as my insulin was still in my un-chilled backpack in the back of Klaus.  I stopped at McDonald's ate a cheeseburger, drank a Coke Light, and asked for a second cup full of ice, and covered.  That did the job until the hotel's adjacent restaurant, where we ate dinner that night, froze my new ice blocks for me.

That evening, I found that in the hassle and confusion of the day, I had lost the address of the police station to which I was to report at nine.  Jasmine was no longer on duty at the 1.Republic, so I asked our receptionist for the location of the nearest police station, and walked there at about 8:15.  There, a very kind and helpful officer asked me the location of the incident, and looked up the address of the appropriate station for me to go to.  I was there at 9:00 sharp.  There was one squad car parked there, but the door was locked.  I knocked on the front door.  No answer.  I knocked on the rear door.  No answer.  I flagged a taxi, and started back to the hotel.  We had gone less that 100 meters when a police car, lights flashing, came up behind us.  The taxi driver stopped, said, "this is my problem," and got out to go back and talk with the cops.  I noted he had left the meter running.  I was to be paying for his problem.  They opened the back of this Passat wagon, then closed it.  The driver stuck his head in, the door, and I mentioned the meter.  He paused it.  I would be paying for only most of the delay.  Finally, we got to the Rubicon.

There is more to our adventures in Prague... next post.

1 comment:

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