The retreat house was indeed very quiet. Despite that, I woke up very early in the morning to have breakfast. I saw the German lady I met last night and had a chat with her while the other retreatants extremely quietly ate their breakfast. I was actually quite impressed. It wasn’t just because they could refrain from talking but also because even when they used their cutlery, they didn’t make much noise too.
The German lady and I talked about everything. At one stage, a priest came. I didn’t know he was a priest until the German lady introduced me to him. Not long after they talked, he excused himself and then came back after a short moment with a little piece of paper in his hands. He gave it to me. It was a short poem with a little drawing beside the words. He asked the German lady to translate it into English for me. I could recognise the word ‘Regen’. It was a poem written for travellers. It says (according to my vague memory), ‘when it is sunny, may the sun shine upon you. When it is rainy, may the rain drizzle gently over your face. Whatever the weather is, may God bless you.’ The poem was a bit longer than that. But I have forgotten the other lines. I kept it so safely after I returned home from this trip that I forgot where I put it. But the essence of it remains in my mind.
I didn’t want to leave but I had to. I went to the reception and asked if she could help me to book a taxi. What I didn’t expect was, it took quite a long time for it to come which meant I might not catch the morning train to Prague.
I arrived at the railway station and asked if there’d be a chance for me to catch the next train to Prague. The lady at the ticket office looked at the clock and said, ‘you should be able to catch it. You can try. If you can’t, you can come back and I’ll change the ticket for you.’ Perfect! I got my ticket, ran to the station and… saw the train leave…
I went back to the ticket office. The lady said, ‘oh, you missed it.’ ‘Yes, I did.’ Sad face. She gave me another ticket but that train was a slow one and it stopped at more stations than the earlier one. That meant I’d also be late for the dinner I booked in Czech Republic. 😔
I texted the restaurant and told them about my situation. They said they could pick me up at the railway station. 😱 Perfect!!!
Then the next thing I needed to take care of was the hostel I booked… they said their reception was not open 24 hours a day… I was a bit worried. I couldn’t get in touch with the hostel…
Finally! I arrived in Czech Republic! I waited for a while at the train station, still felt a bit unsettled. Then a minivan arrived!! Yeah! It was full of tourists. They were all going to the dinner. After the staff settled my backpack at the back of the minivan, I hopped in the vehicle. A couple started chatting with me and eventually I told them my story. The girl offered, ‘if you have nowhere to stay tonight, you can stay in our hotel room. You can sleep on the couch if you don’t mind. So don’t worry about it. Enjoy yourself tonight.’ That was so kind of her.
After dinner, the minivan drove us back to Prague. The couple asked me if I wanted to stay with them or try my hostel. I wanted to try the latter. The girl left me her contact and said, ‘let me know if you need our help.’ That was so kind of them. I was the last one who left the minivan. What did it mean? I had toured around the city at night already. 😁
I walked up to the hostel. The receptionist was there. Thank God! And I asked her if my room was still there…
‘Yes! We had been waiting for you.’ 😄 Thank God!
After I checked in, I had a chat with the receptionist. She said ‘of course, we’ll wait for you. The reception is open 24 hours.’ That was so sweet. But that wasn’t what the website said. Anyway, it was a good surprise.
I asked her about other places in Czech Republic that I could visit in this short trip. She immediately recommended Kutna Hora and gave me a leaflet. She said the bone church was very unique and that I should go there. I think we chatted until midnight as I checked in only half an hour before that.
I roamed around the city the next day.
Just as I was getting ready to leave after the concert, I heard someone call my name. Huh?! How could anyone know me in Prague?! I turned around and followed the sound waves. Then I saw two familiar faces. They were the couple from the dinner last night. What a pleasant surprise!
We caught up with each other and I told them that I checked in to my hostel and that everything was fine. We talked so much that the girl invited me to join them for drinks that night. Her boyfriend suggested we took a rest before we met up again at a bar. I needed to meet up with a friend who was going to join me from the UK anyway, so we split.
I met up with my friend who had just arrived in the hostel. Oh, she’s the one who nagged about going to Vietnam years later but was the first to pull out after the organiser said he couldn’t go. 🙄 Anyway, back then, I didn’t know she could be that annoying. In fact, I should have sensed something. Another girl I caught up with in the UK who was also our mutual friend told me she didn’t want to see her again… Anyway, I took my friend to the pub after she settled down in the hostel.
The couple selected a pub near Charles Bridge. Not long after we all sat down and I introduced my friend to them, the girl showed me her engagement ring. I was thrilled! ‘When did it happen? How did he pop the question?’ Her now fiancé laughed. He said they didn’t go back to the hotel. Actually, he was a bit worried when his fiancée invited me to have a drink that evening. He was sweating, he said. I could have ruined his entire plan. Fortunately, we split. It was such a relief for him. As they strolled along Charles Bridge, all of a sudden, he had his one knee on the ground and he proposed. The girl was thrilled! She didn’t see it coming. After she accepted it, she texted her parents who asked her if she had taken any photos. Of course not. So, she asked her fiancé to do it again and found some tourist on the bridge to take a photo. That was so funny. The tourist was very surprised when he saw her fiancé kneeling on the ground. He took many photos. She told me I was one of the first few people who knew this. I felt so honoured. I didn’t expect to hear such a sweet and romantic story in Prague too. She then showed me the photos that the tourist took. They did look a bit staged. 🤣 Congratulations! Cheers to that! I’m sure they are living happily somewhere in the US maybe with a bunch of kids now!! 😊
31 March – 1 April 2012
P.S. I attended mass in Prague in the morning. It was Palm Sunday so each one of the attendants got a palm leaf. After the mass, I took the metro to somewhere (I don’t remember where). As I exited the metro and walked up the stairs towards the ground, I felt something or someone touching my bag. I usually carry my day bag in the front but that time, I carried it on my back. I turned around. Immediately, I saw a brown-haired woman standing very closely to me. She was probably in her 30’s, had big eyes, skinny and her skin was a bit rough. She said something that I didn’t understand and then left. I checked my day bag. Nothing was lost except the palm leaf. Pickpockets were (still are?) very common in Europe.
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