The Spirit of Prague

Ivan Klíma wrote the following in The Spirit of Prague – For me, the material and spiritual centre of this city is an almost 700-year-old stone bridge connecting the west with the east. The Charles Bridge is an emblem of the city's situation in Europe, the two halves of which have been seeking each other out at the very least since the bridge's foundations were laid. The West and the East.

Friday, March 28, 2014

My Apartment & The Curtains

When I moved into my apartment here in Vinohrady Praha 2, I was excited and blown away. It's huge, and like they promised, I have Wi-Fi (it could be better, but works most of the time), and laundry service! Not too shabby. The only problem I saw right away, was the bed. It's springy and loose and saggy... not a great bed. I can live with that, though.

And then I noticed something else... those giant beautiful windows that let in so much light are fantastic. See them? And the bad bed?
Well those windows are glorious, and beautiful, and it's a tree lined street that is just coming into bloom. Lovely. But, those curtains? I can see everything through them, and everyone can see right back into the bedroom. Clearly. I tested it. During the day and at night (worse at night – one can  make out more than just shapes in the bedroom!). Yet, I'm only here a short time... I can live with it, right? I can turn out the light and get undressed and it's no big deal.

So that's what I did the first night. Except there's a streetlight. A couple of them. Bright ones. And that curtain that doesn't curtain? It lets all the light in, too. I could read in bed with the lights off. I have sleep issues as it is... constant insomnia, fear of going to sleep, combined with a bigger desire to actually sleep. It was a brutally long night.

And so began the Great Curtain Chase of Praha, 2014.

It started at a mall. Yes, in this city of historic places, I was here less than a week and I was in a giant, multi-level shopping mall called Palladium. Tragic, I know. Except on a recent walking tour, the guide pointed out a building that back in the day (1300-1400's) was the first indoor shopping area in all of Central Europe, and could possibly be considered the first mall. Maybe it's not so tragic after all? However, the curtains in this mall were really expensive.

Of course, I ended up at the nicest store. Beautiful furniture, modern, classic, luxurious, just a great home design store. The curtains averaged $600. I thought this was not the best option, and so I mustered the courage to speak, and asked. "Promiňte, prosím. Mluvíte anglicky?" Surprisingly, the younger woman shook her head and pointed at the older woman. She nodded, and I explained. She showed me what they had, and I said, yes, they are lovely, but you know, only two months!  

She thought about it and waved her arms as she said, you need to go to *@^%#?  – as usual, I had no idea what she actually said, but I followed her, and she printed out the name of a store, along with the various addresses. I told her where I was staying, and she circled the two on my metro line. She said, "Yes, go to JYSK. You will find curtains for around $30." And she was right! 

I love this woman.

The next day I was on the Subway out to one of the last stops, where I followed my GPS a mile away from where I actually needed to be. I couldn't imagine that I was standing on the dot of my destination, yet I was in the middle of Communist style apartment towers with depressed landscaping and faded, peeling orange paint. Strangers were staring. I was the stranger. Where was this store? I circled and circled. I peeled left. I spun right. I ran out of time. I had to leave. I found my way back to the train station. And god damn it, JYSK is right next to where I came up from the subway. How did I miss it? I ran in, looked, but was already running late. But I saw enough. They did have cheap options. It took a second trip out there later that day, right before they closed, but I got curtains – both of them, for less than $18 total! 

These are also thin, but have a design, and combined with the other ones, work pretty good. I cannot read with the lights off. Due to the bad bed, I still have problems sleeping, but at least it's dark-ish, and at least I have some semblance of privacy. JYSK. That woman. Thank you. 

I should also mention, hanging curtains on windows this tall, when you are this short, without a ladder or anyone to help, is no easy feat. I balanced my tippy toes on a big stock pot on a layer of folded cardboard that sometimes moved a little, all on top of the windowsill. But they are hung, and somewhat ugly, and I'm proud. When I turn out the lights (yes I can still see things, but not as much), I think, crafty Kenny. Crafty. Boy got some moxie. 

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