September 26, 2008

Brno, Czech Republic

Getting personal invites from newly formed friendships along the way is one of the best parts of traveling and so when the ex-pat American friend I had met in Sarajevo, Joseph, invited me to the home he shares with his lovely girlfriend Katka in the quiet, clean and quaint hills of Brno in The Czech Republic, I jumped at the opportunity and also on the night train from Budapest which had me arriving after midnight which seemed to set an accidental precedent for the rest of my stay; I would see this medium sized city three hours from Prague only after the sun went down leaving me with a new Czech nickname - The Vampiress of Brno. The Hungarian grey skies had followed me across the border and my hosts “quaint home” in the surrounding hills is actually an architectural masterpiece designed by Katka whose open layout and hip comfort had me consistently choosing, when presented with the day’s options, to “lounge” instead of “explore”. My decision to pretend I was one of those slightly blurry models traveling between the glossy pages of an architectural editorial spread, reading and writing on designer furniture while nibbling wasabi nuts and sipping white wine in front of a cozy evening fire, instead of seeing another castle or church was deliberately calculated as the thought of my quickly approaching reality change loomed ahead; me sitting in a yurt, wrapped in animal skins, selling my firstborn if I could only sleep on a bed of hot coals, begging for more mutton stew, sheep’s rump and goat’s milk as the Mongolian winter whipped snow and wind across the Steppes and through my shivering body.
Not quite to the degree of Mongolia, The Czech Republic sees a sturdy winter season filled with enough grey and cold days to send Grandma to the pub for a little neighborhood warmth. Once the night sky appeared and I was allowed outdoors without the fear of turning into a melted crucifix, Joseph and Katka introduced me to the local PUB-lic policy of Brno and hazed me with hearty glasses of beer, hefty plates of fresh steak tartare and pork ribs so succulent the meat would just gently fall off the bone into the waiting piles of pickled cabbage and horseradish. While I was certainly able to carry my weight in beer and meat at these establishments, I realized, after a Saturday night bus trip home that placed me witness to streets filled with one-eye-open-stumbling and oops-here-comes-my-dinner-on-your-shoe local men and woman, that I would need a few more years here to truly compete. Also sprinkled in with these authentic pub nights were incredibly delicious and healthy home cooked dinners by Joseph, relaxing conversations by the fireplace while watching the American economy get flushed down the toilet and a trip with Katka and her Mother to the local theater to see a performance of “Even Gypsies Go To Heaven” of which, while being thoroughly entertained by the music and all the Czech Stevie Nicks look alikes, I successfully understood four words throughout the entire production, “Cheers”, “Also”, “Thank You” and “No”.
I used two of these words at the dentist appointment that my friend’s were so kind to organize for me on such short notice, “Thank You for seeing me so quickly Olga,” and “No, getting my cracked and cavity ridden metal fillings replaced using that big drill on your table without Novacaine is not an option. No, No, No.” I had come up with the idea of becoming a dental tourist after sitting next to a young Israeli man on the plane ride back to the States in August who told me he had just gotten four beautiful crowns installed in Moldova for just $600 total. At $1,000 a crown in the States, the dream of getting my very own Aniston-Jolie-Roberts smile was always about $900 out of the question. But I was going to be in Central and Eastern Europe, which has a great dental reputation, and I wondered if maybe, possibly, hopefully I would finally have a chance to reasonably treat myself to a pair of Hollywood grade, STAR Magazine worthy porcelain crowns.
Katka packed me in the car like my Mother used to do and hauled me to Olga’s dental practice in the center of town and after a close inspection of my mouth the diagnosis was two cracked fillings, a high scrub cleaning, two new crowns replacements, bleaching and, without question, Novacaine all for a bit higher than I expected, $1,500, and for more time than I could afford, 3 weeks; I was faced with the decision of turning into a Mediterranean ice block in Mongolia or biding my time waiting for a beautiful new smile in the lap of luxury with friends. Not wanting to miss out on eating the regional, internationally-renowned Mutton cuisine of Eastern Asia, I chose to be responsible and only get the necessary work of a cleaning and the broken fillings replaced, of which I was happy to do in the post-communist era where, after learning these people used to get babies delivered, limbs amputated and open heart transplants without any anesthetic, I was never so happy to see a big needle heading directly for my mouth. I was glad I chose to stay and take care of my teeth here because I am convinced that unless you have had a cleaning in The Czech Republic by a woman named Olga, then you haven’t really had a cleaning. And after a week here I am also convinced that unless you have thrown some raw cow on a piece of oil and garlic soaked bread and washed it down with a heavy bitter, beer, then you haven’t really….well, then you must not be Czech.

1 comment:

Dan5280 said...

I wish I could join you for some of this. What a great adventure you are on! Lots of love,



blogger templates | Make Money Online