We’ve arrived safely in Prague.
The sense of displacement I felt when first arriving in Valencia isn’t apparent this time, although I do have a different feeling of unease instead.
There’s probably a word for it in other languages but I can’t think of one in English. I identified the unease I felt as the disappointment of familiarity. I’m going to call it Vertrautheitenttäuschung to make it sound all European and clever.
We got off the plane at 1am Tuesday morning and had wisely booked a night in the Marriott hotel at the airport. Tired, but unable to turn down a hotel breakfast, we awoke, ate and booked a taxi to take us to our new abode.
You notice the little things. Ooh – this taxi is an Audi, not like those dodgy white Toyotas they use for taxis in Valencia. And cars actually seem to stop at these zebra crossings – how safe and civilised! (And familiar).
Absent was the warm, sun-kissed auburn palette of the Mediterranean. In its place – the familiar desaturated greys and greens that I recognise so well from the UK. It was overcast, and a refreshing 20 degrees or so, rather than 28+ that we’d started to get used to. I’m actually starting to worry about the fact that I sent home my extra pair of jeans, long-sleeved t-shirt and hoody with my in-laws. Will shorts cut it here?
We arrived at our apartment, set against a forest backdrop, much like where we lived in Coombe Dingle and Henbury in Bristol. It’s really nice – the photos on Airbnb don’t do it justice. There’s a balcony, a fully equipped kitchen, stylish furniture. The only thing out of place is the old brick of a TV, which is so ancient I can’t connect a HDMI cable to it to plug in my Apple TV (it’s probably at most 10 years old, in reality).
We were all feeling a little grumpy as we’d not slept properly, so the thought of getting out and exploring didn’t appeal that much, but we’re seasoned travellers now so we knew we’d need to man up, do some shopping, buy travel cards and get SIM cards for our phones.
“It looks like Southmead!”, Roobs exclaimed as we stepped out of the flat.
To be fair, it’s not THAT bad, but you can see her point. Opposite us there’s a row of grey, terraced houses with red-tiled roofs that do remind you of some parts of Southmead or Henbury (where we used to live).
But you only have to look around at some of the other square, sharp buildings to see the modern European architecture on show. Plus there’s an odd clocktower outside our house that would look ridiculous in Southmead.
The Vertrautheitenttäuschung continued to shadow me as we got on the bus and headed off towards the centre of Prague (about 20 minutes away). We found the big shopping centre and looked around. Suddenly we were presented with Starbucks and Costa Coffee all over again, and long-lost high street brands such as Etam made a re-appearance. Not exactly the glamorous Mercado Colon of downtown Valencia.
We clocked the giant TESCO (ugh) that made up half the shopping centre, knowing we should go there later for groceries. In the meantime we found the food court on the top floor (where else?) and recalled the familiar feeling of being presented with a selection of “delicacies” from around the world.
Roobs pounced and dragged us into the Japanese-looking one for sushi and noodles, something she’s missed since being in Valencia. It reminded me how we spent an inordinate amount of time in either Wagamama or Yo Sushi! in the UK, but there was nothing like that in Spain (not in Valencia, anyhow).
We ate, and did our chores with a minimum of fuss. I’ve got to say, shopping in TESCO was downright depressing after the relative excitement of Consum and Mercado in Valencia. Again, it was all too familiar. You can even get the TESCO Value range (or the Finest range, if you prefer, madam).
In the evening I went for a run. There’s a path that runs through the woods at the back of our apartment – running along it definitely brought to mind Blaise estate in Bristol, through which I used to occasionally run and cycle to work. And there were hills! I’ve forgotten what it’s like to run up hills (tiring).
After the run, I came home and Suewan had cooked a roast dinner – definitely familiar but without all the added disappointment, thank you. And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it rained. Hard.
We saw a little bit of rain in Valencia but it was very polite rain – as if it was saying “Don’t mind me, I’m just here to provide a little irrigation then I’ll be on my way, you carry on”. It didn’t even really make you wet. If I’d gone out in this nasty Eastern European rain I’d have been soaked in a few seconds.
Suewan says I’m just grumpy, and should be more optimistic. She’s right, of course.
On day 2 we spent more time exploring Prague and indeed, it is a beautiful gothic city, full of history. Shorts definitely did cut it after all – it was around 26 degrees and the sun shone bright.
I’m sure once we settle into life here it will be great. I’m just feeling a bit homesick for Valencia, right?
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