Saturday, July 15, 2017

Europe 2017: A Tale in Three Parts

Part 1: Information

Once upon a time there was a girl. She was on the train from Hannover to Plzeň, where she was doing a VBS. The train she was on was heading straight to Prague, so she had to make sure to get off at the right stop. There were actually two stops for Plzeň, but she knew she had to get off at hlavní nadraží, the main station. 

Years before this trip, there also were two men - one Czech, and the other American. The Czech man had told the American man how to get to this train station: "Go on the tram until everyone gets off. That is the end."

Part 2: Mistake

Two days ago, there was a group of moms and a group of children. They were Americans visiting Plzeň. The menfolk had gone off to tour a hops farm and brewery and left the women and children to fend for themselves. (Those fiends!) 

Anyway, after enjoying a pleasant meal in the center of town, the women and children got on the correct tram, but going in the wrong direction. They incorrectly assumed it was a circle route, when in fact it was a point-to-point tram. 

Before they knew it, they were out at the edge of town, the only ones dropped off at the end of the line. The tram driver got out, took a whiz behind the tram, sat at the stop for ten minutes, got back on the tram, and turned it back around to start his journey again. 

The women and children got back on the same tram from before, this time going in the correct direction, and made their way home. 

Part 3: Today

Our VBS children (well, about 20 of them) and a few parents (10 or so) were joining the Americans for a field trip. Did we know where we were going? Nope! That was Martin's job. He was in charge. there was a form sent home yesterday, but it was all in Czech. I just knew that the train left at 9:50 for wherever we were going. 

If the train was going, that meant I didn't have to go to the school just to come back in the opposite direction. (Breakfast didn't start till 9, and I wanted my sandwiches!) So yesterday, Ed told me that the tram I usually take, going in the opposite direction of the school, will get me to the station. "Go on the tram until everyone gets off. That is the end. Take the pedestrian tunnel and you'll be there."

Sounded easy enough. So this morning I slept in, had a lovely breakfast (and ordered myself some hot chocolate, served in a glass cup!), and made sure I'd packed everything in my MLS red drawstring bag. Then I went to the tram stop going in the opposite direction of school. 

The tram came up, I got on, and I waited till everyone got off. 

A lot of people got off two stops after the main square, which made me curious. This was the stop near the PilsnerUrquell brewery and I'd seen it yesterday. A lot of people got off, but not everyone. What was the name of it? 

Hlavní Nadraží

Hmm... the train station. I recognized the words. 

But I also remembered that there was a station on the outside of town. Maybe we were meeting there, which is why Ed told me to go to the end of the line. So I stayed on the tram. 

I kept going and going, realizing that it was 9:40 and getting close to the train departure time. I looked at the map of the tram stops. Only two left. Cool. 

And then I got to the last stop. End of the line. 

Remember the end of the line? It was outside of town. No tunnel. No train station. A few industrial buildings, a gas station, and some apartment buildings. 

That was it. 

Well that sucks. 

But I remembered the women's story from two days ago. The tram will turn itself around and start the return journey. I wasn't stuck, but I'd missed the train. I'd missed the field trip. 

So about five minutes later, the same tram turned itself around, I got on along with two other people, and we were off.

As I passed by the train station - hlavní nadraží - I decided to get off and see if, by chance, anyone had stuck around to wait for me. 

Sure enough, at the stop (which was not the end of the line) there was a pedestrian tunnel that took you right into the station. I found myself in the same terminal I'd been at a week ago when Petr had picked me up...

...and found the VBS crew all waiting for me! They'd missed their initial time just to see if I would make it!
Good think I'd decided to stop in and check. 

The End

And now, the rest of the story

The train was only two cars long - the tiniest real train I'd ever ridden. I luckily had a seat for this 45-minute journey to who-knows-where. Kids were running around finding friends and helpers and teachers, but it wasn't too bad. 

After a few stops we ended up in the town of Plasy, known for its old 12th century monastery. But we weren't going there - the thing I probably would have wanted to do the most. 

The group split into two - the group that was going to do a 10km hike up in the hills, and the group that was going to stay in town. I decided that I wanted to not be led around for a giant hike, especially not with my proper equipment. (Plus I'd heard that a few years back a 3-hour hike had become a 5-hour hike and did not want to tempt fate.) So I went with the town group. 

There were five Americans, four Czech adults, and nine young children staying in town. The Americans had no idea what we were doing, but knew someone had mentioned something about a zoo. Martin had gone with the hikers, so even the Czech adults didn't really know what to do. We wandered around until it started to rain, then hid in the monastery until the downpour ended. The kids all came prepared with food, raincoats, and proper footwear, thank goodness. 

After an hour of walking around, we decided to go to this so-called zoo. It actually was a mini golf course that had animals shoehorned in places. It was pretty pathetic, so I didn't take any pictures because I felt so bad for the animals. They even had lions and tigers and while their habitats were big-ish, they still weren't the proper size. 

The mini golf course had a theme - Around The World! It featured exotic countries like Japan! Mexico! Egypt! Caribbean! Transylvania! Arizona! And Africa! Luckily I did not golf. The kids did, so we had three groups and had to try to make sure they didn't interfere with other games while still keeping track of the one ball they were supposed to keep from going in random water areas. 

After we finished mini golf the sun finally decided to come out. We waited by the exit for a bit until we heard that the hiking group was at a brewery that we'd passed earlier. Then we met them there. 

Many of the adults got beer, coffee, and cake at this brewery (which was really beautiful and modern) while the kids played in a glorified parking lot/street. I kept an eye on them and talked with others while waiting for our train time. Near the end Ed gathered the kids together and they sang a bunch of the songs from the VBS. 

I was by the parents, and suddenly I hear a few of them talking about "Hokey Pokey" and "Baby Shark" with each other. I could see that they were saying "He came home and all he could sing was 'Baby Shark!'" I told them it was my fault and apologized. 

We took the group to the lake and some of the teachers and helpers performed a skit based on Paul and Silas' trip to prison. Then after the kids had played on the playground (which we probably should have done earlier in the afternoon - and for a longer time) we went back to the train station. 

I was worried we'd miss our train - like what happened last week - but we got there with 20 minutes to spare. Before long we were back in Plzeň. 

The kids went home, and the rest of us walked over to a pizzeria for dinner. Even though there was a pepperoni pizza, which two people ordered, it wasn't the kind of pepperoni you'd expect. It ended up being a pepper pizza instead of the sausage! On the other hand, I'd ordered the salami pizza, and it ended up being pepperoni! I think I lucked out greatly there. The crust was delicious, and I was so hungry that I ate almost all of the 32 cm pizza. 

The day was long, but it was nice not to teach and be a bit of a tourist again. Tomorrow is our VBS church service, and then I get packed to go back to the States! Can you believe it?!

Read about the VBS Closing Service (and a surprise!) HERE!

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