The wipers squeak across the windshield removing the fine road mist sprayed by the semi-truck in front of me. The voice of the talking rodent in the movie Ratatouille blares from the backseat. Brian clicks away at his laptop keys, using the time in the car to make some updates on a client’s web site. Lush green hills lining the left side of the road and the river running adjacent on the right remind me distinctly of our former hometown, Chattanooga. All of this creates a familiar scene reminiscent of other road trips we’ve taken. And then the road curves and we see our first glimpse of Prague through the trees.
Toto, we aren’t in Tennessee anymore.
The drive into our new temporary town was scenic and easy. The now familiar voice of our navigation lady instructed me on the directions as we all gawked at the gothic, ornate buildings along our route. After a 15-minute process of parking the car in our apartment building’s highly-secure but very small basement garage (thank goodness Brian is a master behind the wheel), we unloaded all of our belongings and walked up to our new place in the Vinohrady area of Prague.
The girls love the new apartment and all the individual space they have to claim as their own. We settled in quickly. Unpacking our four suitcases and five backpacks took all of about half an hour. Sometimes it boggles my mind how little we’ve taken with us, yet as I unpacked I came across many things we never wear or use. My biggest packing regret is bringing my high-end Babyliss Pro hair dyer, which I loved back in the U.S. and swore I couldn’t live without, but haven’t used even once on this trip. Dumb vanity.
Our first few days in Prague were exciting, interesting, but a tiny bit depressing. We toured through the popular tourist areas and got oriented with the city’s mass transit system. We have a great location away from the crowds, but a short, 3-stop train ride from the most historic areas of the city. A large market and bank are conveniently located on the first floor of our building, and the Chinese place on the opposite corner has already become the girls’ favorite restaurant. (Their daily requests for steamed dumplings are getting a little old, though.) We’ve gotten to know our new area, which includes a park, a beautiful modern church, and a surreal television tower with large statues of babies crawling up its sides.
While fun and exciting, the first few days settling into a new town can be a little overwhelming as well. After establishing some relationships in Croatia and visiting friends in Germany, life here initially seemed somewhat isolated. It was just the five of us again. On the service project front, I’d reached out to about fifteen charities and civic programs accepting foreign volunteers, but haven’t been able to get a solid response from any of them yet. I have a feeling I’m looking at another slightly frustrating few weeks of trying to create connections in the community and figure out ways to volunteer our time. I never imagined this process would be so difficult. If anyone has ANY contacts to nonprofit programs in the Czech Republic or even advice on how to go about this process of finding them, please let me know.
Despite the initial adjustment period, we are starting to get into our groove here in Prague just like we did in Croatia. Last night we met up with a local contact we’d connected to through Brian’s stepsister. Chris, a fellow Hoosier living in Prague with his Czech wife and their son, was hugely helpful via email as we planned for our time here. It was great to finally meet him in person last night at a popular pub downtown. He’d even worked as a guide here for a while, so he took us on a brief tour of the Old Town area and provided information about the history of the buildings we saw. Our evening was cut a little short when the temperature dropped and we were still in our Croatian mode of summer attire, unprepared for this region’s cooler evenings.
We’ll have to take a rain check on Chris’ tour and local knowledge since I’m certain we’ll be seeing more of our new friend. He helped us kick our brief case of new town blues to the curb and got us excited about living in this historic and intriguing city. Brian is already getting into photographer mode, so expect many more amazing photos to come.