He experienced the horrors of two wars and during this time he also covered an immense geographical area. The trip described in this blog is an attempt to retrace his steps from Prague across the Eurasian continent to beyond Lake Baikal in Siberia. The first part of the trip will follow the precisely described route of Josef Švejk, Hašek's inspired literary creation. I left home on April 30 2010 and was back on October 29.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Katastrofa

First I would like to reassure readers that the ominous title Katastrofa hails from literature and is not based on my own travel experiences. It is the headline of Chapter 15, Book One of Švejk and refers to the result of Švejk and Blahník colluding to steal a dog for obrlajtnant Lukáš who in turn got caught red-handed by Colonel Friedrich Kraus von Zillergut, a supreme idiot who in the k.u.k Armee could only be matched by Lieutenant Dub. The result was immediate departure to the front, an event which Švejk commented on as follows:

It will be something truly exquisite when we both fall together for the Lord Emperor, and his family.........” (from Zenny K. Sadlon's translation)
My last few days in Prague were spent following Otto Katz and Švejk looking for the lost Field Altar in Vršovice, picking up the monstrance at Břevnov monastery, serving Field Mass at Motol, and collecting some loose ends. It can be noted that the monastery at Břevnov is beautiful and that the restaurant Klášterní šenk is extremely comfortable without being expensive. Their web-page is in Czech, German and Latin, how could I possibly not love the place!

The road to Motol was wet and horrible and I  missed the exercise ground (now a golf course) altogether and ended up between the paneláky in Řepy, far beyond. There I celebrated my failure in an extremely shitty pub in a dreary seventies shopping centre, and then took the bus back to the centre. On the 21 May I went back to Vršovice to photograph the barracks where Lukáš and Švejk lived, now housing a regional court. I also bid farewell to restaurant Dobrý den and Jonny Axelson. Later it has been confirmed that the restaurant has been sold.

One morning Richard Hašek and I visited Radko Pytlík's atelier in Holešovice. The atelier is his functioning office, filled with books from floor to ceiling and with a piano in the middle.  A thought struck me when we entered the room: I'll never get to Siberia if I start digging into this. The next half year could easily be spent here. Pytlík told us that he's working on a new biography on Hašek. He has already compiled background facts on both Švejk and Hašek, and fortunately I have those huge files kept on my computer. They are vital as the journey progresses and I have already corrected errors on my own web-pages after consulting the  files. Again I had a feeling of having entered a sacred world, containing knowledge that no Google-search could find. There will be more on Dr Pytlík in future letters.
After the visit to the atelier we went to U svatého Antoníčku around the corner, a classic pub where Dr Pytlík has been a regular for years. The Czech Republic were at the moment playing Finland in the Ice Hockey WC and as the Finns scored in the first minute there were some loud kurva and do prdele heard in the room. Ice Hockey is serious business in this country.

After the hockey  we continued to U Rudolfina and met Antonín Kachlík, another elderly haškolog (and former film director). We had a discussion about Henrik Ibsen's An enemy of the people and concluded that there were many parallels with Hašek.

The final evening in Prague was celebrated with Richard Hašek and friends Na Slamníku in Bubeneč, one of the oldest pubs in Prague and a place with a timeless, serene atmosphere. The evening sun was shining through the thin smoke-stained white curtains, getting reflected in the cigarette smoke. The Pilsner beer was exquisite. Afterwards there was a great rock arrangement with some old stalwarts.  The tourist drank wine for a change, and did so as if it was beer. The result was cataclysmic, but he was taken care of by good friends.
On  the morning of 23 May I set off for Tábor. I was sad to leave Prague, Richard and other good friends behind but also full of anticipation for the rest of the adventure. I will, all being well, be back in the mother of all cities in October. From now on the taverns will gradually get less enticing, the beer will deteriorate in quality, but I will hopefully still have a good life amongst the good people of all nations.

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