The hotel broker at Saint Wenceslas Square gave me a set of directions that read like a treasure hunt. It included a subway transfer and two bus transfers. I was skeptical, but she told me not to worry because the house would be easy to find and it fit my student budget.
Shortly after the Czech Republic became an independent country, the way to get a hotel room in Prague was to go to one of the many hotel brokers in the city. Many citizens also listed with brokers offering a spare bedroom in their home as a less expensive alternative for tourists.
It was my only option because all of the hotel rooms within my budget were booked. I had just arrived by train from Vienna, it was late at night, and I was tired. So, I agreed to the safari and made my way to the subway.
I didn’t mind the thought of staying in someone’s home, but what did bother me was that it was located on the outskirts of the city, which meant that it was also located somewhere beyond the edge of my map.
Everything was going according to plan as I had made the necessary transfers and was on the final bus.
As I watched the lights of Prague fade into the distance, I asked myself one question: Why am I the only one on the bus?
Twenty minutes later, the bus turned onto a dirt road that led to a dead end. The bus rolled to a halt, and the driver cut the engine. Apparently, I had missed my stop.
We had parked in what looked to be the town square of a rustic hamlet. A single light bulb, strung over the dirt lot, provided the only source of light. Two men stumbled out of what I gathered to be the town tavern, which was a relief because the town square had now doubled in population.
I turned back to see the bus driver looking at me in the rearview mirror, so I walked up to him and put my finger on the map pointing to my bus stop.
What followed was a series of hand gestures that were interspersed with words from the Czech and English languages. Even though we did not understand what the other was saying, we did understand what the other was gesturing.
I needed to get back to Prague, and he needed a smoke break.
When the bus arrived at my stop I thanked the driver in German, which I think he appreciated since he smiled and waved goodbye.
I was finally near the end of my journey when I realized that the hotel broker’s directions led me down a street that was even darker than the rustic hamlet. There wasn’t a light on inside or outside any house or building.
Unable to find my destination, I jumped on the next bus and in reverse order followed the treasure hunt clues back to Saint Wenceslas Square.
The hotel broker was surprised to see me and apologized for the wild goose chase. However, she tried to convince me to go back because her client was waiting for me, and it was too late to find another room. I politely refused. Fortunately, there was no time to argue, as her office was about to close for the evening.
She found an available room at the last minute in an apartment within walking distance of Saint Wenceslas Square. Within walking distance! Good grief, but at least the safari was over.