6: Prague Diary
Monday 16th Day five.
Monday was shopping day. We were going to look around town, buy our gifts and maybe see if there was anything nice to treat ourselves. We went back to the Old Town and found another Prague landmark, Saint Wenceslas Square. This one is highlighted in all the guide books as not to be missed. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be the biggest town square of all but it’s up there with `em. It’s not even a square; it’s just a long street with a statue at the top that we didn’t bother walking up to look at. Along the central reservation of this street full of hotels they’ve plonked a few flower beds. I was totally under awed by it and not very impressed at all.
After all the walking the day before my feet were blistered and sore and my back was giving me gyp. We found some shops and I was going to buy few things but I realized that I’d left my debit card in my purse back at the hotel. Russ said that I could put anything I liked on his card but I didn’t want to.
It was on this Monday that I had my startling revelation. I finally realized why I was being stared at everywhere I went and was amazed that I hadn’t come to that conclusion earlier. Prague women have a National genetic impediment. Every single woman in Prague has a missing chromosome. Now this could have led to Downs Syndrome if they had been given an extra Y chromosome, but after giving an extra letter to the Downies, the Good Lord in his wisdom decided to take one from the Prague ladies. The chromosome that he took from them was the F chromosome. Czech women have no fat gene; it’s missing from their genetic make-up completely. It took me four days to realise that I hadn’t seen a single large lady.
Apart from a few homeless people and beggars, the Czechs that we saw all ate well, they certainly weren’t on the poverty line, okay, they don’t earn high wages and the average wage in Prague is twenty pounds a day, but the food costs literally pennies, well, crowns in their currency, they shop in the local places and everything else is cheap too. So it’s not as though the poor women were starving to death. They just do not make big women. Most of the men aren’t overweight either, but with them there is the occasional exception. We never saw one overweight woman in all the time we were there. The other thing about them is that they aren’t sun worshipers. They don’t show any flesh at all and no matter how hot it got they were still wandering around in woolies and fleeces. I was in full summer holiday mode and spent most of my time in shorts and vests, I was stared at, particularly by the men, everywhere we went and it was horrible.
I’m five nine and weigh about twelve and a half stone. My confidence isn’t good and I felt as though I was an anomaly. There are far larger women than me around. I’ve gone from a size twelve back up to a fourteen bordering sixteen, but even so. I’m not absobloodylutely enormous. But oh boy did I feel it.
There weren’t many tourists about and this early in the season most of the people out and about were Czech. They are morbidly fashion conscious and chic in their dress style. In sizes nought to eight they had every right to be. Not only did I feel humongous, I also felt very badly turned out in the middle of the city. As we wandered around in and out of shops I felt increasingly self conscious. I was wearing a loose sun dress that showed my tattoos, and sandals. My backside felt like an elephant’s and I felt awful. My back was crippling me and with no money, shopping held about as much appeal as going on a Bulimic’s pukefest package tour.
I got it into my head that I needed to get changed. The hotel was miles away and again we’d walked a good few miles. Whereas the day before I’d enjoyed the exercise and felt good about what I’d done, today I just felt like a big, fat sloth. Once I’d got it into my head that I’d feel and look better if I found something (anything) new to wear I was on a mission. We trudged endless shops all with clothes that would never fit me. I used to be fat. I had bariatric stomach surgery and lost all the excess weight. I honestly thought that my days of going into shops and not being able to get anything to wear were over. I’ve put a bit of weight back on but, for the last two years, I’ve been able to walk into any shop, choose any item that I liked off the peg and wear it in my size.
That day I couldn’t get a single thing to fit me. The shops went up to a size twelve and stopped. I looked for labels with an L for large on them, even these were only a size twelve. It was heartbreaking. Finally, I found a pair of plain black pants in a shop and even though I hated them, I could get them on and at twelve pounds out of my daily allowance I figured that they’d do. My long-suffering boyfriend offered to buy them for me but I would only agree to the money as a loan. I put them on there and then in the shop and Russ said that they looked great. They were too tight, size twelve with a bit of s-t-r-e-t-c-h in them, but at least they were on and I didn’t look like a freak. I should have felt amazing. I was in size twelve pants, but I felt like shit. We already had Hard Rock Café t-shirts that we’d treated ourselves to that morning, and, thankfully they came in real people sizes, a small man’s fit me perfectly which restored my confidence at least a little bit. Re-dressed I felt much better about everything. Russ bought a pair of designer shoes in the clothes shop also for twelve pounds and the same ones in England would have been over a hundred.
Right by the tram stop where we got off, there was a restaurant that Russ wanted to try. It was a dirty old man place and looked grotty and not very pleasant, but the meals began from fifty pence a plateful and some of the dishes were photographed on a board outside and had been taunting us every time we got off the tram. They looked bloody gorgeous. We went to several of these less than savoury establishments to eat and never once worried about getting food poisoning. Although they were nothing lavish, and had some strange drinking clientele, we never felt that they were in any way unhygienic or unsafe to eat in.
We thought that this place was another of the many Czech cuisine eateries and it was only when we were in and seated that we realised that it was a Vietnamese restaurant. If we’d known that to begin with we wouldn’t have bothered as we wanted to sample traditional Czech food, but if we’d given it a miss we’d have missed out on a treat.
The service was poor but we’d come to expect that. Russ ordered a number one. Everything was done by number which at least solved the language problem. His number one was supposed to be some kind of soup. To follow he ordered a dish that he liked the look of but had no idea what it actually was because the menu was only in Czech. We were ordering by pictures. The lady looked at me and I hadn’t made my mind up. I was trying to decide which of the dishes looked least like anything fishy or offally. She was impatient with me, even though I hadn’t kept her waiting more than a minute and she wasn’t exactly busy. I was flustered and pointed at the first thing in front of me.
Russ’ soup turned out to be spring rolls and he was really disappointed because he’s not fond of them. He was disappointed that is until he’d tasted them. They were completely unlike our spring rolls that Russ describes as bland and I describe as musty. These were full of really tasty ingredients and a lovely sauce even the batter of the roll itself was light and crispy. They were gorgeous. His main course was good too, though not a patch on the spring rolls. It turned out to be a kind of casserole made with pork and aubergine and topped with another tasty sauce.
I didn’t fair quite so well. I only had a starter because I only eat very small meals but I sorely regretted not having those spring rolls. My mystery meal, because I hadn’t a clue what was coming, turned out to be roasted cheese on a bed of salad. I love cheese and I love salad so I wasn’t disappointed but it wasn’t as good as what Russ got.
We got back to the hotel mid afternoon having walked miles in the heat. We had sex as had become our custom and lying on the bed I just wanted to go to sleep. Russ was up for another try at finding some nightlife but too many late nights had caught up with me. I really didn’t want to go far that night but it was his holiday too so I had a bath, dressed in my new trousers—which had suddenly grown on me purely because they were a size twelve—and a warm top and tried to convince myself that I was awake and alert and up for anything.
That night was our worst. We had cocktails in the bar and they didn’t want to go down at all. I just wasn’t in the mood. Then we went straight to Dominoes. Despite leaving a big tip the night before and despite being ultra friendly and pleasant with the staff we were blanked and ignored when we went in. I thought that was very rude.
Then we tram hopped and got lost. We ended up on a road miles from anywhere. There wasn’t another soul in sight and it was bloody freezing. We waited for the same number tram to come back down so that we could get back to civilization. I felt very intimidated when two local men came onto the platform. Their body language was hostile and aggressive and I knew that we stuck out a mile as a pair of lost tourists who hadn’t a clue where we were. I honestly thought for a moment that we were going to be mugged. I whispered to Russ that we were getting on the next tram that pulled up and to hell with the number. Luckily it came while the men were huddling together whispering about us and, even more luckily, it was the number that we’d been waiting for. If the tram had been a minute later I think we’d have been in real trouble. Russ is strong minded but he’s no fighter and being only five foot six, I tend to protect him rather than the other way round. I know if somebody jumps you, you’re supposed to just hand over everything you have, but that’s not my way. Russ had all of his cards and quite a bit of money in his pocket and I had about fifty quid on me. We’ve worked hard all year for what we have and if those lads had come at us, I’d have stood my ground and I’d probably have got us both knifed and beaten.