brno

Tank filled to the brim again, equipped with a chocolate bar and a citymap of Brno I settle on the filling station’s parking lot and start to develope a strategy to get to my hotel. The congress organisers have put me into some compound belonging to the university, into the university’s own hotel, called ‘Hotel Garni’. A university which owns its own hotel—wow! And it’s located in “one of Brno’s finest neighbourhoods”, they say. All right, the map says I’ve got two choices, each of them seeming to represent equally easy paths. Taking the ‘Exit 190’ or the next one, but on no account Last Exit Brno. That was redundant. The way from the first exit to the hotel seems easiest. Landmarks like a big tunnel and a huge flyover along its course. I hit the road again, take Exit 190, go on for a while, there’s the tunnel—perfect. And there’s the flyover … under construction. Fuck me sideways. Signs for bypassing, I have to leave my chartered course, but the general direction still seems to be correct. Two minutes later it is no more. The citymap doesn’t help either, as there are nowhere signs around sporting the streetnames. I am lost in some industrial suburbs, as far as I can see. It’s perfectly dark, nobody on the streets, no cars. U-turn in the middle of the street, carefully trying to find the exact way I came, back to the highway. Success! I go on for four kilometres and take the next exit. Again I get lost. Still no street signs, but finally there’s a Holiday Inn, seemingly the only inhabited building in the hood. I enter the lobby and ask the attendant for the way. My destination is just five minutes away, she says—little does she know. Courteously she gives me a Holiday-Inn citymap and with a ballpen draws the way I should drive upon it. I thank her very much and re-enter the dreadful night to again try my luck. If they only could erect street signs, so I could compare the names on the map with those in the outside world of physical things. Still no one in the streets, no cars. I concentrate on navigating, parts of the streets are pitch black. Complicated crossroads, rotten buildings, railway tracks, two bridges around me. Bang—my left front wheel hits the curb the hard way. Why is there a curb right in the middle of that forlorn street? Seemingly not much damage, maybe tomorrow I should replace the wheel by the spare tire. Finally the geometry of the nameless streets around me comes closer to the one represented by the map. Everything starts to fall into place. Hope arises, I drive slowly, carefully avoiding them mean curbs. Aha! Every house sports a little sign bearing its number and beneath the number, in neat and tiny script, there is the name of the street the number belongs to. Hooray!
 

I am there, that’s the place. But where is the hotel? At the hill’s slope beneath me there’s a huge compound of buildings made with precast concrete slabs. Having the car parked I run a little around the neighbourhood on foot. Finally I discover some hidden drive-into. Even more hidden, behind a bush there’s a small sign, saying ‘Hotel Garni parking lot’, pointing deeper into the darkness. So behind there in the dark there at least is the hotel’s parking lot, but where’s the hotel? Anyway, I fetch the car and drive into the private lane. Suddenly there’s a boom. But also some intercom-device alongside. So I push the button. Crackling, Czech voice, decidedly female. I tell the crackling device that I am Buzz Aldrin, member of the highway patrol, that the Eagle has landed, and that hopefully there’s a coffee and a bed for me at Tranquility Base, all of which are belong to us. The crackling stops cold. D’oh, I shouldn’t have done that. Ten seconds pass, then the boom opens. Thanks Buzz, your name definitely is a key to new worlds. Deeper into the darkness, the lane branches. I take the right one. More darkness, no space at all to park the car, another boom. They seem to have several security perimeters nested into each other. The boom opens automatically. Then I realize that I am out of the compound again. The out-boom won’t open again, no intercom. High up on a pole a tiny camera’s eye stares coldly at me. I grimace till I realize that the camera is dead [It was not as I found out later.]. Again I am alone. So I decide to spend the night at the Holiday Inn. But where the hell was it? Regarding the story of this night it may well have vanished like Brigadoon. Sleeping in the car? No, let’s drive around the hill again, find the secret lane once more, and then let’s take the other lane at the branching. I do so and after passing another little maze there is the hotel-entrance. Nobody speaks German or English, I don’t speak a word of Czech, but check-in is no problem, the people are extremely friendly, helpful, and somewhat laid back and relaxed. She gives me a list I can enter my name into, if I want to take the shuttle bus to the university tomorrow morning. Is there a telephone at my room, as I want to phone back to Munich to tell that I arrived save and sound? No, no phone at the room, but there are payphones in the ‘hall’, coins or card, as you like. I’ve got neither, but a helpful soul exchanges some of my Euros into Czech crowns at an absolutely fair rate. Nice people. The payphone eats some of my crowns, but refuses to connect me to Munich. You can’t have everything in one night.

Share