Last Friday happened to fall on October 28th, a national holiday in the Czech Republic, that marks one of its three independence days. As my Czech flatmate was feeling exceedingly patriotic on this special day, he proposed we drive to Dresden, east Germany, for a short two-day, one-night visit.
And so, we left in the morning in his little Ford Fiesta from Kladno, passing through a handful of charming little villages – so small they probably qualify as hamlets at best – until we reached the motorway that crosses the non-existing borders.
Stretches of straight roads laid ahead of us, squeezed in between either vast fields, ploughed or not, all bare, or tall forests that were turning ginger and blond, courtesy of the upcoming winter. Seas of ochre, orange and red, spotted now and then by dark green patches of some scattered and lonely coniferous copses.
A pleasant addition to the usually beautiful, but flat Czech landscape, was the presence of mountains. A sight that I hadn’t realised how much I had missed, until seeing it for the first time since I moved from the Lebanon one month ago.
Czech roads, like Lebanese roads are landmarked by occasional roadside shrines, erected, I suppose, in memory of dead loved ones, in the location of their demise. In Lebanon, these little memorials are usually elevated, little house-shaped constructions, sheltering the statue of a saint and some horribly ugly, horribly dusty artificial flowers. While here, the shrines are quite similar to the aerial part of a grave. Startling big wooden crosses, sometimes even headstones, warmed by lit candles and surrounded by fresh flowers. Ever-occurring reminders of death. And love.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, my language courses end at 13:30. And every week on those days, I make it a point to run across the city, not to miss the 14:20 bus for the way back from Prague to Kladno. The driver of this bus is a lovely little woman, late thirties, blonde, super friendly, and she has stocked the bus with plush toys, a whole lot of colourful animal plushies. I like to call this bus the “Happy Bus”. And the driver, in her fuchsia sweaters and sparkly headbands, cannot be be any plushier than her bus.
And so, on the way to Germany, rushing past picturesque landscapes and death reminders, I decided that if was to meet my end in a tragic road accident, I surely want it to be fast, painless of course, but most definitely on my “Happy Bus”.