Saturday, 11 October 2014

Days Zero and One - The Newbie Has Landed

After what has seemed like an eternity, but in reality has been exactly nine weeks, I landed at Václav Havel Prague Airport just after dark last night. Nine weeks ago I got the first phone call about a possible six month contract for a pharmaceutical giant who were setting up an IT services group at their Prague hub and my experience in Quality Management appeared to be an excellent fit.

Having spent quite a lot of the last five years working abroad, firstly for six months in Oslo and then for nearly two years in Zurich, I wasn’t overkeen on the idea of packing my bags once again, but I politely acknowledged their interest and agreed to take it further. The money I’d earned over the summer in London wasn’t going to last forever after all. But after three telephone interviews, they made me an offer I couldn’t really refuse, and so it was ‘once more unto the breach’ so to speak.

It helped that I’d been to Prague before - three times actually, and all on business. I knew how beautiful the city was, and that even now, some ten years later, the cost of living was still comparatively cheap (especially compared to Oslo and Zurich!). Strictly speaking the last time I was here was when I presented at a conference and we never left the out-of-town hotel during the four day proceedings and everything except extra beer was included.

So, once I’d got written confirmation, I booked some flights (based on a three month stint initially so I’d be home for Christmas), bought some upto date guidebooks and read Me, Myself & Prague by Rachael Weiss from cover to cover in two nights. But it was too late to pull out now!

The biggest problem with these long stays away is finding somewhere to live. Hotels are out for anything longer than two weeks (two days in my case) so one needs to rent a flat. Location might be important, but it has to be balanced with cost, facilities and just how right the apartment looks. Given past experience I like to get everything arranged up front which means I am completely reliant on the honesty of the real estate brokers.

I was given the details of a reliable agency by a former colleague who lived here for six years, and we started the process. It took four or five days, a few false starts and a couple of disappointments but eventually we found somewhere that ticked all my boxes. We’ll find out tomorrow morning whether it pushes all my buttons as well, but fingers crossed. I’ve had to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights before the flat becomes available but I picked somewhere a few hundred yards down the road so that I could suss out the area. And I feel I have chosen reasonably. Prague 2 is close enough to town and my new workplace to be able to walk on a good day, but also easily accessible by public transport when necessary (or desireable).

There are plenty of little mini-marts, bars and restaurants dotted around, and it’s a fairly quiet part of town, away from the mainstream tourist traps.

My flight landed twenty five minutes early last night, a fact unbeknown to the pre-booked taxi driver who arrived ten minutes after I emerged from arrivals. But he did show up, and I was in my hotel room by eight. I went out briefly to stretch my legs and suss out the lie of the land, but since it had been dark for two hours already I didn’t really see too much - especially through the fog. I peered through the front door glass of my apartment block and it looked clean and well looked after.

After a few stressful days and nights thinking about everything I needed to get done, get packed and get ready, I was really looking forward to a good night’s sleep. The sandman had other ideas however, and clearly didn’t want my company. The hotel room was like an oven and the only air-con was the window. However, opening the window had the effect of filling the room with the sound of a small group of disembodied male voices from somewhere in the vicinity - and boy could those guys talk. They were still talking at five o’clock this morning. And my alarm was set for seven. I tried dozing off, but Czech pillows seem to be fillled with little fluffy clouds. I had a similar experience previously and on that occasion ended up sticking a pillow on top of my travel bag. That trick wasn’t going to work with the 22Kg suitcase I’d bought with me on this occasion (or even the smalled 14Kg suitcase). Eventually, after telling the world of my problems on Facebook, I did doze off, with sleep punctuated with nightmares about vampires - my subliminal mind was clearly in a different country to the rest of me.

And so my first full day in Prague began, with great big bags under my sleepy eyes. Thankfully the shower was like a sand blaster and blew all the cobwebs away - temporarily at least. A quick breakfast, and out into the city with two goals to achieve - get a quarterly travel pass and get a SIM card for  my spare phone. Both could be achieved by walking down to Wenceslas Square (Václavske Námēstí) and my mission was accomplished by nine thirty. I spent the rest of the day ‘doing Prague’ at a rate of knots even an American in Paris would be proud of. By noon, I’d clocked up over nine miles and seen pretty much everything in the Old Town and this side of the Vltava river. And regretted not breaking in my new Converse boots before coming here - my right foot has been shredded.

Panorama - View up the Vltava towards the Charles Bridge
At the end of day one, I have my new travel card, SIM card, I’ve been on the metro, had a couple of cold beers, walked 9.93 miles (19046 steps), climbed the equivalent of 54 floors, had a mid afternoon lunch/dinner (lunner?) at the Hard Rock Cafe, used a little Vietnamese run mini-mart across the street from the flat and written this blog post.

Surely I’ll be able to sleep tonight!?!?!?!


  1. Nice report of your first day in Prague :)

  2. Brilliant, relax and enjoy - hope you've got earplugs for tonight! Know how you feel re sleep, feeling it right now - deprivation is not good! Xx