Letter from Prague

My weekend away was to begin on Good Friday afternoon. Friday morning, however, there was a despondent boyfriend on the phone - the little Skoda we had planned to hire had been in a crash. For those of you who didn't know, Good Friday fell on the 13th this year, and I had a sinking feeling that I would be stuck in Prague for Easter with nothing to do but tackle my long list of 'must-do chores'.

A quick call, however, to a friend and everything was back on track. By two o'clock we were on the road to Locket.

Locket translates literally as 'elbow', which is quite apt, as this tiny town is nestled in a tight bend on the Ohre River. Despite, its run-down condition, the charm and tranquility of this little-known west Bohemian town was everything we had hoped for.

The weekend ended all too quickly and to add to it all, the light dusting of snow that had made Locket so magical had, of course, become a blizzard by the time we set out for Prague.

With driving snow and thoughts of work sneaking into our minds, the last thing we needed was to hear our borrowed car start to make strange 'chugging' sounds... that sinking feeling was back.

So it was into the next petrol station - open bonnet, check water, check oil and then stare aimlessly at the engine. 'Are you having trouble' came a rather friendly voice. 'Yes', we said in unison - knowing that almost anyone would know more about the inner workings of a car than we did.

Turning to see who was to be our saviour - I saw a man I had seen earlier trying to hitch a lift - recognizable by the fact that he had his arm in sling and despite the snow was not wearing a coat.

With a little bit of tinkering, he got the car back to normal and then asked if we were heading towards Prague. Who could refuse?

The man was called Jarda and he had been on the road for three days, trying to hitch his way from Holland to Vsetin - a small town in northern Moravia. The no jacket and broken arm, it transpired, had been acquired courtesy of the Russian mafia. Jarda's Skania truck, along with its cargo of electronic goods had been hijacked in Holland.

With no money forthcoming from the Czech consulate, all he possessed was the clothes on his back and a large white, sealed envelope that contained a Dutch police report. His back-seat stories of trouble-free trucking in Spain, Norway, Russia and North Africa had us riveted. Holland was not so kind - his livelihood was gone.

We arrived in Prague - Jarda's story had fit and all the details seemed to correlate. Knowing that we had reached home and he still had another 400 km to go - we offered him the train fare home. He accepted but insisted I print my name and address on a piece of paper so that he could return the money. The money has as yet not arrived. But being a firm believer in - 'what goes around - comes around' - it doesn't really matter. The day we arrived home, we had our first win in the bookies in over six months - so maybe the old maxim works in mysterious ways.

Author: Ita Dungan
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