Letter from Prague
Encore: More gems from the Karel Ancerl "Gold Edition" of Czech Philharmonic recordings
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Every year, my sister, mother, and I follow a tradition in which we spend a few days in a country we never visited before and make sure we get pampered from head to toe. This year, we chose Egypt - ten days at a five star hotel, all-inclusive, in the popular resort town of Sharm El Sheikh.
But already on the first day, I should have known that this would be a holiday I'd remember for reasons other than great fun. The rooms we booked at the hotel through a Czech travel agency were unavailable and our tour operator mysteriously disappeared. Luckily, the other Czechs from our group had the same problem and we soon became one big family fighting for our rights.
One morning at breakfast, as we were still bad mouthing our tour operator (it was proving to be much more difficult than expected to get to know the area), another Czech who was visiting through a different travel agency boasted about his. He was still recovering from a hangover, following a night out with Petr - the man who must have been the tour operator from heaven. Petr was 24 years old, just spent two years in the UK to learn English, and was freelancing in Egypt to make a little money and have some fun before starting a full-time job back home.
Besides the Red Sea, Sharm El Sheikh only has the sand and bare, rocky mountains that surround it to offer its tourists. But Petr, although the most inexperienced tour operator there, went investigating and shared all the interesting places he discovered with his clients and he was a passionate diver too - the perfect companion for Egypt. Needless to say, we all wanted Petr to be our tour operator.
That night, three bombs went off in Sharm El Sheikh.
We gathered in the lobby of our hotel to see if everyone was okay; even our tour operators showed up to check up on us. But this time, Petr was missing. We found out later that day that he was the one Czech killed in the terrorist attack.
I never got the chance to meet Petr but strangely enough, he holds a very special place in my heart and, to me, will always be one of the most courageous Czechs in the world.