Lost in Bohemia


In the Czech Republic, compared to someplace like Canada or Australia, I always imagined it was pretty difficult to lose one’s way in the countryside, I mean, to really get lost. Sooner or later you’re bound to arrive at a village or stretch of road or roadside pub. But some friends and I did get lost quite recently, in southern Bohemia. What began as an innocent walk in the forest on a November evening, turned into a three or four hour stretch in the woods in almost pitch black.

When I recounted the tale to a colleague afterwards, she grew pale at the thought of us in the middle of a Bohemian forest at night.

Of course, things began, as they usually do, innocently enough.

We had traveled to the countryside to visit friends for a weekend at their new country cottage. There was plenty of good food and talk. But after a while fresh air was needed and a change of pace: a quick walk outside in the evening. We would be back in no time, our friends assured us; they knew all the local paths. At first the forest was beautiful: quiet meadows and serene woods. The going was fairly easy and we passed around a bottle of wine, hardly worried as the night fell. We always knew we’d turn the next corner… and then head back.

Or not.

As the light faded, it slowly occurred to our wine-muddled selves that somewhere along the way, we’d taken a turn too many. But bramble bushes and other obstacles now discouraged us from going back. So, we continued onwards and… we sang. Wild boars and other creatures cringed for miles. And still, we were lost. The good thing was at least all of us had sturdy boots. Okay, one of us, Rudy, did not: he had rubber rain boots. But he trudged on without complaint, knowing eventually… eventually we’d have to end up somewhere. “Somewhere” came after an incredible 10 kilometers. The first thing we heard was a village dog’s bark. Hurrah, we had arrived! But where were we? And more importantly, did “where” have a pub?

It happens the only place open was a pub hosting a dance. Inside, they were dressed in their Saturday evening best: we were caked in mud. They were fresh and looking forward to the night: we were exhausted. But gradually things began to pick up. The band began to play – and it may have been the wine – began to sound bizarrely like Iggy Pop. Okay, I exaggerate, but still before we knew it, we too were on the dance floor. And, when we danced, that meant chunks of dirt. Everywhere. Our friend Rudy was quickly dubbed “Gumacek” or “Rubbers” by the local girls and boy was he a hit. Still, I suspect some of the locals were having a laugh at our expense: rubber boots at a dance, after all? What planet had we come from? Then there was the matter of getting home somehow, many hours later: everyone else there lived round the corner; we were off the map!

Luckily, it did all work out in the end: for a small fee a local agreed to drive us to our door. At last, we were no longer lost and were home. Everything was fine. If only it wasn’t for that one fateful moment… a moment all of us wish could be taken back: a moment when Rudy, now known as Gumacek, sat down in his kitchen and after some ten or twelve hours of having worn them, pulled off his rain boots at last.