Traveling Once and Now

If you, like me, are originally Czechoslovakian, you probably do not remember with much enthusiasm the way our youthful travels were back then. Of course, that depends largely on your date of birth.

I remember my childhood with my parents in Poland, which was one of the few countries my countrymen were allowed to travel to at the time. And there is not much that I recall with admiration. All I remember was a badge certifying that I had walked 100 kilometers in the spring and an interesting-looking bank bill.

vrak autobusu

Or I remember my first trip to the (then) German Democratic Republic with my classmates at age 16. For those who don\’t know, let me explain, we went to that undemocratic German Democratic Republic. At the time, we “enjoyed” the paperwork quite a bit and intended to go to a friendly country, not somewhere in the forbidden West, with an exit clause for an ID card (who gets a passport when you don\’t need one in the Eastern Bloc and our guys couldn\’t go any further anyway), a permit to exchange money and a few East German marks, a train ride, and sleeping in a sleeping bag in a meadow somewhere outside of Dresden.

Or the following year, on another trip to the same country, I remember the return trip being much more unpleasant. When Hungary was beginning to democratize, and personal searches were conducted in my train compartment to see if East Germans heading to Hungary had anything that would indicate their intention to flee westward, I was genuinely concerned about my fate. Like a minor, I had two bottles of vodka in my backpack and a pack of erotic slides in my sleeping bag, which, unlike Czechoslovakia, could be found by the East Germans. And how lucky I was that the only people they were really after were prospective emigrants.

staré vlaky

And of course I remember my first trip to Vienna in the early 1990s. And suddenly I was like a plowed rat.

That is thankfully in the past. Today we can go wherever we want and have a higher level of excellence. So no one needs to worry about whether or not we will eventually reach that Yugoslav chevka. They could be sent back from the border and thrown out of school or work.