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Monday, January 12, 2009

Sunday session postponed by riotous assembly, and other stories

Facebooking last week I decided a day in Edinburgh was called for Saturday. The city of my birth, my student days and some years beyond, Edinburgh is a city of strong associations for me, one in which some of my oldest friends still live. So you can imagine I was expecting to enjoy myself.

Before heading out I made sure to attach the carrying strap to my digicam (Samsung P1000). Poking the thing through an open window, some 60m up, of Prague's Rozhledna (Petrin Observation Tower) to take these pictures had convinced me of the importance of that piece of kit, which I'd stupidly decided wasn't needed when I took the camera on holiday for the first time!

I visited the Petrin twice. The first day was the day I was mugged by the sheer cold. Catching the tram into the city centre I missed my stop and got lost. Wandering around in blind circles for what seemed like an age was cold and miserable until I hit on the downward sloping streets. By the time I reached the Vltava I needed to stop at the already familiar Cafe Slavia, upon which I'd happened.

Warmed up, and revived by coffee and a sandwich I set off again. Crossing the most Legii (Bridge of Legion) to reach Malá Strana (the Lesser Quarter) I suddenly walked out into cold more bitter even than that I'd experienced tramping up from the station to the Hrad Karlštejn the day before. It felt crippling. Completely exposed to the elements; gloves serving little purpose other than to cover frozen ears foolishly unprotected by any hat; I was so cold that it seemed utterly pointless to continue into the quickening dusk a journey which had already taken me some 3 or 4 times as long as the simple 30-minute jaunt I'd expected to this point. I was after some photos after all. I actually spent some 5 or more minutes just standing out there deciding what to do. Believe me that standing still didn't seem to make me feel any colder than moving did!

But I wanted those levels in Tourist, so I pressed on. By the time I'd taken a seat in the Petrin Hill funicular railway I was literally dazed with the cold (that's literally literally, not figuratively literally). And it was too dark to take any photos, so I didn't bother with the Rozhledna until I returned the next day to take these other pictures from the observation platform.

The Charles Bridge from the Rozhledna

Hradcany (Prague Castle)

Národní divadlo (the National Theatre)

It was at least as cold the day I took these pictures as it'd been the day before, but I was mentally prepared this time; I made sure I got in and out quickly; and I fortified myself with some hot wine in the Rozhledna cafe before heading back down across the Vlatva into town.

Meanwhile, back in Edinburgh on Saturday my expected rendezvous for dinner with my old friend Hugh (last seen here, and here, at DiceConWest'07) turned into a Saturday night in the pub with the rest of the old Edinburgh mob, among whom Jim might be remembered by regular readers as the anonymous gamer with whom "I perfected the grub-and-gaming trick" using the original Squad Leader. By this time any notion of returning to Glasgow that night was long forgotten.

In the pub Hugh, Jim and myself - grognards and avid readers of military history all 3 - somehow found ourselves broaching the still vexatious topic of whether or not Britain and France could actually have won a quick war against Germany if they'd gone to the aid of Czechoslovakia in 1938 instead of staging the shameful Munich fiasco. Hugh and Jim both insisted over my voluble scepticism that new research had demonstrated conclusively that this was quite simply logistically and militarily impossible, naming more than 1 book as evidence. I'll be adding these to my read pile as quickly as possible once I'm reminded of their titles. Hmm. This should prove interesting. ;)
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