Friday, September 23, 2005

THIS is more like it!

So, that big trip I´ve been talking about: well, here I am in Prague, blogging from a Russian-run cybercafe and struggling with the peculiarities of a Czech-language keyboard (some keys are reversed, and there´re some things I´m not sure I´ll master at all!). No matter: this is the internet age, and this is as cyber as I´ve ever been. Wootage!

I flew in from Glasgow yesterday, via Amsterdam. I had to go with KLM because I left my booking too late to go with any of the cheaper carriers. I was annoyed at first, but the approach to Schipol over the coast turned out to be worth every last penny. I mean, both my flights were just great: flying through clear blue skies bathed in sunshine, with following tailwinds making us prompt if not early. The sort of flights, in fact, that are beginning to make me positively enjoy flying (something I´d never´ve expected to have been saying only a few years ago).

But coming in over the coast of Holland was something else entirely. As soon as I caught sight of land, I could see the famous lowlands. Mist still shrouded the depressions, making the place look like some kind of ethereal extraterrestrial landscape. I saw the canals, and what must´ve been a dyke. Then I saw a tanker parked in a side canal... WTF?! I thought: look at the size of that thing!

Flushed with excitement, I only had time to grab a snack before heading off to wait to board my flight to Prague. I have several nice memories of this flight, but one in particular is just geeky beyond belief. As we descended in our approach to Prague the details of the roads, buildings and other features below us became ever more apparent. Something about them struck me as strangely familiar. Then I realised what it was: everything looked like a giant Squad Leader mapboard, even down to little details like having paved (grey) and unpaved (brown) roads.

I had a peculiar moment of insight: those lovely mapboards that so marked Squad Leader out from everything else at the time of its release? Well, it looks like they were a product of the advent of cheap air travel in America in the 50´s and 60´s. How else could the game´s mapmaker have got the idea for what he did with those lovingly detailed maps which were as much part of the game´s immediate charm as Hill´s groundbreaking design?

Arriving at Prague I also rediscovered one of things that makes me really hate air travel: bloody baggage claim! I mean, having been through 2 flights in the space of some 4 hours, I then had to wait at least half an hour to get my luggage. I was livid, I can tell you! Especially because I knew the pal whose wedding I have come to attend and his bride to be, and perhaps another guest would all be waiting for me, and I was at least as keen to see them all as they were me.

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