Dateline: 14.22 25 Aug 1996
Location: Czech Republic, Praha, CKM Juniorhostel 
It is now clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that I do, indeed, have the flu. Everything aches, dizzy, feverish, stuffy nose, exhausted feeling... only ephedrine keeps me up and running. I just swallowed my last tablet, so that means I'll have to head over to the pharmacy to buy some more - a frightening thought due to the energy expenditure involved. Flu or no flu, I'm leaving on a couchette very early in the morning of the 27th (01:20, to be precise), so I can only hope this wears off by then...

Being sick makes appreciating anything tough, but sometimes you run into a sight that simply overruns continual low-grade emergencies like the flu, as happened today when I passed through the subway station at Námestí Republiky. One of... hell, the most impressive piece of Communist architecture I've ever seen. Entrance to the tunnel is through a loooooong escalator (set to run at warp speed!), down a white, cylinderical, perfectly geometrical tube lit by orange lights. OK, getting injected through a gigantic syringe into the bowels of the earth is funky enough in itself, but what made my jaw drop was the tunnel: the walls were composed of glass bricks, all somewhat concave and lit from the above with more of those orange lights, as well as a few ordinary flourescent tubes. The lights reflected and warped onto the glass blocks, creating elliptical, oval, spiral, twisty neon shapes along the whole length of the wall... wow! The rest of the decor was dark, albeit sufficiently well-lit to prevent stumbling into walls, but the glass wall really stood out. Not even Stockholm's T-Bana achieved such heights of... imposingness? While the Communists may have a dismal track record when it comes to keeping things in repair, when they really set out to do something the results could be like this. A fact that is, of course, entirely hushed up about in the West, which always did live in morbid fear of Communism succeeding.

Oh Father, I have sinned. During the last week, I have...
exchanged money at an East European train station instead of the bank
purchased food and other commodities at small shops, not supermarkets
eaten at restaurants in the central and touristy (read: expensive) districts of town
And, for these grievous crimes against the sanctity of my wallet, a mere flu is but a mild penance.

Food in Praha remains interesting. At breakfast, I had another chance to play the always-exciting game of "let's find out what this stuff whose name consists entirely of accented consonants is", and later on it was time to get some chow. After deciding that having the name Lima ("Slime", for you non-Finns) was too bad an omen, I ended up in the neighboring EuroSpar (yup, the oh-so-trendy euro-prefix is even more popular on the other side of the Iron Curtain). The award for "most fascinating Czech product" goes to the guarana drink "Erectus", which comes in a yellow can bearing an abstract outline of something with two legs displaying a prominent, well, erectus. It should be noted that another one of these protuding appendages was sticking out the figure's neck - make of that what you will. At any rate, after getting past my giggling fits and buying some "Yo!" orange juice - excuse me, "pomeranchóvy nektár s duzhinou" - I ended up buying some Instant Goulash(tm) for dinner. At approx. 30 pfennings a cup, you could call it cheap, even when compared to the 57 koruna (3.3 DM) the restaurant next door was charging for it. Although I expect that the restaurant's goulash contains meat and vegetables instead of freeze-dried styrofoam, but...

Today's topic is... tap water! I think that...

 STOP. Before proceeding, answer the following question:

 Your author is...
a) delirious
b) demented
c) bored out of his fucking skull
d) more of the above

 You may now proceed.

 ...water quality varies from country to country. (No shit, Sherlock! [At least not in the water, Watson.]) The water of Stockholm was good, ie. just like Finnish water. (A clear example of hydrocentrism. How politically incorrect of me.) The water in København was a bit funny and the showers had no hot water, major negative points for that. Berlin's water was downright bland, but the showers had hot water. But Prahan water is another story... first off, I'll grant that the hot water worked, which is most pleasant when you're under the in-flu-ence. However, this was the shower's water, the hot water from the bedroom sink's tap was ORANGE. Not slightly tinged, not discolored, but nuclear carrot orange. Needless to say, I kept well away from this stuff, but the cold water from the same tap tasted, if not exactly good, at least quite drinkable. So I slurped it merrily, filled my water bottle, cooked my goulash and assumed it was safe although at one point I did have the slightest suspicion that maybe, just maybe, the water had a slightly orange tinge to it...? But tonight, in a fit of flu-induced delirium, I stuffed a handkerchief up the tap to stop it from dripping. Obviously, the hanky got soaked and started leaking, so I pulled it out - only to find out that it was literally encrusted with orange and brown rust particles. Mm, mm, good. I think I know now why most Interrailers stick to bottled water, despite the expense...

The day's budget 
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