Visa Quest (Part 2)

The second assault came on the tram, in the form of German tourists.

The key word here is “tourists”. The fact that they were German is relevant only because I speak German and could therefore understand every word of their inane drunken babbling. If only they had been speaking French, I might have been spared part of the assault!

There are all kinds of stereotypes around about Germans, as with any nationality, really. And as with any nationality, Germans are generally very normal, nice people, with some jerks thrown in here and there – as long as they are at home.

As with all nationalities, things change considerably once they go on vacation.

There seems to be something in the human psyche that causes people to completely change their behavior when they are visiting a foreign land. It’s as though the moment they sense a different culture around them, they just assume they’re in Disneyland and everything around them is a playground.

People in this area are generally quiet on public transportation. They may chat, but they try to keep their voices down. Often, you’ll board a train or bus or tram and be greeted by fifty people standing or sitting in absolute silence. Many are reading. A few are probably drunk – it is Prague, after all. Several will have their eyes closed, pretending to sleep so they don’t have to give up their seat. Some are even sleeping for real, on their way to or from work, catching a few extra moments of rest or praying their hangover will dissipate during their 15-minute commute.

Things tend to be somewhat louder on the night trams, but that’s only because of all the tourists. Even when drunk, Czechs have a tendency to keep their voices down on public transportation.

But not the tourists.

Tourists walk shoulder-to-shoulder along the sidewalk, blocking the faster-moving citizens who have places to be. They drink too much and throw up on the sidewalk. And when they board public transportation, they shout to each other from two feet away from each other. They board in massive groups and try to have conversations over the heads of the silent, disgruntled locals.

A large group of German tourists boarded my tram one stop after I did. I endured twenty minutes of shouting, shrieking, high-pitched drunken laughter, and clumsy German flirting, jumping and twitching every time a voice rose higher than the others. At long last, one of the group realized they were going in the wrong direction, and the entire party disembarked. Naturally, at the next stop, a whole new group got on board, and picked up where the last had left off.

It was an enormous relief to step off the tram and into the dark silence of one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. All that lay between me and the bus station was a long underground tunnel typically frequented by homeless drug addicts and gypsy pickpockets. I couldn’t have been happier.

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