I made this Prague framed art from a picture I took back in the late 80’s. In a time when all was still uncertain but the city remained as beautiful as ever.
Hotdogs in Prague
The cold fine air inside the airplane cabin was just a prelude to what we were about to face when arriving in Prague on that autumn dawn.
Julia and I were going to the Czech Republic to cover a big bridge international event called The Bohemian Cup, that would gather players from all over the world as a celebration of The fall of the Berlin Wall.
This year the tournament opening was going to take place in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Spending my birthday there I was a great asset to our professional trip and we were already making plans for dinner with the guys after the card game ended.
Convincing my editor to assign Julia as my assistant was not very difficult; we had been dating for some time and it was very convenient for the newspaper to send us on press trips like this one.
The most difficult part for me was becoming a bridge reporter after so many years trying to become a top notch player without much success. Trying to look at a tournament from a bird’s eye view and not as a player was not an easy task.
We got to the Malá Strana (small town) hotel where The Times had booked a room for us. It was the same place where the event would take place.
The Brazilian team arrival would be about 30 minutes after ours and they would soon be coming to join for breakfast, as we had planned. Enough for a nice jet-lag-erasing shower.
Master D’Orsi had already arrived and was supposed to guide us through all the usual east Europe bureaucratic hassle.
At the hotel, we found out that the Brazilian team, a favorite to win against the local players, was having problems with the immigration department.
We were kind of puzzled and intrigued since there had been a great lot of confusion during the last events between both teams and we did not know what kind of reception to expect.
Without success on finding master D’Orsi, I sent Julia to the airport to see if she could make anything out of the problem while I went to the Brazilian Consulate talk to a friend that had good internal connections in the city.
At the Consulate, I was told that Mario, my friend, had been sent to Berlin to solve a commercial matter. I was introduced to Szabo, a Brazilian Hungarian that was Mario’s substitute.
Szabo had been living in Europe since he was a kid and spoke very poor Portuguese.
Not to my surprise, Szabo told me that his pal’s in Prague knew that something was coming because the Czech Bridge Federation was very upset since the last tournament and rumors were that they might try to “fix” that.
When we got back to the hotel, I could not find Julia anywhere. No note or message in the lobby.
Also, the Brazilian team seemed to have been cleared through immigration but could not be found anywhere either.
Szabo and I spent the rest of the morning running around the Baroque scene streets fo Prague, looking for our friends. I was beginning to get very worried. After all, this place, just a few months before, was still under soviet rule.
We went from card club to card club in the city and no one seemed to know anything about them. The impassive look on people’s faces was getting me really nervous with each information denial.
I’m usually not your everyday alarmed guy, but that situation was beginning to make me regret suggesting Julia for my assistant in this assignment.
I tried to contact every source I could in the bridge community high ranks, but didn’t seem to be able to find anyone. Not even D’Orsi.
We stopped for a typical Czech hotdog called ‘palivi’, a bun with a spicy sausage, in a place called – who would have guessed? – The Spicy Dog.
In the restaurant, Szabo and I had an argument. He kept saying that everything was going to turn out fine. I was really upset with him since it seemed he was not worried at all.
And the freaking hot dogs were taking ages to be served while we stood there wasting our time.
I was about to get up and leave when Szabo threw a very crazy and loud whistle.
Suddenly a birthday chant in Czech started from the back of the restaurant and was getting really loud coming towards the front. It seems that a lot of people had managed to celebrate there.
Not wanting to accept the obvious, my heart began beating so strongly, I got really angry and relieved and puzzled at the same time.
Knowing that hotdogs are one of my favorite delicacies, all bridge players, and Julia had managed this little charade scam as a birthday unforgettable surprise to me.
D’Orsi, my friend from the consulate and Szabo were also involved, of course.
I was really popular in the bridge scene and playing that kind of stunt on each other has always been a weird way of telling how much you really appreciate a friend.
After a few moments of anger, all was a good and we spent a couple of hours there eating wonderful hot dogs and making great conversation in the beautiful Prague afternoon.
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