A cool night. 8:30 p.m. A full moon. Dark. An empty train station. The ingredients to a horror story.
I came without information. No direction, no reservations, no contacts. I could have taken this moment to berate myself on my lack of preparation, but what was the point. I was here now, and self degradation was a waste of emotional energy. Just walk, I told myself. I didn’t worry about injury just the cold. I walked toward a dark tree lined street, but something told me that I was moving in the wrong direction. I heard the sound of wheeled luggage on pavement behind me, and I turned to watch the silhouettes and shadows of people leaving the train station head down a steep hill. I decided to follow the other passengers.
I could not see the city center or the castle. I knew it was a sleepy city, and that I might not be able to find accommodations for the night, but I felt somehow I would be okay. The moon was full, and a bright rainbow of light cast a ring around the moon. There is a wise tale that say’s if you stand under the moon with a ring it means that you will find true love. In this wise tale you need to be standing under the ringed moon with another person, and that person is your true love. But, what does it mean if the person you are standing with is your mother or father? My mother would have loved that. The last time I had seen her before leaving for China (not knowing I would never see her again) she had been looking at me lovingly, and with a longing that made me feel uncomfortable. “Oh honey,” she had sighed, “I wish it could just be you and me forever.” I had looked at her with scrutiny before I spoke. “That’s great, mom, that’s what every daughter wants to hear from her mother.” “That’s not what I meant.” She had said in a huffed and insulted tone. “Yes it fucking is.” I had said. There were times when she would hug me and I felt that she was trying to absorb me into her flesh till she was pregnant with me. I’d push away from her during those embraces. Now that she’s gone I only feel sadness at my inability to give her what she wanted, but I had desperately wanted to be my own person. I didn’t have to think about it any longer. I could just stand under the ring of a full moon in Cesky Krumluv, that’s all there was now. So, what did it mean to stand under the moon alone? Perhaps it meant I would love this small village?
I was at ease. I was at peace. I didn’t always feel this way. I embraced these moments of calm. I longed for it to stay. There were more days’ of anxiety, and a heavy shadow of worry then there was this feeling of bliss. It would come in strange and unexpected moments. I vowed to find a way to bottle this feeling.
I cut through a park with a cobblestone path. The first leaves of fall sprinkled the ground like an autumn carpet. Although the park was dark and foreign I wasn’t afraid. The woods are not always haunted. Through the trees I saw the castle illuminated and glowing. Lumière chiaroscuro. A painting floating against the canvas of the night.
I stood for a moment staring at the castle taking in as much as I could in the darkness. It was built on a cliff of rocks, medieval and, yes, fairytale romantic.
I walked on till I was out of the woods and at the beginning of the village. I walked toward what looked to be an old guard’s gate, and to the right of it was a huge sign that said “Hostel 99”. That would be my first try. I followed the signs to the hostel over cobblestones, and down a backstreet that lead to a closed door. A light was on in a room, and I looked through the window as I passed. Inside I saw the face of a man that I had seen before. We did not know each other, but I had seen his face many times over the course of many years. He was the friend of my friend Gregg who I had lived with in Prague many years ago. I knew a few stories about him, I had even met his girlfriend briefly at the Clown and Bard the week prior to my trip. His name was Zezo and, because of social media, I had seen his pictures many times, but he knew nothing of me.
I rang the bell. He opened the door. I smiled like I knew him, and even though he did not know me he returned the same smile.
“You are Zezo.” I said.
“Yes.” He said surprised.
“I am a friend of Gregg’s from the Clown and Bard.”
“Oh, hello.” And he hugged me. “What can I do for you?”
“Do you have a room available?”
“Oh shit. No. Only a double for 700 koruna.”
“Do you know of another hostel?”
“Oh, yes, but man it is really fucking far away.”
He grabbed a map.
“How long are you staying?”
“One night.” I said.
“Oh shit. I can take care of that.”
-and he did.
I had shelter for the evening. Zezo directed me to a vegetarian restaurant where I could find some thing to eat. I had a limited time to find food because he told me that things closed early in Krumluv. He also told me that the castle was open for 24 hours so I could walk through the gates if I so chose.I thanked Zezo for his help and hospitality and wandered into the night and medieval city to explore and to find food.