Art Factory Hostel Blog

They lost my luggage between Prague and Madrid

On my way from Prague to Madrid, where I was scheduled to leave for BA at 11 pm, my luggage was lost. Whether by struggling, may-be-grounded Air Italia, or by unusually efficient Czech airlines, I have no idea. What I do know is that I have no clothes — no change of socks or underwear, no shorts — no backpack, no portable hard drive, no large collection of DVDs, both adult and mainstream, much more of the latter, no jackets or sweaters. Luckily, I don’t think I’ll need much of those, since spring has sprung in Argentina.
I’d be seriously bummed if I weren’t so excited to be out of Czech Republic, which I’d come to loathe as much as it had come to loathe me, and in a brand new place where I actually have some hope of learning the language. In fact, my comprehension of written/printed Spanish is already better than my understanding of Czech. Pretty sad considering I’d spent 5 years there and only managed Tarzan-like Czechlish, at best. Perhaps not so strangely, my comprehension of conversational Czech was much better than that of written Czech, probably because the fact that I heard separate words which were in fact multiple syllables. Czech is weird, especially for English speakers. I never want to speak Czech again, to be honest, although it keeps coming out automatically in restaurants and shops here, confusing the porte├▒os, who think when I say “jo, jo, jo,” that I’m saying “yo, yo, yo,” or “I, I, I.” I’ve also been familiar when I should have been polite, and have been confused by the Argentinian variant of Spanish, where “y” is usually pronounced “zh.”

I’m staying at the large and labyrinthine Garden House Art Factory, in a dorm on the roof. It’s cozy and kinda cool. There are quite a few original arty touches to this hostel housed in a multi-story building, including original paintings on the walls, a two-story mural on the roof-top terrace, a skylight over the common area, and an antique porcelain footed bathtub in the toilets on the first floor. Dorm rates are reasonable, at $11 per night, and the folks who work here are all invariably friendly and helpful. It’s appropriately situated just on the border of antiquey, artsy San Telmo, and very close to the business center of BA, as well as being a short walk from Ave de Mayo, which leads to Plaza de Mayo, the city’s historic center.

BA has surprised me with how urban it is so far. I haven’t had the time or energy (after 16 hours of restless and mostly sleeples travel) to explore the chic areas yet; but what I have seen reminds me more of Chicago than Prague: lots and lots of cars and heavy traffic characterizing by horns-honking constantly and the noxious fumes of dozens of buses. Actually, I’d say that it feels more urban than Chicago, or the Chicago I remember anyway. BA is mostly set out on a grid, with a few easily learned diagonal streets, also much like Chicago. And while the traffic is heavy, it’s not particularly fast-moving. From that I concluded that the best way for me to get around would be by bike. I have years of experience negotiating Chicago’s streets. I’ve also spent substantial time on two wheels in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Cairo, Amsterdam, and a little bit in Berlin. I don’t think I’d have any problem dealing with the sorts of everyday issues I saw yesterday. Counting coup with buses and taxis is part of what makes city-biking so much fun. We’ll see if I can budget for it. What I don’t want to do is go without a helmet, as I’ve done in the past. Getting cautious in my old age.

BA is quite big — 13 million people! In order to save $15 bucks, and to get a feel for the city and its people on public transport, I took bus number 86 into the city from Ezieza Airport, instead of the more expensive but far, far quicker shuttles run by commercial companies. (The bus cost $1.50 AR, or an incredible 48 cents USD.) I wouldn’t recommend bus number 86, however, for any reason, unless, like me, you’re on a severe budget. Lonely Planet says the transit time can be more than two hours. I’d been on the bus, which was packed to its limits, for over two hours before leg cramps and claustrophobia, not to mention a fear that I was somehow on the wrong bus, forced me to push my way to the side door and stumble out onto the hard, dirty sidewalk.

Where I proceeded to get myself lost. But not too much. I was on the right street into the center, I’d just failed, when looking at the map, to take into account how big BA really is. So I walked, and walked, and walked, and it took a little over an hour to even find a street I could also see on the map. Once I did, I had no problem making my way to Plaza de Mayo, taking a short trip on the city’s crowded, quaint wooden subway cars, and from there finding the Art Factory, where I checked in, and konked out, not even bothering to shower.

I struggled awake around 20, cleaned up, and re-dressed, thinking I’d have the energy to venture out to explore BA’s vaunted nightlife. I got as far as buying cigarettes across the street and then decided I didn’t have the presence of mind to even read a map, not to mention following its directions. The hostel also doesn’t have lockers so I would’ve had to take my MacBook with me, through streets which both LP and the woman working at the desk called “dodgy.” I’ll have to make my own mind up about that.I sort of like dodgy.

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