Years ago, I was in Prague to attend a UN conference. As I arrived, I fell in love with the city. I chose to stay at hotel Black Elephant that was a few minutes’ walk from the Old Town Quarter.
Old Town Square is a historic place. It is located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge where people take romantic walks at night.
A friend had recommended me hotel Black Elephant. Black Elephant, also known as Hotel Cerny slon, is located in the narrow street Tynska. It was built in accordance with historical archives of Prague in the years 1330 – 1340 in a gothic style. A unique roof truss of the building was preserved in an original form. It is one of the oldest hotel in Prague and perhaps in the whole Czech Republic. The building is listed on the UNESCO heritage list. The hotel boasts of Bar Bandol that was set up in the cellar with pebbled walls around. In this hotel the history literally “talks to you”.
The Black Elephant Hotel
Some of the UN delegates had also booked the Black Elephant. One of them was my good friend Anna. Anna was a Slovakian and worked as a consultant on a project sponsored by UNIDO. I was pleased to see her at the reception as I was checking in. Anna was dressed in a smart lamb wool sweater with her Slovakian ID hanging out in a brass chain.
The Slovak identity card is issued to citizens of the Slovak Republic aged 15 and older. A Slovak ID card can be used for travel in all member states of the European Union and the Schengen Area as well as several other European countries. Most Slovakian’s those days used to sport the ID in a chain put around the neck, especially while in the Czech Republic.
“Hi Prasad, great to see you again” Anna said. “Hey, we are having a reception at the Municipal House followed by a concert at the Smetana Hall”. Smetana hall is a celebrated concert venue in Prague.
“Do check with me after the program is over as we all are planning to take a nightly walk on the streets of Prague on our way back”
I was really excited to know about this plan. Walking on the streets of Prague at night is perhaps most romantic thing to do. I proposed to Anna that we will walk from the Municipal Hall, watching the illuminated old quarters and then end up dining at a nice place”
Oh, sounds good” said Anna. She suggested White Horse restaurant that was close the Old Town Square. “That’s the best place in Prague to be”. I had been to White Horse before and endorsed Anna’s suggestion.
White Horse restaurant is a hidden gem. Tucked away in a cellar downstairs, it is a cozy, beautifully decorated restaurant. From the street you could think you would be sitting in a rather uninviting seating area at front. But we you go downstairs to the cellar restaurant, you realize that it is beautiful and romantic place to eat. The cellar has live jazz or blues bands entertaining the diners. I remembered that it has a good selection of vegetarian foods was available as well.
The White Horse Restaurent and the Cellar place
The meeting over the day was good. We met lots of old friends, one of them was Brian from the United States. Brian was a Professor at North Dakota University. A very jovial person that he was, Brian captured everybody’s attention and charmed Anna with his stories. “Keep a few stories in reserve when we will walk at night” Anna chided him.
The concert ended by 9 pm. We started walking from the Municipal Hall on the pebbled streets of Prague. The streets had aroma of perfumes, the youth around was full of love and passion, the breeze was chilly, but the hearts were warm. We walked through the crowds, pushing people sometimes and making our way. Anna was leading us in the beginning giving us the “street sense”. Brian was in the mood of humor – making interesting remarks on each one of us and cracking jokes. I could see that Anna was simply adoring his pranks. We used to see both sometimes trailing behind and getting into conversations that we all wanted to hear! I don’t think Anna had met Brian before.
We must have walked just about 2 km and cleared much of the crowed portion of the streets.
Suddenly, Anna stopped. I saw her face panicked.
She looked extremely worried and concerned. “I think I lost by Slovak ID, either it got slipped or someone wacked it in the crowd”. I saw the brass chain in her neck was empty.
We knew that losing the ID card in Czech Republic could be a nightmare for a Slovakian. The immediate thing to be done was reporting to the City Police Station 1 at the Old Town.
We got into a discussion – some said that we should walk back and check if the ID had slipped on the streets. This idea was dismissed. Few said that it was most likely that the ID was stolen. Many from Slovakia who stayed in the Czech Republic always looked for IDs that could be forged to enter Slovakia.
“Well friends, I must go and report to the Police for the lost ID card. The Police Station is not far away from the hotel” Anna had decided.
“Prasad, you know White Horse restaurant so lead everyone there. I have done a booking already. There is a piano jazz tonight. I will join there as I finish the formalities at the Police Station. It may take some time” Anna sounded practical.
Brian volunteered to accompany Anna. I really liked his friendly gesture. I was relieved that there was someone to accompany Anna.
We were at restaurant White Horse in the next 10 minutes. Our tables in the cellar were pre-booked. The piano-man was in action and was rolling out great jazz. We kept seats for Anna and Brian. We hoped that they will sort out the complain part soon and join us.
We ended the dinner by 11 30 pm but none of them showed up. We were worried. Some said that they must have got real fatigued and hence retired to their respective rooms. Like Anna, Brian also stayed at the Black Elephant.
I had an early morning flight from Prague to Zurich for way home. I checked out at the reception and went to the breakfast area for a hot black coffee to fight the chill outside. Airport taxi was about to come. On the table, I saw Anna sitting.
Hi Prasad, let me get some breakfast she said. As she walked towards the buffet table, I saw lying on the top of the table her brass chain with her Slovakian ID.
“Oh, looks like she found it. May be someone returned her ID to the police station where she had gone to register the complaint – I must ask” I said to myself
“Madam, your room number please?” The girl serving the coffee asked Anna. Anna showed her the metal key that was on the table that had the room number engraved in the old style. The girl noted the room no. But she returned to our table once again.
“Madam, I think you showed me the wrong key. This key belongs to the room of Mr. Brian Crawford”. The girl said in an apologetic tone.
The situation was then clear to me.
Did Anna really lose her Slovak ID? And was something planned during the nightly walk on the streets of Prague?
Dear readers – I leave to you to decide.
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