In 1994 I was studying (well, drinking and whoring really with some classes thrown in at times) in France. One thing about being a foreign exchange student is that you're outside the normal channels of communication for students for some reason. I was well prepared with my schedule and what classes were at what time and what room. Beyond that I was bewildered about comings and goings, events, holidays and I was not alone. I was one of three Americans in this particular school and we frequently found ourselves following the herd rather than leading it. The prime example was midsemester break which seems to be sprung upon us rather suddenly. Upon suddenly finding myself with 10 or so days off I wasn't going to sit around an empty apartment building by myself with a forecast of 50 and raining for the week. One of the German guys was going home to see his family and asked if I'd go with him to defray the hideous cost of gas. It was about the same price as a train ticket but figured this would be fun. He had a Fiat Panda which is roughly the size of a Altoids tin and allegedly has a motor. The front seats were so close together he would bump my shoulder when he shifted gears.
We drove for
Exhausted by triumphant we arrived in Germany where I crashed on his couch for a few hours and then we got up (late) had some lunch and I headed for Prague to meet a friend whom I was unable to meet on my previous trip there earlier that summer.
Long story short (too late!)
I finally found my friend and one night we were in a pizza joint chatting up some local girls who were trying to roll a doobie but failing miserably. My friend, being a Deadhead, schooled them and they were most impressed. When the pizza guy announced our order was ready the guy in line behind me was....Valclav Klaus. My American friend of Czech heritage saw him and beamed a big smile. He shook hands and asked me if I had a camera. Nope, back at the hostel. They spoke briefly in Czech and at one point he smiled and offered his hand and I shook it and said hello in Czech as best I could. With that, his pizza was ready and he was gone. On a bicycle.
"Who was that"? I asked.
"Valclav Klas" Tom said.
"and he would be...."
"Minister of Finance!"
"So...one of the most important, powerful men in this country just biked to a pizza shop by himself to pick up a pizza while two teenage girls smoked a joint at the nearest table?"
"Yes. Welcome to Prague."