LUNCH IN A LAKE
DOUGLAS PAULSON AND CHRISTOPHER ROBBINS MEET FOR LUNCH IN THE MIDDLE OF A LAKE THAT HAPPENED TO LIE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LINE THEY DREW BETWEEN THE PLACES THEY LIVE RIGHT NOW:
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK AND VRANJE, SERBIA.
this is chris's trip. follow doug's trip | see how it started
a week before lunch- halfway?
Okay. So it is not exactly halfway. But the reason makes it better. I used Google Earth to figure out the exact halfway point, and it was near the town of Vizovice, Czech Republic. However, I must have mis-typed it, because when Doug searched for it, Google Map threw him directly in the middle of a lake called Vozovice, in the Czech Republic. It's still around halfway, and I do love adventure based on folly, so a mistake that puts us in a lake seems like destiny to me.
So, April 29, 2007, High Noon, a Soggy Lunch in the middle of the Lake at Vozovice, Czech Republic!
less than a week - how I know Doug
I first "met" Douglas Paulson when I stumbled upon Parfyme Deluxe Street Canoe while researching my MFA Thesis (20mb pdf download). The stuff they were doing was just what I was talking about: art as adventure, as action, as hard work that is damn fun and in the streets (or the water) and unpredictable. So I sent him an email. We talked about art as a method for intervening into your own life, a way of making adventures you wouldn't/ couldn't otherwise. And we kept talking.
Then he invited me to participate in the Tent Show at the Nikolaj Kunsthallen / Copenhagen Contemporary Art Centre.And now we are meeting in a lake somewhere in the Czech Republic, because it is halfway between Copenhagen and Vranje, Serbia.
2 days till lunch
Damn! Doug has been busy! (and, unfortunately, full of anger and regret in the rain) Fortunately, I gotta another boat up my sleeve, but am damn glad he thought of one that could actually keep us out of the water. It's gotten cold since we decided to do this. (not that i would ever miss a chance of submersing myself in water, regardless of the temperature.)
still 2 days till lunch
It has been fun to follow Doug's progress online, and as I don't want to spoil the surprise in case he is doing the same, I will just say this: My whirlwind journey begins at 2:30 AM, about 10 hours from now, and I will be carrying this:
- photographs of googlemaps of the lake and surrounding area (i have no printer so I use the local fuji shop as my printer)
- African safety-in-travel-over-water bracelet from Peace Corps days (its filled with bits of protective shells from bugs, herbs, roots, etc)
- flat-pack paper boats made from Serbian calendar pages
- back-up Serbian calendar pages for additional boats
- passport, tickets, money
- clothes to get wet in
- clothes for staying dry in
- t-shirt for doug
- triangle cheese (more to come on the way)
- a salami
45 and a half hours till lunch
2:30 AM, Sunday night/ Monday morning, our Albanian taxi driver (who lives in the Serbian town of Bujanovac) picks me up in Vranje, Serbia, and we head for Skopje, Macedonia, where I catch a plane to Prague via Budapest. Then a bus to the metro to the train station, where I pick up a ticket to Cimelice, a town to the north of the lake we will be meeting in. My plan is to spend the night in Cimelice, and head for lunch in the lake the next morning.
I saved the tickets I collected along the way: my taxi receipt, plane tkt, bus/ metro ticket, and train ticket, and folded them into paper boats, so it's like I took those paper boats to my lunch in a lake.
i saw doug
30 minutes in prague. I had to duck behind a car. what are the chances? this is the shot i snapped before scurrying away.
24 hours till lunch - hiding from doug
this is going to be tough. seems doug is on the very same train as me. I made sure to walk next to big guys so I could duck behind them when I entered the train station, and made it on the train allright, but I am pretty sure Doug saw me when we changed trains in Berloun.I got off the train and immediately ran behind a big wall, I then spied the train i had to switch to, and started walking briskly towards it. And then I heard the patter of feet running towards me, and turned to see Doug's unmistakedly bright orange t-shirt and blue blue blue trousers. I couldn't tell if he was trying to catch me, evade me, or just catch our pretty tight connection, so I ran as fast as I could myself, got on the car in front of him, and crouched down in my seat.I hope he doesn't have to pee: as the bathroom is just past my seat. Guess I'll keep a magazine handy and lay it over my face and pretend I am sleeping if he walks by. But, SHIT, it's in English!!! He'll know for sure!
21 hours till lunch - behind a tree
Doug saw me for sure. I told myself to act like that salt pillar at Cimelice, and just walk, don't look back. Don't look back. If he doesn't see me see him, then I can still keep up this ridiculous suspension of disbelief. (And ridiculous shared suspensions of disbelief are very, very dear to me - it's what that horse trailer thing was all about).
But it was soooo beautiful out - the train stopped at this little station surrounded by fields, many bright yellow, and the breeze was blowing and the sun was shining and as I walked down that track away from the station I did a little spin to look around me, and
there he was.
So I leapt behind the tree next to me, and just didn't know what to do. I took off my pack and peeked around the tree. He was crouched behind a car with his camera out, so I ducked back. There was a Czech guy standing waiting for a ride, clearly confused by what the hell we were doing. I peeked around from the other side, saw doug's camera, and ducked back behind. The waiting Czech smiled when he saw that.
I didn't want to spoil it by talking to him, breaking the magic. Meeting Doug in a lake for lunch in the Czech Republic is much cooler than meeting him at a train station and going for lunch in a lake together. I wanted to follow out rules to the letter. I wasn't sure what to do, so I decided I would climb the tree, and then I would figure out what to. So I kicked off my flipflops and started climbing, but there were no branches down low, and my feet slipped off and I fell down. So I just ducked behind the tree kind of giggling and shaking my head and wondering what to do, and I peeked around to see him heading back for the train station - he was catching another train!So, I put on my flip flops and my backpack and ran down the path away, to the amusement/ consternation of our Czech watcher.
20 hours till lunch - a place to sleep
Cimelice is not a tourist town. There were no signs from the station. The first guy I had passed had never heard of the restaurant I had booked a room at. Fortunately, Czech and Serbian language seem to share a lot of words, so when I passed a group of girls I asked them "Gde ye... uh... town" and they pointed the way.But then I got to a fork in the road.
I saw a pretty yellow church with a funky roof up the hill, so I headed towards that. Took some photos, and then turned to find Restaurant Na Knizeci, where I was booked that night.
Or so I thought. When I got there, I was told there was no place to sleep. I knew I had booked a spot here (well, Blanka, a Czech Colleague of Shelly's had - bc when I called on the phone they didn't seem to understand a word I said, even when I used a phrase book to ask in Czech). So I persisted. I made a pillow by folding my hands in like praying, and rested my head on my hands.
So I pulled out the piece of paper on which I had written the place's name and phone number, and showed it to the bleached blond girl, and her eyes lit up.
"Oh, you are Chris Robbins!"
So she took me upstairs and lead me to a room filled with nothing but beds.
"Just one night, yes?"
19 hours till lunch - scouting the lake
After being begrudgingly given one bed in an empty room of like a dozen beds (which were still all empty when I left the next morning), I decided to scout out the lake, to make sure I timed it right tomorrow. I grabbed a salami and some bread at the grocer next door, and started tromping towards the lake. It looked like a 3 mile walk to the lake, and I was happily munching salami like a whole cucumber down the quiet sunny road when the railroad crossing closed in front of me with a feeble ring. After the incredibly long train passed (it turns out Doug got stuck when the same train was crossing that very same crossing as he was coming the other way - hitch-hiking north looking for a place to sleep. The driver ended up taking another route after getting sick of waiting for the train. So a close call again! I had no choice, so waited for it to pass.
A half-hour later I entered the adorable village of Smetanava Lhota. I saw the Hostel I figured Doug was staying at, and started feeling kind of lonely. I was thinking it wouldn't break the rules if I appeared at his hostel like a mysterious cowboy for a beer or two, and then dissapeared into the dark, him not knowing where I would sleep, only to re-appear at the lake the next day for lunch.
But when I stopped at the Hostel to fill up my water bottle they said they had no beds (I could see their rooms through their windows - what is up with these places?) so got some water and moved on, confused. At the village center there was a map that showed our lake - Vozovice, so between that and singing Vampire Weekend - Oxford Comma at the top of my lungs once I was out of the village, I started feeling good again.
Why would you lie 'bout how much coal you had?
Why would you lie 'bout something dumb like that?
Why would you lie 'bout anything at all?
Something something, something to the wall.
Who gives a fuck about an oxford comma?
I met the Dalai Lama. It's true! His accent sounded fine to me.
and so on...
18 hours till lunch - no lake!
There is no lake! At least, I couldn't find it. I walked along the road, crossed the river, followed the roal until it became a trail along a field, and then turned hard left once the field became woods. I was afraid the farmers would be mad - this lake was right in the middle of a farm - so I kept to the edge of the forest, passed shotgun cartridges and tree houses for hunting from, and when I got to where the lake should be it was just a bunch of really rich green grass!!
I mean, it could be further, it's hard to judge distances sometimes. But I heard some thunder, and didn't want to get stuck in these woods in the dark, and decided to turn back and try another route the next morning.
4 hours till lunch - rain
It's pouring. Okay, it's not pouring, but it's pissing. And it's cold. And I have all my clothes in this bag on my back. And I have to go swim in some lake that probably doesn't even exist. This sucks. I'm retracing my steps from yesterday, but this time it is raining instead of lovely, and I've seen it all before, and the only thing new to me this time were the wet recycling bins in Smetanova Lhota I didn't notice last time.There's a wet potato sitting on the bridge before the turn off for the "lake" road. I think Doug must have left it there for me.
A tractor was moving compost in the rain and it was so hot it was steaming.
3 hours till lunch - the new plan
Since following the woods didn't work, I've decided to try following a river there. The map makes it look like a river cuts right through the middle of the farmer's field to become the lake after about 4000 feet. And this time I am gonna keep track of how far I am going so I know if I have passed it. I figure at about 5 feet per pace (two steps) it will take me like 800 paces to get there along the river. So I will start counting my steps once I start along the river.
Here's the river:
And the field it bisects. This freshly turned dirt stuck to my feet and made me feel like I had big brown moon boots on. I washed it off in the river every once in awhile.
2 hours till lunch - taking a break
After 400 paces (halfway there! - in theory) I've found a little shelter, so I dumped my stuff there, took a slug from the 'Champagne of Cognacs' I picked up in Duty Free, and hid from the rain for awhile.
1 1/2 hours till lunch - the lake!
I must have counted wrong, because 20 minutes later I came up a rise and : the lake! I've still got lots of time to kill till lunch, so I decide to explore the lake in detail. There are tons of hides around it - some up on stilts, some for lying down in - but they all seems to be locked. Sick of my heavy soggy bags, I stowed them under a little barn on wheels I found and explored some more.
Finally, I found one hide that isn't locked. Well, the door has been ripped off, and it's a pretty rickety wood construction that jiggles as I climb up it, but shoving it around from up top (not the brightest way to test stability, I realise) it seems like it will hold up. Plus, I am cold and wet and this is the only dry place around, with a perfect view of the lake to spy Doug when he comes.
Oh, and here's one shotgun shell I found. (I forgot it in my carryon and had to give it up at Prague airport. Also seem to have lost my magic voodoo bracelet. :()
1 hour till lunch
Nothin to do but wait.
15 minutes till lunch - doug arrives
I've been waiting 45 minutes up in the hide. It's kinda cold up here because the door is ripped off, but better than being in the rain. I keep looking for Doug through my binoculars, and then finally there he is! He is too far away to photograph normally, but by holding my lens up to my binoculars eye piece, I can get a blurry photo.
So I put my soggy socks back on, and scurry down to the lake. As luck would havge it, he is approaching from the opposite bank, so as he starts to inflate his boat on one side of the lake, I start to fold my paper boats on my side.
That bright orange blur is Douglas Paulson's boat. Mine carried cheese for about 20 seconds before sinking. I made them out of Serbian calendar pages.
Damn it was cold! And my head went under as I tried to keep our food from getting wet, swimming the sidestroke with one hand out to the middle of the lake as Doug paddled his neon boat towards me. The water tasted kind of wierd (I was thinking of fertilizer and cow dung) but Doug served me coffe in a little Prague fliptop beer tumbler, and I broke out cheese and bread and salami (oops- Doug is a vegetarian!), and we had a quick wet lunch before retiring to a hunting hide to work on the cognac. Doug gave me a tshirt with my face on it that said "LUNCHTIME!!!" and I gave him a tshirt that said "I HEART VRANJE".
And that was our lunch in a lake! You can follow Doug's journey here, and see how it all started here.