Travel notesIssue 17 | March 2013

Last-Minute Reservation

by Sachi Cote Kozel

Go then, there are other worlds than these.
—Stephen King, The Gunslinger

I wake up forehead-to-forehead with Lukas, the man I married.

This room happened last-minute, as do all rooms like this. It’s an attic room—the Writer’s Room—with winding wooden stairs leading to its door of Werther’s-colored oak of perfect height and girth to accommodate a hobbit or gnome. This is a place I came to know at eighteen, a very different fräulein, illustrated verbatim in the idioms of my guestbook signing from 2006. Inversely, The House has remained just as she was. Though the library has grown, it still smells of the same oak and bindings. There is an old typewriter in the corner of the Writer’s Room you can’t pass without typing a few letters, like the ivory keys of a fine piano; they call to you, even if you can’t play them. You don’t have to be a writer to appreciate this place. Picking up The Gunslinger here in Cesky Krumlov is similar to driving past the Pet Sematary house after dark…the hauntings of Gage and Zelda as chilling and fresh as the Atlantic wind that whistles through that part of Maine.

We drove through a wicked forest to get here, crippling silhouettes of towering trees and angry darkness closing in on either side of us, giving me that tingle of eerie anticipation which tightens everything and almost feels insanely pleasurable. The House is slim and postured like an elderly ballerina; immediately I remember the street from six years past. Lean, delicious places - the truly unique ones - do not melt from your memory. They build themselves into your memory muscle and stay there.

My mouth has been watering since yesterday. By the time our bohemian feast arrives I’ve already had half a liter of dark, creamy Eggenberg and switch to mead; it’s winter so they have Southern Bohemian herbal but no cinnamon or almond. The buttery feeling of this honey wine is comparable to running your fingers along the inner silk of a baby’s arm, or the warmth of a new lover’s kisses on the very top of your spine.

The interior of The Two Marys is like stepping into the Middle Ages.The décor has been collected over centuries of creative upcycling—wood all around, animal skins adorning the tops of long benches, tables sparsely decorated with tea candles, small silver dishes of salt and pepper, centerpieces of pine with dried orange slices and clove. The menu feels like a book in your hands, one you want to hold, with herbal remedies and the house’s history:

On lords’ tables gruel was richly greased with butter, sweetened with honey, seasoned with saffron, ginger, rose petals and spicery from far-away countries, boiled with wine or cream, nuts & almonds. For simple folk, the gruel was mixed with milk and sweetened with dry pears or sauerkraut and greased with lard.

We’re four drinks in and nothing is left of the cabbage salad, millet, dumplings and potato cakes but two legs of smoked rabbit. Eighteen years of vegetarianism tug at my heartstrings as succulent bunny rabbit falls off the bone and fills my mouth with smoky wild comfort.

Sounds of the Vltava River ascend through the barely insulated balcony, gliding into the two small dining rooms like fresh milk being poured from one bucket to another inside a great barn. The way the waiter moves and speaks softly in a vowel-less accent is disarming and esoteric. I needn’t tell Lukas; my chest is flushed. Alcohol makes a human very easy to read, but it’s a two-way street, like eating bunny rabbit, or the cobblestones of this town in my New Year’s heels.

We get back to The House and make love for the first time in 2013, while fireworks explode outside the Writer’s window. As Lukas sleeps, I spend the next hours in the world of Stephen King, a world contained in this one little book, in this one little room. His books deserve to be consumed and studied in a place like this: a corner desk beside a tiny window looking out over ancient Bohemia.

Go then, there are other worlds than these.

So I go.

About the author

Sachi Cote was born in the Florida Keys, raised on Maine’s snowy seaside, and now lives beside the lakes of the Austrian Salzkammergut. Sachi has lost a shoe in an earthquake while waterfall trevassing in Canyon de Colca, Peru; scaled walls of ice to summit Schafberg before spring’s first melt in Austria; and had her brain pulled to the point of hallucination by the swells of the Tongan Trench. She’s a dancer, wife, and wanderer, and this is her first publication.

Read our current issue:

Poetry

Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok