Laundry? Not so fast.

When I booked this apartment, it said “laundry” was included. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, as many of the other flats specifically said “washing machine,” but I assumed if there wasn’t an actual machine in the flat, there was probably one on the premises.

Oh, how naive I was.

There was no machine in the flat. In fact, when I checked in, I asked about “laundry” and the booking agent said no, if it had laundry they would have listed it. I pointed out that they had in fact listed it, to which he replied, “there is laundry down the street.”

So for this entire week, I’ve assumed that, in a pinch, I could take off the other way down the street, the way I don’t usually go, and I would find a storefront filled with washing machines. But it turned out that one of Kurt’s friends offered me the use of his machines during the week, so a few days ago I made my way to his apartment and did my laundry there. Which was an entirely pleasant experience, except for the small fact that the cycles took incredibly long and I only had time to do one load. So I did everything I needed for wearing around Prague. I had wanted to do my traveling clothes before I left, though, and my travel sheets were getting kinda gnarly as well. So I figured before I left, if I got a bit of spare time, I would take off and find this nearby building filled with washing machines and do this last little load.

I finally had some time today where nobody had planned anything for me. Yay! Perfect timing.

SO I filled my little duffle and set off down the street. At the end of the street I came upon the main tram stop/metro station, but no laundry. I decided to stop into a shop and ask the owner if there was a place nearby where you could wash clothes. “No,” she said, “not around here. You are best to go, maybe Praha 2.”

Hmm. So much for the promise of the booking agent. I thought about what he might have meant by listing “laundry” in the description of the flat, and decided that he must have meant that the landlord comes by and takes our dirty towels for us and replaces them with clean ones. I suppose that makes sense, I guess I can’t really get angry for it, although it certainly didn’t mean what I thought it to mean.

Praha 2, huh? I went back to my flat and pulled out my Prague map. Praha 2 was pretty far away, across the map. I figured if Praha 2 had a laundromat, then certainly Praha 6 and Praha 7 must also, and they were much closer, just a tram ride away. I popped the map in my bag and set out for Malostranské station.

Once there, I hopped on the number 12 tram, which I knew would take me all the way to my train station if I stayed on it long enough.. But after the tram left off following the river, it curved into another very city-like area, although perhaps a bit sketchy, judging by the graffiti on the walls and the bars on the windows. But it was early in the day and the people looked less than threatening, so I decided to hop off and walk a bit. Perhaps I would pass by a window and look in and see washing machines. It had occurred to me by this time that I didn’t even know what the word on the sign would say. I imagined it might have the word “prádle” in it, which seems to mean clothing or laundry, if the name of our theatre, “divadlo na prádle” (Laundry Theatre) was any indication.

After walking down a few streets, I realized I might probably want to stop and ask for a bit of help. I went into a little bookstore/kavárna (coffee shop! I know that word!) and asked the little gal behind the desk if there was a place to wash clothes nearby. She said, “no, sorry.” I nodded, and then asked her “what is the word I might be looking for?” “Thank you?” she offered. I smiled and made myself a bit clearer. “The name of the place where you wash your clothes.” She told me the word “Čistírna,” and I had her write it down. I thanked her and left, and after a bit of walking decided to stop into another kavárna and get something cool to drink. I ordered a lemonade with mint leaves. The young women who took my money were quite helpful, and told me that I would find a laundry if I went across the bridge to Náměstí Republiky, there was a shopping mall there that had a laundry in it. “Take the number 14 tram is the best way, although it is weekend and may be closed.”

A shopping mall with a laundromat? Hmmm. Well, I was having no luck here, so I thanked them and went back to the tram stop. I couldn’t pick up the #14 from that stop and I didn’t know where I could get it, so I decided to take the #12 back to where I’d started and hop on the metro. Which I did. Switched to the B line and got off at Náměstí Republiky and climbed up into the sunshine again.

Now what?

I made my way towards a sign that said shopping mall, but nothing looked promising inside. I decided I didn’t have time to keep exploring by myself, I’d already spent over an hour since I’d started, and I still needed time to wash and dry my clothes and get back to the theatre in time for the show. So I went up to the valet at the Hilton Hotel and showed him my little piece of paper with “Čistírna” written on it. “Ah!” he said. “You want a laundry! Yes, go up this way, see the white van there? Go about ten steps past the van and up the three steps, and there is your laundry.” And so I did.

It was a dry cleaners.

The woman inside spoke no english. Well, she spoke enough to communicate to me that she was closing soon and my laundry would be done tomorrow. I pulled out my phone and pointed to the clock. “What time tomorrow?” I tried to ask, with little success. From what I understood, it would be done by 4 pm tomorrow, and my train leaves at 5:15. No good. I shook my head and said “no” and left.

I went back to the Hilton and tried to find the nice valet, but he was nowhere to be found. So I went inside and asked the concierge if there was any place where I could do my own laundry. She was not as nice, but promptly pulled out a map and circled a shopping mall up the street and pointed me in the direction of a place called “Laundry Land.” It was a bit of a walk, but at last, I had found what I was looking for!

As I walked I realized I was getting quite near the area we had been in the day before, and I was happy that I knew my way back and knew how long it would take to get there. The timing might be close but it was doable. After passing a major theatre and another shopping mall, I found the one I was looking for and went inside, deciphered the signs to figure out which floor the place was located on, and went up the escalator. It was down still another narrow hallway into a secondary shopping square. At last!

I walked in. A sign on the desk said, “All machines occupied.”

I asked the woman attendant if she spoke english, she said “no.” Again, I pulled out my phone and tried to communicate the question, “when will the machines be free?” She looked pained and pointed to the closing hours on the door. I understood. There would be no washing of my clothes today.

So I basically dragged my bag of dirty laundry around Prague today. It was a nice day, at least, and I knew when I left that I might not accomplish what I’d set out to do. The point was more to explore, to set a goal and figure out how to reach it, than it was to do the actual laundry. I’m sure I can wash my clothes once I get to Milan, as I’ll be staying in a hotel. Even if I can’t, I’ve got enough clean ones from the previous load to wear home, they’re just not the cargo pants with all the pockets like I like.

I had actually wanted to get to the other side of the Charles Bridge to do some shopping today, but couldn’t make myself confront the crowds of tourists up there. As it turned out, I got to the area I wanted, and only had to go across the bridge once, on my way back. I found a nice little street market over there and bought an (outrageously expensive!) basket of mixed berries that was oh-so-exquisitely wonderful, and two really good apricots. Picked up a little crystal necklace for myself, and wandered around the back streets taking a few pictures. All in all it was a pretty nice day.

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