Communist Sharing in Prague

MarionetteStory: Prague in the 1970s

I was invited to Prague as a travel writer in the 1970s on an inaugural Air Canada flight leaving from Montreal. My husband insisted on going with me. We could not, however get him there on the same day so he arrived the day before I did.

In those days snagging a hotel room in advance was impossible. It was before cell phones and the internet. So most students and practically everyone else left messages on the American Express notice boards in each city.

The first thing I did on arrival in Prague was to head downtown and check the notice board at American Express to see where my husband had obtained a hotel for us. He had gone to Intourist as soon as he arrived, because under communist rule, in those days it was the only way to get a room.

There had been a line-up, of course, but he was able to get a room right on Wenceslas Square, in a hotel that is now a five-star hotel. The couple in the line behind him had been sent to a hotel in the outskirts of Prague and weren’t too happy.

When I arrived at the hotel and tried to check in, I was refused entry. I asked for the manager and the assistant manager arrived. I showed him my passport but there was still no progress. Apparently, my maiden name was still on my passport and since it did not match the name of my husband, they would not allow me to go past the reception desk.

Absolutely furious, and dead tired, I had a hard time not yelling at them but I did make a huge fuss and asked for the manager.

When the manager finally arrived, he permitted me to go up to the room my husband had said was ours in that American Express note.

To my utter amazement and complete dismay, I found a strange man asleep in one of the twin beds. I also spied a note on the chest of drawers that my husband had left for me. It said: “Susan, just go to sleep. Don’t worry. He’s an American and okay and he will leave his share of the money on the dresser. I will take his bed when he leaves.”

So that’s exactly what I did. And yes, the American was completely honorable. He left his share of the money on the chest of drawers and quietly departed, leaving me sound asleep.



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