The Metamorphosis Part 2

Sometimes, sitting on the terrace of the Hotel Zamecek after a long walk, the sun glancing the tops of the pine trees, the air filled with the sounds of the river, an image of Kafka appeared before me. Kafka sitting next to us in a chair, a blanket over him, looking at the forest, now and then a cough heard over the sound of the water.

Kafka suffered from TB and spent months in and out of various sanatoriums in Austria, his stays there funded by his father who owned a factory. He died from TB at the age of 40.

Once, Europe was dotted with sanitariums. TB, amongst other illness, were a scourge in the days before the invention of antibiotics and vaccines. Many of these former sanitoriums had been renovated and turned into hotels. Anya and I had stayed in a few of them.

I wondered if this wasn’t also the case with Hotel Zamecek and resolved to ask at the front desk about its past. 

 

The woman at the front desk spoke Czech – and English. She and her husband owned and ran the hotel and as it transpired, she was the right person to inquire about the hotel and its past.

She disappeared and came back and plumped down a book before us and opened it out at a reprint of an old black and white photo of the original ‘hotel’ – surrounded by other, long, plain looking buildings with sloping tiled roofs – where there was now grass.  

She explained that originally, the hotel was the private home of a the German owner of a textile factory. It was surrounded by the living quarters of the workers. 

As she  continued telling the story of the Hotel Zamecek, a strange thought flashed through my mind:

A textile factory!

Gregor Samsa: a travelling salesman selling textiles….

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The Metamorphosis Part 1

It took us a day to get from the Austrian border to the Hotel Zamecek in the west of the Czech Republic. We had to catch two trains and a bus to reach the town of Kaplice, from where we walked to the hotel. We followed a road out town. The traffic wasn’t too bad but our rucksacks were heavy and it was a warm day.

Late in the afternoon, tired and jaded, we saw it: the Hotel Zamecek.

Our spirits lifted.

It was beautiful, like a small castle. 

It was surrounded open grassy fields and pine forests. 

 

Our room was on the third floor and to reach it we ascended a wide, stone staircase with a high stone balustrade. The original decorations on the ceiling and walls had been freshly repainted. The hotel, obviously old, had been beautifully restored – inside as well as out.

In a large open area at the top of the stairs, there was a polished wooden bookcase with books left behind by departing guests. After putting our rucksacks down and showering and putting on fresh clothes, I checked the books in the bookcase. Anya loves maps and I love books; whilst I was perusing the books, she was in the room pouring over a map of Bohemia; we planned to do some walking in the area.

I found a few books in English. There was one which caught my attention.

‘The Metamorphosis’ written by Franz Kafka.

I grabbed it and put it in our room.

Then we went downstairs to order a meal. We were famished.

 

We sat on the terrace. It was on a low balcony with a railing. It was a fine afternoon and there was a magnificent view of a swift flowing river and behind it, a steep slope covered in tall pines. Anya and I sat down at one of the tables. The other guests sitting around were Czechs who’d driven out from town to have a meal and few drinks before returning to Kaplice. We ordered a couple of red wines and a meal. It was a beautiful setting to be wining and dining; the sun shone above the tips of the pines and lanced on to the large open area between the hotel and the river. The sound of gurgling, crashing water reverberated through the air. Behind it, merging into the background, was the sound of people speaking Czech, underlining that feeling of strangeness, of being somewhere else, which is one of the great attractions of travel.

 

That night, I began reading The Metamorphosis.

“One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a revolting insect……´

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