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….