Notes from Marienbad (1)

The young woman at the reception has very long and very red fingernails. They rather look like very elegant claws of an ancient animal, an opossum maybe? „Excuse me, say I, but I am looking for the place, where Franz Kafka stayed when he visited Marienbad in 1916.“ The woman looks at me with a mixture of astonishment and wonder. „Franz, who?“, she asks me again, just to reassure herself that someone, who at the first glimpse looks quite normal, asks such a weird question. Ummh, I say, and spell again slowly: K-A-F-K-A, a writer I add. But this does not impress the woman. In 1916, I add, the hotel was called Balmoral and Osborne, it should be quite close, don’t you think so? But the woman does not think so. She and this becomes very obvious did not think when joining a school for hotel management, it could ever happen that a guest asks, where to find a dead poet. Nervously she looks on the screen of her computer, the fingernails of her right hand clack nervously on the table. Kafka, she murmurs, Balmoral, she whispers, while her fingernails are clacking faster. I smile at her. In my right hand I hold a thick book, Kafka’s diaries. After ten very, very long minutes, the woman looks up and with a deep sigh of relief, presents her findings: „Hlavni trida 390“, she says. I renew my thanks, admire again her nails and with her view in my back I leave through the doors, where rustic German pensioners now enter the lobby in swarms. Uphill I walk, I pass more hotels all built in splendor in a time when Marienbad became for a short while the centre of Europe’s desire for a brighter and better future, made possible by modest walking and careful drinking of water. What a dream! And further uphill I wander, till I turn to the left, and there it is, a bit backwards and therefore easily overlooked, the Hotel Balmoral and Osborne appears in all its grandeur. Even the name has not changed. But is painted below a broad portal. And still it is possible to walk up the three steps and to open the door that is shrieking, but one should be mild to things that are old. In the inside of the building it smells of long years of socialism, a perfume made of bleakness, mindlessness, cheap linoleum and too much ideology, here spaciously spread out. In a hall, I stand with dimmed light and in its right corner, where probably once the reception had been, now a wooden construction was built in, where a bad-humored reptile- forgive me, a guard lies deathlike in a massive armchair, in the background a TV flickers. Carefully as it is advised in relation to reptiles- pardon- guards, I approached the massive armchair. With deep mistrust all my movements were examined. My greetings did not find a reply. But one should not expect too much in life. Again I ask, for Franz Kafka and Felice Bauer, mention the two connected doors in the summer of 1916, but before I am able to get on, the guard jumps off the armchair and barks loudly: No, Kafka in here. And so I repeat that of course, now Franz Kafka is not here at all, but nearly 100 years ago, but the guard, who feels annoyed by my second approach, barks again, that she is not aware of a certain Kafka. No Kafka, she shouts, no idea of a room or two, never heard of a woman called Felice Bauer, no, no, no, no Kafka, she knows nothing. Indeed, I think and I annoy the reptile- pardon me- the guard again, while asking if she would mind me taking a look around the place. The guard now in a state of desperation about such an annoying person like me, leans forward, and unable any longer to speak in full sentences, coughs darkly: „strictly forbidden.“ I nod and walk to the big windows, look up to the staircase, still the reptile lurks behind me, a young men enters the door, in his hand a BILLA bag, the guard snorts shortly, just to sink back into her massive armchair, then she turns the TV on loud again, and I leave the Hotel Balmoral, where Franz Kafka might have kissed Felice Bauer and while I walk back down the street I hope,that the students living in the big, old, once splendid building now, make frequent use of the two connected doors.

2 thoughts on “Notes from Marienbad (1)

  1. This is wonderful, filled as it is with lines like „In the inside of the building it smells of long years of socialism, a perfume made of bleakness, mindlessness, cheap linoleum and too much ideology,“ I wonder if you realize how good a writer you are. You are top tier.

  2. It is intriguing I think that a certain period of time can develop quite a unique and easily recognizable scent. As ever many thanks for your kind remarks to my most humble writing!

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