It all started on a cold winter evening by the Vltava. I hadn’t seen my brother since we both worked in Southeast Asia when he was posted at the French Embassy in Phnom Penh and I was managing pledges for the Red Cross out of Kuala Lumpur’s regional office. Having both left our tropical shores, he’s now moved to Prague while I’ve returned to our native France.
As we sipped our Budvar wrapped in our warmest clothes, we remembered the never-ending summer of our flip-flop days by the Mekong River. As much as everything would point to the contrary, from the cold dry wind to the actually tasty brew, the air felt similar, familiar.
Since growing up by the Seine, and traveling to the banks of the Thames, the Danube, the Yangzi and the Amazon, I’ve always felt that there was something immutable about Great Rivers. Cradles of civilisation one day, deadly reminders of nature’s unrivaled power the next, incredible channels of communication for some and insurmountable obstacles for others, they are Gods themselves, almighty and eternal.
As my mind started getting dragged away by the muddy rapturous currents of the Nile and the Ganges, I realised that I might have had a bit too much of this delicious Pils my brother recommended.
– So what do you think? He asked.
Apparently, my brother had been explaining to me his idea for a news website on Central Europe where he could post articles and essays he’d written:
“A sort of interactive platform for expats, travelers, and locals from Gdansk to Graz, from Szczecin to Szeged.”
– Exactly! He enthused.
I guess I was not the only one high on fermented fumes.
– It would be a return to our roots, he continued.
– … to the source! I interjected, still being in that beer-induced river-related pun mode you generally get stuck in at around 1 am. He didn’t get it.
What followed has still not been fully rationally explained to this day, though key elements still remain unknown, forgotten and forever lost in the darkened haze of oblivion. We elaborated a detailed business plan and a marketing strategy that would make us billionaires by morning and even designed a website on the back of a paper towel.
The Mekong-Vltava Bohemian Kunderald of Central Europe was officially born!
The following morning, unsurprisingly, most of it had been lost. Czech beer had been a radical upgrade from the Asian watered-down piss I had gotten used to and my mind was now pounding with regret. Something, however, had been written on the back of my hand. By whom? When? With what? The answers lie within the bowels of the Vltava.
A word. Nine letters. An idea.