Ballooning for Corkscrews

Bonnie and I went ballooning with Alf in Prague and Salzburg. before the 1998 annual meeting of International Correspondence of Corkscrew Addicts (ICCA) in London. Here are photos of the "not many" corkscrews found on the ballooning part of the trip.

We saw more corkscrews on Alf's balloons then in shops. See a picture of both balloons on Alf's website.

...and view the specifications for Corkscrew I.

...and view the designer drawings for Corkscrew II.
We found no corkscrews in shops. We did not receive any boxes full of corkscrews from webfriends at our hotels. Our only hope was Vecerik, the Czech waiter. Here's the story (excerpts from the Prague Journal):

Tuesday, August 25: Can Alf and I mix real corkscrews with corkscrew balloons? For several years a Czech waiter supplied me with corkscrews through the mails. The supply dried up and we were out of touch for a year or so. Then in anticipation of this trip, I wrote him a hopeful note. The cryptic reply came from Vecerik detailing a meeting place on Saturday afternoon. He said he has a great supply of corkscrews to show to Alf and me. I guess we should bring along our black trench coats for this clandestine meeting. Perhaps we will be rewarded with enough treasures for a Ballooning for Corkscrews supplement!

Saturday, August 29: So what about corkscrews? The plan was to meet the Czech waiter in Wenceslas Square between 3 and 4 PM. The waiter would be near the statue holding a corkscrew. Shortly before three, I met Alf in the lobby of the hotel. I told him I would get directions from the Concierge. He said "I know where it is." It would be just a short walk. Our brains were spinning anticipating the finds of a lifetime. Within five minutes we were in the square. We did several turns clockwise and counterclockwise around the statue. He wasn't there. RATS! We went back to the hotel to get ready for ballooning. There was still time to spare so I went back to the square. Still no luck!

Sunday, August 30: This morning Alf said to me "Do you remember when I told you I know where it is?" "Yes, Alf?????" I queried. Alf admitted: "I took you to the wrong square!"

Was this a plot? Did he send someone else to the other square so he could get all of the corkscrews? Will we ever know? Let's keep an eye on his future Six Bests!

Monday, September 1: Today we returned to the same square on a walking tour. We learned that 27 Noblemen had been beheaded in that very square. Learning this, Alf's son-in-law Sam said to me "Those guys went to the wrong square too!"

Tuesday, September 1, 1998: Today we had a wake up call from Vecerik. He apologized for not being in Wenceslas Square on Saturday. His car had broken down. (OK, Alf, you have absolution). He said he would come to the hotel today "between twelve."
"What does that mean, Vecerik?"
Again, "between twelve."
"Do you mean between 11 and 12?"
"Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" replied Vecerik.
"Zwischen elf und twelf Heute?" I said.
Vecerik: "Yes, yes, yes, bye".

Bonnie went off and I went to the lobby at 11AM. Five minutes later a likely suspect came in, picked up the house phone, listened and hung up. I stared at him. He stared at me. I pointed to the corkscrews and the balloons on the shirt that Alf had given me. The suspect nodded, came over and sat down. I called Alf, who came down immediately. We chatted for a while and finally I impatiently asked to see the corkscrews. He said "corkscrews?" "Yes, Vecerik, the corkscrews." He responded: "I am not Vecerik, I am Wassilly."

Great Scott, Alf we've got the wrong guy! It is now quite obvious that Alf and I are not good at this! We looked around the lobby and there were no suspects. We waited. And waited. No one carrying a box of corkscrews. At noon we moved to the bar where we had a view of the lobby. Alf suggested that perhaps "between 12 meant between noon and midnight". Or, maybe "between 1 and 2 ... the digits on the clock".

At 12:45 Bonnie showed up and we sat there waiting. Our thoughts were in comic strip balloon captions over our heads:

Alf: It's pay back for going to the wrong square.
Don: It is a practical joke by Mike.
Bonnie: These guys are really nuts!

Wednesday, September 2: Vecerik called. He is in the lobby with a box of corkscrews! After his call, I called Alf. No answer in his room. Bonnie and I went to the elevator, pushed the button, the door opened, and there was Alf. When I told him the corkscrew connection was in the lobby, he didn't believe it. When we got to the lobby, he did. No, Vecerik did not have a box full. But he had a pack with about 17 corkscrews. Mostly junk. There was a rusty Tyr, a couple of Czech corkscrews, an interesting East German frame with spring, a cellar key from Moscow, and a wood handle T with stars of David carved in one side and initials with heart in the other. This last piece had all the indications of having been worked on in a concentration camp. We negotiated and finally agreed on a cash sum plus the promise that I would ship him some Nazi patches, hats, and badges from the United States. Vecerik had made his wish list using a catalog from a firm in Boston. We don't want to even try to guess what he is planning to do. So, at last, Alf and I got corkscrews in Prague!


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©1998 Donald A. Bull