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Czech Republic

August 12th, 2000 · No Comments

August 12, 2000 Terezin

Day 225

I hooked up with Ramona to ride today. We followed Ken Anderson, Barbara and Dick out of town, before realizing they were not riding the route. Ken was looking for a bike path to follow. It sounded good, at least better than riding on the road, so we followed him. As it turned out, the bike path was a well traveled bike touring destination. We passed hundreds of cycle tourists, some fully loaded, others obviously traveling from hotel to hotel.

The path followed the River Elbe for 48 kilometers. We waved to the tourists on the river barges, most of the time passing them as they meandered down the river. It was such a lovely route. When it was time to get back on the Odyssey route, we crossed the river and stopped in a quaint little village. Our fellow Odyssey riders had found a wonderful cafe that just took the apple strudel out of the oven. We of course had to sample it, this is what bicycle touring should be, ride and eat.

We crossed the border with relative ease on bicycle. The cars however were lined up for many blocks, first waiting on the German side for inspection, then a kilometer later to pass the guard at the Czech Republic side. On our bikes, we just rode on the right side of the cars until we got to the guard, they nodded us through. The German’s wanted to see our passports, the Czech’s just asked, “American?” when we answered in the affirmative, they nodded us through.

Crossing by bike or car…bikes went faster.

Border businesses, shacks lined the street for miles

The Czech Republic countryside was so very different than the German countryside. It was shabby, poor and unkempt. Once again we encountered begging children on the street. Just over the border we passed hundreds of “flea market” type stalls where people sold just about anything imaginable.

The prices dropped. The same Coke Cola we were buying in Norway for $3 a can was now 40 cents!

We stopped for lunch at an interesting restaurant with an American Civil War theme! It was so funny! There hanging on the wall in this former Communist Block Country was a Confederate and a Union flag with war pictures. The menus didn’t carry through with the theme, they were written in unreadable Slavic.

We asked the waiter to help us with ordering. He knew a little English, very little. Everyone was ordering chicken or steak. I wanted something different. He pointed to a selection and said that was good. I asked what it was and he couldn’t tell me in English, but he made a “pig” noise. We all roared with laughter and I ordered it. How could I resist?

Our food came and it was good and plentiful. When the bill came, my portion was less than $5! What a switch from the Scandinavian prices. The Czech Republic was going to be fun.

After lunch we rode on, finding checkpoint some miles beyond. At checkpoint, a rider told us she had been riding with Karen Ann and overheard radio conversation that the gear trucks were being held at the border until 8 p.m. that night. It seems the Czech’s don’t like to release trucks to ride on the road during the high day time traffic. This was not great news for us, we decided there was no use to hurry on in to camp.

We took our time, had a coke, an ice cream and some good conversation all in the shade. It was nice to not be in a hurry.

After awhile we did get going again, riding the final miles into camp. The last few blocks were worrisome to me when a couple of drunk teenagers on bicycles came charging out at us, hitting Al in the head and being jerks. They followed us the last few blocks to camp, then were asked by another local to get lost.

Terezin is famous for several things. The star of the movie, “Schindler’s List” was from the area. Many scenes from the movie were shot in this town. Also located in the town was the famous Fortress that was built by Emperor Joseph II in 1780. The Fortress was never used as a Fortress but was converted into a Jewish ghetto by the Nazis in 1942. The entire town is now a protected reservation.

We arrived in camp just moments after the gear trucks. TK&A had been buying beer for the early riders, so we grabbed our share and went off to set up the tent. In the mean time, the towns folk had come out to talk to us about the area and present Tim Kneeland with some honorary medals. I never did hear what they were for, probably like getting the “key to the city.”

August 13, 2000 Terezin to Prague

Day 226

It was to be a short day and would have been, except I got lost. I left early, enjoying the cool, crisp morning air. I rode by huge fields of hops, growing upward toward the hot sun. This is the land were the beer was born. It was also the first time I have ever seen hops growing.

The farm land was not as neat and manicured as in Germany. The homes were small and in need of paint, plaster and TLC. I thought the people here must live very simply, there were no frills in the Czech countryside.

The roads were marginal, sometimes being ok and other times they were so bad, I cursed the route. We had one stretch that was so very bad, I thought my bike was going to self-destruct. There was no road left, it was one huge pile of rocks and it went on for 4 kilometers. Why that road was chosen was beyond me. When it finally ended in a small town the road improved 100%. I think no one ever came in that way, but stupid American bicyclists, who don’t know any better.

I was 6 kilometers from Prague at 10:30 in the morning when I missed a turn or something. I ended up in town, but I ended up in the wrong part of town. I kept looking for the campground, but realized I was in the wrong place. It was such a bummer, I had to climb out of the valley, go back up on the hill and locate the “yellow heads” in order to find camp.

I was so hot, tired and annoyed when I got there an hour and a half later. Instead of a cheery welcome, I got hassled for not having a number on the front of my bike. I told Mark I would put a number on my bike if he could tell me the store where I could go to buy one. As it stands, his boss, Karen Ann is the only one who makes the numbers. I have been polled a dozen times at least about my number. Each time they make numbers they never make my number. Mark really annoyed me this morning. His mindless hassling ruined my day.

We polled a few folks and discovered there was a very nice hotel right across the street with plenty of inexpensive rooms. We decided to go there. To my delight the name of the hotel was “Krystal”

In addition to this, the campground was awful. The temperature was high in the 90’s and there was not a shade tree in site. Since we had a layover day here I couldn’t see myself spending it at this nasty place, especially after I got a sight of the disgusting bathrooms.

Lynne saw my distress and invited me to go to town to find a decent hotel room. It didn’t take me long to accept. I was ready for an adventure, away from the Odyssey crowd..

A clean, cool hotel room with running water, a soft bed, electricity and icy coke colas does wonders for an attitude that most definitely needed adjusting. I was the perfect candidate. Within a few minutes I was talked into going to the Opera, to see “Don Giovanni”.

After doing all my laundry in the sink, hanging it on the balcony (like a normal Odyssey rider) I was ready to shower, don my classy bike sandals, skirt and basic black top for a night out.

Jane, me and Lynne in our private Opera box. Thank goodness, our bike shoes can’t be seen!

August 14, 2000 Prague Layover

Day 227

Prague is known for it’s musical culture. Mozart was “re-discovered” there. This year the town was chosen as the “culture town” for the year 2000 celebration. They are living up to the reputation by having more events that a person can go to in a month.

Prague is also a very beautiful town, untouched by the war it remains to be a lovely medieval town with hundreds of steeples. marking the skyline. I was never more tempted to spend money on trinkets as I crossed the Charles Bridge. The craft sales people had some of the most unusual pieces of jewelry at the best prices I have ever seen. It was a challenge for me to get across the bridge with some money left!

Jane and I strolled the streets in the hot sun, then enjoyed a peaceful lunch in a tucked away restaurant patio. After lunch we took a walking tour of the Jewish quarter. It was an informative tour given by a young man who knew his history. We saw pictures of the miserable ghetto the Jews were forced to live in until it was reconstructed a century ago. It is now one of the better, more pricey neighborhoods in Prague.

When the tour was done, we spent time in the Pinkas Synagogue which is now a memorial to the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia murdered by the Nazis. On its walls are inscribed the names of the Jewish victims, their personal data, and the names of the communities to which they belonged. There are thousands of names.

Also, in the Pinkas Synagogue is the permanent exhibition “Children’s Drawings from Terezin 1942 – 1944”. Among the Terezin prisoners there were over 10,000 children under the age of 15 at the time of imprisonment. Of the 8,000 that were deported to the East, a mere 242 survived the wartime suffering. The drawings are very touching and show how the children had dreams of freedom too.

This delightful gentleman really liked his work, he smiled and posed for me. It was a very HOT day, he was dressed so nicely.

This statue of Moses was hidden in a basement during the war. Had it been found, the Nazi’s would have melted it down for ammunition or war supplies. It is a beautiful statue, I’m glad it survived.

August 15, 2000 Prague to Passau, Germany via bus

Reluctantly, we checked out of “my hotel” and headed back to the camp. Today we get bused forward 180 miles or so to Passau, Germany so we can start riding toward Munich.

While waiting for the buses to load, some of the group raced go carts at the go cart place next to the camp.  It was exciting to watch as the competitive ones pretended to be Indy drivers.

That’s Neil, go guy!

Tags: Czech Republic · Northern Europe