A Travellerspoint blog

Praha

Czech mate

sunny

IMG_3259.jpgIMG_3260.jpgI've now been in Prague for the best part of four days and will leave tomorrow. It's been great to be back and reacquaint myself with this incredible city. I've done the usual touristy things and visited all the major sites once again but I've tried to keep things as relaxed as possible.

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The hostel I've been staying at is really nice but unlike the other places I've stayed it I feel like I'm by far and away the oldest person staying here. Prague is full of youngsters and in particular with many university students seeing out their last days of summer living it up here. It's quite funny to see many of them heading out every single night to sample the nocturnal activities of this city where 24 hour partying seems a very real possibility. I on the other hand have been far more content to cook in the great kitchen how times have changed.

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You will be glad to hear that I am not alone in my travels now with the arrival of my mate Tom yesterday. He flew in with his bike and we shall now embark on the final leg of the trip which will see us head south tomorrow through the Czech Republic before probably heading into Germany on Saturday. From there we'll follow the river Rhine through Germany, then onwards into Switzerland before finally making our way north through France via Paris and back to England. It's great to have him on board and I pray that the weather will continue to be kind to us as we plan to do a lot of camping in this final section.

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I estimate we still have about 2000 kilometres to go but with time on our side we'll be able to take it at a nice leisurely pace. There hasn't been that much to report over the last few days. The bike has been taking a well earned rest as I have too. That is about all I have to say today as I need to get an early night tonight in preparation for our ride tomorrow. We'll be checking in again soon.

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Posted by Ontheroadagain 13:44 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Mlada Boleslav and Ride to Prague

semi-overcast

Before it was time to head off to the bright lights of Prague I still had one more piece of important business to take care of. As I mentioned previously I entered into the world of Teaching English as a second language in 2001 and having gained my certification I was on board a flight to Prague in no time. I imagined immersing myself in the bohemian café lifestyle of what is in my opinion Europe's most beautiful city but soon found myself whisked off to the small provincial town of Mlada Boleslav about 60 kilometres outside of Prague.

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I would like to say that I was swayed by the chance to experience 'real' Czech life away from the hustle and bustle of the big city but the truth was that they were willing to pay my accommodation which left me with a few extra coins in my back pocket.

It's funny how things work out though. Mlada Boleslav is most notably famous these days for being the heartbeat of the Czech automotive industry as it is home to the countries most famous brand that of Skoda. It is also where I spent just under a year of my life.

I have lost a significant amount of weight on this trip as one might expect considering how far I've ridden. It's therefore interesting to note that when I left Mlada Boleslav all those years ago I also did so very much also under weight having undergone surgery to remove my appendix or as I should rather say my burst appendix!

Despite my health scare whilst there its somewhere that certainly holds a special place in my heart. Most Czech people will probably raise an eyebrow when I say that I enjoyed my time living there but I forged some wonderful friendships, gained invaluable experience in teaching and came away with some great stories from my time in 'the Bolly' In fact I think I learned a lot more from living in the Czech Republic by being in Mlada Boleslav as opposed to perhaps working in Prague.

So last Sunday morning Kauli drove me the short fifteen minute drive to Mlada Boleslav. It's always funny when you go back to a place that you used to live in. Kauli explained that he sometimes used to take his grandmother back there and she would constantly make remarks from the front seat of the car about how things had changed as they passed through. I found myself doing exactly the same much to Kauli's amusement; “Oh I used to teach Josef Stafl there”, “....that building was never there”, “......oh the Internet café is still there you know it was one of the only places to get online back in those days”

As Skoda has grown so has Mlada Boleslav, it still remains essentially the same as when I left but somewhat depressingly it now has all the traits of other modern day nowheresvilles. How many shopping centres and massive factory like supermarket does one small town need? Do we really have nothing better to do with our time than to traipse around these soulless places spending money on things we probably don't even need?

We did the usual tour of the city and to anyone who hasn't been there it won't mean that much so I will attempt to keep this as brief as possible. The biggest change has to be in the shape of the bus station. Bus stations are never really known for their aesthetic beauty and this was certainly the case with Mlada Boleslav's station in the past. Much like Skoda cars which were previously known in the UK as something of a joke the bus station is now the epitome of modernity; a sleek, shiny, metallic monument that really goes to show the upturn in fortunes of this once small industrial town.

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The other major change is in the old town square which has also undergone something of a facelift. I believe that old towns should really remain essentially that....old and the new modern additions to it don't seem to quite work in my opinion.

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For all you ex-Boleslavers out there who might be reading this you will be glad to know that all the old haunts continue to be thrive; U-turn, The bowling bar, Kaufland, McDonalds, Penny Market and the Forum to name but a few. I didn't spend too long there as I sensed Kauli could think of far better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon and likewise I was getting a few puzzled looks from locals as I snapped shots of my old apartment block or I rather as I should say 'newly painted' old apartment block.

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Taking bicycle security to a new level

My pilgrimage complete we headed back to Mnichovo Hradiště I was pleased to have seen my old stomping ground and like I said before it's a place that still hold fond memories for me and shaped part of my life as I know now. I'm sure it is not the last time our paths will cross. Mlada Boleslav I salute you!

At the time of writing I'm now in Prague having left Mnichovo Hradiště on Monday morning. I was so happy to have met up and spent nearly a week in the company of my old friend Kauli. With my plans to settle much closer to home now I very much hope we'll see more of each other in the future, London marathon next year? I can't thank him and his girlfriend enough for their hospitality, delicious food and their steadfast determination to get my sleeping bag as clean and dry as possible!

I set off for Prague on Monday morning full of excitement and for anyone who has been to Prague in the past you will know exactly why; it is quite simply for me the gem of all European cities.

In keeping with last weeks riding I decided to stay as far away from the main roads as possible and weaved my way through small villages and some lovely countryside on-route to Prague. There wasn't too much really to say about the ride itself and was a fairly short one at around 80 kilometres and after three hours of riding I was on the outskirts of the city. By the time I'd reached this point I was eager to reach my final destinatio and jumped on a couple of the main roads leading into the heart of the city.... big mistake. These were probably the busiest and fastest roads I've encountered so far on the trip and after a couple of kilometres riding on the hard shoulder I was back off again and looking for a much quieter route in. I eventually found it but it was once again very much a case of stop start as I constantly had to check my GPS.

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Some places I passed through on the way to Prague

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With my battery almost dead I arrived at the hostel located in the previously working class and now somewhat arty and edgy district of Žižkov in Prague 3. I spent a lot of time researching hostels and eventually plummeted for 'Hostel One Prague' a Spanish run chain of hostels. Prague is known as something of a party city and something I can attest to from my earlier years here. However what with now being a fully paid up member of the 'thirty something travellers club' I was very much looking for something on the slightly more sedate side but also not wishing to abandon the slightly more 'youthful' elements of Prague life. I think I've found a happy medium here and my first impressions of the hostel are great. It's a good location, modern and has a massive and more importantly clean well equipped kitchen. There is a really nice garden and living room and despite being in a ten bedroom dorm it is surprisingly spacey in our attic style abode.

There is the usual diverse mix of people staying here but generally speaking it's a younger crowd all drawn here by Prague's old world charm, liberalism and vibrant youthful energy. The staff at the hostel are really friendly and they had a barbecue organised the first night I was here with plenty of burgers and beers to welcome in the start of the week. There is though very much a holiday like feel around the place and I've already been invited to take part in numerous tours and activities which it seems they have to push here. I think they will soon come to realize that I'm mostly here just for rest and I'm not so interested in all-nighters, paintballing and the like.

It was a glorious sunny day yesterday so I took the opportunity to walk around the city visiting all the usual touristy places and was amazed how I could once again find my way around with such suease.

I'm now awaiting the arrival of my best mate Tom from England who is coming to join me for the last twenty-four days of my trip. I've made a few changes to this final part of the ride. When I rode through China and Kazakhstan and to a certain extent Russia I didn't have a lot of choices with regards to what road I took. Now I'm back in Europe there are cycling routes everywhere throughout the region and it would be stupid not to take advantage of these.

I've come across the famous Eurovelo 6 route which runs from the Atlantic all the way to the Black sea check out this website for more information http://en.eurovelo6.org/?set_language=en It's a slightly longer way to get to Paris where we are going to meet up with Tom's wife Charlotte so that they can celebrate their wedding anniversary but it's a route I'm really excited at taking and one that also means I can add another country to the trip that of Switzerland. We don't have the maps for this route so I spent the best part of yesterday evening amassing as much information regarding it and making sure we are as prepared as we can be for riding it.

Well that is all for now, I may get one more blog up before I leave Prague with plenty of pictures for you to enjoy. Pedal onwards people.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 03:00 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (1)

Třebechovice pod Orebem - Mnichovo Hradiště 102km

Going back to my roots

sunny

It was another early wake up for me this morning at around six and I boiled up some coffee to watch the sun come up. With summer gradually disappearing there will be a lot less mornings like this where I'll be able to sit outside my tent in my shorts and witness the best part of the day.
We pitched up the tents not far from the city of Hradec Kralove last night but instead of once again taking the more direct highway from there to Kauli's home in Mnichovo Hradiště we decided to take the more scenic yet slightly longer route.

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I've been eating really well what with Kauli's cooking but I've missed my usual morning bread and couldn't resist the opportunity to pop into one of the massive supermarkets on the outskirts of Hradec Kralove to pick myself up some lovely straight from the oven fresh bread.
We stopped a little further down the way and as we'd be finishing this leg of the trip Kauli wanted to cook up the last bits off the food he'd brought with him. I certainly wasn't going to complain as I was treated to yet another macrobiotic culinary masterpiece.

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Early morning pitstop

Loaded up with food and full of energy we set off into the region known as Český ráj (Czech Paradise) which covers an area of nearly 180 km² It's been a long time since I visited here and was my first time by bicycle. One of the things I was amazed about was the sheer number of fruit trees lining the streets and apparently not owned by anyone. I'd seen apples trees in other countries but today was the first day that we were able to pick freely from plum trees. Kauli explained that they probably belong to someone and that the normal practice is to ask before you pick or perhaps offer some money but he said that people will usually just let you go ahead and take what you want.

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"oiiiiiiii..........you pay for that?"

We rolled into the lovely little town of Jičín in the late morning. It's like stepping back into time sometimes visiting these small towns and Kauli explained to me that Jičín is a place famous for children's stories and folklore tales.

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We continued along at the most leisurely of pace and it was great as had been the case in Poland to see so many people out on their bikes in the countryside. We stuck mainly to small roads but Český ráj is a labyrinth of hiking trails and bike tracks and Kauli was eager to take me a little off road and along one such track. I had my reservations as we were so close to his home by now and all I wanted to do after four days of riding was get off the bike and take a nice long shower. Nevertheless I followed him into the woods and down a very bumpy sandy trail. The bike must have thought we were back in Kazakhstan as I tried to plough on through the sand but in the end had to give up and push. Thankfully the trail did improve to a degree that I could actually ride if somewhat slowly. The trail wasn't that long and the forest reminded me very much of being back on the Ashdown Forest in Forest Row.

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I think Kauli could tell I was flagging a little and we jumped back onto the ashplat surface to finish off our ride to Mnichovo Hradiště. I was obviously full of excitement with my first sighting of a signpost for my old stomping ground Mladá Boleslav it's been over ten years since I was last here but it was good to be back in the same region and I very much look forward to going and visiting there in the days ahead.

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Yeeeeesssssssss

We finally arrived at Kauli's place around five and just in time to beat the rain that the weather forecast had promised.
Kauli's girlfriend Lucie had prepared a feast and I mean a feast and once again I'm sure her first thought of me as we sat at the dinner table must have been 'when did this guy last eat?'

My plan is to rest up here for a few days before heading off to Prague. Kauli's house overlooks a small lake and they also have a swimming pool which he informs me that they never use which to me seems somewhat crazy; if the weather picks up I will certainly be taking a dip in it.
At the time of writing it's now Sunday and I plan to head to Mladá Boleslav later today to have a good old look around the 'Bolly' and perhaps take in a football match; so more updates on my time in here in Mnichovo Hradiště to come perhaps later but until next time that is all for now.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 23:54 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Petrov nad Desnou - Třebechovice pod Orebem 108km

sunny

One of the great things about being out on the road and camping in particular is how quickly you go to bed; the sun goes down it gets dark and that is usually the signal for my brain to say it's time to sleep. There is no TV, no Internet, nothing to keep me awake mindlessly wasting my time. I'm not perfect, far from it and I also have to learn to discipline myself when I'm back in the real world. I know even from this trip that when I stay in a hostel, hotel or at somebody’s house and they have the Internet there I am looking up the latest football news or messing around with my fantasy football team until late into the night. The night is for sleeping the day time is for doing stuff its as simple as that.

I was enjoying a very nice sleep in my tent this morning, one of those nights where camping was good when I was awoken by the small patter of rain on the material above my head. A minute or so later I heard a faint murmur from Kauli “Paul...... it's raining”

The weather forecast had informed us that today was supposed to be sunny but here we were at 6:00 in the morning desperately trying to pack everything up before it got too wet. The only benefit of rain in the morning is that it gets you moving in double quick time; we were packed up and ready to roll within fifteen minutes.

Once again we found ourselves going up today but before getting stuck into the days climbing we stopped at a small enclosed bus shelter where Chef Kauli again cooked up some tremendously delicious and nutritious food. I could quite get used to having a great cook with me everyday preparing my meals.

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The hills were not the only thing that went up today and the early morning drizzle was soon once again replaced by some beautiful mid-autumn weather. For the second day in a row we found ourselves reaching heights in excess of 800 metres; but it wasn't hard climbing instead nice gradual slopes snaking up through the trees.

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Yesterday I passed 8000 miles and for all of you reading who don't use miles today was the day that the bike and I passed 13,000 kilometres. I still remember the day I rode through one thousand and I posted it up on Facebook extremely proud of myself; we've come a long way since then.
We found a nice small village after about one hundred kilometres, Kauli went to a local health store while I settled in the sun with a nice coffee, this apparently is not part of a macrobiotic diet!

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We looked at the map and it seemed that there was a small river nearby which looked like it might be the perfect place to camp for the night. We asked a couple of locals but none of them seemed to know anything about it. We took a short ride and after a turn here and a turn there we were out of the centre of the village and before long we were next to a small river and a lock right next to a wide open field. How strange we thought that the locals didn't even know about this place?

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The sun was still high in the sky by the time we unpacked which meant the water in the river was still warm enough for a nice cool wash. In terms of places to camp it was certainly one of the best in recent times. A few people passed by with their dogs and were a little bemused to see a couple of bikes propped up against the wall and sleeping mats laid out on the ground but they had no problem with us being there. After a dinner of nuts and fruit it was time for bed.....yes at the sensible time of 9 o'clock.........so stop reading this blog now, turn off the computer and mostly importantly sleep well, until next time.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 06:18 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Ostrava - Petrov nad Desnou (near Sumperk)

Hezky (beautiful) Česky (Czech)

sunny

It was finally nice to have some company out on the road and my enthusiasm for no longer riding by myself I think was also matched by Kauli's enthusiasm for his first taste of cycle touring.

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It's funny how people evolve over time and I'm sure Kauli won't mind me saying that he has most certainly changed, I know I have too. He's still the great guy I used to know, full of life, energy, wit and boundless brilliant ideas but he has made some quite dramatic lifestyle changes. Once again I'm sure he won't mind me writing but the time I knew him previously we did a fair bit of beer drinking and I think even he would say his lifestyle wasn't the healthiest in the world.

He explained to me how he now lives a life based around the strict principles of macrobiotics and has given up not only the bad food, lifestyle but most importantly smoking. It's incredible and awesome at the same time and I now find myself riding with a serious athlete, cyclist, runner and general all round health nut. Suffice to say I'm already on lesson five of macrobiotics! We hit the road early with Kauli promising that after an hour or so of riding he'd cook me my first ever taste of macrobiotic food.

I had originally marked out a plan to take me west to Olomouc and then head north to Hradlec Kralove however now in the presence of a native Kauli suggested an alternative and more likely scenic route and one that would crucially avoid having to ride on any highways.

It was a slightly damp start to the day but in no time the sun was making its way through what cloud was left and we were treated to beautiful blue skies, welcome back to the Czech Republic I thought!

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Our decision to take more country roads resulted in us doing a fair amount of climbing. We passed through some glorious countryside and weaved our way up through forest thick with pine trees. At one point we even made our way up to a height of just over 900 metres.

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The last time I rode with someone was way back in Kazakhstan if memory serves me correctly it's great but a little strange. Kauli asked me to go in front as I'm carrying more weight and then I can set the pace. We changed positions throughout the day but I've come to the conclusion that I'm much happier following. It's been nice to take it down a notch especially when riding through such beautiful countryside.

It really feels like the trip is coming to an end and despite the fact that I still have just over a month to go I feel like I've done the hardest parts, I hope these words won't come back to haunt me. In some respects I feel like that of a marathon runner who enters the stadium so far in front and all alone and can complete the last few laps of the track at a canter.

It's nice to just slow down to a more relaxed pace not that I think I've been busting a gut covering distances but I'm certainly looking forward to just savouring this final month of my trip through Czech, Germany and France.

We arrived in the small village of Petrov nad Desnou around five and quickly located a small farm track at the side of a field, past some houses and leading to some woods. We decided it would make the perfect place to set up camp for the night looking back on the mountains that we'd crossed earlier. Many people in the Czech Republic have really nice houses out in the countryside and in order to set up our camp we needed to pass one. I was once again treated to some exceptional macrobiotic cooking after which Kauli went in search of a spring which a guy had told us was just a few hundred metres into the forest. Whilst he was gone the owner of the house nearest us came up along the track with his young daughter and dog. He possessed the kind of build which one could only describe as 'solid' and had shoulders you could land a plane on. He spoke fairly decent English and introduced himself as Jiří or George in English. It was then that he stretched out his hand, quite literally the size of two of mine and my hand disappeared into his as we shook hands. It was only after he released me from his grasp that he told me he was a wood cutter which certainly went some way to explaining his imposing physique.

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Camp for the night

He was very friendly and when he found out what we were doing he was quick to invite us to his house for food. I explained to him that we'd already eaten and with that he replied immediately 'well schnapps then!' I told him I should wait until my Czech friend returned. About half an hour later he returned and spoke with Kauli who explained to him that we were very grateful of the offers but we were going to enjoy sleeping out under the stars. I think he was a little confused all the same when he saw my small tent and Kauli's sleeping bag on his mattress but he wished us all the best and of course invited us to help ourselves to apples from the trees in his garden.

And one more thing, today was the day that I passed 8000 miles I reckon just another 1400 to go.........keep biking.

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12,874km or for us Brits 8000 miles
Missing one finger....that should be eight.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 09:31 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (1)

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