I am still trying to sort my thoughts out about the Czech Republic. Honestly, before I started this adventure, I did not know much about this Central European country. I knew that they seperated from Slovakia and that I need to work hard not to refer to the country as Czechoslovakia. If I slip up – there is no shortage of people to remind me of my mistake.
We entered the Czech Republic along the Labe (or Elbe in German) river from Dresden. Our first night was spent in a shipping container campground under a highway overpass in Decin. All the facilities (bathrooms, showers, reception) were housed in Shipping containers. I know, it doesn’t sound very nice, but it was clean, quiet and comfortable.
We followed the Labe into Prague where we spent a few days exploring the city (and getting cleaned up). From Prague we ventured southeast until we met the Austrian border. From there we followed the border to the southeast corner where we camped in the “largest camp ground in the Czech Republic”. A beautiful spot but a zoo of a campground. Although, they had an excellent restaurant, The Schnitzel House, run by Peter.
The Czechs we have encountered seem to love Americans. When we first start trying to communicate there is usually a little tension. Many older Czech people don’t even want to try to communicate if you can’t speak Czech. I have found that if you can engage them in the charades game along with trying to communicate in their language, that will break the ice and usually ends in laughter. Most assume we are from England and when we say we live in the US – there hands go up, their faces relax and smiles emerge replacing the furloughed frown.
The frown usually quickly returns when we tell them we are from Oregon.
“ Where the hell is that?”
“Oh, near California, yeah, yeah, I know California.”
With this opening, Jay and I spend a little time chatting up the Pacific Northwest.
We are comfortable in the Czech Republic. There are well signed bike paths that tend to take you through scenic countryside. There are tourist information offices with bike tourists in mind. Sometimes they have information in English. Usually the best we can do is German – which I can get by with. Most of the young adults are willing to give English a try. Anyone who has learned some English will often seek out a conversation with us.
“Do you know my great aunt? She moved to New Jersey 10 years ago.”
The food here is heavy, meat based and lacking in diversity. We have enjoyed a few traditional Czech meals but mostly cook for ourselves. The grocery stores in the small towns we visit usually have a poor selection of fruits and vegetables. Pork is by far the easiest meat to find. They love their cheese and bread. Ice cream, although not as tasty as the ice cream in Germany, is not bad.
Pivo (beer) is cheaper than water, juice or soda. In most of the rural stores the Pivo is limited to a pilsner or two with little diversity. It is never too early to start drinking Pivo in the Czech Republic. I have been up at 6 am working in the common area of a camp ground and invariably there will be a man drinking Pivo. Probably on his second or third already. And yes, I did specifically say man. I have not seen a woman in CR drinking a beer before noon.
Along with Pivo or (other alcohol) is the seemingly national sport of cigarette smoking. Male, female, young or old, the rates of smoking in Czech Republic are even higher than in Germany. Mind you this conclusion is purely based on observational data from our tour.
There are definitely some beautiful areas of the Czech Republic. If you are looking for a relatively cheap mountain biking holiday, there are some fantastic bike parks and bike paths. Prague was relatively expensive (as expected) compared to the rest of the country. Although on the whole, The Czech Republic has been the least expensive on our tour (so far).
I am glad we decided to travel to the Czech Republic. It has been a fantastic two weeks. The riding was definitely more interesting from a terrain perspective than following the Elbe. We met some wonderful Czech people who have made our adventure just that much better.
Pictures to come soon.