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|Roztoky village on the Berounka River. Photo credit: Panaramio|
Saturday, September 3 – 42 Miles
It had been our experience that a day of rain is followed by a spectacular clear day. Today was no exception. It made up for the interrupted sleep, the noise of several trains waking me from 5 a.m. on. Amazingly, I had to rouse Andy at 7 a.m.; he had drifted in and out of slumber with each convoy.
A mass of agricultural valleys surround the Vltava River, pouring its waters southward from Prague. We worked our way east, cutting the grain of the land, like climbing the ridges of corduroy before dropping into the next. With my crippled wheel and without traffic of any kind – a cyclist’s dream - I wove around road hazards, what little there were. Czech roads have been smooth; only a few towns have cobbled central streets unlike Germany where we counted on bumpy rides. Thankfully, through all this my wheel is holding its own.
Andy and I have come to terms with my bicycle’s condition. It could give at any time and we’d have to wait out the weekend. Most importantly, we’ve changed our expectations about getting to Vienna in three days. We’d just come from busy Prague. The Czech Republic is hilly yet delightfully rich in agricultural and human diversity. Why propel ourselves towards another dense mass of humanity when what lies between is invariably more worthwhile? Besides, we're tired of the congestion. Once we shifted our perspective, we welcomed the Czech Republic with open arms.
|Borek farmland. This area reminds me of Vermont. Photo credit: Panaramio|
Today, the terrain reminds me of Vermont: open fields, hardwood forests, ponds, villages clustered short distances away, linked by farmland permeated with the ever present smell of manure, the odor tempered by the recent mixture with newly tilled soil.
As Andy and I climbed a long, steady hill through a forest of mixed hardwood/softwood, scads of townspeople tromped through the undergrowth, filling large baskets with mushrooms.
Photo credit: Radio Praha
There is a sense of community in the villages that make us smile. Life revolves around the quest for food. Before the store closure at noon on Saturday many people congregate, though not crowd, the tiny groceries. Young blond haired children ride on the front seat of their mother’s bicycles. People walk to the store or push a simple wooden car with bags stowed inside. Stores do not readily hand out sacks nor bag your food - the customer does. Invariably, our arms are full when we walk out to the bikes. Some folks return their bottles at the same time they shop. The sound of clinking glass adds to the chatter in the store.
One wall is devoted to bread. Naked loaves sit on racks, waiting for someone to put them in a cart. Small white hot dog-sized rolls are popular. And any type of meat, especially sausage, is sold in the deli, often a separate room of the store. It’s an obvious staple of the Czech diet. It’s not uncommon to find 10 people lined up, patiently waiting their turn. And, like Germany, fresh flowers are on sale. We pass folks who are carrying a bouquet home in their wagon, in their carryall knapsack, and sometimes sticking out of bike baskets.
Oh, the apple trees lining the roads! The green fruit has turned half crimson from a week ago. Today we coasted by some pickers, even a young family who shook a tree for its raining fruit. We presumed it was easier to harvest for those with little hands and little stature. I stopped to pick an apple. It will enhance a curry rice dish that we often assemble for dinner.
|Konopiste Castle. Andy and I didn't know its history, nor could we appreciate its significance when we walked the grounds. The castle has become famous as the last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, whose assassination in Sarajevo triggered World War I. Photo credit: Panaramio|
|Konopiste Castle. Photo credit: Panaramio|
By 5 p.m. we pulled into a nearly deserted campground in Benesov. In the orange light just before sunset we walked along a path through the woods to visit Konopiste Castle. It magically appeared. An unfilled moat surrounds the tan and red castle; one section housing a black bear. The animal rested, one paw stretched outward. Peacocks cried from somewhere nearby. Religious statues slowly appeared from the shadowed trees, frightening me until I recognized them for what they were. The place was fabulous - our first real feel of central Bohemia - but unfortunately it was after hours and the museum was closed.