Monday, June 18, 2012

Czech Out the Czech Republic

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62 miles - Monday, August 29

At the border the crossing was too simple. No stamp in our passports unfortunately; just a simple queuing up of vehicles. The guard only asked where we were heading. We had been expecting a VISA fee as Poland charged $50, when researched months ago – not that we were disappointed; we just expected a little more fanfare entering an Eastern European country.

In the cool morning sunshine we descended out of the mountains, passed roadside stands of Asians hawking three foot high statues of colorful dwarfs (Andy referred to them as the Seven Dwarves), American cigarettes, beer, soda, and stuffed animals in plastic bags. Young men displayed wicker baskets of mushrooms for sale, lingering close their vehicles. It was suspicious. I smiled and contemplated whether they were of the hallucinogenic variety. We passed no less than 25 roadside entrepreneurs along the 2,000 foot drop into Chomutov.

The last two miles of 16% grade sent us wrenching on the brakes while automobiles groaned upward in the opposite direction.

Louny city gate. Photo credit: Panaramio
After two months of travel we’re acclimatizing to new cultures and languages with ease – not that we pick up languages faster, but we are relaxing more to the cultural shift. In Chomutov we found a bank with a VISA symbol displayed in its window, then considered the exchange rate: 27 Korun Ceskych to a dollar. Figuring that we'd be in the Czech Republic for a week, we withdrew 6,000 koruns. Later, Andy said he felt funny carrying 6,000 of any currency in his pocket. We divided the money equally, a practice we've done in every country. That way, we each have money in case of separation or emergency.

After checking with a travel agency about camping locations, we decided to head east, capitalizing on a strong tailwind.

Photo credit: Media Storehouse 
The landscape is open farmland; the air is drier. Farmers are haying, harvesting hops. Trucks pass with wagons heaped full of fragrant hoppy aroma – like the India Pale Ale I’d come to love while living in Oregon. The traffic is pleasantly quieter on the Czech roads, the surface in great condition. The drivers seem courteous, though they often whiz by at 60 mph.

In Louny we entered through an old archway cut out of a huge complex of stone buildings; we were curious and followed others walking in that direction. Bumping over the cobbled streets is a chore, but inside the walls the merchants sold from ancient storefronts, some even out on the walks! It appeared to be the old walls of the city. Men were re-cobbling at the far end – the pounding of their hammers like chimes ringing above the constant voices of the market.

The cobbled streets of Louny. Photo credit and for more wonderful
pictures of this lovely Czech town, visit: Flickriver.
Further down the valley, beside the Elbe River, people were picking potatoes. The people themselves look like the bumpy sacks of potatoes, stocky and crooked. In other fields the cap-like hay bales often reached 8 feet in height. We’ve seen this type of storage since somewhere in France, some regions more prevalent than others. 

Photo credit: Rosemary Sheel
As we bought groceries in a small market I was immediately struck by how inexpensive the food in the Czech Republic was. I thought I had miscalculated the exchange rate, but Andy and I discussed it later and realized we weren’t mistaken. A three pound loaf of fresh whole wheat bread cost 12 Korun (50 cents), each egg 1.8 Korun (1 dozen would be 85 cents), an 8 oz. container of yogurt 6.7 Korun (25 cents). Food for dinner and breakfast cost 127 Korun ($4.75). Since we budgeted $30 a day, the 6,000 Korun is probably way too much for only one week of travel. We may have to exchange it in Austria.

Camping was 170K ($7), including free showers. Campgrounds are less crowded now that Europeans are finished with vacations; kids are back in school. It is quiet and peaceful. We can generally fall asleep by 9:30 with darkness descending at 8:30. In the morning we are the first ones up, bundled in our coats and long pants. The cooler fall air has settled on this part of Europe.


  1. Hmm . . . Riding along a road that smells of IPA, Heaven! I love the haystacks.

  2. The hay bale is wonderful! In central Italy they are like enormous wheels, either way they make great photos!


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