Monday, July 23, 2012

Czech Republic - Jindrichuv Hradec and Castles

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Sculpture in Jindrichuv Hradec central square. 
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Monday, September 5 – 61 Miles

This was one of those days when everything clicked. We got an 8:30 start and quickly made it to Jindrichuv Hradec, a good sized town whose cobbled spokes led to a central square. A two-story religious sculpture dominates the hub with narrow multi-story connected buildings decked in pastel shades as its backdrop. There are scores of people, mostly young mothers pushing purple flowered carriages. This is a common sight in the Czech Republic.

When Andy and roll into villages we become a spectacle. Residents stare. We haven’t seen any other bike tourists. We get directions to a bike shop, often given preferential treatment. While it is odd, it’s also a nice bonus, allowing us to put miles behind us.

I used hand signals to explain to the bicycle mechanic about my back wheel. As with this man and farm hands, construction workers, he wears blue coveralls. He waved for us to follow and I pushed my bike through telescoping arched tunnel to his back room.

Inside, the smell was oddly familiar, like my grandfather’s bike shop. There is something about bicycle grease that brings fond memories of sitting with grandpa, watching him true wheels, paint insides of rims, tools clattering, dirty rags hanging on nails. Like the Czech repairman my grandfather wore dark green shirt and pants, his uniform, camouflaging the inevitable grit of someone working with their hands.

In a half hour he threaded a new spoke for 50 Koruns ($2.00). I’ve become skeptical now with this rear wheel, but it didn’t seem like the place to investigate a major repair.

Wheat fields on a high plateau south of Jindrichuv Hradec. Photo caption: Panaramio
Spinning fast once more, the wheel rolls smoothly. Overhead, clouds gradually knitted into a grey sweater. After swooping from a high plateau of wheat fields, we made our way towards a distant campsite. And then, after some time the road steepened, the faded blue waters of the Thaya River visible between a curtain of hardwoods. Across the canyon a red roofed castle fortress hugged the cliffs, its white walls quiet and majestic. I stopped, breathless, waiting for Andy. My delight was evident, my smile dancing as the arbor swayed and parted, revealing a magnificent view.

Thaya River. Photo credit: Wikipedia
Following the river we passed yet another castle, this one in craggy ruin. I was in heaven, if often frustrated by the inability to explore. But these are the failings of multi-country travels. There is never enough time or knowledge to fully understand the language, countryside and history. So, we glean what we can, appreciate the scenery, be polite.

We camped near the shore in a low water cove. The cheapest campsite was $3.00, but hardly worth even that. With only cold water, I didn’t shower. The bathrooms were filthy. But we met a Dutch couple, camping in a caravan. After comparing our disbelief at the accommodations, we accepted their invitation for coffee. Andy and I stayed until midnight, drinking, discussing world affairs and watching the starry sky. We meet lots of Dutch travelers on the road. They speak English, are friendly and are likewise filled with wanderlust.

On and off today – and especially because of the bike repair – I thought of my maternal grandparents. Today is their 55th wedding anniversary. It’s times like this when it would be nice to be in Vermont.


  1. I think I prefer no bathroom to dirty camp bathrooms sometimes. Then you have an excuse to bucket wash and not tip-toe through the grime. It makes me grumpy when I've paid for facilities that obviously have not been attended.

  2. What wonderfully helpful people you seem to meet on your trip, this is a great series of posts!


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