The first city in Czech Republic is Ostrava. I arrive at night after hours of cycling through rain. I didn’t wear a rain jacket. Sometimes I like it better that way. I found a cheap hotel a bit outside the city.
More and more cultural details appear every day. For dinner I have a steak, but I get it with Knödels. I don’t know when I had Knödels last time. They are delicious. With the highest beer consumption per capita in the world and as the inventor of the Pilsen beer, Czech Republic gives little reason to complain.
The next day is very cold. I give up early, because my fingers and toes just hurt too much. A little outside Hranice I find a penzion. I take the bicycle to the room and replace three spokes and fix the wobbling. I had more broken spokes than flat tires lately. I also put some oil on the chain.
That was a bad idea, because the next day the chain slips and jumps. I can’t put any force on the pedals let alone cycle uphill. I have to push the bicycle every time there is a small hill.
In the evening I arrive in Brno. Again rather late, but my warmshower host Tomas is waiting for me. He shows me around in the old town. Since I entered Poland, every warmshower feels like visiting a friend. Everybody speaks either perfectly German or English and you can just walk around in the city, go to pubs, have a beer. Brno had a lot of Austrian influence in the past, so many memorials have something written in German on them. And some cafes and bars have German names.
Tomas apparently took a different road, when he once cycled to Prague, because I soon end up in the mountains and with the jumping chain it’s no big fun. I make only 50 km to Nedvedice. When I enter the first penzion I ask „Do you speak English?“. She answers „Nein, aber Deutsch“. They don’t have a room so I move to another penzion. „Do you speak English?“ I ask again. „Schlecht, aber Deutsch kann ich sprechen“. Alright, I finally hit the language-border. Many people everywhere speak German now. And I am still in the mountains in small villages.
It has been cold the last few days, but that’s nothing new. However, when I look out the window the next morning winter has finally arrived.
Three spokes broke again already yesterday. Now the roads are icy. There is some winter road clearance on the bigger roads, but I spend most of the time cycling on little roads through the forest. I’m slow, but it’s so beautiful and quiet. However, the chain is jumping and the rear wheel is wobbling a lot. After only 10km I arrive at noon at Bystrice nad Pernstejnem. It’s a little bigger than Nedvedice and there is a bicycle shop on my map. Indeed it looks promising, but is closed till 2:30pm. I decide to find a guesthouse and stay a night. Luckily the cycle shop has all the parts I need. New cassette, new chain and new chain rings. He also replaces the broken spokes. I hope now finally I will make it to Mannheim without any more issues.
I’m cycling through the mountains. They are not too high, maybe around 700m. But in the valleys is less snow and when I slowly move out of the mountains the roads are all good again.
Who let the dogs out?
When we left Europe 20 months ago we cycled through another part of Eastern Europe. Maybe you remember the blog post Who Let The Dogs Out I wrote back then. And now it’s the same again. Actually since Poland there are these annoying dogs everywhere. Luckily they are usually behind a fence. Some say Adidas is part of Slavic culture, but I can tell you, dogs are much more. And I’m not talking about Chihuahuas with pink ribbons. I talk about dogs as big as a bear. It’s not a coincidence. It’s a cultural thing. It tells something. I mean a dog is just an excuse. After all what you actually do is install „something“ that yells at every stranger. It’s like a delegated xenophobia. So you don’t have to yell at stranger yourself, your dog already does. That’s a bit like the dudes in Turkmenistan with their whistles.
And another thing I learned about dogs and maybe it is true for all beings. If you cage them, they get much more aggressive, because they have no chance to examine the dangerous object. The fear and anger just grows every time the leash strangles their throat or the fence holds them back. Until they finally break free and run towards you with all their anger and fear. And all you have to do is stand still. Because nothing will happen. They just want to find out, what this mysterious object actually is and that’s how they do it.
Stray dogs never do that. Their object of interest is usually a female dog or some trash, where they look for food. They had all the time to find out, that humans are like trees that move. They exist, but usually mind their own business.
The next days sun comes out and I have a good time. The Eurovelo leads me on small paved roads through agricultural land, forests and grass. Once in a while some cyclists pass me. I feel like Frodo returning from Mordor, where he threw the ring into the fire. I’m now approaching the Shire and the soundtrack gets less dramatic and more playful and happy. Yeah, I feel like my home is just around the corner.
However, it is still very cold, so I take a break in Kutna Hora for lunch. Turns out, this city is UNESCO world heritage. Very beautiful architecture. I ask for a cheap guesthouse in the tourist info. Oh yeah, did I mention, that tourist informations apparently are an invention of the EU? Every village has one. Anyway, the lady shows me a guesthouse a little outside, but tells me there is a church on the way, which is the most visited sight in this region. I give it a try.
Maybe you have heard about this church before. The interior is more or less made completely of human bones. A chandelier is hanging from the ceiling. Every human bone is at least once used to build it. I didn’t intend to visit this place, but that was a nice coincidence.
The last day to Prague is warm, no clouds and endless fields and forests.
I take much more notice of all the details. Like this farm tractor. We have seen bulls and people doing this work. And fields haven’t always been that big. Some countries don’t even have this kind of soil. Here only one person cares for huge fields.
I arrive in Prague and feel like I entered an ancient battleground. From all directions a phalanx of tourists marches towards me lead by a guide who holds a flag high up looking like a banner-bearer. The Segway-tour participants even wear helmets. The only thing missing is some guide shouting: „THIS! IS! PRAGUE!“
I somehow manage to find the hostel and spend two nights in Prague. Prague is probably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and very special for me. Because I have been here before. Maybe ten years ago. So after 20 months of traveling, this is the first place I already know. Good memories.
The weather is bad again. When I continue I have rain most of the day and the temperatures are still down. But the landscape is nice. I follow a river for a long time and don’t have to climb too many hills. Even though Czech Republic is densely populated there are always spots that seem like there is only me and nature.
Room to breathe
During the last weeks I have realized, how little room nature has in Europe. Nature is a guest here. She is completely controlled. We are the emperors of this world. We are generous, we let nature live, as soon as she has given us a sacrifice. But we dictate many aspects of nature. In some regions I saw on this trip nature is still the emperor and people try to get along with it. In other countries humans ask nature for too big sacrifices and she partly dies because of that.
I like it here, but I admit, that those places where nature dominates are special. The Himalaya, the Pamir, the Karakum or the Gobi. I already wrote about it in my post about Mongolia: Only in these places the focus shifts. It is no longer the people you interact with or human inventions you have to understand. The only thing you have to understand is yourself. Listen to your fears and know what you are capable of.
In the evening I arrive in Zdice.
Isn’t that art? I mean look at this perfectly painted zebra crossing and be fascinated by the fact, that there is a street lamp with the sole purpose of illuminating it and the pedestrians who cross. I wonder how long it takes until these things get normal for me again. Right now it’s still amazing. You know, there has always been two sides in me: I can absolutely appreciate what civilization has accomplished. Not only a zebra crossing, but also a smartphone, the internet and space exploration. But at the same time I can easily spend two months in nature, without all that. I guess I just love functional design. And nothing beats nature in this regard.
The next few days are all rainy. I spend most of the time on perfectly paved cycle lanes or forest tracks and after three more days I arrive in Karlovy Vary (German: Carlsbad). The guesthouse I booked is unusually cheap, but when I arrive, I can’t really find it. There is a psychological clinic or something. I enter and there is a reception and I ask where the guest house is. Apparently this is the guesthouse. That’s unusual. But indeed I spend a night in the nurses‘ home.
Karlovy Vary is another beautiful city. Very luxurious with many spas and thermal springs everywhere. There is even a geyser in the middel of the city.
The temperatures are going up. For Frankfurt even 12°C are predicted, so I hope the last few days won’t be too hard. However, it is still raining heavily, but I finally make it to Cheb, a town just 5km from the border to Germany.
I’m getting a bit sentimental already, but I am happy everything worked out fine. In Russia I wasn’t sure, if I can stay focused on the journey, because the conditions were sometimes really tough and nothing is worse than thinking about a goal, when you are still far away. But now I am here. Of course I still have to cross Germany, but there shouldn’t be too many obstacles.
Writing this blog has always been like a ritual for me. It made me think about what I had experienced and often helped me find a way to handle the worst emotions with some humor. Sometimes I had some friends in mind when writing, but usually I didn’t have much time to think at all. Some of these blog posts have been written at night, some in heat, some in cold, some when I just wasn’t in a good mood. But I wanted all this to be part of this blog. I didn’t want to sit down after the journey and then recall the best moments.
I am not really content with this particular blog post today. I’m a bit tired and can’t really capture the full extend of this last night outside Germany. There are countless thoughts in my mind every day on the road, but then in the evening I am sometimes too tired to write them down. So I have to accept, that they are gone for good.
Maybe that’s something. Maybe that’s already the conclusion of this last blog post before I enter Germany: I can’t hold on to this. My thoughts and my experiences are going to be part of my memories. Tomorrow I will enter Germany and in a few days I will no longer be a traveler.
And as I am writing this I realize it hurts.
Good-Bye Czech Republic. Thanks for the safe trip home.
Some days I can think clear and some days I won’t
Sometimes I can feel it and suddenly it’s gone
Some days I’m strong
And some days my skin’s broken and thin