Czech Republic is a bit like the Mexico of Europe. Everything is a bit janke, a bit questionable, and you’re never really 100% sure if something is going to work. When you’re driving to a specific destination it feels as though you’re going in the completely wrong direction, because there’s no way an establishment could be in the vicinity of the random fields and villages you’re in. But, alas, suddenly you round the corner and there’s the magnificent chalet you were looking for. There’s a lot of occasions where you find yourself simply saying “Well, I hope this is right.” Or “Please let this work, please let this work.” Or, even in the case of the beginning of tours I had one leader tell me that when she’s goes to retrieve the guests on day 1 for their shuttle to the staging area, it’s always a bit of a gamble as to whether our bus driver will actually be there. Old, run-down buildings from the communist area are still woven in amongst the newer houses. There’s Jesus statues everywhere, but most of the country is agnostic and they’ve left them up as a joke. There are rules in Czech, but they’re more like guidelines. I’m pretty certain the grand majority of the drivers here have a death wish based on their decisions they make at 80 miles an hour.
I was told that Czech people are often a bit closed off due to their communist past, but I’ve found it to be a fairly welcoming country. Even if you have no common language with them (Czech is absurdly difficult so I haven’t gained much ground on that one, but some people speak German, some speak English, some speak neither), they’re generally willing to communicate with hand signals, drawing pictures, pointing, and doing it with a smile and a laugh. The staple in each Czech village is the bewildered-looking old man wandering down the road, often with a 2 liter bottle of beer (Czech drinks more beer than any other country in the world) as well as a very happy and oblivious old man riding a bicycle and saying things to you in Czech despite clearly indicating you have no idea what he’s saying. Less common, but still popular, is the grandma on the bicycle, wearing a bikini top and not giving a fuck about much of anything. Traditional food here is mainly meat and vegetables. Carp is a specialty and very common dish here, and you’ll find a carp pond in every village. Trout is also on almost every menu and served whole, head and all. And Czech is cheap. I mean really cheap. For example, one night, for the 3 of us, we ordered 2 steaks with sides, a chicken dish, trout, French fries, mashed potatoes, fried spinach, green beans, and drinks…..the grand total was the equivalent of about $40.
I’m underway on my 3nd tour. I’ve been on the Premier Inns trips as a support leader. After returning from my unit drive with Ola, I turned around and embarked on yet another adventure,. The Manwich Adventure is what it came to be called, due to the fact that I spent most of it in the front seat between two fine fellas who I work with here, Andy and Austin. We spent 4 days together learning the Premier Inns trip (also known as FAM in Backroads lingo). That’s one of the many common scenarios in Backroads—You meet someone for the first time, and then suddenly you’re around each other 24/7, sharing beds, sharing a tiny space, wedged against each other for hours of driving, biking together, eating together. There’s no room for being shy and you just have to be upfront and honest, for everyone’s sake.
The theme of our trip together was everything being closed, except the select convenience stores run by Vietnamese (God bless the Vietnamese), bacon flavored potato chips, and Mars bars. Due to everything being closed, our lunches generally consisted of the latter two items. It was also on this trip that we were able to recycle the beloved plastic bags I had transported all the way from France. While I was in Pernes, unloading all those new bikes, the Oregon flower child in me couldn’t turn a blind eye to the copious amounts of plastic bags that arrived along with the bikes. Each bike had atleast 3 plastic bags on it, which, with 400 new bikes, equals over 1,200 plastic bags. France’s system doesn’t recycle plastic bags, but I knew that Austria’s did. So I saved all of them and then some. However, since we got delayed in France, we ended up getting to Austria on a Saturday, on which of course, the recycling center is closed. So the bags packed on another 700 kilometers to the Czech Republic. However, there wasn’t enough room at our house for all of them in the recycling, so onward they went to northern Czech Republic with us. It was finally, 1,500 km later they were able to find their resting place in a random recycling bin in the middle of nowhere. That being said, I am never going to live down the plastic bag debacle and have made a name for myself as the recycling fiend. I also got dubbed the bag-lady due to my packing style, so apparently my destiny is just all things bags. One day it will all become clear. Until then I’ll continue in the pursuit of recycling and inefficient packing.
Anyways, this Premier Inn trip is brand new, as the previous one didn’t work out, so it got an overhaul. Kinks are still being sorted, as this is only the 4th trip ever, but over all it’s a great trip and the leaders putting it together did a really nice job. The hotels are pretty swank, and my personal favorite is the place where I get to eat lox, caviar and cheesecake for breakfast. There is no shortage of gluttony on these trips, that’s for sure. However, working support you don’t always stay in the same hotel. My personal charming favorite is the hotel that plays pop albums in their random, dark, dated restaurant at dinner, and Bruce Springsteen in the mornings at breakfast. I have discovered at this hotel as well as other places along the way, is that while you’re ordering the exact same thing, you get a little something different every time. Literally, the menu or request for what we want for our guests, or what we’re paying for, does not change, but without fail, there’s a variation every time. Czech Republic, man. The trip is 6 days long and starts in Prague and ends in Vienna. It covers a lot of ground, but the cycling along the way is gorgeous.
Also, tourists are quite possibly the most clueless, out-to-lunch population of humans. I’m sorry, but even the smartest, most highly educated people, put them on vacation and their brains turn off. Just gone. And I don’t mean that just for our tourists. Try backing a van out of a tiny space when team touron unit decides to come walking through in search of the perfect picture. My God. Reverse lights on, beepers on, car is IN MOTION, and la-dee-da they’ll just walk right out into your trajectory, completely oblivious to the fact that there’s a 15 passenger van next to their face that’s trying to get out. And a line of cars backed up because European streets weren’t made for monstrous vans, that in true Backroads style, is completely taking over the place. Just when you think you’re about to make it out, the next wave of Rick Steve groupies come walking through backwards with selfie sticks in one hand and diet Coke in another. Unbelievable.
That is all.