Monday, September 08, 2014


Lately, wherever we go, everyone tells us that this weather is not normal, whether it´s the sweltering heat (southern France), torrential rains (Switzerland) or the summer cold (Germany). Our days are dominated by the wettest summer in recent times, it may be something due to climate change. During phases of optimism we feel fortunate to live this sudden European monsoon, which does not allow the surrounding nature to yellow even it wants to. The sight of green hills is everywhere in Central Europe, even now that it is time to gather the wheat. However, optimism has its limits: hail, soaked sleeping bags, windstorms, slugs smashed inside our shoes and overflowing rivers are not so much fun when you suffer them in person.

After resting a few days with the Tvrznik family we return to the road with the idea of ​​wandering around the border between Poland and the Czech Republic, visiting places with promising names like Cesky Raj (which means Bohemian Paradise), Krknose, Krzeszów or Walbrzych (if anyone is wondering, to write this paragraph I had to look at my notes and looked again to write everything as close to reality). But for now, we have to cross fields through the valley of the Elbe, which brings to mind the landscape of Guadarrama, except for the beech forests that we see from a distance. Probably the fatigue caused by bad weather is to blame for not appreciating what surrounds us, and the Cesky Raj has more  Cesky than Raj ... From the bike we don`t get to see any of the famous rock formations that we suppose surround us but  are unmarked and we continue on to Poland with the hope that the change of country bring us something new. The last camp in the Czech Republic does not leave us with a good taste in our mouths: we are going up the river Jizera, but it`s too steep to pitch our tent. Since we got ticks all over our legs after camping in a pasture, we are getting more particular about choosing places to rest. Finally time is upon us, we have no choice but to take a logging path and sleep on a path that doesn`t seem to be too used. At six o'clock, motorbikes, cars and chainsaws have surrounded us and we have to raise camp at full speed. We have barely advanced 200 meters down the road on our left when we discover a path leading down to the river to a more or less big, flat and quiet place. Since we could not use it for camping, we make breakfast, promising always go a little further when we have found a bad place to sleep.

On the other side of the mountain, we leave behind the resort town of Harrachov, and discover another world. First, the sun shines, for some hours a day we even take off our jackets. And although we knew that Poles are especially cheerful and talkative people, we did not expect everyone to speak with us. The only problem is they do in their language, and English here works just like Chinese. So we decide to answer in Spanish to any Polish comment. The most amazing part is that we seem to understand eachother. During the time we wait for a hail storm to pass at a covered table in a road in a forest, two cars stop to talk to us. The first asks something like "chezcheschechvejahcheyecheche" to which Gabi answers "wait, I have a map," and so they understand each other, the man sees where he is and maybe take the right direction. The second man who stops makes his son get out of the car, in the middle of the big storm to be an interpreter in basic but effective English so as to satisfy their curiosity. Poland is an interesting country, cheap, delicious and hearty food, where you can find yourself in the most absurd situations. When there`s a Pole present through, as we learnt with the family that drove us around in Switzerland by van, it is highly likely that events take alternative courses. In the Czech Republic we watched a championship of sheepdogs. The next day a chubby pig is in charge of shepherding sheep in Poland to cross the road and take them to the fold. We also do our part: Unlike the Czech Republic, Poland is not exactly an ideal place totravel by bicycle. The roads do not have shoulders; drivers seem unaware of how wide their vehicle is, or maybe they know it too well; bike paths are more inscrutable than God ... and with this background we decide to trust the road map and follow what appears to be a forest track. And forest there is, but tracks as someone would understand as a suitable way to travel with a wheeled vehicle, I do not see it anywhere. Of course, both sides of the road are filled with blackberry and raspberry laden scrubs at their best, the sweetest "Berris" we have ever tried in our lives. We walk a mile, we contemplate the panorama of mud and stones on a steep slope. We can still go back, take the road that leads to a place called Kolonia Gai, but poor decisions are generating anecdotes, and we have come here to live adventures. So throughout the next morning, we take about five hours to cover 10 km, again caught by the spell of the berries more than the stony road. When we're getting to the top and a man walking overtakes us, and we realize that this is not the best idea. The good thing is now we just have to go downhill. And surely we would have done it faster if we had not gotten lost.

During these three days in Poland we have recovered a little bit of our sense of humor that we lost somewhere in the Czech Republic. Perhaps we had left it,(along with Gabi`s glasses) at that bus stop next to a puddle, that a truck was responsible for emptying upon us when he passed. We are going to Sumperk , where Radomir is awaiting us with the promise to do something different: see a hockey tournament. A little tired of cycling, the prospect of doing something different is extraordinary motivation. The cold shower comes when, just 10 km from Sumperk we have the Czech version of "route barrée": our road is closed because they have organized a rally. Gabi looks at the map and announces that it`s not downhill, but uphill, as the detour continues for kilometers uphill. We are very disappointed, and to make worse, our cooked macaroni falls to the grass. As if that were not enough, a big gray cloud covers the sun and  is threatening a storm. We eat, pick up, argue and begin to climb the mountain. Half a kilometer later it is confirmed that Gabi’s biggest talent is not reading grades on the map and we start the descent on the road decorated by a man too enamored and with too much free time, he had been painting hearts almost to Sumperk. We are going so fast we leave the cloud and bad mood behind, and we still have two hours to spare to see the city until Radomir get off work. Although he barely has time for us, he cannot be beat as a host and we enjoyed the weekend learning about the sport star in the Czech Republic. It gives us a travel game including backgammon, chess, checkers and Parcheesi, and that will be another travel companion in the future (closer than distant) when the cold and rain force us to spend more time under cover that pedaling.

These last few weeks in the Czech Republic have left our spirits a bit unhappy. We need a break, and have the opportunity to spend ten days on a goat farm in Slovakia. Even Gabi seems to suffer on the bike, is tired and always pedaling behind me. This is what riding a bike with a flat tire for a couple of days and not knowing it will do to you. From atop the hill, while Gabi repairs the flat tire, we have time to contemplate the White Carpathian Mountains: Slovakia is before us with a great cover letter. But so far we had complained of bad weather, we have no idea of ​​what awaits us in the Slovak lands ... After all, this is the wettest summer.

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