Friday, 22 July 2011

Czech Again

Schmilka -  Litomerice  (Czech Republic)   68lms     340’ ascent
At 05.15 I woke suddenly to what I hoped was the sound of a large goods train. No such luck. It was a fully mature thunderstorm and the crash that had woken me was rapidly followed by a shattering crack. By now fully awake and almost (but not quite) envying Alan his deafness, I peered out of the window. The rain was coming down in stair rods onto the cover of our trailers, but they were fine  and with that as consolation I went back to bed and waited for the noise to abate, which it must have done, for the next event was my alarm.  Another storm broke as we ate our breakfast, but undeterred, we hauled out the heavy waterproofs and went to investigate the situation. A very handy roof offered us shelter while we packed the trailers. A group of very wet, and quite old, walkers greeted us happily. (They had ordered a mini-bus!) We were then approached by a couple who told us in German that they had hiked in England and it rained. Impressed that I had understood this comment, I translated for Alan. My comments were overheard by our new acquaintance, who then proceeded to speak perfect English - because he was! They were as surprised as we were to meet compatriots from the UK. We are a rare breed in this part of Germany. We wished each other well as we headed for a repeat performance of our journey over the border, just a smidgeon more prepared than the previous evening.
The entry into the Czech Republic at this point had not been very attractive the day before, in the pouring rain the effect was quite depressing. Rocks (really huge ones) had fallen onto the road leaving one lane open for the brave. We’re brave. Still without much in the way of maps (nothing actually) we followed Route 2 to Decin where we felt sure we would fulfil all our needs. Another incorrect assumption! Not a map to be had anywhere, but we did manage to find a bank which presented another problem. The exchange rate?! A very accommodating bank clerk changed a 50 Euro note for something in excess of 1000 CzK! Armed with that information, I took out a reasonable sum from the ATM. Now we could buy food if only we could find a supermarket. We did……eventually and were approached by a young man fascinated and impressed with our trailers. He was slightly less impressed with these two old English folk when we told him what we were doing. ‘Nicht normal’ was his comment and I am forced to agree.  However he did arrange to “look after our bikes while we shopped.
Someway behind our schedule by now, we rushed for the river and the R 2. Well now, according to our route guide, this was asphalt all the way. They were having a laugh. We spent a good part of the ride swimming through puddles deep enough for ducks and struggling to stay upright on gravel and (you’ve guessed it) cobbles now slick with water.  And more steps – this time passed the locks. A very irritable man, waving his arms like windmills, managed to convey to us that there was a way round which we followed, but why he couldn’t just let us through his gate, I do not know. Job’s worth I suppose.
Very wet, very dirty and tired, we arrived in Litomerice. A large green ‘I’ indicated a tourist office and hallelujah, we managed to converse in English, find a B&B, and purchase a map for the following two days. It seems we have more rain to look forward to tomorrow. And asphalt!

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