Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mission: Prague

Leaving Wacken was not fun, nor was doing so while sick. When we got up around 9am, half the camp was already empty, people in caravans driving away in the wee hours to avoid traffic chaos. By the time we packed up our tent and loaded the bike an hour and a half later, the majority of paths and roads were ankle deep mud pits. Even the asphalt road outside the grounds was three quarters covered in an inch of mud, it took a minute to realize it was road.

Getting to that road was a mission and a half. We waved goodbye to our camping friends amidst wishes of safe travels and rode off. Do ‘travels’ start outside the festival gates? We hadn’t made it that far when we came off the bike. About 500m from our tent site, trying to figure out how to get to a main road, the deep mud won the battle against the tyres and we plain and simply slipped. Of course we were going slow at the time, fast enough to stay upright (in theory) and not much faster, so other than a slightly dented pannier and my slightly twisted ankle (caught between said pannier and Courts boot) we were absolutely fine, as was the bike. A group of metalheads ran over to lift it for us and we were away again, although a little more nervy on my part and with a bruised ego for Courts, who couldn’t have done anything differently.

Once on the road we were fine, but the German autobahn was another story. We were warned about the autobahn more than any other road, because the speed limit is the minimum – there is no upper limit in many parts. Unfortunately, just because you’re allowed to go fast doesn’t mean you can. We’ve seen more road works and traffic jams in Germany than in our entire trip so far. We’ve gone faster in Spain and France than we ever have in Germany, just to keep up with the flow of traffic.

And so, although slow and therefore presumably safer, the ride was long and boring. We didn’t make it to Prague despite the ride time being shorter than other rides we’ve done, all down to traffic. Oh, and an hour spent navigating Berlin when a road was blocked off and the GPS got a little flustered because of it. Around 6.30pm, or 4 hours after I would have been happy napping, we attempted to find a hotel for the night. The first little town we tried had two hotels – one closed for renovations, one wifi-less and without an English-speaking employee. We kept going and ended up in Dresden, the last German city before the Czech border.

Dresden was amazing and is definitely on our list of places to go when we come back one day. We passed insanely beautiful buildings and eventually found a hotel with wifi, hot showers and a couple of Sky TV channels in English. Being flu-ridden I basically camped out on the bed for the night but Courts ventured out for food and came back with 3 Euro kebabs and a 2 Euro beer. We found, of all things, a heavy metal documentary on TV and updated everyone at home.

Lying in a real bed surrounded by used tissues and with a pounding head, it was very tempting to stay longer, but we wanted to get to Prague. The next day we made full use of the All You Can Eat breakfast and then began the 2 hour ride to Prague, tiny by our standards. The second we crossed the border, the landscape changed. Mountains and rivers and witch-like houses all made more eerie by the rainy-day haze that floated over them.

Courts was so convinced he would love Germany that I don’t think his brain had a say in deciding whether he actually did or not. Either way, love it he did, but personally I didn’t find the landscape particularly interesting. It was probably in part because we instructed the GPS to take us mostly on highways to make two long rides a little shorter instead of our usual more scenic route. It just didn’t stand out for me after the incredible scenery of France and Spain. The Czech landscape however peaked my interest again and reminded me why we love ride days. I think after this we will go back to the scenic route to get more of what we love from these rides.

Since we had such a short way to go, we arrived in Prague quite early, but our idea of ‘making the most of it’ was sleeping and reading all afternoon. I did the sleeping and Courts did the reading, in recovery mode after all the hype of Wacken.

Prague waited one extra night, it can wait two.