Two Approaches

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Thursday 13 July 2017: Mailberg to Vienna

11:45am. Kleinweikersdorf.

Breakfast is ordered. Eggs and mushrooms, and a glass of orange juice. Won’t be the from-the-garden fare of Lisa and Joey, who are admirably living self-sufficiently, according to permaculture principles, with a chilled, open outlook to life and people.

Lovely friendly welcome from all, including their Workaway volunteer, Natalia, and their wonderful dogs – Laika and Nino.

The wine we took as a thank-you gift was soon open and Joey began waxing lyrically about permaculture, forest-gardening, and the like. A topic and approach similarly close to our own hearts, and something we wish to learn more about on the way, and put into practice when we darken Poland’s doorstep once more.

And dinner was served: a lovely personally grown and sourced meal of millet, apricots, cranberries, nuts, honey (they also keep bees) and other yummy stuff my unskilled palate enjoyed but was unable to identify, with side-dishes of melon, watermelon and apple. Accompanied and followed by more wine, and a chill evening of relaxed chatter and banter until shortly after the midnight hour, when my day’s ride – geographically and emotionally – told me it was time to sleep.

Finally, as I lay down, with a tired body and weary mind, my thoughts refused to let me go: thoughts of home and family, and the remains of my mum clinging to her present form …

… till sleep finally claimed me and took me to where I know not.

~~~~~~~~~~

Waking to the sounds of a family starting to go about their day, and the dogs, Laika and Nino, wishing to give and receive a little love. A beautiful way to ease into the morning 😄

Then a smoothy made with ingredients all plucked fresh from the garden, then coffee, and honey straight from the hive. Fantastic!

Then we pack and are unfortunately unable to say a proper ‘thank you’ and ‘farewell’ to our fantastic hosts. Sorry for that, but good luck to you guys, and keep the faith.

Peace and love.

~~~~~~~~~~

A non-remarkable Northern European breakfast of mushroom omelette, juice and coffee. A functional eatery, where you eat. Some are here getting busy on the beer and wine, and chatting. Doesn’t feel like that kind of place to me: more like a motorway services, with a more personal service, but each to their own; and we’re functionally serviced and ready to roll.

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Paused for a hopeful ice-cream in Uglynomagicplace, aka Großmugl (ahem), but find it’s half-day here.

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We climbed out of Kleinweikersdorf pretty much non-stop, but not too steeply for about 150 metres, which rewarded us with a stunning vista and view of the Alps, seemingly nurturing all beneath their benevolent gaze. Yes, stunning, breathtaking and other apparently trite and clichéd adjectives apply here – this is just what they were designed for, and I almost regret using them in other situations that now cheapen their meaning (if I have). Then a good, solid, exhilarating descent to return to the plateau upon which we began. Lovely place and riding.

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Lovely.

Now, where is A?

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Ups and Downs

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Wednesday 12 July 2017: Těšetice to Mailberg

10:20am. 28.1ºC. Sunny. Hot.

Away we go again!

12.5k, 1 hour 10 minutes.

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Znojmo is a surprisingly pretty town, given that it’s practically on the border, with numerous piazzas, narrow cobbled streets, interesting architecture. Very nice. But it’s too far and too long to travel for breakfast.

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13:30.

New notebooks for handlebar bags bought. Next stop is likely to be in another country – Austria! Exciting. You experience so much of a place on a bicycle – sights, smells, sounds, tastes, terrains – that, despite enjoying being here (a lot), I think we are ready for a new vibe.

And Czechia really wants you to eat meet. Sad that it is cheaper to feed a vegetarian creature plants, kill it, prepare it, market it and sell it than it is to feed us predominantly plant-eating humans plants directly, thereby cutting out all that torture and bloodshed. Sad.

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Have turned life into an ordeal.

~~~~~~~

If Czechia made Hovis, this is where they’d film the adverts.

~~~~~~~

Given everything up to become a tramp.

~~~~~~~

An arduous trail out of Znojmo scattered with the shards of the shattered souls of cyclists come before.

~~~~~~~

“Vineyard city.”

I wish I cared. I don’t. All I want is … I don’t know what I want, but I don’t want this. I’ve had enough. The novelty’s worn thin. My nerves have worn thin. I’m feeling every minute of my 47 years 26 days on Earth in this form. I gave up trying to prove anything to others a while back, why should it be different with myself? Am I trying to prove something?

If so, I’m failing.

‘Enjoy’. ‘Have fun’. This is definitely not about that. It’s about, I guess, experiencing something unmediated, vividly. But why? I ask myself at the moment. Why?

It’s about pushing yourself forward when you really don’t think you can, and when you’re not even sure that you want to.

You can’t go back. You can never go back.

You can stop, but you don’t want to do that either.

So you go on.

Playing it by Ear

Tuesday 11 July 2017: Brno to Těšetice [Part 3]

17:20. After 51k and three and three quarter hours of riding, we find ourselves in the centre of Miroslav.

Leaving Czechia tomorrow.

We’ve got korona in our pockets to burn after ensuring we’ve been carrying enough cash since Saturday’s dash, so we’re looking to stay in a B+B. A likely candidate being in Prosiměřice. Unfortunately, it looks a step too far in terms of time if there isn’t a room and we have to find a place to camp – and we still need to eat at some point.

So here we are in Miroslav, with its two airstrips(?), one quite expensive (possibly) hotel, and a pizzeria. If this hotel looks off or is too much, we’ve still got enough light-time to find somewhere to make camp; and even bad pizza is better than some good crap. Though I see a restaurant to my right, it looks more like the type of place whose vegetarian option could be mashed potatoes served with roast potatoes drenched in bacon (coz bacon ain’t really meat, is it 🤔).

We’ll see.

Lovely riding from Syrovice: flying with bees along really quiet country lanes (kept my mouth shut this time 😎).

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No room at the inn. Not on Mondays and Tuesdays, anyway, as it’s closed. The town did have bit of a half-day feeling to it when we arrived, as it goes.

Finally, two villages further than planned, in Těšetice, we find ourselves in an apartment, which we paid for in euros, so we’ve still got our korona(?!); but, having come so far, at such an hour, during peak harvesting in this region, the chance of finding a decent place to to camp, with our simultaneously diminishing energy levels, was slim.

We happy.

It’s 67k for the the day (the furthest so far) and 4 hours 50 minutes riding, so time to put the feet up and not drink that beer that we weren’t able to buy at that shop that doesn’t exist now.

What’s Good for the Economy

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Tuesday 11 July 2017: Brno to Těšetice [Part 2]

14:30. Second break in Syrovice. Not many k on the clock – 25.1 – for just over two hours of riding, but it was a bit of a puzzle to piece together getting out of Brno, not only because of the streets that change names but don’t change, not only because it’s sometimes difficult to know which street you’re on due to a lack of signs, not only because, when you do find a sign, you discover that each street has two names – why is that? – and not only because it’s a city; but a combination of those factors does tend to hinder you a tad 🙃

We exited Brno to the South, taking us through the quirky town of Modřice, with its eclectic mix of modern architecture and uniformly low buildings – is there a reason for that? We then passed by, through and next to a network of soulless business parks and logistics hubs, strategically situated alongside some major motorways, looking to serve the insatiable needs consumer culture identifies for us.

The employees sit outside sucking on their fags, exchanging gossip from their other virtual lives, seemingly devoid of any sparks that indicate a soul alive. They’re sad empty gazes that feel instantly recognisable to me from my time as component number 101 in a factory conveyor-belt machine. It is also here that we encounter in quite rapid succession two impatient drivers betraying signs of frustrated masculinity; and some of the other driving indicates an impatience of humans ruled more by machines than by the emotions that unite flesh to flesh. In this highly commercial area you get a very real sense of where people lose the connect with their humanity, as their life-force is claimed to serve the money machine.

It’s nice to be through that brief encounter, sitting in this serviceably sweet centre of Syrovice.

Thank You Czechia

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Tuesday 11 July 2017: Brno to Těšetice [Part 1]

0639. In a kitchen listening to and smelling the cleansing scent of a Summer downpour. Think it’s been at it for most of the night. Every time I recall waking, it was to the sound of rain and the distant echo of thunder. If it continues like this for much of the day, which it certainly appears like doing at the moment, it’ll add another dimension to the day’s ride, but nothing too dramatic: the temperatures are still high, so just the same riding gear as usual, with the poncho, the clear lenses in my shades, and sandals instead of my riding boots. Sounds a bit minimal, but one thing I learnt from last Friday’s downpour-day is that it wasn’t so much the getting wet that was the problem, but the staying wet while accumulating more water.

As we speak, it seems like there is a brief let up,
but, as I said,
that doesn’t really change anything in terms of getting off today.

That’s what we’re doing.

The next stage of our journey will hopefully see us in and around Vienna late Thursday afternoon, where we hope to be able to find someone to host us for a couple of nights, to put our feet up for a little longer and be able to enjoy some of this historic city. Have contacted five Warmshowers potentials so far, but, as of yet, have only received two negatives to our enquiries; which is cool, as it’s totally their prerogative which stranger they graciously invite into their homes, isn’t it; and it’s nice they have responded so promptly, so we can already tick them off the list.

It is July though, and Vienna’s not the most anonymous of cities, so one would imagine there are a fair few visitors more than usual.

Still, fingers crossed.

Something will turn up, and we’re going that way, anyway, so one way or another it will get experienced.

So, we approach the time when we’ll be saying a fond farewell to Czechia. This will be our ninth day here – and what a positive experience it’s been! From the beautifully lush, sweeping terrain of Moravia, to the slightly more scorched, Northern Mediterranean feel of the lower lying central regions, it has been an absolute joy, pleasure and privilege to be able to enjoy and be a part of the natural treasures that, to be honest, I wasn’t aware existed on such a Czech-wide scale as they do.

For that reason alone, I’d recommend anyone who has the opportunity, time or inclination taking as prolonged a visit as possible to this part of the world – preferably by bike or on foot, as I’m pretty sure that’s the best way to allow a place to touch all your senses 😉

And the people, too:

  • from the woman on the first night who allowed us space to camp in her lovely garden, and kept offering us extra things as afternoon progressed into evening;
  • to our fantastic Warmshowers’ hosts, Michal and Zuza, who invited us to join them on that wonderful ride through Beskidy;
  • which was then the ride that took us to the community in the mountain forests, who keep them clear by traditional means from their predation by various grasses, to allow the wild orchids that are native there to flourish. Great people, with whom it would have been nice to be able to spend a little more time and support them in what they’re doing. Unfortunately, time and circumstance didn’t allow it to be so at this time;
  • to the guy in the petrol station who acted as an informal Bureau de Change to allow a pair of tired looking cyclists the possibility to be able to get a coffee from a cash-only coffee machine;
  • to Ondrej and Jaroslava , who, despite being in the middle of moving home, with two young children, a son of one and a half – the cheeky Jakub, with the sweet grin that’ll see him get away with murder one day – and a daughter of three months, found time to offer us accommodation in the flat which they’re leaving – all to ourselves!!! – while they slowly settle into the impressive house they now call home; and who also found time to invite us round to said new home for a chill evening of good food, pleasant chat, good beer and a tasty Slivovitz, homemade by Ondrej’s dad 😃

Yes, Czechia, you’ve done yourself proud, and we’ve really enjoyed our time here. As a clearly keen cycling nation – and quite an active nation in general, I feel – the pleasure has also been heightened by the possibility to enjoy our environs on roads, routes, and trails that don’t pose the ominous threats roads and routes in other areas often do.

Of course, we’ve still got the prospect of another day and a half here, so time for something to take the shine off yet, but so far, Czechia – you’re looking good!!!

Today’s goal is Vitonice, some 60km to the South-East of Brno, and about 20km from the border with Austria. The plan is to stop and camp somewhere there overnight, before setting off tomorrow and making our way into our second country via Znojmo. We’ll then continue in a similar South-Westerly direction to Retz, before swinging South-East again to Hollabrunn, where we’ll make camp for another night. From there, it’ll be on towards Vienna on Thursday, and, yes, hopefully a two-night stop-over to enjoy a little of what the city has to offer.

Who knows – after just three days riding rather than the seven that brought us from Bielsko-Biała to Brno, we may even find the energy to go and see that new Spiderman movie this time? 😁

Discarded Items #1

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Sunday 09 July 2017: Kyjov to Brno

At almost 9am we pack and prepare to make our way to Brno, and the promise of two nights’ stay in a three-bedroomed flat all to ourselves; thanks Ondrej, who, with his wife and children, is in the process of moving flat.

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Is it wrong that quite prominent in my mind is the thought of being able to see the new Spiderman movie?

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Items Discarded Thus Far

    • Covers to protect food whilst camping.
    • Spare ruler. ‘Spare ruler?’ What?!
    • Running jacket with removable sleeves. Seemed like a good idea at the time.
    • Recorder. Yes, the instrument.
    • Kettle. Unnecessary when you have a pan. And the cloudy water is suspicious.
    • Rain shoe covers. Agnieszka’s, though I think mine will soon follow.

Simple Things

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Saturday 08 July 2017: Zlechov to Kyjov

7:20am.

Keep thinking I’m in Italy.

Cracking night’s sleep. Was it the fact that we slept snugly amongst the huddled orchard trees – apricots, walnuts and nie-wiems? Was it feeling less at risk of exposure to accidental humans stumbling across us?

Probably.

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This was stealth camping. Great spot.
Just outside Zlechov.
The town that doesn’t accept cards.

I’m in Czechia.

On we go…

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What was I thinking bringing The Communist Manifesto as optional reading? I’ve read it – on more than one occasion – and found the statist conclusions, if not the analysis, clearly wanting on each of them. Some kind of reminder of a path not to follow? Some kind of continuity and grounding within this venture in liberation? Whatever, an inflatable-mattress-mate this does not make. Do widzenia.

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1:33pm. Kyjov (three hours since we set off).

Emotions rose to the surface outside Borsice.

“Let’s go this way.”
“But where are we?”
“This way.”
“But where the fuck are we?!”

Need coffee. Food.
Czechia doesn’t accept cards widely.

On.

“No.”

 

And on.

 

“No!”

 

“Fuck it!
let’s just get to Kyjov.”

And

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The Holy Grail
a cash machine.
“Let’s go and eat somewhere!”

Three hours after setting off, six hours after getting up, we can eat and drink properly ☹️

Lovely town, though. Lovely.

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Six days in a row riding. Three days in a row under canvas. That’s a lot for us, in our first week – technically, the second day of the second week, but, well … though our morale is good and spirits are high, our tempers are quite short when the simple things – ‘the simple things’ – don’t go our way.

I guess that’s good: if it were the major things like camping or riding the bikes that were a problem, that may be a more significant issue.

But hassles

– ensuring we’re always carrying enough cash in local currency
– acquiring a hard copy of a map of the country and local area asap, so you have a
good idea of your general geographical position, not just your specific location

are just simple logistical details.

But ones that can have a huge impact on the quality of your day; as those little hassles can become major inconveniences when you’re just trying to pedal from one place to the next.