The flat land became beautiful rolling hills, once we crossed into Czech Republic. I noticed an immediate difference between the two countries. A long stretch of closely connected storefronts had hundreds of trinkets displayed on the lawns. It reminded me of being Mexico and Central America.
I had made arrangements on Couchsurfing.org to stay with a guy named Martin. Our first mission was to find Internet so that I could confirm our plans. We rode into the city of Ústí nab Labem, and found a McDonald’s to use the free WiFi. After meeting up with Martin, he gave us the option of either going to his apartment, or sleeping at his cottage. I rode with him in his car, while Rocky followed behind us. We decided that the cottage would be a fun place to go to. Located not too far from the city, along side of the Labe River, steep and narrow streets led us up a tall hill that the cottage was built on. It was a very cozy place, with old decor and a lot of history.
We sat at a table in front of large double glass doors, enjoying the view and a few beers. Martin pulled out large albums, filled with index cards. They all had lists of artists names and songs. Each was meticulously hand written. An antique machine, with cassettes I have never seen before, played some of my most favourite songs. Martin explained to us that his grandfather lived at the cottage when communism ruled the country. He would buy music in the black market and he would hide it to avoid getting caught with it. I was too drunk to absorb the entire conversation, but supposedly, the western world was considered a bad influence, and everything western was banned and illegal. Between all the beer and shots of straight vodka, I was ready to pass out. Instead, we turned up the Pink Floyd album and had a dance-a-thon. We laughed, sang and shouted out loud….”THIS IS MY COTTAGE!” -Martin. It was such a fun night. I don’t think we went to sleep until 4 or 5 in the morning.
I remember waking up early the next morning and wondering whose idea it was to get up. Luckily, I wasn’t very hung-over, which was shocking. We left our things at the cottage and Martin took us out for the day. The area was very pretty, and we stopped at a few lookouts on our way to his friend’s house. Martin later told us that it was his mother’s birthday and that we would be visiting her. He stopped to pick her up a beautiful bouquet of flowers before we showed up at her doorstep, singing Happy Birthday.
Martin’s apartment was nearby and we stopped to freshen up for dinner and meet some of his roommates. It rained off and on all day but that didn’t stop us from walking around the city streets. Martin taught us the history of his city as pointed out buildings that were engraved with pictures that depicted their past. We walked past a large church that stood crooked from the time it was once bombed, and we continued down the cobblestone roads until entering a restaurant for a bite to eat. Duck, cabbage and a strange patty, that was either made of potato or bread (potato bread, maybe?!), were drizzled with gravy. We complimented our meal with a large beer. It was cheaper than buying a soda or bottled water.
After returning to his cottage, we shared a few drinks and prepared our things to leave the following morning. Our next stop was Praha, also known as Prague, and also known as Bohemia. I had arranged to stay with a guy named Adam, from Couchsurfing.org. He lived in a beautiful home on the outskirts of the city. Since he had to work in the morning, we spent the evening discussing our plans for the following day. Early in the morning we woke up to breakfast on the table. We had a bite to eat before getting on the bus and then taking the subway into the city center.
I’m not a fan of large cities, but Prague is an exception. The beauty that this city exudes was rare and simply stunning. The architecture was gothic and romantic. The streets were alive and full of character. It was touristy (which I usually hate), but that was easily ignored because it possessed a presence that could not be trumped. It is the most artistically-expressed place I have ever visited. Even the homeless sit on their knees with their heads bowed to the earth as they pose humbly as they beg.
By 8pm, Adam was done work and he was meeting us for dinner. After enjoying a delicious meal, we walked the streets a bit longer before heading back to his house for the night.
The following morning, we were ready to do it all over again. Unfortunately, the rain was relentless that day and we decided to take cover at McDonald’s. We eventually began to walk around in the rain again but that didn’t last long. We came across a different McDonalds and sat down for another pie and coffee. We were a bit confused by the nature of this location. There was a serious case of OCD occurring around us. A couple of managers/supervisors were walking employees around pointing out specks of dirt that were to be scrubbed. They were climbing ladders to wipe the walls. It was great to know that cleanliness was taken seriously but they seemed a bit militant about it.
What happened next, took us by surprise. Apparently, Rocky and I had overstayed our welcome. As we were sitting at our table, an employee kept stopping in front of us to give dirty looks as she walked by. We were eventually given a note that said, “Buy something or get out”. I couldn’t help but laugh as I passed her our receipt as proof of purchase. Maybe I’m wrong to feel this way, but after spending so much money at McDonald’s just to use their shitty WiFi, I feel like I’m entitled to sit at a location for as long as I like, especially if it’s pouring rain outside. Not only that, but it’s just a gross fast food joint that sells low quality food. To pretend it is worth the snotty behaviour is a joke. We left, but not without a good laugh.
We continued to walk around Prague in the rain until the sky cleared. Later that evening we eventually met up with Adam for dinner and a few beers, of course. Adam was a great guy, shy and quietly funny. He was very intelligent. It was interesting to listen to the conversations between him and Rocky. For once, I wasn’t the one doing most of the talking. After a delicious but heavy meal, we walked around a bit more. It was our last night in Prague and I felt a bit sad to leave.
After a comfortable night of sleep, we woke up early, packed up, said goodbye to Adam and the beautiful city of Prague. As we were riding through stop-and-go traffic, the coolest thing happened on our way. Because the motorcycle has a wide load, it is difficult to lane-split. We usually have to pick a lane. We were stuck in very slow traffic when another motorcyclist rode past us and waved his arm for us to follow. It was as if the sea of traffic parted for us. I’m not sure how everyone even saw us coming, but all the cars moved as we sped between the lanes. I thought it was pretty awesome.
Once we reached a city called Kutna Hora, we found a place to camp in a small forest. It was somewhat secluded, but we could see that we were in a wealthy area, between a few large homes. In the morning, we heard a man’s voice outside of our tent. I stepped outside to greet the police officer. I could sense he felt a bit uncomfortable, either because I was a female, or because there was a language barrier. He tried to kindly explain that camping there was prohibited, but he struggled. He also tried using Google translate, but that complicated things more for him since I pointed out that he had typed incorrectly and the translation said that I could stay. I jokingly made it difficult for him but he understood once I giggled. He laughed as well, and gestured a lack of concern before waving good-bye.
We rode south that day and camped in a farmer’s field. We thought we found the perfect hiding spot but other people had the same idea. The location turned out to be busier than expected. The following morning, we rode around for a bit, until we finally decided to rent a camping cabin for the night. It was a really comfy location by a large pound and it was cheap enough that we decided to stay there a few nights. It was nice to relax and reflect on the previous few weeks. The Czech Republic was a beautiful country to explore. I was surprised by how much I loved it because it wasn’t a place I ever thought to visit. I look forward to returning again some day.