Friday, July 4, 2008
straddlin' the border
How much can one man fit into a week? More than I thought I could, that's for sure. The pic above shows that I made it as far north as the border of Poland and the Czech Republic.
-rode to Regensburg. Stayed one night and moved on
-arrived in Most, Czech Republic
-rode the bus to Prague to enjoy creepiest sleepover yet
-met up with group to climb a mountain
-conquered the mountain, slept like I never have before
-hanging in Most....
So. I left Oberdischingen, Germany on Friday with a destination of Regensberg, Germany in mind. This time I used the GPS and set it to "direct" and "no highways". Wow...what a difference it made! I ended up on amazing twisties and switchback roads for 5 hours! I would ride for 3 miles and be in another tiny village that looked just like the one before it.....The major difference between the villages there and the ones back home is that they are ALL clean and well taken care of....with amazing local luxuries that small towns back home seem to lack. I rode through fields of amazing bean-like plants riding up telephone pole height wire structures. They were beautiful and EVERYWHERE! I later figured out that it was all Hops. Yeah....like for BEER! Now I know why the stuff tastes so good......the plants are cared for as if they were made of gold. Amazing.
Through couchsurfing.com (CS) I found more cool hosts. Marc and Anna-Luisa hosted me by letting me stay in Luisa's apartment alone. So cool........right in the center of a beautiful town in a really cool 500 year old building. (pics are posted) It was quiet and perfect to unwind from the road. I had drinks in a rose garten with Luisa and watched Spain beat Russia in the Euro Cup semis. Then I slept like a baby and the next morning enjoyed chatting with Luisa as she got up especially to make me coffee and send me off with a smile. She's invited me back for my return that looks like it will lead me right through Regensberg on my way to Switzerland. I intend to take her up on the offer and spend a few days in Regensberg soaking up the scenery a bit more. Apparently it's one of the few decent sized towns in Germany that wasn't almost totally destroyed by bombings during the war. More than a few tour guides on CS have offered to show me around. Soon...
On Friday morning I rode off headed towards Most, Czech Republic to prepare for my weekend of hiking and camping. I arrived at Kendra's place who graciously offered to let me stay at her place and ride along with her to the organized CS trip up the highest peak in the the country. She was great and welcoming. We stashed my moto at her friend's place who had a safe garage to shelter it in and we rode the bus to Prague. Now....this is where it got interesting/frustrating. We met up with another fellow CS'er who offered to host us both for the night before we caught the bus to the base of the mountain with the rest of the hiking group. He was this Turkish guy who I'm now referring to as "Turk Diggler". As nice as he was....he was perhaps the most awkward character I've met in quite a while.
We got to his flat and were ushered in with a bow and a curtsy looking move. I thought "great....this is gonna be fun". He walked us into the smallest efficiency apartment I've ever seen. one room...one closet of a kitchen and one water closet. All the windows were shut and the blinds closed. It was hot....and it seemed that he and deodorant did NOT get along. He shows us the bed and explains that we can all sleep on it. A queen bed.....nice. I immediately have visions of my GLORIOUSLY spacious one man tent outside. Damn....I left it on the motorcycle. I'm screwed.
Kendra and I exchanged the glance that acknowledges the fact that we are definitely NOT going to enjoy our stay in this dungeon with the awkward (to put it mildly) Turk Diggler. We go out to have dinner with Kendra's other friends and reluctantly return to the flat knowing that's it's just going to get worse. I was having SUCH a hard time even breathing around this guy as his B.O. was about as bad as I've ever been exposed to. Diggler announced that he was taking a shower and I almost jumped up Toyota style knowing that if he didn't I might vomit in my sleep! So...we agree to all laying sideways on his bed to give more breathing room and the light goes out....but not before he attempts to amuse us with really odd youtube stand up videos on his cell phone. I can't tell you how stupid they were.....until Kendra awkwardly told him we were tired and had a damn mountain to climb the next morning!
We lay there while he sits up at the end of the bed surfing the internet or something on his phone for HOURS! I couldn't sleep....Kendra couldn't sleep and he simply just sat there at times staring at both of us. At 4:30 Am I get up to drain my system and there he sits in the dim sunrise light coming through the window just staring at me from the end of the bed. I ask him what's up and he simply shrugs his shoulders. WEIRD! Essentially neither Kendra or I slept more than 20 minutes all night and acted as if we were sleeping to quell the awkwardness of telling him that he was making us very uncomfortable.
The alarm FINALLY went off at 6 am and we POPPED out of bed in hopes that we might get some sleep on the 3 hours bus ride to the mountain. Diggler, of course, jumped into the kitchen to prepare an awkward meal to top off our awkward night. He made one big omelet with french fries and we choked it down while we smiled and thanked him for his efforts. He then offered to give us money for our trip and seemed sad that we were leaving. At one point he told Kendra that normally the only friends he had at home were the spiders and the ticking of his clock! That explains a lot I suppose. Regardless......it was the WORST night of sleep, or lack of sleep, that I've had on this trip and in recent years for that matter. It was perfect timing since I was about to take on the biggest physical challenge I'd undertaken in many years!
We got on the subway headed for the train station gleeful that we were rid of Turk Diggler and talks of how we should've just ridden the bike to the mountain and camped out somewhere on the side of the road. What a waste!
Well...the mountain. It was great. After a 3.5 hour bus ride with no sleep we arrived at the base of the mountain with 13 other really cool people. The group consisted of a handful of Czechs, a Ukranian, A Frenchman, another American and two Australians. I knew it was going to be challenging with little sleep, but my lack of gear made it even worse. I wasn't willing to buy it or carry it for one weekend so I set off with one pair of soft footed converse, a thin hoody, a dirty pair of jeans and a not-so-well-suited-school-backpack filled with everything from Nutella to a bottle of Vodka. NOT GOOD.
About 3o minutes in it was obvious to Kendra and I that we would officially be bringing up the rear of the group. The rest of the group seemed well geared-up and bright-eyed from actually sleeping the night before.....not to mention experienced hikers. Ugh...to feel like crap AND perform like it too...tough day. Regardless....we accepted the challenge of finishing and we DID! The sights were beautiful and the climb, though exhausting and extremely rigorous, was well worth the effort. We went from hot and muggy to COLD and windy rain at the top. The climb was about 16km long and at one point we were walking along the ridge of the mountains after the first serious climb for about 5 km. It seemed like a nice break until we looked at the last 2 km to the peak WAY out ahead of us! Steep doesn't come close to describing it. It was totally intimidating and ominous. Coming back down on slippery rocks made it even more challenging......shedding clothes as the temperatures increased rapidly.
We made it a little over half way down to the cabin that the group had rented for us nestled into a small valley. It was perfect.....totally archaic with a wood stove, no lights and dirty soft beds everywhere. It was perfect. I unloaded my pack and just laid there for abotu 30 minutes trying to NOT feel like the oldest guy of the climb. (yes...I later found out I was tied for the position) The group prepared a big kettle full of beans and pasta and we feasted and drank like kings! It was one of the best meals I've ever had. The mixed group mostly spoke the universal English so it was quite fun hearing about their travels. Unfortunately intense pain in my legs set in later and I was forced to sit most of the time, but it was really a great evening. I mean...I DID have scotch to drink afterall.
The next morning we ate leftovers, packed and cleaned up the house and walked the rest of the way down the mountain to the buses. It was a successful trip and one I won't soon forget. I was glad to have tested myself again, but next time I'll bring proper shoes and a proper pack. I'm certain the climb would have been infinitely easier for me with both. I'm considering doing more climbing back home......Stefan is already working on that.
Once back to Kendra's place we went to a bar to watch the Euro Cup final between Germany and Spain. It was a good game, but unfortunately it ended as expected with Spain as the victor. Oh well...I'll enjoy the positive vibes down there in a few weeks.
For now I've just been soaking up this small former communist mining town, Kendra's hospitality and her friend Lenka's Czech cooking. Good stuff! My allergies have been consistently horrible over the last week, but I hope they soon fade. I'm taking meds and praying for the end of the infection that has set in. Why is it that I only get this in the fall back home, but in Europe it's a year round issue?
Today I intend to use a Fonda San Miguel recipe (THANKS Lauren) to make a proper 4th of July meal with Tex-Mex!?!?? Ok....so the europeans think mexican food is exotic....and you know....I like the idea of cooking it again. So....I'm posting pics. I'll make comments as I have time. I hope all back home enjoy the holiday and get some outdoor time today.