Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th lived up to its name and was probably our worst cycling day in all of Europe. Before I leave you with the wrong impression, let me tell you a little about cycling in Czechia. Overall it is excellent. They have more paved cycling paths both in towns and in rural areas than we have seen before. Lots and lots of people appear to cycle just for enjoyment everywhere, not just in high scenic or tourist designated areas. We have now found (a few weeks late) a great Czech website that plots really good routes taking advantage of all the local bike paths across the country. We needed that a few days ago.
Unknown to us, it was Friday the 13th. We got to the train station. In Czechia there is one main train company, one secondary company and a couple of smaller ones. Our train company didn’t have a ticket booth in the station but we were told (thanks to Google translate) that we could buy the tickets on the train. Getting our bikes to some of these platforms isn’t always easy or intuitive. Anyway, we waited for the train, it arrived late, and then, as we were trying to get our bikes up the steps into the train we were told that it was full if we didn’t already have a reservation. At first we thought that maybe the conductor didn’t like foreigners or didn’t like bicycles as we could have squeezed on. We were wrong. He also denied entry to a woman with luggage, two small children and a third in a pram. I couldn’t believe that he wouldn’t allow this family on because they had a baby carriage. It was over 30°C (89°F) on the platform. I ran around the train station trying to find out our next option which wasn’t too bad. A regional train was scheduled to come past in 45 minutes. None of the ticket people have spoken English so far but we get by. 40 km later we left the train and followed a route that I generated which meant that I couldn’t blame Mike for anything that happened next. A few kilometres into the ride our path seemed to disappear as we entered the woods and we were following a very small track that had been made by some sports vehicles and the trees were closing in. The track was getting smaller and muddier and neither of us was very happy but, by then, we couldn’t go back. At one point my bike skidded, I put my foot down and ended up to my knee in water and mud. The bike ended up in the water/mud and my other leg was wet up to my ankle. I was not happy. My new, expensive, leather walking shoes were now in bad shape as well. We eventually get out of the mud, every push on the pedals made my feet squish and my wet pants rub against me. It was very unpleasant. As we came out of the woods we found out that this path ended at a four lane toll highway. I am pretty sure that you are not supposed to ride bikes here. Like most of Europe these regional roads have no shoulders. We had no choice but to go out onto the main road and try and get off it as soon as possible. Obviously we are still alive. It was an awful feeling. We did eventually get back to the car. My feet squished every step. As we were driving back to our camper Mike wanted to know if his muddy, wet, unhappy wife wanted to stop in a restaurant for dinner. It is a good job he was driving or I might have killed him.
Let me say that we have had many lovely rides on the paved paths here. Yesterday we got to a train station a little late and we couldn’t find the elevator to get us to track level. A very nice man who spoke English, ran with us and carried my bike up and down the stairs to get to the platform leaving Mike to carry his own. He then called out to the conductor in Czech to get her to open the doors that had just been closed. He was super and went far out of his way. The conductor, who also spoke some English (two in a row!) decided not to charge us for the train ride. That was a great start to a lovely ride. Many of the train stations have these automated parking garages for bicycles. We haven’t used them, but we think that you put your bike in and it takes it to a parking spot and brings it back when you need it. Interesting.
Arriving in Ostrava was a little unusual. Mike wasn’t completely sure that the final roads and the last turn into the campground were big enough for us. There was an outdoor mall just a couple of kilometres from the campground. We stopped there to unhook the car so that we could check out the roads ahead of time. The parking lot was almost empty so we left the RV parked sideways blocking about six spots. As we were leaving in the car, two men flagged us down. We thought that they were going to be upset about our leaving the RV there. Quite the opposite. They both spoke a little English. One gentleman was involved in the administration of the mall. He told us that if we couldn’t get into the campground we could stay in the parking lot for three nights if we wanted. They had security there every night. In the early years, when we moved a little quicker we would probably have taken him up on his offer. Now we typically spend 1 – 2 weeks in one campground which means we need access to water and electricity and don’t park in areas without these facilities very often. This man then gave us a $30 Cdn gift certificate to use anywhere in the mall which was very nice. The second gentleman lives in Prague and invited us to call him for a visit when we are in the area. He then followed up the invite with an email so he must mean it. So far, so good.
To get to the campground you had to cross a bridge that was under construction. The available lane was so small, with a large wall on one side, that I didn’t think the RV could make it through especially with mirrors that don’t fold in. Mike said it was tight but he could do it. It looked really bad to me. Mike decided the roads and entrance were OK so I drove the car to the campground instead of hooking it up again. This was good because I would have been white knuckled sitting in the front of the RV waiting for Mike to do some bad damage. I don’t do narrow spaces very well anymore (and I am just the passenger!). The campground was in the middle of a large park. It was nice with a bistro, sports area, major mining museum and more. Ostrava’s major industry was mining. One damp day I got to take things easier when Mike went and toured the mining museum. Mike worked in a mine in British Columbia 50 years ago. He enjoys pointing out that the Covid mask he wears was issued to him 50 years ago when he worked in a mine as protection from black lung disease.
When we got to the campground we had to use Google Translate again to check in. We figured out that the campground had two areas with electricity. On the side under some trees and shade, you paid for what you used. On the other side, you paid a flat $9 Cdn/day. Given our use of electricity we chose the flat rate side. It turned out that this side only had a 6 amp fuse which tripped the minute I turned on the air conditioning. It was very hot and I was not going without my air conditioning if I had a choice. We quickly moved to the other side, eventually figured out how to use the multiple machines required to turn on the electricity, and parked in the shade. In the seven days that we were there, we only used the air conditioning once for a few hours. That was probably thanks to the trees above us. Our exhaust fans were on the entire time. It turned out that it only cost us $1.50 Cdn per day extra for electricity that worked. We also found out that we use 12 kwh/day of electricity when we are not using the air conditioners.
I should tell you about the internet. When we ran out of our Austrian internet data we went into town to buy a Czech SIM card and local data plan for our phone that would provide a large amount of internet data. The campgrounds here haven’t had very good internet so far and we watch all our daily news and updates via the internet. We compared prices in a couple of stores. T-Mobile quoted us a price that I wasn’t happy with, as I started to leave the clerk, who spoke a little English, told us to wait. She went back inside and came out with two packages with SIM cards and said that they had a promo on and we could get unlimited data for free until August 31. I have mentioned before problems with words like “free”. I basically didn’t believe her. After a lot of miscommunication it turned out that she was correct and that the data was free but it wasn’t extremely fast. We do run our TV on extremely low resolution (who needs to see the faces of newscasters clearly?) but still, it is a 45” TV. We took our phones back to the RV and you can imagine my surprise when the internet worked on the TV just fine. You couldn’t run the bedroom and the living room TV off one SIM card but since Mike and I each had one, we ran the bedroom TV at night and our computers off Mike’s card and the living room TV off mine. In the next town, we went to another T-Mobile store and asked for the same offer for my tablet but they said they didn’t have that option at their store. We have had inexpensive internet in Europe quite often, we have never had it for free!
We have noticed a major lack of food from other cultures throughout Europe. Obviously the major cities have some ethnic food from other countries, but not a lot. At home Mike and I are used to a much larger variety of food. Czechia is a little different. You can find Asian food in many places which is unexpected. The other thing that is a little unexpected is that they don’t seem to always expect the man to pay. The waiters often put the bill in between us or give it to me as often as they give it to Mike.
One day we had a really interesting ride into Ostrava from our campground. First we stopped at the Ostrava Castle, which is now a small museum and toured it. Next we stopped at the “New Town Hall”. It is only one hundred years old. The “Old Town Hall” was built in the 1500s I believe. When they were building the New Town Hall they had planned for a large masonry tower but they had major problems with the instability of the subsoil so they changed it to a steel and glass tower. We decided to go up to the viewing platform in the tower. During covid the main entrance of the town hall was closed and we had to wander around the back to find our way in. While we were trying to find out how to get up the tower we came across a rather unique elevator. The elevator requires a little practice. It never stops moving. As the opening (there is no door) comes past your floor you step in and when it gets to the floor you want, you step out. It gets easier with practice. It turns out that there are five of these elevators in Czechia.
We are leaving Ostrava now and will be camping near the town of Olomouc just over an hour away.
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