July 1, 2014 Part 2
I always get excited when I see road signs to new cities, states, provinces, or countries. I relish reading licence plates to see where a vehicle is registered (yes, I am one of ‘those’). on our motorcycle the EU for Germany is ‘D’ for Deutsche. Also there is an ‘F’ indicating the ‘region’ – which is Frankfurt. A couple approached us at a scenic lookout and started speaking in German. Once we said ‘Canada’, the lady spoke in an Australian accent and explained because of our licence plate, she thought we were from Frankfurt, as they lived there as well.
While we rolled through the final kilometres of farmland, some signs indicated the direction to CZ. I photographed them with anticipation, but it seemed in one startling moment, we had left Austrian crisp and clean and had reached the disorder border of Czech Republic. There is a strange mangling (yes, mangle) of extreme casino, sex shop commercialism, strange letters on signboards and English words too – its like an area struggling to find its real identity, unsure as to how to market its welcome.
My first impressions were that of disappointment. Everything looked weary. I was thinking of my basic knowledge of the CZ and Slovak Republics and the length of time it takes to emerge from communist oppression. Since we are in a very rural part of CZ at the moment, it is very evident. The first city is Znoma and it looked very poor and beaten down – a reasonable sized city but struggle is apparent. My mind loops the question ‘why does the supremacy of an interest group always include the oppression of others’? and at the same time I am grateful that my Heavenly Father wants to lift me up higher – my good is His loving concern. As we roll through the countryside, it reminds me of southern Ontario – low rolling hills, dotted with trees.
We happened upon a truck stop with a big sign that said ‘Ham Ham’ and a smoker (for meat, not a person) outside. We had to ‘Czech it out’. The kind lady played charades with us so we reached the clean bathroom (toilet is the universal word, it just sounds so crass). She vainly attempted to interpret the menu and then summoned her knowledge of something we might understand ‘schnitzel’, she said with a smile. We said ‘sure’, although we had eaten quite enough of it already. This means pork, pounded thin, breaded, deep fried. We also order ‘limonady’, thinking lemonade (but who really cares, we have water on board). We sat outside and waited. When it came, we were enraptured by the delicious sight, flaky schnitzel and the potatoes!!!!! Like buttery candy! The Germans could take cooking classes from this truck stop chef. The limonady turned out to be slightly fizzy, bright yellow. We weren’t sure what it was – perhaps a soda pop, but more flat. It was comfort food on a scale of one to ten – an ELEVEN.
We were also bewildered by everything listed in Czech dollars. Our gas bill for the bike for a half tank top up was CZ 375.00. We wondered how that would play out on our Visa bill. We showed the truck stop lady our credit card and Twenty euros. She said ‘ten euros’. Our whole meal was ten euros! You would never eat such delicious food anywhere for this price.
It was soon time to connect with the highway to Praha. Everywhere there is construction and for good reason. Czech roads are deplorable. So bad, in fact, that the vibration broke the mount of the GPS. Thankfully my beloved had planned the bulk of today as a non-highway run. We would possibly have done more damage. As we are speeding along very narrow highway, they’re working on expansion, it started raining, but we were unable to stop for rain gear. Using the ineffective Harley navigation system, we tried to get close to where we think we need to go. I tentatively pulled out our GPS in hopes it would add more detail. Strange names, rush hour, it was a hairy ‘Czech In’ – however – the final leg ended at Hotel Daliborka in a wonderful neighbourhood.
Helena greeted us at reception and began to melt our fear of ‘what’s next’ right away. She reassured us we would enjoy real value in this beautiful city (we are value shoppers, so this is music to our ears). She told us up front that CZ taxi drivers would charge us double. (The Harley rep told us that on day 1 – he said ‘those communists are out for every dollar, so watch out’, then laughed.) We didn’t laugh along as we believe these countries are now free and are working to build their futures. Helena told us about the cabbies and the street sales people – we simply responded ‘there are dishonest people all around the world, not just in CZ Republic’.
The Daliborka was built in 1912 – the year my mom was born – and they have retained the neo-classical décor (apart from the Samsung flat screen). The light fixtures alone were incredible examples of a by gone era. They operated a small dining room with a very cheerful waiter who taught us some basic Czech phrases such as ‘please’, ‘thank you’ ‘good day’. We were solo in the dining room and surrounded by peace after the hectic highway travel. We enjoyed a big salad (so hard to find), a lovely main and a CZ dessert specialty – strawberry dumpling with shaved cottage cheese like a warm strawberry ice cream – each bite melted the stress and we were ready for a cozy wind down on our brief side trip to Czech Republic. The day’s spend? Under E100.00.