June 24, 2003 - Plzen, CZ 111k/66m***

europe2003 PII, Day 11
24June03, 111km/66mi***
Plzen, Czech Republic

We all very much enjoyed our thoroughly German dinner in Roding (great beer / weak quality and selection of wine, as might be expected) and the Land hotel Lugerhof. It was nice to stay in the countryside. Here’s the hotel.

The hotel is actually a working farm house (the milk truck came for the daily pick up at 5:30A). The upper floor is divided in two sections, half for the family and 5 guest rooms. After all the days staying in cities, it was refreshing to get completely away from man-made sounds, stores and concrete.

Our breakfast on the patio was extended by inclement weather. It wasn’t the rain as much as the lightning that kept us waiting. As soon as it passed, we got on our rain gear and did the day’s team photo.

Susie, Steve, Bob, Charlie, Jason, Bill, Lisa and Don

Then it was off into the rural roads. We tried to keep everyone together because the streets were poorly marked and we didn’t have maps to get us to Cham. We also wanted to make sure everyone crossed the border into the Czech Republic together. Here’s some of us waiting on a wet country road under very overcast skys.

Here’s action shots of Jason and Bill on the morning ride. These guys are maximum troopers. They’re riding mountain bikes, while the rest of us have touring (road) bikes, which are much easier and faster for this kind of ride.

North of Cham we picked up German route 20. Here’s the entrance sign – the first on that mentions Plzen or CZ.

The road out of Germany (route 20) into the Czech Republic was a very heavily truck and car trafficked 2 lane road, and the tolerance for bikes seemed less than usual. Lisa was irritated enough to start in last place, and overtake Bill, Jason, Don, Steve and almost Charlie on the 20 mile ride to Furth, just before the border. We took a break here and she (and probably all of us) started wolfing down berries from a roadside tree.

The border crossing was backed up and the bike riders caught up to the van with Susie (still recovering), Lisa (hated the road) and Sylvie inside. Here’s Don saying hi.

We had all agreed to wait past the border crossing to make sure everyone made it (they didn’t even bother to check our passports again… another big letdown). Here’s the cameo photo shot 26km into the day – still cloudy skys but no more rain or rain gear.

For most of us, this is our first visit to Eastern Europe – the other side of the former iron curtain. At this point we were into some fairly decent hills, and Bill and Jason decided to take a ride too – unfortunately the van couldn’t hold everyone and Sylvie (bless her heart) had to do some shuttling. The Czech side of the border was commercialized with a bunch of “Casinos” and “Nightclubs” (non-stop nightclubs), none of which we checked out. There were also a variety of roadside craft shops selling flags, baskets, miniature windmills, troll garden sculptures and the like. Here’s one of those.

Charlie, Bob, Don and Steve made it all to (some town with a long hyphenated Czech name) where we took our break at the church. For maybe the 5th time of the trip, Steve changed his tire here. After this break, Bob and Charlie took off for a trade-off drafting speed run for the last 50km to the beer capital of the world, Plzen (Pilzen). They took two brief stops along the way.

We were blocked for a moment by a tank train, which impressed us to no end. Then we took a 5 minute hydration break at (some town with a long hyphenated Czech name) where we stopped at a sign commemorating the massacre of 241 people by the fascists in April 1945. The sign is in Czech, Russian, French and German. Then it was straight into Plzen, where we checked into the Hotel Continental. Looks great doesn’t it?

The inside isn’t quite as impressive – but it’s not bad. You can really tell that you’re not in Germany, France or Switzerland anymore. The buildings, roads and streetcars are older and more run-down. Many of the cars are Polish or Russian. It’s just a notch less new, less clean and less sophisticated – kind of 1950ish.

We all then rushed over to the Pilsner Urquell beer plant, about 6 blocks away from the hotel. The europe2003 trip was routed through Plzen so Bob could visit the mecca of his favorite beer. It was too late for tours, but we did get to look at the huge, impressive factory, have a nice late lunch and take a few photos. (and had great beer, and got the t-shirt)

Apparently there’s a www.beerworld.com website that would be worth checking out.

Bob and Don left a little early to respectively write up some updates and take a shower. Along the way Bob spotted this guy sitting on a chair in the middle of the road, and challenged Don to guess the man’s occupation. (Clue: that’s a metal bar in front of him and a typical streetcar behind him.)

Well, here he is in action…

He waits for a streetcar to come (every few minutes – there are lots of them), looks at the sign on the front to see where it’s going, and then rushes out to manually switch the tracks at a junction depending on the direction. What a job! Wonder what it’s like in winter?

That’s it for today. It’s 6PM and everyone’s touring town, except for me. I’m still 3 updates behind.

(Though I do need to mention that I get the music. We (our hotel) are about 6 blocks from the downtown Plzen stadium, where for some reason there is a very loud, very hard rock concert going on at 6PM on a Tuesday evening. It is distracting – a combination of an oom-pah band, loud guitars, and angry young men screaming at 10’s of thousands of watts – enough to get me to want to take up rap our country. If I had time I’d go czech it out.)

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