Overnighted with the truckies again last night. Positively hot most of the night and a beautiful morning this morning. Better reception at the Czech border. They were happy to let us in and immediately tried to sell us everything from mushrooms to garden gnomes. Some young girls standing beside the road at fairly regular intervals, all dressed up for a night out…. at 1.00pm? We suspect that they also were in the market for … something?
roads are not up to the standard of the Reich. However, they are no worse than
Australian roads and the traffic is light. The countryside is very open and
would be extremely picturesque if it weren't for the ever present haze.
loomed upon us fairly quickly and Janita had the pleasure of driving directly
through the centre of our first Eastern European city. Direction signs are more
like we are used to at home. Non-existent! We managed to find a nice, empty
camping platz about five or six km from the city centre and on the opposite side
of the city from where we’d planned. As with most European cities Prague has a
highly populated, but small centre and the suburbs quickly become rural
villages. We are just at the fringe of the grey blocks of Soviet-style apartment
blocks, in a woodland area.
seem fairly easy going and nothing is too much of a problem even with the very
significant language gap. Not many people speak English! We have been trying our
extensive (one word) Czech vocabulary, -
- thanks (da coo yaar) -,
much to the amusement of all. It’s amazing what you can do with pointing and
using that ever-green American tourist trick - just speaking English, loudly,
until you get what you want!
the results of our first shopping trip to the local supermarket, where we bought
about half a kilo of duck breast meat, thinking it was chicken, some bread and a
packet of chips for AUS $3.30, we are not going to blow the budget in the East.
And, as long as there are no bullet holes in the duck, our digestive systems
will survive also, despite the fact that at least 50% of the water is
contaminated. For those who are interested, we also had a beer at a little cafe
on the way home. Two half litres of very nice Czech beer, AUS$2.18. We're in
30 September/1 October
the hang of public transport in cities where you can't read the signs, street
names or station names is getting to be a breeze. After two weeks on the road we
seem to be getting the hang of metros, trams, buses and the frequent need to
change between them. Our longest wait for a ride has probably been less then 10
minutes if you don't count waiting in a little village Imbiss (snack bar/pub)
for a bus connection in the sticks in Germany.
has enthralled us for two days. It leaves everything we have seen to date in the
shade! A relaxed tone of sophistication pervades amongst the locals, who unlike
their confreres in Paris and some other supposed 'chic cities', are in no way
pretentious or condescending to visitors. City streets were full of Czechs and
tourists all doing much the same thing, enjoying a couple of very warm (25C+++)
last of summer days in what is surely one of the most beautiful cities in the
castle district and the old city are particularly beautiful, perhaps because they
have been less "touched-up" than some other European cities. Our thigh
muscles are growing stronger by the day as we climb towers for views and steps,
steps and more steps - up and down in Metro stations and anywhere else they have
chosen to put steps!
view from just outside the castle gates is splendiferous! Prague - spread out
before us - just as if there were no space between us at the top and the rest of
the city below. A -bloody-mazing!!! The old city - tiny, cobble-stoned streets -
is interesting and beautiful, but has become a mecca for tourist-inspired
industries - souvenirs, money-changers and restaurants. A shame for us, but the
economy must survive.
seem to be a lot of Americans in the city as well as the ever-present Germans
who are, for the most part, far louder than Americans and seem to have the
attitude that they have become at least the economic 'master race', by stealth.
Australians we come across are mostly young couples backpacking or the odd
oldies like us. They are usually quiet and unobtrusive, but we can always pick
them before we hear the accent. We can’t specify any obvious pointers, but
it's amazing how often it happens.
rip off prices have not yet reached the Czech Republic. Transport in particular
is very reasonable. A full day travel on and off buses, trams and metro trains
cost us about A$.50 each. Lunch in a restaurant, salad and mineral water, cost
about A$7.00 each. Dinner last night with two big courses and a couple of beers
was about the same. Fuel is still rude by our standards, about A$1.20 per Lt.
to the wonders of modern communications we watched the marathon this morning.
Watched is the operative word. The broadcast format in Eastern Europe is only
partly compatible with our mini-TV, so we can see (very good reception) but
can't hear! You might think this would not be a problem, but even languages as
incomprehensible as Czech do give some verbal clues to assist understanding.
we are off for a couple days in some of the more remote areas of the Republic
and then back to try our luck again with the Poles!
a small orchard with more apples and pears than we could eat in a year falling
all around us in a camping/guesthouse owned by a New Zealand born (left when he
was three) Dutchman named Chris. This village is about 100kms south of Prague
near the International Heritage-listed village of Cesky Krumlov.
Krumlov is as advertised. Another incredible demonstration of how seriously
Europeans of every flavour take their history. Intact and preserved from the
16th century, the town could take you back in history - except for the usual
tourist shops selling everything from splinters of the true cross to a local
form of paui shell - not to mention
the ubiquitous garnet and amber in every shop.
back to Chris's Guesthouse. Apparently, foreigners like Chris and his partners
are able to buy property in the Czech Republic if it is a tax-paying enterprise.
He and his mate and their girlfriends manage this place from their homes in
Holland, 'commuting' the 9 hour trip once a month in turn during the tourist
season, May to September. We caught him just in time. He was taking down the
sign as we arrived. The guesthouse was a stable which they have converted to
dormitory style accommodation. Very comfortable. The camping area is the
backyard orchard. This time of year, although it is still relatively warm, the
locals have their wood fires going and the air is pleasantly smoke-scented.
is always a problem when travelling in vans. In a small village like this, the
water is drinkable to the extent that it won't make you sick. But the level of
chlorinisation gives it a bit of a smell! Vans are a bit like your basic
biosphere. Inputs include water, gas, electricity, food and petrol (diesel),
outputs are 'grey water' and toilet waste (chemical toilet waste) and,
hopefully, forward movement.
quality can be variable, but generally
those with better than average stomachs, like us, can usually survive
most water changes. However, we hear that some of the water in Eastern Europe is
polluted so we are more cautious than usual and keep our bottled drinking water
separate from the 100ltr tank of general use water that the van can carry.
the tank is one of the never-ending challenges in 'vanning'. Staying in camping
areas can mostly solve the problem, although Europeans guard their water as
though it were gold and it is sometimes difficult to find a tap even in a
camping park. The notion of water available on almost every street corner as at
home is anathema to Europeans. As a result, quick 'water missions' with a ten or
twenty litre container are the go in service stations, showers, and camping
water is the leavings from washing up, showers/washes etc.. Vans have 'grey
water' tanks that for some reason seem to hold about half the amount of water as
the fresh water tank? If the original hypothesis of the 'van biosphere' holds,
then the rest of the water must go somewhere? - More about chemical toilets
later.... Disposal of grey water is not as great for us as it could be for the
seriously environmentally aware. We usually 'forget' to put the cap on the tank
toilets are a major technical advance on the ice-cream container. The standard
is the Tetford system - a very nice little unit that boasts electric flushing
and normal pedestal shape. From the 'user's end' this is a very necessary and
easy to use appliance. From the point of view of the 'disposer', it is a bit of
a chore. Your normal toilet cistern will cope with the 15-20 litres of effluent
that a Tetford holds, as long as you pour slowly! Too fast and one has a problem
that is best catered for with wellies, which are always used for such tasks. Mr
Tetford built a breather valve in the top of his extraordinary contraption that
tends to jam open if the flow out of the tank is too fast. This results in an
additional flow of what the English like to call 'black water' (they can't have
seen too much of it if they think it’s black!). Anyhow, enough is enough. As
you can imagine one is not always welcome in public toilets with a Tetford.
Again, some of the more environmentally unaware travellers have been known to
take a quiet walk in the woods with their Tetfords.
about van life another day.....
most of the day in forest and grazing land. Deer wild in the fields throughout
the day. Telc was our main joy for the day. A town untouched (again! - what
happened to sacking, rape and plunder?) since the sixteenth century. For the
first time in over two weeks we had to contend with rain for a couple of hours.
The 'biosphere' was in shock! Too much moisture coming in is not a good thing.
As we were driving most of the day, the effect of another of the biosphere's
inputs, diesel, made all the difference. With the heater on full blast, wet
jackets and last night's washing were soon dry and packed away.
Czech countryside is rolling and fairly open. Villages with a character not
dissimilar to most isolated areas in Europe, dot the back roads. Houses look
like scenes from Combat ( a WWII TV series for the TOO young to know!) and while
there are no people to be seen, the always-parked cars are a dead giveaway.
There IS life here.
the inescapable eventuality of cooler times ahead hits us, we have to be more
aware of maintaining warmth and dryness inside. The car heater assists during
driving times, but when the van is stationary, heating and also cooling rely on
gas, battery and, when available, electricity. None of this is much of a problem
yet as day time temperatures are still in the high teens or early twenties and
nights only get as low as 7-8C.
have two 12 volt batteries. One is the normal vehicle system battery. The second
is a 'leisure battery' which is charged off the alternator when the vehicle is
running, or off 220/240 volt power when available (at a cost) in camping parks.
The leisure battery runs lights, water pump and is one of the alternative power
supplies for the fridge. In addition, in this van the leisure battery has a 12V
outlet which can be used to run a range of 12V appliances (read “toys”!).
More on this later...
we are on full power in a camping area in Kutna Hora, northern Czech Republic.
We have an electric fan heater on to assist with clothes drying, more than for
our warmth. We are in T-shirts and shorts. The owner, who came by personally to
welcome us (we are the only campers here!) had been out fishing all day, but the
morning rain drove him home early. Good news is he caught two pike. Bad news is
that the forecast for tomorrow is the same - rain. This won't matter too much
for the main purpose of our visit - a 19th century "Ossuary" - part of
a cemetery "decorated "with bones carved in the shape of bells, a
chandelier, even the Schwarzenberg coat of arms. However, a wander round the
rest of the town will require the bringing out of "The Drizabones" - a
not-to-be-missed event. Wonder if Poland will let us in tomorrow?