Wind, Rain, Clouds And Tears
A weeping woman mourns over the fields where the village of Lidice once stood.
It was cold and cloudy, dark and windy, with the occasional raindrop. I had been facing a stiff headwind for the entire route, and was cursing out loud as I fought the elements and my own fatigue.
Then I came upon the vast memorial ground in the village of Lidice, unexpectedly, and I was quieted.
I should say that I came upon the vast memorial ground that used to be the village of Lidice.
If you don't know the horrific story, Lidice was a Czech village that was obliterated -- wiped off the map -- by the Nazis on June 10, 1942.
Almost 350 residents were murdered, in the end. First, 173 men of the village were stood up and shot in front of some mattresses that had been set up against the wall of a barn. Much of that brutality was even filmed by the Nazis and can be seen at the Lidice memorial museum.
Eighty-two children were taken to a concentration camp in Poland and exterminated. Their mothers were taken to another camp and were also killed or died.
The order to raze the village and kill its inhabitants was in retaliation for the assassination of a top Nazi official in Prague, Reinherd Heydrich, who was mortally wounded in an attack by Czech parachutists on May 27, 1942.
I had been familiar with the story, and had known that the village was just outside of Prague, but like the concentration camp at Terezin, I had never bothered to visit, thinking that it would be too much of a downer, I guess.
I had decided to cycle out to Lidice, northwest of Prague, at Rob's urging. He'd been out there a few weeks ago and thought I should check it out.
I took the usual route out to Tuchomerice, and then headed off west, instead of going north to Okor.
You can (finally!) follow my exact route on bikely.com by clicking here.
You can find my exact route from Prague to Lidice on bikely.com, or by clicking above.
The weather was awful, but I was determined to get to Lidice. I guess I was so focused on the ride that when I finally came upon the memorial, which borders the road I took, I was taken by surprise. And the first thing I saw was a statue of a weeping woman looking out over the vast field where the village once stood. All that remains now are a few foundations.
The cold and wind seemed to fade into memory.
The park was deserted. I continued farther into the grounds, where I came across the location of the mass grave where the men of the village are buried, marked by a cross of thorns.
I then walked my bike up to a sculpture erected in memory of the 82 children of Lidice who died in the reprisal, and was profoundly moved.
It's an amazingly simple but powerful work, featuring lifesize statues of 82 children staring back at you. You cannot help but be affected. Visitors have left lots of little toys and stuffed animals in front of the memorial. I felt compelled to remove my cycling helmet while I was viewing the sculpture.
This simple but powerful sculpture depicts the 82 children of Lidice who died in the reprisal, and is dedicated to all those children killed in World War II.
I then proceeded to the lovely rose garden, which contains more than 21,000 rose bushes of 200 different varieties. It's a peaceful place, with classical music (I believe it was one of the Brandenburg concertos by Bach) piped in over small speakers. One area of the garden is designed in the shape of a rose without a bloom, in honor of the children who died.
I would like to return to Lidice on my bike. It's a great ride, and a memorable destination.
And next time, I'll be a little more prepared, mentally, for what awaits.
Length of ride: 54 kilometers
Average speed: 19 kph
Maximum speed: 44.8 kph
Time on the bike: 2.48.36
Distance ridden in 2007: 1,104 kilometers
Visitors to the children's memorial left lots of little toys and stuffed animals behind.
Looking out over the fields where the village of Lidice once stood.
The rose garden contains more than 200 varieties and features an area shaped like a rose without a bloom, to symbolize the children who were killed.
There are many foundations sprinkled throughout the Lidice memorial. This is all that's left of the Gothic St. Martin Church. Its priest, Josef Stemberka, was killed along with the rest of the men of Lidice.