To Heaven & Hell & Back


Black Beauty takes a breather at the summit of Little Crag in Únětice.

"The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart." -- Iris Murdoch, writer (1919-1999)

Sometimes it's not how far you ride, it's simply how you ride.

The weather has been spectacular in Prague -- for two weekends in a row, no less. Stewart and I headed out on our bikes late Sunday afternoon (September 23) for the first time since mid-July. We both went to Croatia, and since we've returned, we've both been busy with work and I with moving into a new house.

It was great to be out with my great friend. Something happens, though, when I get out on the trails with Stewart. That is, I get off the trails with Stewart. Stewart loves to explore and invariably discovers some great routes. His impetuousness is almost always rewarded. I tend to ride routes that I'm a bit familiar with (or at least have an inkling where they lead).

Except when I'm with Stewart.

We decided to meet at the restaurant called Koliba in Roztoky. It's a halfway meeting point of sorts, since he lives in Prague 6 and I'm now in Statenice-Černý Vůl.

On my way, I decided to do a little exploring of my own. I wanted to ride to the top of a crag of rocks I'd seen along the trail from Únětice to Koliba. It's not quite as spectacular as The Crag in Divoká Šárka, but it looked like a nice vantage point. Call it Little Crag.

I rode to Únětice and then veered off the usual trail, up and up toward some fields that I figured would connect me to Little Crag. I was right, but the pedaling was hard, and I had to walk my bike much of the way through dense forest to get to the overlook. It was a hard slog, but there were some nice views.

I headed back down to meet up with Stewart, who was already waiting for me. We set off back the way I'd just come, when Stewart decided to show me a path that led up a hill to the right just off the main path a short distance from Koliba. It looked like tough going, and it was.

I've been having some troubles with my lower gears since I had a flat rear tire a few weeks back. I must not have replaced it properly, and when I need to gear down for the tough hills, my gears slip and I find it really hard to keep going. It took us both two rest stops to make it to the top of this monster, partly because we were exhausted and partly because the trail was full of deep ruts and roots that made uphill cycling a real challenge.


Even Stewart had had enough by the time we had to walk our bikes through the soft earth of a farmer's freshly plowed field.

Once we got to the top, we were presented with only bad cycling options. The trail just seemed to disappear. We rode and walked our bikes through thick brush and deep forest, our legs getting scraped and skinned along the way. We eventually ended up in a farmer's freshly plowed field that was impossible to cycle through, or around. We walked our bikes and eventually hooked up with a dirt road, thank god, that eventually took us back down into Únětice. It was the road I had cycled up to Little Crag on.

We were drenched in sweat, but decided in Únětice to follow a path up that we usually ride down. Another mistake.

We somehow couldn't find the path and ended up, again, walking and pedaling along a farmer's field, up, up, always up, until we reached the highway.

You can see the entire route by clicking here. It was so unpleasant, I've called it The Loo Run, as opposed to one of our favorite routes, the Bakerloo Run. If you click on the KML icon on the top of the map, you can import the route into Google Earth and do a fantastic 3D flyover.


The Smallest Pub in the World, in the minuscule village of Úholičky. I dare anyone to name a tinier hospoda in or around Prague or a cheaper half-liter of beer.

By this time, the only thing on my mind was a cold beer. I suggested we check out what Stewart has always called The Smallest Pub in the World, or TSPITW, as it shall be known. It's in the village of Úholičky, and I'd been there once before, a few summers back, but it was closed then.

Stewart agreed that a beer seemed to be in order, so we headed to TSPITW. And by god it was open! And my god a half-liter of fresh Pilsner Urquell tasted like nothing else could taste as good at that moment.

It turns out the TSPITW pours 17 CZK (or 87 U.S. cents) half-liters of Gambrinus, which ties it for the cheapest half-liter of beer that I've been able to find in Prague on my rides. If you know of a cheaper glass o' beer, let me know.

(It's also funny, if you look at the photograph of the menu (below), that a half-liter of Sprite is 28 CZK -- 56 U.S. cents more expensive that the same quantity of beer! Prague may be the only city in the world where water is more expensive than beer -- in this case, a bottle of Mattoni mineral water is 1 Czech crown more expensive than a half-liter of beer! Classic Prague.)

Anyway, it's a very cool pub, and as far as I could see, it's not actually called anything. Perhaps we should call it The Pub With No Name. It's also built into the side of a hill and has turf for a roof. And a sign on its chimney that points up to Heaven and down to Hell. I'm not sure what else anyone could ask for in a pub, frankly.


Stewart heads out on the road leading from Úholičky, our daylight quickly fading.

We headed off with intentions of another beer in Okoř , but the sun was setting, and my house was not far away, and so we ended up polishing off a bottle of Tarapaca Cabernet Sauvignon and a couple of cigars on my terrace as we watched planes make their final approach to Ruzyne airport.

Like I said, it's not how far you ride, it's how you ride.

RIDE STATS
Distance ridden: 17.5 kilometers
Average speed: 11.8 kph
Maximum speed: 44.5 kph
Time on the bike: 1.27.00
Distance ridden in 2007: 1,463.5 kilometers



The Smallest Pub in the World keeps its patrons apprised of important information.


I haven't been able to find anyplace that can beat 17 CZK (87 U.S. cents) for a half-liter of Czech beer. The Smallest Pub in the World ties the current record with its pour of Gambrinus. Note, also, that Sprite and water (Mattoni) are more expensive than the beer!


Sunrise in Černý Vůl. This photo has nothing to do with my cycling. I just wanted to share it.

Comments

Sounds like Stewart adheres to the same philosophy as a friend of mine "Let's take this shortcut, it's longer and the road is not as good"

Grant, why don't you put your bike on the train to Olomouc for a weekend of cycling around Hana. I think I can find you half a dozen places that do beer for less than 17Kc....
I didn't know they had Pislner Urquell in Prague. 8>) It's my favorite.
James Gogarty said…
Aha Grant, I see you now live in Black Ox (Cerny Vul), so that means we absolutely must meet up for a ride or beer soon. I can also show you (and Grant)much more navigatable trails above Tiche Udoli.

So about The Smallest Pub in the World in �holi�ky, well, have you been inside? It ain't so small. It is actually built quite far into the hill. The vaulted ceiling digs far back which makes the hall a bit chilly, great during hot summer days. I believe, or rather guess, that it was previously the wine cellar of the Chateau across the street. Regardless of its size the beer is big and cheap and the experience novel.

James z Roztok
Grant said…
My dear Captain,

I would love to do some cycling around Olomouc, and discover the fabled 16 CZK beer (or less). If not this year, then next, perhaps.

Let's stay in touch!
Grant said…
James,

I can't believe it's been six months or so since first we met, and we still have yet to ride together. We could have used you on our ill-fated Roztoky run! Next time we're out that way, I'll try to get in touch with you.

I did take a peek inside the Pub With No Name, but it still looked mighty small and tight to me! You're probably right about it having been a wine cellar. I'm glad it's serving beer now, though.
Costas said…
>>And a sign on its chimney that points up to Heaven and down to Hell. I'm not sure what else anyone could ask for in a pub, frankly.<<

Grant, I just *love* those watering places you unearth man! : ) After locating the Blues Shack of Hlubocepy, well, that's the next worthy goal to pursue next time I'm in Cz Rep! : )
Best, Costas.
Pavel said…
Grant, just found your blog and it is a wonderful read!

I fell compelled to tell you that there are place where beer goes for as little as 15 CZK... :) If you don't mind taking a train to get there first, of course. Lužické hory is a great cycling spot!
Grant said…
Hi, Pavel,

Thanks for the tip. I really need to get out of Prague more and use the trains. So far, I've only taken a train back from Karlstejn, after cycling there from Prague. I will keep Luzicke hory in mind. I am obsessed with finding a 16 CZK or even 15 CZK pivo!
Anonymous said…
Únětickej poštmistr, to je pěkná krysa,
dopisy jí nedává a furt se k ní lísá.
Krysa, krysa, krysasasa krysa!

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