'Much In The Way Of Foliage To Be Endured'
"What's keeping you fellows?" Stewart assures us there's a path in there somewhere, deep in the wilds of Roztoky.
An invitation popped into my inbox on Saturday. It was from my good friend Stewart Moore, aka Booda:
"I scoped out a new Roztoky route that leads to a surprising and beautiful site of Celtic significance...if this were of interest we could meet at Koliba...but I must warn you it is 100% Booda and you will look like you have been dragged through a hedge backwards by the end....much in the way of foliage to be endured."
I've never been known to shy away from a bit of foliage, at least now that I'm riding my GT mountain bike. I even took my old Univega touring bike over its fair share of hills and dales and ruts and roots, usually with Stewart ferociously leading the way.
We met up on Sunday (October 14) at Koliba, our favorite watering hole, in Roztoky. Our friend Mark Baker also came along for the ride.
The path from my house in Černý Vůl to Roztoky was a delight, upholstered in newly fallen leaves, hundreds of them still falling, like oversized confetti.
In a departure from our usual routine, we started the ride with some food and beverage (OK, we had a few beers and some soup, but hey, it was a 7-kilometer ride just to get there, so we kinda deserved it). It was a crisp, cool and sunny morning, and there was a big fire blazing in Koliba's cozy dining room. The outdoor terrace was closed. (They said there'd been ice on the pond that morning.)
It was a wonderful way to start the day. We had a few half-liters of Budvar and some fantastically cheesy French onion soup and as our lips flapped we came up with a fantastic idea for a Prague business that could make us all a ton of money. (No, I'm not telling what it is.)
The beers and hot victuals stoked us up to tackle Stewart's new Roztoky route, which began on a steep trail just around the corner from Koliba. Despite a few glasses of Czech energy drink, it was impossible for any of us to make it to the top in one go. Too steep and too many of those aforementioned ruts and rocks.
(To see a map of our entire route, click here. And if you click on the KML icon and import it into Google Earth, you can watch a cool 3-D flyover.)
From the top, we wound around through some fields and abandoned orchards, through some fine old neighborhoods of Roztoky, across some new developments being constructed, until we ended up on a magnificent cliff top overlooking the Vltava River, far below. Quite a view, and such a beautiful day.
On the other side of a deep valley we could see a beautiful church. This was where "much in the way of foliage" began. To get to the church, we had to descend a steep, overgrown "path" to the valley floor. There was as much walking of our bikes as there was riding.
OK, maybe Stewart did more riding. But he paid the price. On his descent, he took a nasty tumble over his handlebars and into some bushes. Sadly, a spill not witnessed by either Mark or myself but in full evidence by the bloody gash and scrapes on his calf.
What comes down must go up, at least when we're riding, and we had to conquer some steep climbs to reach the church.
It turns out the surrounding site is quite a famous one -- Levý Hradec. It's said the area was inhabited starting in the seventh century. There are the remains of a 9th-century hill fort, and the site is called the birthplace of Christianity in Bohemia. The area was ruled by the first Czech prince, Bořivoj (at least the first historically provable Czech prince), and he founded the pre-Romanesque Rotunda of St. Clement. Parts of the original rotunda are preserved under the 17th century Church of St. Clement, which is what stands on the site today.
The Church of St. Clement in Roztoky, the site of what some call the birthplace of Christianity in Bohemia.
It's a beautiful spot, in a commanding location, and further proof that Prague must be one of the most interesting places in the world to cycle. In just a few short kilometers, no matter which direction you set off, you never fail to to encounter magic and mystery and history.
I'll have to go back to Levý Hradec and explore a bit more. As it was, we kept pedaling, taking a back route down into Úholičky, to the Pub With No Name (which was, sadly, closed). Fortunately, another pub was open across the street, where we enjoyed another round, sitting outside in the glorious sunshine. You see, the sun don't shine that much around these parts this time of year.
I'm still fascinated by the vestiges of the Czech Republic's communist past. Many shops were -- and in some cases, still are -- called simply Smoked Meat or Hats, or in the case of this ancient Roztoky shop, Shoes.
From there, I decided to show them what's become one of my favorite new routes, which I've written about twice now -- from Úholičky, to Tursko and Kozinec, through to Holubice and Svrkyně.
The guys seemed to like it as much as I do, although we did get honked at gratuitously by a Czech driver when we stopped for a breather and were sticking out into the road a bit. That kind of thing really gets Stewart riled up. I guess I've come to expect it. Everyone in this country seems to turn into aggressive assholes when they're behind the wheel. Funny for a nation famous for its historical passivity.
We arrived in Svrkyně with the intention of heading to Okoř for another beer or two, but it was getting late, so we decided to head back. I was close to home, but for them it'd be no fun getting caught in the pitch-black forest at night with no headlamp. A few weeks ago, Stewart stopped by my house for a nightcap after a ride and had to pedal home in the inky blackness. He maintains he navigated by looking up the stars the whole time, figuring that if he could see the sky, he was on the path.
I say he needs to get a front light.
From Svrkyně, we took an unknown path through a farmer's field, which ended up connecting back to Tursko. We retraced our route to Úholičky, where we parted ways. I to Velké Přílepy and Statenice-Černý Vůl, and they toward Roztoky and Prague 6.
Next time, we'll leave a bit earlier so we can end up at my place for a post-ride barbecue and still have enough daylight for them to get home.
Length of ride: 41 kilometers
Average speed: 14.7 kph
Maximum speed: 51.9 kph
Distance ridden so far in 2007: 1,579 kilometers
Koliba through the seasons. Yet another photograph of the lovely Roztoky restaurant on Grant's Prague Bike Blog.
A beautifully preserved Škoda from the 1960s, I think, seen on a street in Tursko.
A hole in the wall in Úholičky.