Just as I was nearing home, I was treated to this sunset over a pond near the village of Černý Vůl.
I felt like the cops were going to grab me at any moment ...
I had to work on Saturday (February 23), and we were having friends over on Sunday, so I thought there was little chance I'd sneak a ride in over the weekend.
"Why don't you ride into work?" Rob suggested.
Well, duh. I felt like an idiot.
Rob was going to be out on a big ride himself on Saturday, so we agreed to meet up and we would ride together for a bit.
I've seen this gorgeous horse in the woods around Roztoky before. The rider, a nice woman who spoke as much English as I do Czech, told me it's half-Arabian and is named Uba.
Sadly, it was dark and cloudy and rainy in the morning, but Rob sent an SMS that it wasn't too bad out there. At least the temperature was mild, probably around 50 Fahrenheit or 10 Celsius (I forgot to check).
I really wanted to ride, so I suited up and headed out.
I don't know about you, but it seems to take me about an hour to get all my stuff together, by the time I put on my biking shorts, long thermal biking tights, shirt, jacket, socks, gloves, shoe covers and helmet cover, and get fresh water in my bottle, check my tires, attach my headlight (I thought I might be riding back in the dark), find and update my iPod, make sure my backpack has a spare tube and pump, and throw in a towel to dry off with once I arrived at the office.
Jeesh. You'd think I was suiting up for a spacewalk or something.
I met Rob in Únětice, and we cycled together in the drizzle to Roztoky (where we rode past a lovely white horse and rider, quite a sight in the empty, wet woods) and then along the river to Sedlec.
It was a short ride together, but it's always nice to have some company, especially on such a gray day. He broke off shortly after and headed up toward Divoká Šárka and a longer ride, while I headed into Prague proper.
It had been awhile since I cycled through the city, and I decided to take the scenic route, through Mala Strana (the Lesser Quarter) and Old Town Square.
On my way to work, overlooking the quarter of Prague known as Mala Strana.
I also decided to try to ride my bike across Prague's famous 650-year-old Charles Bridge, and use the video function on my digital camera to film the experience. Even though it's one of the city's biggest tourist sites, I thought it might be empty since it was mid-morning on a weekend and raining.
No such luck.
It was as packed with tourists as a sunny summer's day, and even though I was pretty sure that cyclists are supposed to walk their bikes across (although I never saw a sign that specifically said that), I decided to give it a go.
As you can see from this video, the tourists, not the cops, got the better of me:
From the Charles Bridge, it was a short ride to Old Town Square, and then along cobbblestoned streets to Náměstí Republiky (Republic Square), the site of one of the most beautiful buildings in the world -- the Obecní Dům, or Municipal House, an Art Nouveau masterpiece that houses a concert hall and which opened to the public in 1912. It's astoundingly beautiful, and the level of detail is something to behold -- from the exquisite ladybug tiles in the basement to the "Homage to Prague" mosaic above the front entrance.
The entrance to the Obecní Dům.
By this time, the clouds had scattered, and the building glistened like a jewel in the sunlight.
Speaking of cobblestoned streets, I'd forgotten how tricky they are to ride on. My big fat mountain-bike tires really helped, and I'm glad I had them. The last time I rode for such a distance on cobblestones was when I had my old trekking bike, with much thinner tires.
A closeup of the treacherous cobblestones.
It's easy to get your tires lodged in the cracks, and they get super slippery when they're wet.
In the end, it turned out to be about 19 kilometers from my home to the office.
The return ride was even more pleasant, since the sun stayed out that afternoon, and I had the chance to witness a spectacular sunset just as I arrived home.
I did come across something that I found highly amusing on the return journey.
I ended up crossing Štefánikův most, a major bridge over the Vltava that had recently been reconstructed and repaved. I hadn't been on it since it was repaired, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find that they had installed a dedicated bike lane.
We have some bike paths in the Czech Republic, but dedicated bike lanes on roads with cars are something seldom seen in this part of the world. At least in my experience.
Will wonders never cease? A dedicated bike lane on a busy bridge in Prague.
I couldn't help but laugh, though, when about halfway across the bridge, I discovered that the bike lane simply ended. Cyclists are suddenly forced to merge with cars and trucks, just ahead of a busy intersection.
The wonders cease. The end of the bike lane, in the middle of a busy bridge.
That makes absolutely no sense to me.
Why go to all the trouble of marking a bike lane that vanishes just when you need it most??!! I guess I should give them credit for something, but really, what's the point?
I survived the intersection, rode up through Letna park, where the picnic tables in the beer garden were filling up with folks intent on enjoying the springlike weather, and headed into Stromovka park, where I hooked up with the river again and the bike path that took me back to Roztoky, Únětice, and home to Černý Vůl.
The sky turned pink and purple to celebrate my safe return.
As Hemingway might say, the ride was good, truly.
Length of ride: 38.5 kilometers (24 miles)
Average speed: 16.3 kph
Maximum speed: 35.5 kph
Time on the bike: 2.20.00
Distance ridden so far in 2008: 252.5 kilometers (157 miles)
I fooled around with this photo I took of the Charles Bridge to make it look like an old hand-colored postcard. There are many views of the city that haven't changed in hundreds of years.
The 650-year-old Charles Bridge, one of Prague's most famous landmarks, as it really looks on a rainy February morning.