Hares & Hawks, Life & Death

Stewart and I climbed down from our saddles for a short break in Okoř. I'd like to know how many beers we've downed at that table over the years.

Stewart and I went cycling on Monday (February 25). By the time the ride had ended, we'd toasted our good health and confronted death (thankfully, not our own).

We both had time for a short ride, so we took off from my house in Černý Vůl, west of Prague. (Follow our entire route by clicking here.)

Stewart had left his bike at my place after riding over the day before for a barbecue we'd hosted on a spectacular February day. (The temperature officially reached 17 Celsius, or about 63 Fahrenheit, although I think it was much warmer where we were.)

It's still February, and we live in Central Europe, but by god flowers are blooming and there are buds on the trees! Rob even reported seeing some butterflies during his own ride over the same weekend.

Unfortunately, Monday was raw and windy. That's more like the Prague I know.

From my house, we headed to Úholičky, up the steep climb to Tursko, and from there meandered our way along various paths through forests and farmers' fields, fields alive with gigantic European brown hares chasing one another at high speed. Mating season? Man, those things are big!

(I managed to photograph one last year for the blog.)

A pretty little chapel in Noutonice.

We stopped at a chapel and cemetery outside the village of Noutonice and shuffled among the gravestones for a few minutes. I was reminded again of the rather spooky custom here of incorporating photographs or images of the deceased into the grave markers.

On one hand, it's kinda cool to actually see the face of the person who's buried beneath where you're standing. On the other hand, it's kinda creepy to actually see the face of the person who's buried beneath where you're standing.

Either a horse is buried here, or someone who loved horses a lot.

I wonder if they have this custom in other countries. It's the first time I've noticed it. I know they don't do it in the United States.

From there, we took a rough path down behind the village of Okoř, a route that was particularly enjoyable because I had only ever climbed up that path, usually after two or three beers.

The ride down was sweet.

The stream behind Okoř was a bit higher than usual, and since it was cold and raw outside, I walked my bike across the little footbridge there.

Stewart, on the other hand, as a crazy Scot seemingly impervious to the cold and wet, decided to ride through:

He got wet, sure, but one of the great things about cycling is that sometimes you just feel like a kid again. That's got to be good for your health.

We cycled to one of our favorite watering holes in these parts, the Family Hotel Okoř.

We sat outside at the picnic tables and enjoyed a half-liter of Pilsner Urquell for 30 CZK each, or about $1.81 at today's terrible exchange rate. (The global fall of the dollar is killing those of us who get paid in dollars.) Not the cheapest half-liter in Prague, but not too bad for such a nice place.

Outside of Okoř, heading toward Statenice, we passed a huge pile of feathers by the side of the road, which turned out to be a dead hawk. One lovely wing, sadly stilled, pointed skyward.

There was some cassette tape wrapped around part of the carcass, and also some in the branches of a nearby tree, blowing in the breeze.

Stewart's guess was that the hawk might have become entangled in the tape and had then become the victim of another predator, like a fox. The hunter had become the hunted.

Or else it got creamed by a car.

Whatever happened, it was a sad sight to see.

We cycled back to Černý Vůl, and from there split up. We each had family duties to attend to. But, as always, it was great to get out.

Length of ride: 24 kilometers (15 miles)
Average speed: 14.4 kph
Maximum speed: 50.7 kph
Time on the bike: 1.37.10
Pivo Meter: 1 each (3 for the year)
Distance ridden so far in 2008: 276.5 kilometers (172 miles)

I've got to be quick with the camera when there are fresh beers on the table. (Click to enlarge to really get your tastebuds working.)


Dan said…
I know in Italy they typically have a picture of the deceased mounted on their stone; but also they are not buried initially. Families usually have a mausoleum to put the remains for a length of time.
I see pictures on quite a number of headstones in this area. Usually a small oval photo imbedded in the granite.

I can relate to the dollar dilema somewhat, but that 40% + pay cut must hurt.
Grant Podelco said…
That's interesting. I don't ever remember seeing pictures on graves in the U.S. Anyway, here, it's unusual when there's *not* a photograph or two incorporated into the headstone.

Yes, the fall of the dollar hurts more and more with each passing week. It's like getting a daily pay cut.
Anonymous said…

Can you recommend a good bike bazar place (with a wide selection of female bikes) in Prague?

Simon said…
Hi Grant,

I sent you an e-mail about a week ago regarding cycling in the Jested area. Did you receive it?

Anna said…
Hi Grant,

Very common in Malta where I'm from. We usually have the small oval photos on the headstones mentioned already, though some people can actually leave studio shots in frames on the grave itself. It doesn't seem spooky at all to us, most probably because it's part of our culture.

I'm not a cyclist but I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy reading your blog.
Grant Podelco said…
I did receive it, yes, Simon. Thanks very much. And thanks for posting your advice about cycling near Jested on my recent entry about that area, north of Prague. I've got to head up there one of these days, soon!
Grant Podelco said…
Hi, Anna,

Thanks for the info. I guess it's a European thing, although it sounds like it's also happening in the U.S., too. My friend Rob told me it's also quite a popular thing to do in Russia. I guess I just hadn't noticed!
Grant Podelco said…
Hi, Phantasmogorias,

I'm sorry, but I don't really know any bike bazaar places in Prague. I need to explore the bike shops more here and do a post, but I definitely don't know of any bazaars. You might put a post on expats.cz and see who responds. Good luck! Thanks for writing.

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