Mysteries Looking For Answers

Climbing on a fence in Únětice. Kids'll do that.

I'd like to say that I rode my bike to work on Saturday (May 17) because it was Bike-to-Work Week, or Bike-to-Work Day. But Bike-to-Work Week was May 12-16, and Bike-to-Work Day was May 16.

In any event, I didn't even know about these commemorations, which were sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists.

I just rode my bike into work because the weather was nice and I needed the exercise. Whatever the reason, though, it's a good thing to do (for climate change or your waistline), whether you live a couple of kilometers from your office, or close to 20, as I do.

I live in the village of Černý Vůl, northwest of Prague, and took my usual route into work in central Prague -- from Černý Vůl to Únětice, through Roztoky, along the river through Sedlec, into the Prague suburb of Bubenec, into Stromovka park, exiting at Výstaviště, riding through the city streets to Štefánikův bridge, across the Vltava, up Revoluční and into the city.

A cycling path lined with fragrant lilacs between Únětice and Roztoky.

It was a warm and muggy day, with a hint of a rainstorm in the air.

The ride into work was largely uneventful, save for my average speed of 20.4 kph (anything over 20 kph is pretty darn good for me). No run-ins with cars. No wildlife to speak of. Just lots of lilacs lining the trails.

The ride home was a lot more eventful -- full of mysteries, mysteries that I hope readers will be able to help me solve.

First of all, while I was cycling back through Stromovka, I encountered a few dozen guys riding around on these adult-sized scooter things. I don't what they're called. They looked like a lot of hard work, to be honest -- pushing yourself around the park with one foot. I'm not sure what the pleasure is to be had from these scooters. These guys all seemed to belong to some club or something.

Anyone know what they're called and what the deal is with these things?

Then, near Sedlec, on the highway along the river, I encountered something I've seen many times before, and always wondered about. I saw one of the horse-drawn carriages that offer tours of Old Town returning to what I assume is a stable of some sort, or stables, near Suchdol.

Over the past several months, I've seen many of these carriages clip-clopping on the highway toward Suchdol. It's gotta be 10 kilometers, at least, from Old Town Square to Suchdol, on a very busy highway that includes one very long, steep ascent. That seems pretty hard on the horses, especially horses that have spent the entire day ferrying tourists around the cobblestoned streets of Staromestka.

After a long day of pulling bored-looking tourists around the uneven streets of Old Town, these horses have to hoof it the 10 kilometers or so back to their stables somewhere near Suchdol.

Does anyone know where the horses are going? To one large stable? Or do all the carriage drivers just happen to live in Suchdol? And couldn't they find someplace a little closer to Old Town? I know there are stables near Stromovka park.

By the time I got to Roztoky, I was hot and sweaty and, well, thirsty. The water in my bottle tasted like plastic.

Warm plastic.

There's a wonderful little neighborhood pub in Roztoky called Hospůdka Zvířátka (Little Animals) on Tiché údolí that has become one of our favorite spots. It's biker-friendly, has creamy, delicious Cerna Hora beer on tap (a tradition since 1533!), and good grub.

Hospůdka Zvířátka in Roztoky is the perfect neighborhood pub -- friendly service, good food and beer, outdoor seating, and cheap prices.

I just had to stop for a 20 CZK ($1.25) beer. And man, it tasted so good. Does anything taste better than a cold draft beer after a bike ride? Or after just about anything, now that I think about it?

The beer gave me renewed energy for the final six or seven kilometers home, during which I passed a guy -- I won't call him a shepherd -- who was leading a small herd (gaggle?) of goats around the streets of Unetice. The kids sure were cute -- jumping straight up in the air as if they had springs in their hooves.

And that was my ride. A perfect commute, really. A few cool sites, a cold beer, home before the rain came, and a few mysteries, which I can add to my list of other unanswered mysteries from my biking and hiking (such as what kind of bird built a huge nest on a rocky promontory in Unetice, and why do the planes at Prague airport take off from the same runway in one direction on some days and land on the same runway from the other direction on other days? And it's consistent for days at a time. Weather patterns?

If you know the answer to any, or all, of these questions, drop me a line!

Length of ride: 37.5 kilometers
Average speed: 19.1 kph
Pivo Index: 1
Time on the bike: 1.54.01
Distance ridden so far in 2008: 680 kilometers

Looking across the Vltava in Sedlec to a lovely bike path that hugs the east side of the river, north of Prague Zoo.


There is a large stable or 'statek' in Suchdol. It's open to the public for lessons. I pass it a lot on the bike. In fact you probably passed it without noticing. It's on the track I take to Unetice if I've climbed Lysolajske avoid traffic. The one that leads across the fields to a steep decent ending at the lake at Unetice.
James said…
With the horse question now solved, I now bring you the answer to the giant nest conundrum.

Czech scientists have recently discovered the existence of the once-thought-extinct central bohemian condor... No no, sorry.

According to the Mayor of Únětice, Vladimír Vytiska, it is the remnants of a photo shoot by the famous Czech photographer, Jan Pohribný. Some time before our ever-exploring Grant stumbled across this puzzle, Pohribný had constructed the nest and shot it along with an appropriately placed infant to create the image of (the Czech / English) shared expression, 'leaving the nest.' So there we have it, no mysterious pterodactyl simply a child leaving home...

Upon looking at Pohribný's website he appears to enjoy combing nature shots with surreal imagery, several of which were shot around Únětice.

Two mysteries down, but alas I am afraid I can not help you with oversize adult scooter phenomenon.


James z Roztok
Grant Podelco said…
That's amazing, James. Thanks! What a story. A fake nest! It did seem too good to be true. I will have to post your comment on my "Gusto" blog to let readers there know the answer.
Anonymous said…
The planes and airport question is relatively easy to answer. The planes to my knowledge start against the wind, so if the wind is coming several days from one direction they will start in that direction. Once it changes the pilots will have to adjust.

Anonymous said…
Now that I have done most of the loop with Pan Pekar yesterday I have a better appreciation for your stories and photos. My butt still hurts.
Em said…
I don't know what those adult scooter things are, but every now and then in the summer Stromovka is flanked by loads of them and the paths are turned into official 1-legged racetracks.
Grant Podelco said…
Dear Anonymous, It ain't as easy as I make it look, is it??! ;-)
Grant Podelco said…
Thanks, Em. I wish someone would explain the attraction of these things to me! It's like a bike for Fred Flintstone.

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