Spring Is Like An X-Ray

Who died here? And why?

Spring is like an X-ray.

The snow finally melts, the bushes and the trees are bare, and a cyclist or a hiker can see through things -- through hedges into normally hidden gardens, through bushes to the busted television left abandoned by the side of the road, through a tree line and across a valley to the usually hidden village below.

It was a glorious spring weekday, and I had the day off, so I went for a bike ride.

First, I had to fix the flat rear tire that I had discovered when I set out on my previous ride. Unthread the chain, remove back tire, remove old tube, install new tube, and rethread the damn chain (I always hate that part). Then I was off. (Oddly, I pumped up the old tube, and it's still holding air, even a few days later. A very, very slow leak, perhaps, but very strange.)

I was solo for this weekday outing, and I decided to tackle a hill that I'd never attempted before -- the Horoměřice Hill. It's a long and winding road from the area known as Jeneralka up, up, up to the plateau just outside of the village of Horoměřice. It never seems to end, even when you're driving it.

A farmer's field and hunting tower near Horoměřice.

I shouldn't say I've never attempted it before. I did make it to the top one day quite a few years ago on my old trekking bike. I was living in Prague 1 at the time and wasn't that familiar with this area (where I now live), and I made a wrong turn in an effort to outrun a fierce rainstorm and found myself on an unknown hill that seemed to ascend forever.

I kept looking for a place to seek shelter, but there was none to be found. I kept pedaling and the hill kept unfolding before me. Finally, I pulled my bike into the forest and sought some comfort under the leaves of the trees. I was soaked through and remember taking off my waterlogged shirt and wringing it out. I finally made it to the top and then the sun came out (!) and I headed home.

I'd never attempted it since.

I left my home in Černý Vůl, headed up and out to Horomerice along a back way that I'd discovered last year. On a back road in Horoměřice, I came across a cool old tree that I hadn't noticed on my previous rides. It was growing out of a house and courtyard that seemed to have been built around it. And then I noticed a sign that indicated that the tree was an oak, was more than 300 years old, and was officially protected.

I love to see such signs. I must say that the Czechs seem to love chopping down trees (as you'll see later in this post). I've seen it so many times in my many years living in the country. Yes, perhaps some of the trees are legitimately diseased, but in most cases, there seems to be little, if any, legitimate reason for their removal. Doesn't the European Union have regulations governing the arbitrary removal of trees?

The 300-year-old oak in Horoměřice.

Anyway, I'd cycled along that road many times and had never noticed the tree or the sign. A bike ride often reveals things that are usually left unseen. I'm always amazed by what I discover, even on supposedly familiar territory.

From there, it was into the village of Horoměřice and then across a wonderful dirt trail across the plateau above Jeneralka, then across a wonderful forest path above Nebušice that I've written about before, then through the village of Nebušice, then down, down, down the hill from Nebušice to Jeneralka.

A fantastic forest path above Nebušice.

And then it was time to steel myself for the climb. I took a puff on my asthma inhaler and a long swig of water and set off.

The traffic wasn't too bad (it's a fairly busy highway), and while it seemed neverending, the climb wasn't quite as difficult as it appeared. I stuck it out and didn't pause for a rest until I was on flat ground on the flat stretch of road leading into Horoměřice. I was quite proud of myself, actually.

What I had feared I conquered.

From there, I basically backtracked back home.

Along the way, however, I stopped to pay my respects at a homemade roadside memorial that I had noticed many times before from my car. A small cross and faded flowers marked the spot where someone with the initials of M.J. must have died a few years before. A cyclist, perhaps, struck down by an aggressive driver? A pedestrian who suffered the same fate? Or even a motorist (although I find that the least likely scenario)?

You see quite a few of these makeshift memorials along the roads around Prague. Not surprising, considering the insane Czech drivers -- some of the most aggressive and least courteous in all the world.

My route on this ride. (Click to enlarge)

From there it was back along Route 240, through the village of Horoměřice and down into Černý Vůl.

Along Route 240, I was able to get a closer look at a vast apple orchard -- hundreds of lovely trees -- that had recently been ripped from the ground. It's a shocking sight, and I was so depressed the first time I saw the destruction, driving home from work one day.

The field of fallen apple trees.

Why? Why? Why pull hundreds of apple trees out of the ground by their roots? Are they going to use the field to build new houses? Is the new Prague ring road going through that space?

Who knows. It's like looking at one of those Matthew Brady photographs from the Battle of Gettysburg, bodies on top of bodies, splayed in various poses of death. I find the sight incredibly distressing.

On the way home, passing through Černý Vůl, I was attacked by a beefy Doberman Pinscher. Fortunately, he was wearing a muzzle or he would have chewed my leg off, I fear. He was definitely trying to bite me. His owner was walking him without a leash in the village (which I will never understand) and he saw me and my bike and attacked.

Funny that in all the riding I've done that that hasn't happened more. This was the first time, actually.

Thus ended my ride of unexpected discovery.

Length of ride: 19 kilometers
Average speed: 11 kph
Maximum speed: 44.7 kph
Time on the bike: 1.41.06
Pivo Index: 0
Distance ridden so far in 2010: 52.5 kilometers


Karin said…
Hi! Your bike trips are interesting to me, that is why I religiously watched your blog throughout the winter (yes, I am the one that continued to check your blog daily - but of course you couldn't ride in the snow!) :) but I did read all your past blogs which were fun to read. ANYWAY, I enjoy your trips for several reasons....learning about Prague's countryside outside the city, (I don't bicycle much anymore - got lazy and graduated to a scooter), also I just enjoy your writing style and your humor!

I can certainly identify with: bad drivers (I am an American living in Greece for 10 years and Ireland for 6 before that). Both those countries have bad drivers and lots of roadside crosses for people who have died in accidents! Dogs: yup, they love to chase scooters, too. Scary. Thanks ever so much for the maps, they are a great help for us map readers!

A great blog!
Karin from Paros, Greece
Gio said…
Welcome to spring Grant. I can sympathize with you on the bad driver issue but I assure you it is not a Czech thing. Even here in health concious Colorado the drivers just don't see/care about cyclists. On the contrary I look forward to our trips back to Czech to see the in laws as the driving is much much simpler there.

Anyway, be safe and enjoy the coming season. Oh and lets see you up that pivo index, hmmm.?

Grant Podelco said…
Hi, Karin! Thanks so much for the nice note. I really appreciate it. It's nice to know I have a loyal reader in Greece. And I envy you living in Ireland for six years. It's my favorite country in the world!
Grant Podelco said…
Gio, I'm working on the pivo index. I've got some catching up to do. And I've even started a whiskey index!
Marek said…
Hello! I don't know how I found this blog, but I find it very amusing, that while I'm sitting in the UK some American guy is riding through my backyard. :) (I was born and raised on the border of Sarka)
First I thought that I can include some tips as where to go, but judging by the pictures, you have been everywhere in the vicinity (Sarka, Okor, both sides of Vltava valley) so please just continue to ride the paths, so they don't become grown in, while I'm out of home...
Grant Podelco said…
Thanks, Marek! I will do my best to keep the paths clear for your return.
jacqui said…
Hi Grant
I live in Horomerice and love to cycle through our forest. Do you perhaps have either trails through the forest (which connects Predni, Statenice and Horomerice) or a link to a forest trail map? Take care and many thanks, Jacqui
Grant Podelco said…
Hi, Jacqui. There are some lovely trails that connect Statenice to Predni. They start on the road between Statenice and Tuchomerice, to the left just past the soccer field in Statenice. Or you can head up into the forest on a trail that starts just above the cute little outdoor restaurant/pub that is on the edge of Statenice, a bit before the soccer field. You can get to all of these by following the old road that connects Horomerice to Statenice. It's quite a climb uphill from Statenice to Horomerice on that road, but it can be done! Hope this helps.

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