Let 'Er Říp

The Nelahozeves Castle, reflected in the Vltava.

On the heels of our epic ride to Mělník, the boys decided to ride from Prague to Říp.

Říp (pronounced ZHEEP) is the legendary hill that rises almost 500 meters up from the flatlands north of Prague. If you live in these parts, you've seen it, even if you didn't know what it was. It's believed that Říp is where the first Slavs settled. It's a distinctive part of the landscape in these parts, the remains of an old volcano.

Stewart and I had driven to Říp on a winter's day a few years ago and hiked to the top, which turned out to be a lot of fun but not the most strenuous hike.

Cycling to the top would be a different matter, however.

We met early one morning in the village of Statenice -- not far from my house in Černý Vůl -- and headed off to Okoř. On this ride would be Stewart Moore, David Murphy, Rob Coalson, and a new addition to our riding circle, Marian Opletal. Though it's a traditional watering hole for our brood, we decided it was a bit too early for a beer in Okoř.

From Okoř, we headed the back route toward Zakolany. The guys decided to head up the hill to the ancient settlement site of Budec, a grueling climb. I decided to save my legs and took the road route to Zakolany and would meet them there.

Once in Zakolany, I spied a pub that had already opened its doors and went in and ordered myself a beer.

No sooner had I taken a sip than my phone rang. It was Stewart.

"Have you ordered a beer yet?" he asked.

"Just did."

"You won't believe this, but there's a big festival going on up here. Pig on a spit. Beer. Get your ass up here."

Now, the funny thing is, we had been joking just a few minutes before about how beautiful Budec is but how nothing ever seems to happen up there. About how cool it would be if there was a pub up there and we could enjoy a few cold ones to reward us for the climb. It never occurred to me that Stewart, with his call, could have been playing a practical joke to get me to cycle up there. So naive.

I inhaled my beer, hopped on my bike, and made the even steeper climb to Budec from the Zakolany side. So much for saving my legs.

We were surprised to find a Renaissance festival in full swing at the ancient settlement site known as Budec.

Some of the food from olden times on sale at the fair in Budec (above and below).

Fortunately, Stewart wasn't kidding.

Indeed, there was a huge Renaissance festival happening up there -- ham roasting over open fires, archery and crossbow classes, arts and crafts for sale, a metalsmith, a sword-fighting demonstration. And beer.

We had a couple of cold ones, and I enjoyed a plate of freshly roasted ham, mustard and brown bread.

What a fantastic thing to find.

Ham roasting on an open fire. So good. Say what you want about Czech cuisine, they know their ham.

Beers at Marina Vltava (from left, Rob Coalson, David Murphy, Marian Opletal, Stewart Moore, and me).

From Budec, it was back to Zakolany, and then along a back route to Kralupy that Stewart and I had cycled a few times coming from the opposite direction. It's a fantastic trail, one of my favorites, even though I'm not sure I could find my way if Stewart wasn't riding with me. He discovered it many years ago. There are no cars, for the most part -- just leafy trails through beautiful forest on a ride that defines what mountain biking is all about.

In Kralupy, we headed up to Nelahozeves to have a few more beers at Marina Vltava.

By this time, it was around 1, as I remember it. It had taken us something like four hours to ride 25 kilometers!

The plan was to have lunch in Říp. Based on our last ride to Mělník, I knew that a trip to Říp was likely to be an all-day affair, even though the kilometer total isn't all that high. Lunch would likely be around 3 or 4 p.m.

I had things to do and couldn't afford to get home so late. I rode with the guys for a bit longer, north of Marina Vltava, then crossed over to the east side of the Vltava and headed back toward Roztoky. I waved goodbye as they set off for Říp.

As I understand it, they didn't get back to Prague until 10 p.m. or so that night, after getting lost and having to take the train home for at least part of the way. I'm hoping some of my cycling pals will write about their adventures so the full story of the Ride to Říp can be told.

As for me, I had a great ride back to Roztoky along the infamous Baker Falls trail. I sucked down another beer before taking the ferry across to the west side of the river. I took the path from Roztoky to Unetice and then home to Černý Vůl.

Truth be told, I was whipped and secretly glad I didn't have to face the ride back to Prague from Říp. But I have a feeling I missed out on some great adventures.

Watch this space.

Length of ride: 60 kilometers
Average speed: 15.7 kph
Maximum speed: 43.9 kph
Time on the bike: 3.46.24
Pivo Index: 5
Distance ridden so far in 2011: 452 kilometers

Stewart's new Mongoose on its maiden voyage.

I got a kick out of this. At the Renaissance Fair at Budec, kids got to use washboards to clean clothes, as if it was some sort of fun thing to do in your spare time.

I also got a kick out of the crossbow demonstration. Kids got to fire real arrows from a real crossbow at a target about 20 meters away. I'm not sure this type of thing would ever be allowed in the United States, for example. Too bad. Very cool. Wish I could have fired a crossbow when I was 9 years old.

Dew on field grass near Budec.

When I was riding alone to Zakolany, I spotted this giant cracked concrete pipe. For some odd reason, I decided to stop, climb inside and take a photo. I'm weird.

The boys at Castle Okoř, early in the ride.

The lovely ride down into the village of Okoř.


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