Cycling Europe Day 44: When Hope Returns

I didn’t get killer hills today!!

Turnov, Czech Republic

Turnov, Czech Republic

I got thunder, lightening, intense rain showers, and absolutely soaking wet.

BUT I DIDN’T GET KILLER HILLS TODAY!

You have no idea how happy I am. I cycled 95km today. In the best of conditions that is a lot for me. The terrain was not flat by any means. It was mildly undulating. For most of the ride it was raining really hard. I had to be extra careful so I wouldn’t slip. I got splashed on countless times by trucks and cars. I had to change my upper body clothes twice because I got so wet I was shivering. I had to pee more times than normal probably because I was feeling cold. But did any of that matter to me? Not one bit as long as I did not get the killer hills!

Everything is so relative. If I had a ride like today just some time last week, I’d have been miserable. But now that I’ve seen TRULY miserable, almost anything is better in comparison.

I’ve been thinking about my visit to Prague and other large cities and why they don’t impress me much anymore. The advantage to doing the kind of trip I’m doing is that you get to see so much more of a country than you would by taking planes or driving a car on motorways. You see the backroads and the small towns and villages. You stop and eat in the tiniest of roadside restaurants. You see how people live across the country and the differences in standards of living. You stop in towns where tourists rarely, if ever, go.

I wouldn’t say that you get to see the REAL country and people. The capital city, with its inhabitants, usually smarter lifestyle, tourists, and tourist attractions are all part of what makes a certain country what it is. But it’s only a part.

That made me reflect on Egypt. Cairenes tend to think of Cairo as being Egypt. Not only that, Egyptians who live outside of Cairo, when traveling to Cairo, will say they are going to Masr, the Arabic word for Egypt. When I think about all the horrible things I dislike about living in Egypt, most of them are related only to living in Cairo: such as the awful traffic. I’ve always said that the second one sets foot outside of Cairo, one sees how beautiful Egypt actually is.

Yet so much of the rest of Egypt outside of Cairo is under-served. I’ve frequently thought how nice it would be to move out of Cairo and live in another Egyptian city. But I’ve always worried about not finding decent schools for my children or not having access to semi-decent healthcare. Those are already very bad in Cairo. They are generally worse elsewhere.

Anyway, my trip has made me think more than I already do about my fellow Egyptians who live outside the capital. And it’s made me renew my awareness that although Cairo is an important part of Egypt, it is only that: a part.

It’s wrong to make broad generalizations about a country’s people, period. It’s impossible to get to know a people from the kind of whisp-through visits I’m making. But it’s really hard not to make some observations about them. I’ve often thought in the short few days I’ve spent in the Czech Republic that Czechs don’t look like happy people. They seem to be generally nice. But they don’t look happy. I wonder if they are genuinely unhappy or if they have the kind of culture where people aren’t very expressive. I’ve noticed that cyclists in the Czech Republic rarely acknowledge each other with the head nod I’m accustomed to. I’ve had no trouble at all with motorists here. They seem to be conscientious. Waiters, waitresses, receptionists, and people I’ve asked for directions on the street have all been helpful. But they seem to lack expression. I’ve watched Czechs interact with each other and I’ve noticed the same.

Today I am in the northern Czech town of Turnov that’s traditionally known for gemstone polishing and glass craftsmanship. It’s pouring rain outside today so I’m staying inside and have only been able to see the main square and the streets leading up to it. It’s a small town but large enough to have a few hotels.

Tomorrow I climb into mountains, the hotel receptionist tells me. The weather report predicts stormy weather again. I’ll just have to take it slowly and be careful.

3 comments

  1. Not only is it Cairenes that see Cairo as all of Egypt, it’s the government and the businesses too. They all cater and address life in Cairo. Even Alexandria sometimes gets left out. Nice post.

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