czech republic

Cycling Europe Day 57: My Body Told Me to Properly Visit Riga – My Body Was Right

Listen to your body. I’ve learned that time and again over the years. People about you will always have brilliant advice on what is good or not for you. They will have objections on your lifestyle. They will tell you what to eat and how to exercise. We all have common sense and most of us already know what is healthy and what is not.

I live what I believe is a generally healthy lifestyle. I listened to my body yesterday and it told me I needed a rest. So I gave it a rest.

This morning my husband and I slept in. What that means is that instead of getting up at 6am we got up at 7am. We ate our breakfast slowly, even though neither of us are ever ones to rush through what we feel is the most important meal of the day. We then spent the morning walking around Riga, Latvia’s capital city, and, because I’m listening to my body, I then took a short but much needed nap.

As a rather frequent traveler, I’m surprised and ashamed about how little to nothing I know about the Baltic states. I am incredibly impressed with Riga. It rivals cities like Vienna and Prague in its architectural beauty, in my opinion, yet if you asked me three months ago what the capital of Latvia was, I’d ask you, “Where the heck is Latvia?”

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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. (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 43: A Big City Girl No Longer Impressed

This will sound awful but I’ll say it anyway. I think I’m all out of excitement for big cities.

Don’t get me wrong. Prague is an absolutely beautiful capital city. But I’ve been to so many over the years that I think they’ve lost their charm on me.

Did you see how excited I was yesterday when I saw a deer leap across the road right in front of me? On this trip, Girona, Verona, and Arles, all relatively small towns, excited me. Despite the hardships, cycling over a mountain excites me. Hiking on mountains excites me. Seeing a school of hammerheads while diving excites the heck out of me. But the big cities just don’t do it for me anymore.

I walked all over Prague today. I took lots of pictures. I was fascinated by the

Prague's Dancing House

Prague’s Dancing House

architecture as I should be. But I quickly felt like I’d rather use the time resting in my hotel room. I’m tired from all the cycling, of course. That could be a factor. But I’ve been like this with large cities for a few years now. Unless I’m in a big city to eat at a special restaurant, catch a special show, or do some big city shopping, I’m just not that interested in seeing the sights anymore.

So I found a Lebanese restaurant to eat some proper Arab food. Man, did I need “normal” food. It was delicious. I even had some of our typical, what we call in Arabic, “Eastern sweets”. Yummmmmy. When I sat down I didn’t have much of an appetite. I haven’t been feeling quite right today. But the minute those plates were put in front of me: humm humm hummm!

I then found a place to get a massage. I was needing my legs done but half way through

Yummy Eastern sweets!

Yummy Eastern sweets!

I discovered this particular masseuse does neck and back only. Her massage was a bit different than others I’ve had before. It wasn’t quite Swedish and it wasn’t quite Thai. I suppose it must be a special Czech massage. Anyway, it was nice and relaxing. I just really wish I could get my legs massaged.

I still don’t have much of an appetite but I’m going to force myself to have dinner. I need energy for tomorrow’s mega hills. I checked the elevation maps. They look ugly. I need to get through two more days of these hills and then, hopefully, I will receive God’s mercy and arrive in flatter terrain.

Today and tomorrow are presidential election days in Egypt. All I have to say about it is that I am so thankful I’m not there to watch the Revolution crumble before our very eyes. It makes me absolutely sick to even think about it.

Cycling Europe Day 42: When the Roads Get Tough, The Tough Get Pumping

Where do I start?

I didn't take any pictures today so you get to see this one again from three days ago when I crossed the border from Austria to the Czech Republic.

I didn’t take any pictures today so you get to see this one again from three days ago when I crossed the border from Austria to the Czech Republic.

I’ll start with the best part of today, which might possibly be one of the best parts of this whole trip.

I was coasting very fast down a big hill. I cycled for most of today on very quiet back roads surrounded largely on both sides by small forests with a few small lakes interspersed. Suddenly, something jumped straight ahead of me over a guardrail and into the road. For a millisecond, I thought it was a big fox. But in the milliseconds that followed and as I almost smashed into it, I realized it was a deer. We almost crashed! It continued to sprint to the other side of the road and into the trees. It was just me and the deer for a very brief period of time on that road. I let out a “Oooooo!” The first two O’s were frightened O’s and the rest were excited O’s. Then I laughed out loud. What an amazing experience! What an absolutely amazing experience.

This wasn’t the first time on this trip for me to see a deer leap across the road. Once, in Spain, while I was standing on a parking shoulder on a semi-busy road eating a banana, I suddenly saw a deer cross the train tracks below me, leap upward onto the road, and then across. That one was further away though than the one I saw today.

Other than that, today was really really rough. I cycled for 131km, most of which were steep, rolling hills. I was actually a pretty good sport about it until it was all over. Every time I came up to the next hill, I just put my head down and pedaled. What else could I do? What choices did I have? None. If I wanted to get anywhere today I would have to cycle on those hills, so I did.

I broke down crying when I spoke to my husband, though. I was a good sport, yes. But it was really really hard.

To put things into perspective, (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 41: True to Myself

When God created what is now the Czech Republic, He made the earth roll like endless

This picture and the ones below are in Jihlava, Czech Republic.

This picture and the ones below are in Jihlava, Czech Republic.

waves in a stormy ocean.

It’s absolutely ridiculous. So ridiculous I’m not even going to complain. What’s the use? I’ll just have to suck it up, grit my teeth, and deal.

And so I’m really tired. That’s not complaining – it’s statement of fact. Every time I saw a hill today (which was every five minutes) I’d give a little sob and decide I was going to get off my bike and walk up that hill. Then I’d roll my eyes at myself and pedal my way up just this last one. That went on for 90km.

Yesterday’s cycle was actually worse because it was 130km of hills. When I got to 75km yesterday I stopped for a burger and complained to my husband. “Just take it ten kilometers at a time, darling,” he said.

That’s actually a great strategy that I’ve used on and off with various distances. Today I

Jihlava is a small town with a big McDonalds smack in its center.

Jihlava is a small town with a big McDonalds smack in its center.

used the ten kilometer strategy. I started off and told myself that 80km was actually just eight ten-kilometers. Ten kilometers is EASY for me to do; so surely I could do eight of them just as easily! I knew my total distance was actually nearer to 90km but I decided not to count the extra distance.”When you have 5-15km left in a ride, you’re basically done. So you don’t need to count the last few kilometers,” I convinced myself.

So I cycled ten kilometers and gave myself a pat on the back. “Now all you have to do, Nadia, is get to 20km,” I’d tell myself. It sounded very reasonable to me so I worked on that. And so on. I was dead tired for most of the way. But as a mental strategy it does help. I used a similar strategy while climbing Kilimanjaro a few short years ago. “Can you put your left foot down in front of you? Yes. Can you now put your right foot down in front of you? Yes.” And I just climbed, literally one small step at a time.

I don’t know how I would have managed to get this far without my husband’s support. Every single day he tells me how great I’m doing. He makes me feel like a super hero. He wasn’t always supportive when this was still in the idea stage, mind you. And I tell you this not to publicly put down my husband but to mainly ward off the evil eye from my marriage. It’s also important for people to understand that everything requires some give and take. Colin was very worried about me going on a trip like this on my own. I think it was when he realized how determined I was to go through with this and when he saw how meticulously I worked on the details that he really stepped up to pull through for me. Colin is the only person who I can show my miserable face to on our nightly Skype calls and not expect him to negatively judge me, put me down, or tell me to do anything less than I had originally planned to. He always tells me to keep going. He always tells me that I can do this. And I end up believing him.

A few people have interjected here and there when I’ve expressed exhaustion in my posts. “Slow down and enjoy yourself,” was the message. When I was at my absolute most miserable today, I briefly decided I wouldn’t write about it. “It’s not what people want to hear,” I heard myself think. I stopped myself right there. I don’t write what people want to hear. I write was IS. If people don’t like it that’s their problem.

Enjoyment is not everybody’s everyday goal. (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 40: Rolling Hills, Genetics, and Hash

Rolling hills. Those are the worst. You know where you stand with mountains. You might have a 20km climb. It might even be steep. But you put your head down and pedal for the distance you know you will climb and up to the altitude you know you will reach and you’re done. Then you either coast down the other side and cycle through a valley or you stay up top for awhile. With rolling hills, it’s just up, down, up, down, like a yo-yo. You feel like you might as well not even count the descents; they are too short to make any difference.

Today I had 130km of rolling hills. In scorching heat. And 19mph winds, partly at my

The Augustinian Abbey of St Thomas in Brno

The Augustinian Abbey of St Thomas in Brno

back and partly pushing me to the side. When I crossed the border between Austria and the Czech Republic, I struggled to understand what types of roads I could use. As far as I can guess, it looks like they have two degrees of motorway that I can’t use. I used the lesser degree twice today for a brief period of time because I couldn’t see where else to go. At least no one tried to kill me or to scare me to death by giving me angry honks. I was scared anyways. It’s never fun cycling on a busy highway. I really hope I figure out the roads tomorrow.

I loved cycling in Austria. I’d recommend it to anyone. The roads are really good for cyclists. The scenery is amazing. The people seem to be nice. I left Austria with an impression about their women in particular: the ones I interacted with seemed genuine, kind, warm, strong, independent, and very hard working. If I go back to Austria one day I’d like to get to know more about Austrian women.

I’ve never been to the Czech Republic before. It’s the third country on this trip so far that I’m visiting for the first time after Portugal and Slovenia. I’m in Brno today, the Czech Republic’s second largest city. You know what I discovered about Brno only after I arrived? It’s the town where Gregor Johan Mendel put together Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance and thus founded modern genetics! I found that so exciting that I spent the entire evening looking for the Augustinian Abbey of St Thomas where Mendel was Abbot. Mendel conducted his experiments on pea plants in the monastery garden.

Brno feels like a tired city to me. Its people looked tired as well. I wonder how much of

Brno

Brno

that is simply a reflection of my own exhaustion today; it must affect how I see things. I’ll tell you one thing though: I get the impression that getting stoned here is a thing the way it is in Amsterdam. I saw several people publicly smoking hash. I also saw several others who looked like they were on stuff other than hash. I wonder what the Czech drug culture is like? It seems common and open but that is merely an impression from one evening out.

The currency in the Czech Republic is not the Euro. I only have Euros on me. So I’m going to have to get some Korunas tomorrow.

Today, a friend of mine told me her 12-year-old son, Ziyad, in Cairo, Egypt, follows my blog posts about this trip regularly and wants to do something similar one day. I want to give Ziyad a huge shout-out because that is probably the best thing I could hear. Ziyad, know that you can do whatever you put your mind to. That’s something I relearned on this trip. I just can’t wait to follow YOUR adventures!