prague

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…)

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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…)