Saturday, May 5th, 2018
The year 2018 was the one hundredth anniversary of the creation of the Czechoslovak State which emerged from the ashes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the Great War.
Although the formation itself took place quite late in the year, on October 28th, as 2018 was the centenary year, there were to be endless events.
May the 5th was chosen by Prague HOG as a time to begin its own celebrations. The following Tuesday, May 8th, in the Czech Republic (it split from what is now the Slovak Republic on January 1st, 1993) is always a State holiday and commemorates the end of the Second World War when the country was liberated from the Nazis. Because people usually use a day off in the week to take some longer holiday, it meant we would get more people if we went at the weekend. The fact that the “liberation” ushered in nearly forty-five years of Soviet inspired oppression seems to be largely forgotten. Anyway, this is about motorcycling, not politics, so let us move on.
We met, as is usual, in a petrol station so that everyone could make sure their tank was full and, as in Lucie’s case, help themselves to a much needed coffee. The location chosen was in Chrášťany, a small village just to the west of Prague. It was a beautiful, sunny morning and there was a good crowd.
To mark the special occasion, our Director had arranged for us all to have a special tee shirt which combined the twin themes of the State anniversary and motorcycling.
We all also decorated our Harleys with red, white and blue ribbons, which are the colours of the national flag and, in some cases (such as on our own bike), the national flag as well.
The first part of the ride took us the fifty or so kilometres west of Prague to Lány.
The spring was in full flow and in many of the fields, the bright yellow flowers of oil-seed rape (Canola) already stretched away into the distance.
Lány is the site of the country retreat of the Czech President (a sort of Chequers/Camp David equivalent). The purpose of the visit though was not to see the manor, but to lay a wreath, in the nearby cemetery, at the grave of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (affectionately, TGM). Masaryk was the politician principally responsible for the creation of the Czechoslovak State in 1918.
HOG Prague does love its group photos and we posed for one both in the cemetery itself and then another, proudly displaying our commemorative tee shirts, in the car park where we had left our Harleys.
From Lány, we all set off to ride the one hundred and fifty or so kilometres to the southern Bohemian town of Sezimovo Ústí and the villa of Edvard Beneš.
As always, our planners had worked out a pleasant route down secondary roads and at one point this passed over the huge dam at Slapy. This barrage, which is one of several on the Vltava river, is the highest one in the whole State and has an enormous lake behind it. As it was slightly over halfway to our next destination, the dam was a good and very picturesque opportunity for a cigarette break and, naturally, a group photo …..
We carried on through the green countryside of south-central Bohemia.
We passed through the historic town of Tabor to the smaller settlement of Sezimovo Ústí which lays on its southern fringes. The way to the villa was well signposted and it was easily found. The car park was not a large one and it was soon filled, almost to capacity, with gleaming Harley-Davidsons.
Dr Edvard Beneš also played a major role in the creation of the State and was the a Republic’s second President and leader, in exile, during the Second World War. The villa can be found in the eponymous street (Dr. E. Beneše 201, 391 01 Sezimovo Ústí). We again paused to lay a second wreath upon his grave, which was in the grounds and, of course, to take a group photo ……
We dispersed for a quick lunch and then refilled our Harleys for the trip back to Prague and our final tribute of the day. That was a bumper day for the petrol station we chose, I can assure you of that. The intention was to make a final stop in the castle precincts in Prague to lay a final wreath at a commemorative statue of TGM.
Possibly because of time-constraints (we had been dawdling a bit) this last stretch, of around one hundred and twenty five kilometres, was made up Route 3, which in some places has attained motorway status as the E55 and then the D1 (E50). Very unusually, this faster road caused us to lose our normally cast-iron group cohesion. Instead of our usual column, it became a little bit of a free-for-all with people riding at THEIR chosen speed. Some of this was really very quick and our ageing FatBoy was soon lagging – and we were not alone. The group quickly became spread out over a long distance and we arrived at the castle, agin unusually, in dribs and drabs.
In retrospect, it was generally felt that this had not been the way to do it.
Even though we had not arrived en-masse, we still attracted quite a bit of attention and our Director was watched by quite a crowd of tourists as he placed the final wreath at the base of the statue.
We stood around and chatted for a bit, took the inevitable group photograph (repeated by hundreds of curious tourists) and then dispersed to our separate homes.
All-in-all quite a good day, but the the final thrash up the motorway did take a little of the shine off of it !