Thursday, June 9th, 2022
Distance ridden 299 kilometres
I woke up early, around 5 a.m., as I usually do and, in the quiet of early morning, I could hear the unmistakable drip, drip, drip of water. When you know you have a longish way to ride on a motorcycle, this is NOT what you want to hear at all. Most of Lucie’s various weather applications had predicted a sunny start but, almost inevitably, rain of some form between a shower and a deluge before we got home to Prague.
When I got up though, it was not actually raining, but it obviously had been. What I could hear was the final throes of what had evidently been quite a storm running off of the brewery roof and down the drainpipes. The chimney with the stork’s nest was right outside our window and, although looking up I could not see the bird, I could hear the gentle clacking sound of its beak as it presumably reassured it chicks that the rain was over.
I still had almost two hours before I needed to conjure up a coffee for Lucie, so I decided to explore. The storks, as ever, fascinated me.
As a Virgo, I am scarily predictable, so I was not really surprised to find myself heading again towards the “closed” road. I just wanted to be certain we could actually exit at the far end as we had not checked that point on the previous evening. I noted that some enterprising local had now fully moved the first barrier, so as to be able to drive by without turning the steering wheel too much. This, presumably meant a similar action had been taken at the far end, but I decided to walk there anyway as I am almost obsessive about my 10,000 steps a day and it was only a couple of kilometres away.
The sun was now up and warming the air and the smell of the moist countryside was lovely. The smooth, tarmac, still that deep black that hinted at its “newness” wound gently away in front of me. It was neatly bordered (this was Germany remember) with shiny white gravel.
Lucie and I are keen gardeners and amongst a long list of “enemies” that a gardener has (and with which I will not bore you) are those rapacious members of the Gastropod family. To the man in the street, these are slugs and snails. I was astonished to see that, crossing the new road, there were literally thousands of the former. This might sound like hyperbole, but I assure you it was true. There must have been several, at various stages of their individual crossing, for every metre I walked. In my “home” life, this would have produced an orgy of slaughter as I inevitably stamp on every slug I see, but it was a lovely morning so I ignored them on the premise that even a slug GT was never going to make it to Prague in time to nibble my beans. I have often wondered whether Buddha, who declared that “ALL life is sacred” was a gardener, but I decided to follow, at least temporarily, his precepts. Yes, that IS how I think !
I reached the end of the road, verified that egress would be possible and turned around to walk back. It was then that I realised something that I consider very strange and which I will now share with you. It is in no way at all related to motorcycling, but I feel a need to record it.
In my former “life” I was a Business Analyst, which sounds grander than it is. A part of this involves an ability to spot patterns and, in contrast, anomalies. As I walked back across the seemingly endless lines of migrating slugs, something VERY strange struck me. Slugs are ghastly things and I suppose that, in fairness, nobody (except, presumably, Gastropod “experts”) really wants to look at them too closely, if at all. However, as I ambled along, I first wondered what was making them abandon one piece of lushly grassed countryside to make what was a perilous crossing to its green twin on the other side of the tarmac.
Even at that early hour, there had been the odd car passing (as rule “bending” locals sought to avoid the detour) and some slugs had already paid the ultimate price for attempting their trek. Slugs are pragmatists though and later travellers were gorging on the remains of the more unlucky. Of course, as we had seen in Australia, this did place them, rather neatly, directly in the tyre tracks, but that is life. In one particular area, it was literally a sea of squashed slugs.
It was as I navigated around this, that I noticed something which totally astonished me. In the interests of “scientific” accuracy, I cannot claim that 100% of them were heading the same way – but I think it would be fair to claim that 99% were ! The more I looked, the more this was borne out ! I could not help it, out came my iPhone with its compass and I was further astonished to note that the transit was being made almost directly from east to west. The road was largely straight, running on a North North West-South South East axis, but it had a few shallow curves. Where these occurred, almost unbelievably, the direction of the transits shifted to be more oblique and the direction, in compass terms remained the same. There were a few snails too – but they were doing it differently !
As Shakespeare’s Hamlet says, whilst pondering the things we do NOT know “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. I wandered towards home bemused by the wonders of nature.
Herrnwahlthann was a quaint little village, but slightly quirky in that inimitable German way. A lot of the gardens contained strange ornaments and the orderliness of everything was a bit scary, nobody wants to stand out. There was not the tiniest shred of litter anywhere but, rather peculiarly, there was a long dead Christmas tree, complete with baubles, beside the road. In such a sea of orderliness, it stuck out like a sore thumb !
I passed a neat little cabinet, beside the road, bearing the inscription “Honig” (Honey). Inside, in a neat, honeycomb interior, were jars of honey that were for sale. I helped myself to a jar and put my six Euros on the shelf next to some other money. Sadly, I cannot imagine such honesty in Prague.
At the entrance to the brewery was a May Pole like structure, decorated with various heraldic coats of arms.
I took Lucie an expresso from the breakfast restaurant and went to check the oil-level on the Harley. It was slightly low, but not markedly considering how much oil was on my biking jeans, but I topped it up anyway.
The breakfast offered a good choice of all the Germanic “standards” we had come to expect but my addition of a bacon sandwich to my normal choices did excite some comment !
We quickly packed what we had, including our additional jar of honey and set off just after nine. We navigated the new road and were on the highway in less than five minutes.
We headed north, towards Prague. It was probably the least scenic part of our whole trip. I was still riding, as I had done throughout our journey, in my HOG vest over my shirt but as we climbed slowly toward the more mountainous area which forms the border, it began to look very dismal ahead. I wondered whether I would finally need to resort to the jacket which had, until then, lain unused in the pannier.
We paused near Rozvadov, the border crossing, where Lucie had a chat with some Czech bikers who were returning (with their Harleys on a trailer !!) from a jaunt to Corsica. They had a Prague registration number and distinctive, personalised number plates on the Harleys, but oddly, I had never seen any of them before.
With about a hundred kilometres to go, it began to drizzle but, thanks to the screen, I was not getting that wet and I hoped I would be able to brazen it out. As we came to Pilsen, the drizzle became a deluge and we retired, defeated, to a service station for hot drinks and for me to find my jacket and gauntlets. Nothing, short of a monsoon, would force Lucie into her bright yellow “ET”. We set off again into the storm but, perhaps predictably, within five kilometres we were riding on dry roads again. It was suddenly a bit cool though and I found that I did not actually mind wearing the jacket at all !
As ever, when I have been in Germany, I found the instantaneous deterioration in driving standards and general road etiquette that Czech drivers display almost shocking. One could almost believe they WANT to be in accidents !
Luckily, our stately, sub-100 kph progress, soon brought us once again to the Golden City and we parked outside our house at around two in the afternoon.