There's a reason I chose a group tour for my first bike trip, and it's not just that I like the idea of a van hauling my luggage from town to town. No, have the proverbial "can't navigate my way out of a paper bag" sense of direction, and in the first two days of the trip I established those credentials by leading myself (and others who were foolish enough to get behind me) astray. But why focus on the mishaps? I'm safely back in my room, so all's well that ends well, as the Bard wrote.
Yesterday's training ride through the countryside around Cesky Krumlov - a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its castle dating back to the 13th century- started off with a kidney-jiggling kilometer or so on ancient cobblestones. But then we hit the paved road and enjoyed the scenic farms and rolling hills just long enough to work up an appetite for dinner, which was served in the basement of a former catacomb, accessed by a low-ceilinged spiral staircase.
But before dinner we had a welcome reception with introductions from our tour guides - Jan from Czech Republic and Andy from Austria - and our fellow cyclists: a group of 15, comprising 6 couples and 3 single women (yay - I was relieved to not be the only "third wheel".) I'm not much of a drinker, but beer is such a part of the Czech culture (with the world's highest per capita consumption - so they told us) that I decided to sample the local brew. Wow! It was exceptionally tasty and flavorful and I was glad I gave it a try.
This morning we started in the village of Holasovice, which I discovered has its own. mini-Stonhenge, and cycled toward the town of Plav. The temperature was perfect, low 60s and overcast, with just an occasional light sprinkle. While I had been keeping mostly with a cluster of our group, I started paying more attention to my conversation with Katia - one of the other solo women, from Seattle - and before we realized it we had fallen behind the group and missed a turn. After some false starts, we called Jan who very graciously gave us directions back to the route.
Throughout the countryside I noticed abundant fruit trees - just as I had in Prague. We arrived with a good appetite to the huge farmhouse where we were hosted to a family dinner that was the most delicious (and totally vegetarian-friendly) meal I've had in the CR: vegetable soup, salad, farmer's cheese sandwiches, a savory strudel...and more. During lunch the rain began, which helped me decide to take the van back to the hotel, instead of riding the additional 8 miles back. (The trip out had been about 15 miles). Physically, I could have done it, but the rain began in earnest, which just didn't appeal to me. Five of us took the van, and the rest braved the rain.
It turned out to be a happy decision for all of us in the van - the cyclists got thoroughly drenched and cold. I have nothing to prove, and was happy to have the afternoon free to buy a few gifts. Later we all toured the castle which was quite impressive, and I was glad I had skipped Prague castle in favor of this one.
My evening was rounded out by an hour-long massage - which was absolutely divine - for the absurdly low price of $25! I expect to sleep well tonight, windows wide open to cool fresh air, and the sound of the Vltava River rushing along beside me.