Day One: Leipzig (DE) to Děčín (CZ)

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Děčín is pronounced Dyechin, or close enough.

We left Leipzig in the late morning of Wednesday, 3 June.  We had decided to avoid freeways and to head in the direction of the Czech border.  I’m honestly a bit confused now, looking at my map.  We used my TomTom GPS system, and I think we must have followed highway 6 until around Dresden, then I’m not really sure, but I think we crossed the border on highway 62, because I know it followed a river and was stunningly gorgeous. 

It wasn’t far.  The day was very chilly, so we stopped frequently.  The first stop was for a warming-up coffee, at a roadside but very charming cafe.  There was something ridiculous about this first stop, and I remember being unreasonably goofy, or thinking that I was being so.  We ordered a pot of coffee for 2 and a hot milk.  I used the hot milk in my coffee (it was really cold out, and I really needed the warm-up), and spilled it all over the table in the process.  The toilet was around the corner outside the building, and when Dick went out to use it I paid for the coffees, and dropped one of my coins on the floor.  It rolled under the chair of the old man sitting behind me at the next table.  I looked at him, he looked at me, we both stiffly tried to reach for it (he because he is old, I because I was wearing leathers on a cold day).  Eventually I crawled down under the table.  It turned out to be only 20c, so hardly worth the effort, but we couldn’t tell from where we were.  I was still on the floor when Dick came back in, which caused the unwarranted jollity to continue.  I have NO idea why we were so punchy, but we were.

On this small highway through Germany, the very neat and orderly villages were completely still.  No movement, other than the other cars & trucks passing through.  Shutters were closed, shops and cafes not open.  Flowers bloomed in well-tended gardens and window boxes, and stoops were swept, so people MUST have been around, but we didn’t see any.  If it had been an evening, or early morning, or maybe a weekend, I might have understood, but it was mid-day on Wednesday.  Where was everyone?

The emptiness became a problem when I had to pee.  There was enough traffic that trying to pee along the road was out of the question, and when we stopped for gas, there was no public toilet at the gas station.  (Consequently, I refused to get gas there.  We didn’t need it that badly, and I think that gas stations that don’t provide toilets for paying customers are just being miserly.  They don’t get my money.  Yes, I am definitely an American – I vote regularly with my wallet.)  Eventually we saw a woman selling strawberries at a roadside stand.  I went over and asked her where I could find a toilet.  She asked if it was big or little, and when I said little (pee), she told me that she goes over to a stand of trees by the stream nearby, that it wasn’t visible from the road.  So I borrowed Dick’s roll of toilet paper, and headed over.  For the record, it is much more difficult squatting in leather pants than it is in a skirt.  Obvious, I know…

When we came to that beautiful river route into the Czech Republic, there were bicycles everywhere.  It is apparently quite the destination for elderly bicycle enthusiasts.  I didn’t see any young ones.  We decided that when we got to Děčín we would look for a hotel and a cash machine.  We found both at a lovely square, Masarykovo Náměstí (Náměstí means square, and Masarykovo is, in my experience, a pretty common name for squares, stations, and streets in Czechia, as Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was the first president and founder of Czechoslovakia, after the 1st world war).  The hotel (Hotel Česká Korunahttp://www.hotelceskakoruna.cz) looked more expensive than we really wanted to pay, but I went in and asked.  For 1370 czech crowns (česká koruny, possibly I’ve spelled this wrong), or approx 52 euros, we had a very nice room, breakfast included, and were able to park our motorcycles INSIDE.

Getting them inside was another story.  The girl at the desk told me that if I went around the corner of the building, I would see two doors.  Then, if I went inside, I could “put the bread down” and I’d be able to get the bikes inside.  Then I was to go through the steps and bring back the key.  Her English was actually even worse than this, but I figured these things would be obvious when I saw them, so I said thanks, took the key to this mystery door, and we drove around the building.  We saw lots of steps to doors, and nothing that looked like we could get 2 large motorcycles through.  So I went back in and asked her again.  She repeated that I would have to “put the bread down.”  This is when I started to get the picture.  We went outside again, around the corner, and unlocked the first door.  Inside were many bicycles and a sturdy construction made out of boards, to put against the steps and take our motorcycles up the steps. 

First, we had to move a bunch of bicycles inside, to make room.  We both drive Triumph SpeedTriples (mine is older, 1995, but bigger, 900cc, and Dick’s is 1997, 750cc), and they are heavy and pretty big.  When we were finished with that, a man came with a bicycle, and wanted to put it inside.  He put it right in the cleared spot, and I explained that we needed him NOT to put it there, that the motorcycles were going there.  He started to lock it up, and said to me that they’d fit next to his.  I told him to move it or I would probably damage his bike.  He moved.  He made comments about big bikes, not important bikes.  I rolled my eyes at him.

We moved Dick’s bike in.  While we were setting that up, an older man outside was admiring mine.  I grinned at him and made gestures to say it was mine (and words).  Talking with him, I found that I actually remembered Czech words.  He showed us a picture of his own Triumph, also 900 cc, and I translated a little to Dick.  We did a lot of grinning and gesturing, but I actually remembered some Czech, which I haven’t needed to remember in years.

After showering and changing into comfy clothing, Dick and I walked up the hill to a castle above the hotel, and then back down to a very cozy café around the corner from the hotel, where I once again showed my Czech language skills by successfully navigating the menu and ordering for us dark beers and a delicious – and completely vegetarian – meal.  Dick had thought he’d be eating meat this time, but I took over and we had fried cheese (mmmmmm), broccoli with creamy cheese sauce, home-made potato croquettes, and batter-fried mushrooms, with various side sauces and salad.  I was very full of myself by now, and had started translating signs we could see through the windows, on buses and shops.  The waitress was not so impressed, but that’s because it was very loud in there, and I could barely hear her over the conversation of the people sharing the room with us. 

We were exhausted after dinner, and literally collapsed back at the hotel.

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