Tommy and Linda have a male Italian greyhound â€“ a type of dog that looks like a living Tim-Burton character from Nightmare Before Christmas. His name is Kesha. My man describes this breed as â€œminiature giraffes on crack.â€ We met Kesha after hitching to â€“ Jihlava (yee-hlah-vah) â€“ from Olomouc.
Pavel and Tyrel-the-albino-hopefully-not-vampire gave us a lift halfway – to Brno. The landscape included grass writhing in the wind like tousled hair and the red roofs and spires of villages dotting the hills. A Czech-born Austrian woman delivered us to Jihlava. She was the fifth person to insist that Pat’s surname is Czech and she taught us that the iconic, round, skinny silos dotting the cities and countryside are factory chimneys.
Tommy fetched us from the outskirts of town, we bought some adult beverages, and got home just in time to catch the major hockey semi-finals game between Slovakia and the Czech Republic. CZ won! Possibly more interesting: Tommy and Linda’s drink of choice is white wine and… coke! Even at the pub and then the disco later that night!
We spent a relaxed Sunday on a driving tour of the nearby historic towns, flying along narrow roads with the disassembled snow fences laying in piles at the edges of the fields. It’s still early in the season, so we had most spots to ourselves. Grocery stores are still closed here on Sunday, and the vast grey pavements of the historic squares were mostly empty. Sometimes it felt a little apocalyptic, and in a way, maybe it is? A hundred and fifty years ago, I imagine the squares were filled with wooden carts of vendors and the clattering hooves of customer’s horses.
It was easy to hitch into Prague on Monday. Martin â€“ who sells companies and commutes every day â€“ was delighted for the company. We heard all about his life, ex-wife, current girlfriend, travel desires, and kids! We learned an important lesson we when choose to get out of the car at the Prague ring road interchange instead of going into town with him. Note to any would be hitchers: it was impossible to catch a ride on the interchange. We walked several miles along the highway to a town where the traffic was too local to get a ride onward. Eventually, we caught a bus into Prague, the subway and then bus out the other side of town where Batslaw the civil engineer picked us up at a highway gas station we were able to walk to. Phew!
Next was Marie Sophie Lobkowicz (â€œcall me Isiâ€), a published writer whose parents returned to the Czech Republic after CZ restitution: land that had been usurped during communism to its original owners. She couldn’t find the autohof (highway gas station) she meant to drop us at and cringed a bit a leaving us in a pretty terrible spot; small town, local traffic, not much autobahn traffic stopping for gas. Luckily, Thomas â€“ the state controller for the German state of Bavaria who drives a flash new car and had the best steak of his life in Casper, Wyoming â€“ had been in the small town working that day. Unluckily, he dropped us in a similar spot. Luckily, Oohau (sp?), his girlfriend Phuket (sp?) and twin sister Demet didn’t mind cramming us into their zippy but tiny Audi. There were no autobahn gas stations near their town, and the daylight was disappearing, so they offered to take us to the train station. As soon as we agreed, they were a flurry of activity â€“ calling people, checking schedules, looking up fares… they personally escorted us into the station, helped us purchase our tickets from the machine, and walked with us to the platform! What wonderful people!
Finally we rode our first European train – after a day of hitching across the green fields of one country and the forests of another! I enjoyed the beautiful countryside, including huge fields of solar panels, while catching up on computer work. We were still chugging along around 10 p.m. as the sun set, happy to have met so many cool locals and to be on the way to the arms of friends! â™£