Our Last Day in the Czech Republic

 

My friends and sisters would be shocked. I’m on my SECOND beer! No, not my second beer today–my second beer in three days–but still. Plus, I’m drinking alone, although in my mind, I am with YOU, my blogging buddies. That counts, right?

What’s next? Smoking cigarettes?

Drinking beer again?
Drinking beer again?

Our group is meeting our guide in an hour for a tour of the Cesky Krumlov castle, so I decided this is the perfect time to hang in an outdoor cafe. It’s relatively near our meeting spot and equipped with wifi. Who could ask for anything more?

Unlike the good ol USA, in the Czech Republic, cafés don’t rush you and the servers don’t circle around,trying to get you to spend more money. I’m the only one here who is not speaking Czech, so I suspect I had the good fortune to stumble into a place that only the locals patronize. Sometimes having a lousy sense of direction turns out to be a good thing.

But I am indeed on a bike trip, and ride we did this morning.  Here’s proof.  The two Karens and Susan are doing their Czech imitation, while I am flashing my “American smile”. That actually is a term here in the Czech Republic. Hana, our guide, explains that the Czech don’t smile much, so to them, we Americans appear always to be grinning broadly. And why not? When THEY see us, we are on vacation, enjoying their beautiful country.

image

The Czech countryside is lovely, with lots of rolling hills, farmland and woods. One of those rolling hills today was a KILLER. I made it halfway and walked the rest of the way to the top, as did many in our group. But at least we tried.

image

This cow was just BEGGING to have her photo taken.
This cow was just BEGGING to have her photo taken.

We had a wonderful lunch at a home in the little town of Plav.

Tom, one of the four men in our group (out of twenty participants) took a little spin on the tractor, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to back it into the “garage”. A wise decision on his part.

image

About half of us decided to get back to Cesky Krumlov via 4 wheels instead of 2,  so we’d have time to explore (or blog and drink beer).

I don’t know anything yet about the castle that dominates the skyline, other than that a bear lives in what I imagine was once the moat.

Bet you thought I was kidding about the bear.
Bet you thought I was kidding about the bear.

Tomorrow morning, we will take a train to Passau, Germany and will spend the rest of the day riding there. At some point there WILL be a quiz and the usual historical stuff, but for now, I’m just experiencing the culture of the country, where Pilsner was invented, and Budweiser got its start.

Three Days in Prague

Three days in Prague were not nearly enough.  Such a beautiful, interesting city deserves a return trip, but next time it will be with Mike.  That’s why I intentionally didn’t do the historical things that I know he’d enjoy.  For example, although we did visit the castle complex, we didn’t take a tour.  Instead, we did a quick circuit around the exterior, content to enjoy the panoramic view.

Although we received tram passes as part of our Vermont Bike Trip package, we used leg power to get to the castle.  ALL the way up…ALL those stairs, just like his majesty’s subjects must have done, in the days of old.

image

And what a warm welcome they received!  Check out the entrance to the palace.

This fine fellow is on the left of the entrance.
This fine fellow is on the left of the entrance.

And it his guy is on the right.
And this guy is on the right.
Do you think Charles IV was a bit ambivalent about guests?  Perhaps he wanted to make sure they didn’t wear out their welcome?

We skipped the art and the churches, only stopping to see the throne room.

image

Only kidding…

that’s actually my bathroom at our hotel in Cesky Krumlov.  Hotel Ruze was once a Jesuit school, which doesn’t explain the choice of plumbing fixtures, it just explains some of the guests.

image

So, we now have left Prague, had our first bike ride (which started out on narrow, winding, cobblestone streets and included more than one big hill), enjoyed meeting our biking companions during a champagne reception and finished a magnificent dinner in a little cavern.  Time to call it a night!

Biker Chicks Ride Again!

Yep, it’s time for the biker chicks to saddle up.  Thankfully, though, we have 3 days in Prague first, to recover from jet lag and to convince ourselves that after weeks of non-activity, seeing parts of Europe by bike is a GOOD idea.

image

These biker chicks decided to sit this trip out, but they will be with us in spirit.  Marilyn wants us to drink the local beer, so we will hoist our glasses in a toast to all three of you…probably more than once…or twice…

Marilyn, Sally and Victoria, we will MISS you!  Who is going to make sure I don't lose my glasses???
Marilyn, Sally and Victoria, we will MISS you! Who is going to make sure I don’t lose my glasses???

BUT, we have added two new members.  Denise and Karen are taking their first trip with VBT,  joining us oh, so very cool bikers.

Karen P., Denise, Diane, Karen H and Beth.  Jet lagged, but undaunted.
Karen P., Denise, Diane, Karen H and Beth. Jet lagged, but undaunted.

And we DEFINITELY will be cool, possibly even cold, and probably a bit damp, because the weather forecast for the next 10 days is rain, rain and more rain.  Known as “pula” in Botswana, a rainy day is a joyous occasion.  The Botswanians (if that is the correct term) like rain so much, the word “pula” means rain AND money AND is an all purpose greeting.  So, if rain drops keep fallin on my head, as they did a couple of times this afternoon, I’ll just tell myself I’m still in Africa and rain is cause for celebration.   (We’ll see how THAT works out!)

Yes, we were tired today, after flying all last night, but we managed to march ourselves thither and yon this afternoon, ducking into churches and a restaurant to avoid intermittent sprinkles.

Enough of my babbling.  Time for more photos of this lovely city.

I kept looking UP.  The tops of buildings are magnificent!
I kept looking UP. The tops of buildings are magnificent!
I was also looking DOWN, at the wonderful sidewalks. That looks to me like the Star of David and a cross, peacefully sharing space on the sidewalk.
I was also looking DOWN, at the wonderful sidewalks. That looks to me like the Star of David and a cross, peacefully sharing space on the sidewalk.

The statues are rather fascinating.

I’m guessing that the guy with the turban and curved sword hails from the Ottoman Empire.  But why is he the only one with midriff bulge?  Why does that stag have a gold cross growing out of his head?  And what’s with the handcuffs,  and the guy on the right with his hand on the other guy’s knee?

image

Oh SO many questions, and this isn’t even a quiz!  ( Mainly because I don’t know the answers and I’m  punchy because I can’t sleep, though I NEED to,  except my body has NO bloody idea what time zone it is in. )

How about THIS one?

The details in the statues are intriguing.
The details in the statues are intriguing.

I’m SOOOO glad I’m not biking tomorrow!  Although, if the truth be told, ( which, on this blog, happens occasionally) these are not supposed to be very taxing bike rides.  Here’s the map showing the ground we will cover.

Notice the red squiggly lines? THAT’S the biking part. Not so bad, eh.

One last photo and a good night to all.  Aren’t you glad I kept looking up?

I have no idea what this is either
I have no idea what this is either

Home Town Hero

Every town should have its very own super hero. Henry Huttleston Rogers was Fairhaven’s.  If you’ve never heard of him, that’s an indication that you don’t live in Fairhaven  and you probably took I-195 from Providence to Cape Cod, instead of the more scenic Route 6. Sure, I-195 will get you to the beach faster, but what you miss is a chance to see the impact one of Standard Oil’s “robber barons” can have on a sweet little town.

Henry Huttleston Rogers Memorial on Huttleston Avenue
Henry Huttleston Rogers Memorial on Huttleston Avenue

After you clear the bridge from New Bedford, the highway’s name changes to Huttleston Avenue, and if you look to your left, you’ll see one of the many reasons the town has chosen to honor its home town hero.

Fairhaven High School
Fairhaven High School

The gorgeous Elizabethan stone structure, completed in 1906, is actually Fairhaven High School, Henry Huttleston Rogers’ last gift to the town before his death in 1909. I have never been inside–I attended a regional high school–but my sister Sue (the source of all my inside information) tells me the school has marble floors, wood paneling, and carved gargoyles in the auditorium.  The adolescent version of me probably wouldn’t have noticed these grand architectural features anyway.  I would have been too busy hoping one of the other auditorium “creatures” would ask me out after the assembly ended.

I DID pass many afternoons during my teen years as a volunteer at Our Lady’s Haven.

P1000086

Completed in 1905, the building was originally known as the Tabitha Inn.  Designed to resemble a Shakespearian era Inn, it was described as the grandest hotel outside of New York and Boston.  Samuel Clements, better known as Mark Twain, was one of its frequent guests. It became a home for “the elderly and infirm” after it was purchased by the Catholic Diocese in 1944.

I stopped in to say hello and to take a look around the lobby.  Back in my day, it was run by the Carmelite nuns, but today only one nun remains.  Lovely Sr. Eileen from Ireland is now running the show, making sure Fairhaven’s senior citizens receive tender loving care.

Next to the Tabitha Inn is  a red brick schoolhouse, another gift from Rogers.  The school’s last class graduated this year, and the building is now closed, so all future students will be studying in a more modern building.

Rogers Elementary School, closed in 2013
Rogers Elementary School, closed in 2013

From June through September, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Fairhaven office of tourism offers 90 minute guided tours, starting at 10 AM  from the town hall — and yes, Rogers donated that too.  Click on this link for more information about the tour and the town.

Fairhaven Town Hall
Fairhaven Town Hall

I wasn’t crass enough to photograph the interior of Our Lady’s Haven, (not everyone enjoys getting their image blasted into cyberspace) but the interior architecture of the town hall is very similar…so you get the idea of how lovely both places are.

Town Hall Interior--grand staircase, with arches and carved wooden railings
Town Hall Interior–grand staircase, with arches and carved wooden railings

My very special childhood place is across the street from the town hall.  The Millicent Library was built in 1890 as a memorial to one of Rogers’ daughter’s, who was 17 when she died.

Millicent Library
Millicent Library

I don’t think this is a statue of Millicent.  Pretty racy for a small town in the 1900’s, wouldn’t you say?

Statue in the library reading room
Statue in the library reading room

My summer days were spent in the children’s reading room, where  I discovered that “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was only the first in an entire series L Frank Baum wrote about the magical land of Oz.  Those books kept the 9 year old me entertained for an entire summer!

As I was leaving the library, one of the friendly residents (did I mention that Fairhaven people are VERY friendly?) asked whether I had noticed Dante atop the library.  I never had before–but here he is, for your viewing pleasure.

P1000079

So, who was Henry Huttleston Rogers–and how did he amass such a huge fortune? Rogers got his start in Pennsylvania, where, in 1861, he and a partner started a small business refining oil. By 1885, he had joined with John D Rockefeller, eventually becoming one of the three key men of Standard Oil. Known as “the Brains of Standard Oil Trust” and “Hell Hound Rogers”, he was a captain of industry.

He was also a generous man who befriended Booker T Washington and paid for Helen Keller’s Radcliffe education.

The “giving” tradition continued with Rogers’ granddaughter, (official name when she died: Mary Millicent Abigail Rogers von Salm-Hoogstraeten de Peralta-Ramos Balcom, but she went by Millicent Rogers–and who can blame her?) who founded the Millicent Rogers museum in Taos, New Mexico to house native American art.  The daughter of Rogers’ only son, she was quite a fascinating character–but that’s a subject for another time.

Visitors to Fairhaven should stop at Margaret’s or Elizabeth’s for a great meal. The restaurants are side by side, near the waterfront.  If you are lucky, you might get lovely Kristen for your server, and Kevin may be your chef!