From Prague to Brno.

After picking the car up in Prague, I tried to take the way to the road using just my memories from the google maps I studied he night before. Apparently it was a simple way. Right, then go straight ahead and turn left before the bridge. It would be awesome if it was true. I turned a street before the one I should and suddenly I was totally lost.

I pull over and turn on my awful GPS. It takes its usual 15 minutes to start working and as soon as I’m located, I put the address in Brno. It says the address doesn’t exist. I put only Brno. Doesn’t exist. I take a deep breath and zoom in the map until I find Brno. I click on it and it draws the route. It asks me if I want the toll free route, I click no and I follow it.

Three minutes later, when I was about to take an important turn, my location gets lost. Several possibilities to turn and I don’t know which one to take. It’s one of those moments that even with the GPS on, you take the wrong turn. I almost stopped in the middle of the road to ask someone. But I had to choose a way and, of course, I chose a wrong one. The road signs weren’t showing “Brno”, but neighborhoods in Prague. Completely useless to me.
I was following a wrong route until my GPS located me again and showed me the right way. It took a while, but I was on the right route. After a short unwanted sightseeing in Prague suburbs, I finally found a roadsign showing Brno. Hallelujah!

There are no turns on the highway. Straight, straight, straight. I noticed that, differently from the other places I was so far, here the drivers ride on the left lafe, just like Brazilian drivers. It didn’t take long for me to understand the reason. After 50 km, the right lane, even though hole free, it’s very bumpy. The car shakes like there is an earthquake going on. I felt like Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura movie when he is driving his Land Rover Defender.

It’s impossible for me to go to the left lane. Lubenica may be an old warrior, but she isn’t fast enough. I have to face she shaky road of the main Czech road till the end.

When the signs were announcing Brno within 30 km, I pulled over, turned on my GPS again, found the proper address and followed the route. In half hour I was there.

Even before I leave the car, Daniela was already there waiting for me. We introduced ourselves and she said she could hear the noisy car and came to check if it was me. And it was indeed.
At her flat, she introdced me to her brother, Matěj. We sat down and talked for a while. Daniela offered to cook something and me and Matěj went to a nearby pub to buy beer. Apparently this beer, a good one they said, could only be found there.

We came back, ate, drank and talked. Soon we would go out. Matěj wanted to show me a bar in an underground part of the city. Before we left, Marie, Daniela’s friend, arrived. On the way we met with Eva, Matěj’s girlfriend.

So we climbed up a quite high hill right in middle of the city. Narrow streets and cottage houses. Matěj explains me that at this hill it used to be an old village for the employees of a mining state company, during the communist times. After the communism broke down, the village was abandoned. In the last years, some artists and intelectuals started to move to the hill and now the neighborhood became some kind of the underground cultural center of the city. And, of course, now the houses are more expensive.

We arrvied at a very small and crowded bar. There were all kind of people.
It was cold and inside the bar everyone was smoking, literally. Between stay outside and get cold or stay inside and get smoked, me, Daniela and Marie decided to stay outside. Matěj came with some beers and we talked more.


(Matěj)

A band starts to play. It’s not the best one, but they are residents of the neighborhood. We kept talking until the cold started to hurt my bones, so we all decided to go inside. I barely entered and Matěj takes me outside again, telling me he had to show me a place. We go all the way up the rest of the hill and there’s a spot where you could see the whole city. I took some pictures and we went back.

Matěj went for a smoke with his friends and meanwhile a long haired dude came talk to me, telling me heard about my Lada and the trip. He said he has a green Beetle and we talked for a while. His name was Matoej or something like that. These Czech names aren’t the easiest ones to write down.

After so much smoke in our eyes, I tell the girls – who weren’t feeling like home there – that we could change the place, assuming that Matěj was going to stay there longer and we weren’t so excited about the idea. We said goodbye and went down the hill.

At the city center, Daniela and Marie told me about some streets and buildings. Soon we are at a residential area that looks fancy and where we could have some local beer. We had a last one each talking about life in Brno and soon we went back to the flat.


(Beers in Brno)

Before we go to sleep, Daniela made some scrambled eggs and we talked a bit more and then we hit our beds. The day after we decided to go to Marie’s hometown, Ochoz u Brna, near Brno and to see a very interesting church.
I slept as much as I wanted and needed and I woke up late, obviously, the next morning. Daniela had woken up way before me and Marie left to meet a friend. I have my breakfast and soon Marie is back and we can go. She was the driver.

The road isn’t the best one and Marie isn’t so confident at the wheel. Me and Daniela laugh a bit about it, so we wouldn’t show how afraid we really were.

The church is really something compared to the rest of the city. It doesn’t look like it’s part of the city. Actually the city doesn’t seem to be part of the church. There are a few tourists and we go inside to take a look. We talked a bit about religion and faith in the country and I’m not surprise to hear they are one of the least religious countries in the world.


(The big, big church)

We left and went to Marie’s house. There I’m introduces to the “vices” of the region. They are spirits made of virtually everything they have at their yards. The most famous one is Slivovice, made of plums. There is the calvados, made of apples and the merunkovice, made of apricots. While I try them all and make a huge effort to taste a difference between them, pretending I could feel some fruit taste among so strong alcohol, we talk about the worldwide fame of Czechs and alcohol. As I could see, beer is the country’s pride, but they don’t stick just to it. The vices are also quite strong in the culture, especially in small towns and, as I could see later on, wine is also very important. Long story short, the wisdom of not mixing alcohol is bullshit for them.

Marie’s brother, one of the many she has, Vlaclav, comes. He joins us. He’s a kitesurfer – something quite weird, remembering Czech Republic is a landlocked country. He tells me his stories about trips to Poland, where he could practice the sport, and his attempts to become professional.

The sun sets and it’s the Museum Night in Brno. We go back to the city and Marie returns the car to her friend, not without scare us a few times more. The weather sucks and it doesn’t stop raining. We tried to walk around, but the rain is annoying. After trying, with no success, to check some museums, we decided to go to a bar.

The bar was quite interesting. The name of it was “Standing up” and the idea was, trust me, to stand up. The tables around the bar were mostly to leave the beers and finger foods and no chairs available. After a few beers more, local ones, and more talk about life in Brno, we went back to the flat.

Matěj came back to the flat in the afternoon and left again. Daniela told me she doesn’t even try to know where he is anymore and I’m glad I was with them and not with him. Who would know where I would be ny now? We go to sleep.
Sunday morning, Martina, Daniela’s friend who would host me in the first place, calls inviting us to come and pay her a visit. She lives in Straznice, near the border with Slovakia. We say yes and Lubenica takes us there.

I didn’t want to take the main road, so we took a countryside one. We went through a lot of small villages, whose names were completely unreadable to me. After two hours we got there.

Martina was waiting for us outside. She couldn’t hold her laugh when she saw the car. She knew about it, but still couldn’t help but laughing.

We go in and I meet her cute little sister, who doesn’t even care I’m there. Martina makes us a coffee and we talk. Soon she takes us to the garage and shows us the bikes we would use to ride around.

The first stop is at a near village called Petrov. There we met Martina’s friend, Šárka. She invites us to go to her underground wine cellar of her family and explain us a little bit about the tradition of wine making of the region. We try the red and white wine. I have to drink just a little bit, because I would be driving later, but the girls drank more.

Martina said that if the weather gets better, we could to Slovakia with the bikes. It was just a few kilometers away. I get excited about crossing a border on a bike. Never thought I could do it.

Finally there is some sun and we decided to go to Skalica, in Slovakia. I haven’t ridden more than 300m on a bike in the past decade. And the few kilometers Martina said were almost 10. Ten to go, plus ten to come back.

We got in Skalica and the city is quite charming. We rode around, I took some pictures and we had ice cream. Yeah, Ice cream! They felt pity for me and instead of order a beer, they ordered ice cream.


(Marie, Martina and Daniela in Skalica)

On the way back, we stopped at the “border” and took some pictures with the road signs showing the countries. I wasn’t the only one there crossing a border on a bike for the first time.


(Martina, me and Marie crossing the border)

Back to Martina’s house, my legs were burning. That’s the result of sedentary life. Her parents were there now. Her mom, Pavlina, spoke with me in English. She was very interested about a dumb brazilian traveling her country with an old car. She said a few times she didn’t see that car for a long while. Her father, Ivo, answered a few questions and made some other ones. He was a bit shy to talk.

We had to go back to Brno. It was getting late and we still had 80 km of road and the sun was setting. They asked me if I liked Czech Slivovica, I said yes and Ivo brought me a bottle of a homemade one. I thank him for his amazing gift, we take some pictures and unfortunately we leave.


(Me, Ivo, Pavlina, Martina’s little sister and Martina)

Before go back to Brno, we stop at Marie’s house again to have dinner. In Brno it was a little bit more difficult to find a parking spot and we had to ride around the neighborhood for a while until we found one, not so close. The weather wasn’t good. I leave my stuff ready for the next day. Matěj and Eva wanted a ride to Bratislava so we agreed to go together the next day.

The sun rises on Monday and the weather is finally good since I got to Europe. It was warm! Matěj had left early to deliver his master thesis. Marie had left even earlier, because she had to teach french. I woke up when Daniela came back from a test she needed to attend.

Marie came back from the class and was taking a nap. As soon as we three got ready, we went outside to meet Matěj and Eva at a restaurant.

I could see the summer coming. I wondered why Europeans love tropical countries so much. Sun, warm weather, people smiling, shorts, skirts, short sleeved shirts. It wasn’t that tropical warm yet, but I could easily be using shorts. But I changed my mind when I got hit by the wind. The pants weren’t bad after all.

The restaurant looked like a very traditional one. When you spot several mason jars around the balcony, filled with potatoes, pickles, fish and other stuff you’ve never seen before, all of them bigger than your chest, it means the place must be serious. They have only one thing in their menu: a colossal and juicy pork knee. The other options are a big or small draught beer. Rice? Potatoes? Get outta here! I ordered a small beer, because I was going to drive later on.

I was almost fainting of so much pleasre. I ate roughly half of the knee while everyone was staring at me in shock. I didn’t care. I always loved pork knee and this one, especially, was outstanding. At the end, Matěj asked me for some time to solve a few things before we leave. Me, Marie and Daniela decided to take a walk around the city.
I could finally see how the city really looks like. The bad weather was leaving a bad impression of the city, but with the sunny day I could see how beautiful the city is. Old buildings, wide streets and forests surrounding it.
Martina was back to Brno and come meet us. We had a coffee while waiting for Matěj to let us know when he was ready. The time was ticking by and no news from him. I ask Daniela to call him and he asks for more time. I didn’t want to drive at night.

We go back to the flat. I give Martina a hug and she leaves. I leave my stuff ready and Matěj arrives only late afternoon and I was sure I would have to drive in the dark. It’s ok. At least I would have some company.
Before I leave, Daniela gives me a bottle of Medovina, a traditional czech drink made of honey. I hug her, quite happy about the gift. Marie comes and give me her gift. A small sound box that I could use to listen to some music in the car. I’m speechless and I hug them both a few times more. We all go to the car.

I put the bags in the trunk, give a last hug to Daniela and Marie and we leave. I few more horns and in a few minutes, me, Matěj and Eva were in a new country and in a new phase of the trip.

And this part I will tell you next time.

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