A blog dedicated to exercise, nutrition and my life
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Czech trip Day 7 and 8: Happy vegetarian athlete - running, castles, hiking, wine, food, cycling, shopping
The sun rises rather early in Czech and with no AC in the flat, we often wake up to the birds chirping outside of the open windows and the sun as our alarm clock. Regardless if we sleep to 8 or 5am, it all looks the same. We woke up around 6am which was usual for us and after our morning cup of fabulous coffee, along with some trigger point therapy (rolling on the ball) and active stretching/dynamic warming up, we were off for a 6-mile tour around Znojmo. I guess this was a workout as we were running but with Karel as my amazing tour guide, it was hard to think of this as a workout but instead, the best way to sight-see in a new country. Despite doing a morning run of around 2-4 miles every day since arriving to Czech, we had yet to cover the same route twice in Znojmo. Similar paths but always something new to see. I just couldn't take my eyes off the sights as Karel had me running on a trail, in a forest, on paths, by gardens, on cobblestones. Each place was familiar to Karel, new to me. 6 miles later, we were back at home for a yummy breakfast and then we got ourselves ready to officially start the day.
The day prior we had biked to see a castle that Karel was taken me to the next day. Well, today was the day and we were so happy that both Karel's mom and dad would be joining us.
After a 20 minute or so drive down the road, we parked at a parking lot and made a steep walk (about 1/2 mile) to the top of the hill to visit Vranov nad Dyjí which is a chateaux in the South Moravian region of Czech Republic,which lies on the Dyje (Thaya) river, 3 km north from the Austrian border close to Hardegg. We took a tour of the castle and Karel was my translator for the tour. The rooms were magnificent and so much beauty within each part of the castle. We had to put on slippers over our shoes and you could just smell the history.
After our tour, we hiked back down the steep road to the car and then headed back to Karel's mom's house (after dropping off his dad at his home a mile from his mom's) for lunch. A delicious lunch as usual.
After resting for an hour or so, we got ourselves ready to meet with Karel's best friend and his girlfriend and their doggy (YIPPE) to tour an underground wine cellar and taste award winning wines. This was an amazing experience for me and although it was cold underground with mold everywhere (perfect humidity for wine), the tasting room was cozy and the wine was amazing! Although I do not drink very much (only wine as beer is not to my liking), I really enjoyed sampling all the white wines which were fantastic.
After our tour, we left with a few bottles of wine that were given to us and headed down the road for a hike with an amazing look-out point. One thing I must add is that this trip has been very special for me but it makes things so much better to have locals (including Karel) as my tour guides. Everything has run so smoothly and I feel like I am at home in another country.
The hike was amazing, with vineyards everywhere and a look out point that takes your breath away. Life just gets really good when I am outside as I just love connecting with nature.
After our hike, we had worked up an appetite as it was nearing 6:30pm (sun still shinning). We went back to Karel's mom's house to clean up and then we all met down the road to walk to the restaurant. Not a new trend as all we did in town was walk which was fantastic seeing that we love to use our bodies as much as possible.
As much as I was loving all the new foods that were served to me in Czech, Karel and I both thought it would be fun to check out something special in Czech that would make me extra happy - a vegetarian restaurant! I found Na Věčnosti online from Happycow.net which is a great website to locate vegetarian/vegan/healthy places to eat while traveling. I absolutely love trying new foods and when I have over a dozen selections to choose from on a menu, I am one happy plant strong athlete :)
Karel was also excited as he loves trying new things and will eat anything so it was nice to have some company with Karel's best friend and Girlfriend to join us for a very new experience. You can read more about our vegetarian dining experience with this link: Na Věčnosti.
After dinner, we chatted a bit more and walked around town and nearing 9:45pm, we made our way back to Karel's mom's house for a good night of rest.
The next morning we had a bike ride on the schedule but that was all! We laughed on Day 7 that for Wednesday, it would be our first unplanned, planned day. Every day was filled with something to do so we decided that for our last full day in Znojmo before heading to Prague, we would enjoy ourselves with a bike ride and then shopping around town to buy gifts for our friends and family and of course, lots of chocolate and coffee for us.
We woke up around 7am and although our first day of not running since arriving to Czech, we were both excited to just ride this day. We had a light breakfast to hold us over for our morning ride and then walked a mile to Karel's dad's house to get our bikes. No need to drive when the roads are made for walking.
We got our bikes and biked a mile or so down the road to the bike shop and picked up Karel's friend's who were joining us for a fun ride in Austria. Little did I know, my skills would be tested again on cobblestones in the town and then descending on switchbacks in Austria. Climbing is no thing for me - I just wish I never had to descend! But thankfully, Karel always gives me pointers and he knows my saying "I'd rather be a chicken than a dead duck." He knows I take my time and although hot brakes at times, I am getting much better at my descending with switchbacks. Karel makes it look so easy just flying down the hills/mountains but then again, after riding in his home, I see why he is so good at cycling. When you grow up in Europe, you have no choice but to learn good cycling skills.
Our bike ride was fantastic today. We left around 9:45 from the bike shop and although only around 35 miles, our 2.5 hours of riding and a few short picture stops was amazing. I am just having so much fun on my bike here in Czech - I fell in love with Karel on our bikes and now I am falling in love with another country on my bike. So many priceless memories.
After riding some long climbs and riding in Austria, crossing over to Czech, seeing the Iron Curtain (which brought back a lot of memories for Karel - he recalls when he was first allowed in Austria, he and his buddies couldn't wait to cycle on different roads) and riding in very gusty winds all the way back to town.
After our ride, it was early afternoon so we showered up at his dad's and then grabbed a coffee and a pastry for refueling, stopped by the bike shop to say good bye to his friend and left with more wine and a new local jersey for myself. People are so generous in Czech - we left with way too much alcohol (Karel says that's not a bad thing and thankfully - nothing broke on the way home).
We finally had some lunch and then rested about 45 minutes before heading out to see more sights (walking) and to shop around for some gifts for us and our family/friends. We finished the evening with a delicious meal and then Karel joined a few of his friends for one last beer at the pub. I decided to stay in as I wanted to give Karel a break from translating so he could just enjoy his time with his friends and just speak Czech. I caught up with my mom and Campy on Skype which was a nice way for me to end my evening.
I stayed up until Karel came home around 9pm and then we were off to bed soon after for we were excited and sad to pack up and head to Prague for day 9 and 10. Wow - I can't believe how time flies....only two more days until we have to return to the USA. Thankfully - I get to bring home lots of memories, pictures and an appreciation for a lifestyle that I have grown to love and hope to continue inspire others to live back in the states.
After our 2.5 hour drive (a bit faster than before due to beautiful weather!) we were back in Znojmo and Karel's mom had a delicious meal waiting for us (Slovakian-inspired) along with several desserts (she said she was in a baking mood the night before). All these treats are exciting but Karel and I typically share any treat that we are offered. There are certainly times for occasional treats but each time should be enjoyed and if you treat yourself day after day, it becomes less and less special. Certainly I do not feel like we are restricting ourselves from anything that is special here and can be consumed with enjoyment but we are not eating anything and everything just because we are in Czech. We have turned down a few treats and second helpings only because we are satisfied from a meal and I feel that is the most appropriate time to say no thank you as oppose to fearing food for calories, fat, sugar, salt, etc. I am really enjoying the fact that I can enjoy this city with Karel and we have both kept our great relationship with food here in Czech. We always feel better after we eat, than before. Just like at home in Florida, no low blood sugar levels, stomach issues, hunger pains, intense cravings, headaches or anything else that many people accept as normal when trying to eat "health"...we have lots of energy all day, sleep well, wake up rested and never use the words guilty, off limit, restricted, cleanse, detox, bad or any other popular fad diet word that brings attention to a style of eating that appeals to the masses.
After we rested for an hour, we headed over to Karel's dad's place to get our bikes from his basement and headed out for an awesome ride in Czech. Karel knows these roads like he road them yesterday for each ride we ride somewhere new, see beautiful scenery and Karel tells me stories of when he was racing/training here in Czech. We are not training here in Czech so we have no schedule or specific miles-time that we have to accomplish everyday. We are not exercising to "burn" calories so we can eat pastries or not feel guilty when eating. We are just enjoying our time here being active, which we love to do with our fueled bodies.
This ride was amazing because we rode in straight headwind and sidewind to a castle and well-worth the brutal conditions heading out there. There was a chill in the air so it was rather chilly while descending to the castle so we only went half way because the rain was coming. We took a pic and then, my favorite part - began climbing again to head back home. We had the most helpful tailwind coming back and we were flying! Karel extended our ride a little to show me some special scenery spots and then it was time to head back to his dad's to clean up.
As Karel enjoyed a glass (or 3) of beer following our wine tasting, we ordered a light "dinner" at the pub since we had just had pizza. I had a delicious salad w/ a baguette and goat cheese with black walnuts (delicious!) and Karel had a steak tatar plate.
It was a late evening but a great one! Afterward, we walked home (a big trend which I am loving here - we walk miles and miles everyday, especially to and from eating) and it was time for a great night of sleep to begin another fun-filled day.
After a busy day of touring a castle, walking around town, visiting a wine cellar and taking a hike to an amazing look out point, Karel and I (and his best bud and cycling teammate growing up along with his girlfriend) enjoyed a delicious, satisfying and amazing meal at a vegetarian restaurant in Czech.
When I came home from this trip, I really started to think about my own life. I remember crying when I went to a restaurant on our way home (in route home at Cheesecake factory in the airport) and saw so much food being wasted by people who were served large portions + a bread basket and were unable to finish a meal but yet, still had room for dessert. Thinking about how I would give anything to be able to properly nourish the children and individuals who appear to live such a happy and grateful life for what they have and what they are use to. I suppose that trip changed me because I do not feel comfortable with others serving me for I am not comfortable wasting food. I’d rather eat a little less than have too much food on my plate and have it thrown away. Karel knows this and he also knows my portions as I feel many of my food behaviors were first learned from observing others who have very little rather than from a dietetic textbook encouraging “calorie” control.
After a delicious lunch of homemade broccoli soup and vegetable patties we headed to Štramberk which is a small town near Pribor, next to Kopřivnice. It was a long hike to the top of the hill where there was a cute festival going on and I couldn’t believe my eyes – I felt like I was in Disney World with all the cute timbered houses and cobblestone roads. The top of the hill is dominated by the Trúba castle tower. Stramberk is known for their “ears” which are from a tale that Barberians would eat the ears of others, thus Stramberk’s ears everywhere. I must say – as a 20-year vegetarian, those gingerbread like ears were the most delicious “body parts” I have ever eaten J Nearby there is the Šipka Cave where Neanderthal child bone remnants were found.
On Sunday, Karel, his brother and nephew and I went for a rainy yet beautiful 3.75 mile run on the most amazing paved trails which Karel’s brother bikes on to and from work. It was great to get the blood flowing and to have some company for our morning run.
After a delicious breakfast, we stayed inside for the morning until the rain stopped and then had the most delicious lunch of tofu, rice and veggies prepared by Karel’s nice (who also enjoys tofu – actually 4 of us had the tofu creation and 4 others had goulash) and then we headed to a car museum all about Tetra - Tetra company
We sat around, enjoyed a few small treats for dessert and it was such a great weekend with the family that we were sad to go to bed on Sun evening to head back to Znojmo on Monday.
I forgot to add, on our way to Karel’s brothers, we made a “fast food” stop at McDonald’s because Karel needed to prove to me that this wasn’t your normal McDonald’s….
On the detailed questionnaire that I ask each individual to fill out for the 2 month program (additional questionnaires for each of my services) one of the questions is “what are you least looking forward to during our time together?”
This has all been on my mind here in Czech because as I try new food creations and live a lifestyle that is out of my control, I am a firm believer that we can all change and change is not always as bad as we may think it may be. We can change our outlooks, our moods, our dietary choices/cravings, our activity routine and anything else that involves healthy living. The problem is that people don’t like change for it is uncomfortable and even more so, people have this false idea of the outcome of change which makes it easy to resist change. Sometimes change isn’t always good but how do you know if you don’t try?
As many people know, I love trail mix. It is part of my daily diet and my absolute favorite food. Back at home, I couldn’t imagine a day without nuts, raisins and cheerios. It makes me happy, feel energized and satisfied. But here in Czech, I have not had any trail mix for 5 days and I am surviving just fine. I don’t miss it, I don’t feel deprived and I don’t feel as if my life is over because I have “given up” my favorite food…for I didn’t give up anything and I have some with me in my travel bag but I have so many options here to enjoy for food choices that I am enjoying changing up my routine to discover new foods or a different way of eating. I am not on a diet here so it isn’t as if I have an off-limit food list as so many people do when it comes to wanting a change.
Here in Czech, aside from a few chocolates that Karel’s family have mailed to us over the holidays, I don’t have favorites. Karel shows me food in the grocery or shops and tells me stories “Oh! This was one of my favorites!” but if I have never had those foods, I can’t say that I am missing out on anything. It’s interesting because here in Czech, fruit is very seasonal. Like US, some of it is expensive if not seasonal but for the most part, fruit is not a big part of the diet here. I love fruit and certainly miss eating it like I do at home but I am surviving just fine. When I was in the Philippians, we ate very little veggies and ate a lot of fruit and it was all exotic and delicious!
When it comes to athletes, I encourage you to disassociate training from food rewarding. If you ever think about your appetite while you are training intensely for an event compared to your appetite while you are taking some time off (or an injury), it is likely that you are much more hungry while you are training….and with good reason because your body is expending much more calories than just sitting around or walking. But regardless of the calories burned, there doesn’t have to be the thinking that if you don’t work out for x- minutes a day, you don’t deserve to eat or can’t eat carbs. On the flip side, just because you work out doesn’t mean that you get to “reward” yourself with anything and everything or because you want to indulge, you use exercise as your reason to do so. Sure, there may be times when you can treat yourself because of your activity level (and even without exercising) but I find that in America, there is such a bad relationship with food and the body from both athletes and fitness enthusiasts and I think it all comes down to the lifestyle that we choose to live. Sure, we can blame the food industry and preoccupation with the “perfect” body image but I feel for the most part, our society has no idea how to live a balanced lifestyle.
I wanted to share some of my thoughts as I have been thinking a lot as I live life like a local in a different country. I can’t possibly get all my thoughts on to paper but Karel and I have really enjoyed an “active” lifestyle here in Czech, without feeling food-deprived from some of our favorite foods (albeit, we will be coming home with new favorites) and there has been no talk as to calories, bad food or diets. That is complete heaven to me for I don’t feel anyone should live a lifestyle of poor body image and a bad relationship with food. Here in Czech, it just feels so great to move our body and to eat around others without negative food/body talk.
When Karel came to the US in 2000, he had never tried peanut butter. It wasn’t until we met in 2006 that I introduced him to peanut butter. He enjoys it now but it isn’t as if his life would be over if he didn’t have it every day. When we met, we use to eat ice cream almost every night. Around 2008, I felt as if the ice cream treat after dinner was not enjoyed anymore like it once was – as a “treat”. I didn’t tell Karel that we were going on diet from ice cream or that ice cream was bad but since 2008, we have not had ice cream in our house, we don’t miss it and rarely do we even get it outside of the home. I find that this statement applies to many people who make favorable replacements in the diet, instead of just eliminating foods that they feel are “bad”. Replace, not eliminate. No ice cream means more room for fruit or perhaps, if ice cream wasn’t needed, an earlier night of rest. But with this concept, I welcome others to the idea that not all food is bad. Karel and I will never rid our diet of fresh bread. We feel so good with it, just like we do with dairy, legumes and any other proclaimed “bad” food that is “in” today (thankfully, we haven’t watched TV in over a week and I can’t speak the language here so I am not hearing about any diet trends/fads right now in the US”).
This trip has opened my eyes in many ways but a good thing is that I came to Czech with a lifestyle that allowed me to function well in a new country. There will always be treats in life, indulgences and yes, even times when food is too good and you will say you ate too much. But to live your entire life the same, fearing change or being extreme in order to change is not the way to achieve a balanced, healthy and active lifestyle.
When we travel, it is typically for an event or race and we don't do well sitting around. Thus, every time we pack our bags for something, it is for a purpose and often includes some type of movement (or is related to our jobs which involve activity/fitness). This trip has many purposes but I am enjoying my time here in Czech making memories but also learning about a new culture that allows me to bring home new ways to live life as well as an appreciation of what I have back at home. With my blog posts and pictures, I only hope that I can inspire others to get comfortable being uncomfortable by trying new things and being open to new opportunities. I realize that traveling abroad is not for everyone and may not be practical for everyone (costs, timing, logistics, etc.) but I feel that many people take for granted the many opportunities they have in their own current life but just feel “stuck” either in a bubble of familiarity and fear change or are scared to make any changes and the “what if’s” keep you bored, stressed and overwhelmed in your current life.
Aside from the 7th day Adventists and the Mediterranean style diet (which research consistently shows, long term, that both show high rates of quality of life and low risk for disease and improved health status by following a vegetarian or plant based diet), I've learned from those who live a high paced, wealthy lifestyle and from those who take bucket showers and have no electricity and seeing that each country may have staple foods and/or certain thoughts on exercise/fitness/sports, every village, town and city differs in terms of quality of life. Thus, to assume that there is one right way to live is absolutely wrong as it isn't about a right way of being healthy but rather, making sure your lifestyle makes you happy.
Once again, the sun was shining early and I found myself awake at 5:20am thinking it was 9am. I was able to lay back down for a little but then around 6am I woke up to the smell of fresh European coffee.
Karel and I started our morning with a cup of coffee and headed out for a quick 2 mile run on new roads (for me) in Czech. For both Karel and myself, we love to stay active and exercise is a very important to both of us for both physical and mental benefits. But as I have repeated many times in my blog and in articles, you don’t have to be a triathlete or marathon runner to be “healthy”. I am a firm believer that you should get your heart rate up, don’t be afraid to sweat and don’t feel as if you have to conquer x-minutes, x-workouts, x-days a week. Just move whenever you can for however long feels “right.” I absolutely love our morning runs because 20-30 minutes of sight-seeing is the perfect way to start the day as it is only the beginning of a jam-packed day.
Sorry - I digress.
Karel’s old cycling buddy, Jirka, invited us for a ride on his “lunch break” since many of the business shut down for lunch. Another one of Jirka’s friends joined us and I was thrilled that he could speak a little English.
So excited for a bike ride of a lifetime, we rode ~10K and crossed the Austria border! It was around 12:30pm when we started but I’ve completely lost track of time here in Czech as Karel is keeping me incredibly busy and on my toes (love it!). And I thought Czech was beautiful, the scenery in Austria was gorgeous! I just couldn’t believe my eyes and I couldn’t stop taking pictures while riding. I am happy that my bike handling skills have improved over the years for this ride offered many new experiences for me such as riding through small towns with small roads and cars zipping buy (although they don’t seem to mind cyclists), signs which I couldn’t understand and thus had no idea where we were going, riding on cobblestones and riding on a few rollers (Very smooth roads outside of the towns).
When we arrived to Retz, Austria we took a few pics and then, why not…let’s have a cappuccino! Coffee drinking is much different than in America..it’s not coffee, it’s the culture of drinking coffee. Seeing that I normally have 1-2 cups a day (before and after my morning workout or in the morning), I don’t ever do “energy” drinks or afternoon coffee pick-me-ups. But here, there are no paper cups or weak coffee beans that require loads of sugar and sweeteners to provide flavor. It’s 2-3 ounces of strong coffee that must be consumed slowly and it is hard to not enjoy it. Of course, I am use to this because I have lived with a European in America for the past 6.5 years so it is something that I welcomed but had not yet appreciated until I came to Europe.
After coffee, we headed up a climb on cobblestones (nervous at first but I did just fine thanks to Karel giving me pointers as to not ride slow as I needed to keep my momentum riding up the climb) and then up a windy, smooth road to see a beautiful windmill on the top of a hill which overlooked the city. Talk about a priceless opportunity in life while doing what Karel and I love to do….and how we met, on our bikes!
After a few more pics, we climbed a bit more and then had a fast, fun descend on a smooth open two lane road back to Retz and then we made our way back to Znojmo. Although the total ride was around 25 miles and the way there was rather casual, the guys picked it up on the way back and with the wind blowing strong in the open fields, I had a nice workout on the way home by drafting with the guys pulling away.
All new news to me, I was so super excited when she told me where we were going in the car. It was ~80K to Vienna from Karel’s home and when we pulled off the interstate to downtown Vienna, I “wow’d” once again. Oh wow – so beautiful!! You could just feel the history between the buildings and on the streets. Oh and those streets were super bike/runner friendly (and in-line skating). We had coffee at one of the most famous café’s in Vienna called Landtmann along with a pre dinner dessert. The atmosphere was amazing with people just socializing after work, drinking coffee, enjoying a small dessert, reading newspapers and just enjoying talking to one another (minimal cell phone use). After a once in a lifetime experience in Vienna, we drove around the city before heading to another small city about 80K away for dinner. Karel’s niece is a vegetarian as well and she was excited to take me to my first restaurant meal in Czech….well, not exactly a Czech meal.
As I mentioned before, it was a wow-type of day. All new to me and lots of memories made in Czech (and Austria). I am learning so much about the culture and I am so grateful that I have Karel as my tour guide and that we are staying with Karel’s family. I feel my life has already been changed from this trip and I can’t wait to get back to “work” (Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition) and to change more lifestyles when I return home from Europe. Although I have never been one to read “diet, fitness and health” books written by guru’s and professionals but instead get my knowledge from research and textbooks, I can honestly say that a lot can be said from the experiences you get by living a lifestyle in another country, learning from the locals and addressing the pros and cons in another country in relation to your own. Sometimes you have to be willing to make a change to feel a change and often, those changes can’t be read in a book but instead, through life experiences.
Wheww….the day wasn’t wasted!
After we took our time with our morning coffee (always nice to slow down in life), we got ourselves ready for a run around Czech. Well, fast moving feet but a few stops for pictures. Karel shared stories with me here and there and we both enjoyed the ups and downs of running around the town, but primarily on running trails and bike paths. The terrain is absolutely beautiful and the weather was perfect (around 60 degrees). We saw gardens, the hospital and several schools. All bringing back memories for Karel.
After showering in the bath tub, I got myself ready and enjoyed another delicious homecooked meal. Scrambled eggs with fresh chives, tomatoes and potatoes, served with a fresh roll and unsalted butter. Oh, and more coffee.
Breakfast hit the spot and I finally started to feel like I was on European time. Afterward, we picked up Karel’s dad (who doesn’t have a car) and with his mom, we all went to two commentary’s so Karel could see his grandma and sister, who both passed away in the past 13 years while he was in the US and was unable to come back for their funerals. It was a happy but sad time as Karel never thought this day would come he would be back in Czech with his family. He misses the many years that he could have spent with his family but he knows that immigrating to the US was the right thing for him and I feel lucky that I can share all these experiences with him. Life is best enjoyed when it is shared with those who you love.
I was picture crazy with all the fresh foods and endless amount of beer and bread (two staples here in Czech) but both Karel and I wanted to try everything! He was telling me lots of stories of foods when he was younger “Oh, I use to LOVE this, and that, and that”….and I loved it!
I absolutely love being in a new country and living like a local so although no peanut butter in the Czech grocery stores and plenty of cereals, I refuse to eat “American” food. Although there are many similar items in Czech, I only want fresh, local and/or new foods. I welcome it all!! Well, I will save the meat for Karel as he is loving it all! I can't wait to talk about the European lifestyle in more detail but I will need to save that for another blog when I return.
Lunch was sautéed spinach with onions and garlic, stuffed inside homemade crepes. The texture of the spinach made me a little concerned but after one bite, I was yumming my way through lunch. Delicious! Dessert was chocolate, a fresh sliced orange and a crepe stuffed with homemade apricot jam. The great thing is that neither Karel and I feel stuffed and we don’t stop moving.
Around 3:30pm we headed out for a very casual ride…..nice and steady for Karel’s dad (who did amazing!), and conversational for Karel and Honza who chatted the entire time. As usual, Karel is most comfortable on or around bikes and I could just tell he was loving riding on his old training routes.
The ride was absolutely beautiful…I just couldn’t help but take pictures the entire way. Goats, horses, green terrain, bumpy roads, small towns….It was absolutely priceless. There were a few small climbs on the rolling terrain but other than that, the windy roads made for the most pleasant 25 mile, 2 hour ride and I just loved that I could share this with Karel, his friend and his dad. Again – super impressed with Karel’s dad…I’m happy that Karel has good riding genes in his family as I hope we can live the active lifestyle that we love so much, when we are in our 70’s and onward.
After dinner, we had a light dessert of fruit and homemade pastry and cookie and then we walked around downtown, historic Czech for around 90 minutes until it was too dark to see anything. I knew Czech was pretty from the pictures on the Internet and in books but I just couldn’t believe my eyes as Karel was taking me on the roads which he walked to school every day and again, sharing lots of stories with me of when he was growing up. To be honest, traveling with Karel has been the best blessing ever because there is something so very special to be with someone who can share memories with you as you both make memories together.
After our walk, I was ready for bed. Nearing 10pm local time, I couldn’t wait to go to bed to see what tomorrow would bring.
Czech trip Day 3: Cycling, pastries and Austria
Although it didn’t feel real that we were traveling to Europe as we were driving to the airport with my mom, once we pulled out our passports, checked our bags and made it through security, we finally realized we were heading overseas. What an amazing feeling to know that 13 years ago, Karel landed in the U.S. with only a back pack and now I get to travel to Czech with Karel, to reunite with his family and hometown for the first time in over a decade!
Dessert was a carrot cake cobbler which was delicious (if you know me – you know I LOVE carrot cake!). We had plenty of snacks with us but with traveling through the night, we tried to catch a few hours of sleep (3-4) instead of keeping ourselves awake by snacking...but before we knew it, we woke up by another meal of yogurt, a muffin and orange juice. The yogurt was welcomed as I know our tummies do best with 1 serving of yogurt daily (probiotics) but we were a bit “off” seeing that we left NY at 6pm and after 6.5 hours of traveling, it was around 7am “local time” when we landed.
Surprisingly, we felt good but Starbucks coffee in Netherlands helped us out (our first Euro purchase – seeing that we used our credit card, I think that was the most expensive venti coffee we have ever shared). Finding our way through the Netherlands airport was fun and thankfully we were able to get on free Wifi to connect with our family.
After a 70 minute flight, we were both getting really excited and all of a sudden, touchdown in Prague!!
Although Vienna is a bit closer to Karel’s hometown of Znojmo, Karel wanted to fly in an out of Prague so that we could enjoy the drive to his town as see some smaller villages and sights and also spend our last 2 days in Prague. This trip is all about Karel spending time with his family so the focus wasn’t on touring around Europe so we will save that for another trip J
After getting our luggage, getting the rental car and changing our money into Czech Crowns, we headed toward Znojmo for the next 3 hours.
Sadly, I couldn’t enjoy all of it because my body was shutting down so I took a few naps as I was struggling to keep my eyes open and my brain was ready to shut off. I guess after traveling for 16 hours and only getting around 3-4 hours of on and off sleep (airplane sleep, that is), my body was pretty confused.
When we saw the sign for Znojmo, Karel started telling me stories of when he was biking there as a kid and teenager and everything started to come back. No maps, just a memory like it was yesterday that he was in Czech.
The fresh food was waiting and after cleaning up and letting my family know we had arrived, it was time for a meal. Not sure what time zone my body was on but I welcomed a delicious vegetarian meal of sautéed cauliflower, onions and eggs with boiled potatoes. Karel had pork with dumplings and gravy. We were both in Czech heaven and our bellies were happy for this “real” meal. We also enjoyed fresh pastries and a homemade dumpling stuffed with red currants and topped with melted farmers cheese and toasted bread crumbs and we knew this was the perfect start of a great 10 days in Czech.
Around 6:30pm local time, we walked over to Karel’s dad’s flat – about 1 mile away. Karel took me the long way so he could see some familiar sights. Once again, Karel was thrilled to see Karel Sr. (his dad) and so was I. Like father, like son. It didn’t take long for the bike talk to start and for Karel Sr. to show us his “bike room” (in the basement of the apartment building). Karel's friend in Czech got us road bikes from the local bike shop that Karel use to work out and Karel's dad had his Cervelo, which Karel gave to his dad (and shipped it) a few years ago. Karel's dad is 73 and raced until he was around 71. He still rides his bike but not competitively anymore.
Once again, we were entertained with stories and good food, with plenty of Marni-friendly appetizers and some good meats for Karel. We all enjoyed wine and then took an evening walk around 8pm around the town and visited his dad's gym....properly located next to one of the many pub's in Czech.
By 9:30, we were on the verge of exhaustion so we got ourselves ready for bed at his mom’s place (bunk beds – in Karel’s old room) and we were out!
One day, I hope to share Karel's story of coming to the US with only a backpack and working up to 3 jobs a day to afford a safe place to sleep at night and enough food to feed himself for the day (often, at the Chinese buffet or pasta with tomato sauce). Karel and I have been through a lot together and with every low there was a high. Although not always timely in life, sometimes you just have to appreciate what you have when you have it and just keep staying positive and strong.
I always wanted to be with someone like Karel. Someone who could give me a different perspective on life, someone who could challenge me mentally and physically and someone who I could learn from. I also wanted to be with someone who accepted me for me and regardless of my strengths or weaknesses, he would love me for who I am and encourage me to stay strong with what I believe in. I also wanted someone who could make me laugh for I don't like to be sad and sometimes it is hard to smile all the time when things just aren't going your way.
For the past 6.5 years, I have acquired a new appreciation for many things in life and I have also seen myself grow with an open-mind. Seeing that I have traveled internationally to Japan and the Philippians in the past (at age 13 and 20 years of age) I have realized that with every experience in life, you have the ability to change for the better or appreciate what you have.
What I have loved the most about having Karel in my life is being able to make memories from someone who is from a different country than my own. It doesn't only make for interesting conversations and different points of views but it also brings us closer.
So what am I looking forward to?
-Spending 12 days with Karel, all day, every day!
-Meeting Karel's extended family and friends
-Spending time with Karel's family (his brother speaks English) in the homes where he grew up in.
-Trying new food, taking pictures of food, learning as much as I can about food in Czech!
-Possibly getting a bike at Karel's old bike shop in Czech (Karel has a bike for himself that he is borrowing, he is trying to find one my size)
-Enjoying new sights and visiting Prague and Karel's hometown
-Listening to Karel speak Czech for almost 10 days as oppose to only speaking Czech just a few times a year when he Skype's with his family.
-Creating memories with Karel
-Leaving Campy :( But he will be staying with his grandparents at the "Resort" so he will get plenty of love and likely lots of people food. Maybe even a ride in the Corvette by my dad :)
-Karel explaining to people that I am a vegetarian and that someone actually chooses to not eat meat (should be interesting in a beer and meat loving country :)
-Long flights.......compression socks will come in handy and my Trigger Point set.
-Being away from my athletes (coaching and nutrition) and social media - I am sure it will be nice to get away but I am not sure how well I will handle not being able to blog, FB or email like I do here at home. But, I will survive :) My athletes will not worry because they will have their workouts on training peaks so they can do their miles while I travel thousands of miles. My nutrition services will be on hold while I am gone so that means that I can look forward to lots of communication when I return from active bodies who are excited to change their lifestyle.