5/9/13

Czech trip Day 1: Traveling to Czech Republic


Day 1: Traveling to Czech Republic

 

Tampa – Amsterdam – Prague

It was an early morning wake-up call for Karel and I to squeeze in one last sweat session on Tuesday morning at my parents house, before 16 hours of traveling. This wasn’t a “training” workout but rather, a workout to keep us feeling good for a long day ahead.

After many Campy kisses, we were ready to go. 
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!

First flight was a quickie. Delta made it easy for us to laugh our way up North as we watched Tosh.0 on comedy channel for a good 90 minutes.  We had a long 3 hour layover in NY but after being bussed to the international terminal and grabbing a delicious late lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings (black bean burger for me, steak burger for Karel), we had just enough time to stretch, roll on the trigger point ball and keep our phones charged before boarding the plane to the Netherlands.

Although it was our “long” flights, traveling 6.5 hours was a breeze with the KLM services being top-notch on board. The Dutch staff was incredibly nice and accomodating. We had our own TV’s with movies and TV shows but Karel and I had our Ipad with Season 5 of Breaking Bad so we started the flight with 2 new episodes (purchased on ITunes ahead of time). While watching, we were served a delicious dinner….vegetarian pasta for me, meat and mashed potatoes for Karel. Lucky for us, it was a packed flight but somehow we ended up with a row of 3 and only us to in it! We were also right near the bathroom in the middle of the plane and there was a water spot for drinking water and a nice area to stand up and stretch which helped us out for our long flight (along with compression socks).
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 our 2 hour layover and heading through customs (another passport and security check), we snacked to keep our body on the new time zone and at 9:30am, Karel finally started to realize that in less than 90 minutes, we would be in Czech.

 

Although our airline tickets were purchased on Delta, we were on Czech Airlines to Prague. With Karel being bilingual and Czech as his first language (he learned English by teaching himself after living in the US by himself), his brain automatically started to switch as everyone was speaking Czech on the plane. He finally felt at home. I always ask Karel if when he is around Czech people if he thinks in Czech or in English. Typically he says English since he is use to it but on the airplane, I think he switched to thinking in Czech.

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
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After getting our luggage, getting the rental car and changing our money into Czech Crowns, we headed toward Znojmo for the next 3 hours.

Karel had fun driving a stick shift and with windows down (no AC), I really enjoyed Karel sharing stories with me as we made our way 220 Kilometers to his town. The speed limit changes frequently because of all the small towns and once we were off the highway (D1), the country roads were pleasant but hilly.

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.

Karel said he didn’t remember his town being so small (ex. roads) when he was living there but to me, it all looked so big and amazing.

We arrived to his mom’s flat around 3:10pm local time (9:10am EST) and Karel finally got his moment that he had been dreaming of for the past 13 years. Hugging his mom at his home where he spent most of his teenage life.

Although only meeting Karel’s mom, dad and brother once in 2008 at our wedding, they are family to me as well. Although only Karel’s brother’s family speak English, you don’t need words when you can share love. I gave Karel’s mom a big hug and was introduced to her husband, Karel’s stepdad.

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.

After catching up with Karel’s mom and receiving phone calls (local phone) from his dad and brother, we both took a mini nap so that we could make it until the evening before going to bed. I took a solid 90 minute nap and finally felt a bit more normal.

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!

 

Stay tuned for Day 2: Our first “official” day in Czech











 









 




 










(homemade bike wheel case)