Published: September 11th 2006September 11th 2006
I write this sitting in a laundrette in Prague. It's a bit of a hassle as I had to travel across Prague on the metro and change lines with all of the laundry. However, the person that first thought of matching an internet cafe with a laundrette was a very shrewd one... I can happily catch up with people safe in the knowledge that I'm also using my time to clean all our rancid clothes!
Last time I wrote, we were in Leipzig, and had a great couple of days there. It is a really interesting city, a strange mixture of classical, communist and modern buildings. Simon was in seventh heaven due to the strong classical music scene and one evening we saw the Leipzig orchestra do an outside concert. We also did the obligatory Bach-related sightseeing. I found his wife's life more interesting though. She bore him thirteen children, gave up her career as a soprano singer in a royal court to marry him, ran a huge household and worked on his music with him, then when he died she was forced to sell all his work and papers and lived in poverty for ten years before being buried in a pauper's grave. Evidently it's not true that the more children you have, the better you will be looked after in your old age.
From Leipzig we cycled more or less constantly down the Elbe, a huge river, to Prague. The valley is dramatically steep sided and lined with trees. I feel a lot fitter now than I did when we started the trip, hills are not really a problem any more and my legs are a lot stronger. Although Simon is still fond of telling me to hurry up, brake less on downhills, pedal faster, etc. He usually gets ignored though...
We spent an evening in Dresden, a rather unsettling place. Obviously it was heavily bombed in the war but I didn't realise that it was more or less obliterated in one night's work by the RAF and US airforce. The town erupted into an inferno and thousands of the residents died. What I found a bit weird is that they have rebuilt most of the baroque buildings exactly as they were. So it is a bit like walking around a ghost town, imagining all the people that had been killed where we were.
Just after that, we crossed into the Czech republic. It was a bit of a jolt as we can both speak German and were familiar with the customs and money etc. So to suddenly be confronted by a completely incomprehensible language, currency (and a people that, shall we say, operate in different ways), was a bit like going into the unknown. It was two days cycling from the German border to Prague, and luckily the towns improved. Near Germany they were pretty bleak, unfriendly places with dull, sickly buildings, although there was the occasional vestige of former glory. But around here things are a lot prettier.
Prague itself, it goes without saying, is a tremendous place. It is incredibly beautiful, a bit like Venice, with lots of buildings which look like elaborately iced cakes. We are staying on a campsite on an island. It is a long way round via the bridge so we have to get a little ferry to the riverbank. It is noticeable that we are doing less in the way of sight-seeing now than we were earlier in the trip. Maybe we have run out of steam with museums and the like. At any rate we are both happy here to potter around and take it easy.
Take care everybody, hope all is well.