Wednesday, 18 July 2007

I want to ride my bicycle

...following on from one of yesterday’s themes, I finally tracked down a decent website promoting cycling tours around the vineyards of Southern Moravia. How times have changed because there wasn’t anything like this at the start of the century. I guess the place is really opening up to foreign tourists now and is no longer the sanctuary from the well-worn tourist trails of the past. This particular website has an English version as well, so it’s probably not long before the crowd get there, if they haven’t already introduced their charming ribaldry to the region. The sklepky were admittedly prominently advertised in my 1991 edition of the Rough Guide to Czechoslovakia, but they were bloody hard to get to in those early days, nobody spoke foreign languages and the product was basically hamster’s pish. Still, whether it’s pish or not, and no matter whether there are hordes of Germans requesting oompah music and smearing greasy bratwurst over their faces, I’d still like to strike out on an expeditionary mission into the wine-growing estates for two or three days at least next summer. Has anyone been on these steky already? tvc? Here’s a picture plagiarised from the site to jog your memory. Not that jocular ribaldry has been totally absent from the region, of course. My very last weekend in Moravia in 2002 was marked by tvc washing the cobblestones outside a lovely bucolic sklipek in Mikulov with stomach acid. That trip must just about have commemorated the tenth anniversary of my originally introduction to vinny sklepy back in 1992 when the Hlidkovi signed me up to a teachers’ weekend excursion to Hustopeče on board the school bus. Things started out badly when I discovered the risky and zitny chleba that Nada Hlidkova had prepared for me and wrapped in tin foil had been stolen from the communal fridge at my kolej in Jablonec. The day got better though after we stopped five minutes into our trip to purchase a couple crates of beer. This exercise was repeated several times on the way to Moravia, so everyone was in a rather jolly mood by the time we pulled up at our designated sklipek.

That’s where it all goes a bit blurry. I remember the walls being very damp and clammy, lots of singing, mountains of chlebičky and talicka (yuck), and the headmaster’s son instructing me to toast his father each time with confident ‘Čau vole!’. Then I was totally naked and trying to roger one of the cooks in a hostel dormitory with ten other people in the room trying to get to sleep. Christ only knows how that happened because I could only find my jeans, one sock and shoe, and a jacket the next morning. The cook in question led me back to the sklipek and along the way we found the rest of my clothes.

A round of bacon, eggs and rohlicky followed (can’t be arsed looking for the ‘č’ in the symbols menu each time) in the nearest pub, so it was only inevitable that liquidy refreshments started to flow once more. I was innocently stuffing food into my cakehole to stave off the hangover (still at a manageable pain threshold in those days) when a large glass of vodka arrived from the adjacent table of similarly-aged sniggering sports instructors. I accepted the challenge and sent a tray back to them and was rewarded with looks of sudden and unexpected anguish. That was the signal for a game of one-upmanship to the death, and then I woke up last on Monday morning having missed the first two periods of the day. Bedrich will know what it was like arriving back at school to be met with that resigned yet bemused look on Petr Hlidek’s face: “Oh dear Andy, you have caused much comments and laughter”.

Actually, I went on two wine cellar trips while at Sportovni skola a gymnazium, but I’m scoobied if I can distinguish between the two of them.

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