World ARDF 2002 Part 6

Vinohrady, Praha

Well, the title is the name of the district in Prague (Praha) where this hotel is located. It’s not a bad place, pretty basic, and based on some quick checks I’ve done on other Hotels today, pretty damm cheap too by central Prague standards.

It is Monday evening now. It’s still warm, but the window is open and it’s quite pleasant with the soft ‘going to bed’ noises in the surrounding buildings. It’s been a busy day, but first lets rewind a bit to Slovakia.

Instead of going more into the results of the 80m ARDF competition, I’ll refer you to (I think… I haven’t checked that address) where Rainer will be putting up all the results and splits from the German ARDF software. I haven’t seen the splits yet so that will be interesting !! (I really want to know how I compare on some of my better legs).

After the prize giving ceremony, which was similar to the 2m one, but inside in the basketball court due to inclement weather (now doesn’t that sound familier fellow ARDF-2003 organisers ?!!), it was straight into the HamFest.

Oh man was there a lot of food there !! After already feeding us a light meal beforehand I don’t know what they were expecting, but I can’t imagine anyone could possibly have gone away hungry. The gift swapping was much more muted than in Region 3 championships. I suspect it’s just a cultural thing. There was certainly a fair bit of it, but rather than feeling inadequate like we did the that first time at Townsville, I had some stuff left over !

Remember the Slovenian junior who had followed me to TX1 earlier in the day ? Many of the receivers couldn’t hear with the hopelessly weak signal from the defective transmitter…which incidentally affected all competitors so that’s why they left it as is rather than turning on the backup. Note to ourselves: [Must check power level of TXs after turned on in the field in International Competitions we run].

Anyway, his name was Ziga, and he ended up coming 10th in the M19 category, his best ever performance. Not that this helps my own result at all of course, but it is kinda nice to know I’m worth following (at least some of the time). That’s one of the splits I’d really like to see (4-1). He gave me a bottle of Slovenian wine from his home town since he was pretty excited at his result and grateful for my (sort-of) help.

Having been to some big (well Easter 3 Days anyway) orienteering competitons, and world ARDF competitions this sort of intermingling of competitors and making friends is something that is quite different, at least in degree. With ARDF the whole group are together for the 5 days of the carnival, not just the few hours of competition, partly due to the way it is structured, and also since it is held is some pretty obscure locations where making your own arrangements from afar would be almost impossible. Dave, one of the US competitors, came along just as almost a side trip to some rock climbing he is heading to in the Dolomites in Italy. He says he had so much fun at this world championship he is hooked…. “When’s the next one ??”

During the gift exchange I gave one of the German competitors a special gift. She nearly fell over laughing when I presented her, with great ceremony, with a green capsicum (pepper). This was in reference to the green capsicum that was mysteriously suspended from the roof of one of the lifts during the German celebrations after the 2m event.

Larry, Adam & Bryan under the Luge

The Summer Luge

Mountain Railway

Most of the Yanks were due to head off early the next morning, many back to Hungary with Ghuri. Larry remained for a bit and the next day we were going to head up the cable car with him. Unfortunately I discovered I had to go into Poprad with one of the organisers to organise our train tickets for that night otherwise we probably wouldn’t get them at all. Adam and Bryan had to travel that night to get back in time for their train (didn’t really worry me since I have the whole week). The mountain had clouded in (again) by the time I had all that organised, so instead we ended up going up a cable railway on a nearby peak. Interesting ride, and a good walk up the top. A fluke we ran into Sergei on our walk (who wasn’t competing in this championship, since he didn’t make the Ukraine team…and he was the one who won the USA champs last year) who was on the last day of his visa. He rode by bike to the championships from Ukraine to save money since as an observer he gets no government sponsorship.

Cable Train (Funicular)

Ski run

The Tatra Peaks

Afterwards Larry and us took the train(s) to Poprad. Larry is staying there a few days. We found a great (and cheap) restuarant in the pedestrian mall there, before heading back to Poprad station to board our sleeper.

Caught Out !

The Prague Sleeper

Relaxed Lunch

The sleeper was pretty nice with only 3 pretty generous beds (for a train) in a cabin. Of course we had to be woken rudely for the passport checks, but unlike Mongolia at least they did these whilst the train was on the move. We were also stopped for a while with lots of compressed air noises, so it’s possible the rail gauge changed here too, but the stuffing around factor seemed considerably less than in China/Mongolia. Other than waking whenever we hit a station (odd sort of express that seemed to make lots of stops) it wasn’t a bad night.

Took a while to get ourselves organised in Prague. We didn’t have a prior booking at all and it took a bit to get oriented. I went and bought a map that has already become a valuable if somewhat dog-eared possession.

After finding a Hotel (that has turned out to be pretty cheap compared to many others, and quite acceptable) we lugged our luggage up the stairs (no lift) and settled in. Bit a a walk around the area was planned before lunch, but we didn’t end up returning till evening.

I now have the tram system pretty well worked out. The metro undergound is out of action due to the floods except for one line. I’m told it’ll probably be that way for 6 months to a year since the whole system and stations were completely flooded. There a few extra trams called XA and XB that attempt to follow the missing underground loops.

I won’t go into too much detail about the city, but we did of course visit the Karluv bridge, and a quick walk through the Prague castle (the centre of Czech goverment). Prague has many streets and lanes heading in odd directions. Apparently this is partly intentional so invaders would get lost !



Flood Damage

The damage due to the recent floods (they flooded the West bank particularly about 3m or so up on the buildings) is extensive, but repairs are well underway. Workmen with cement dusty overalls are everywhere in the river district, and there is a damp musky wet cement smell in places. Lower floor windows often burst due to the flowing water pressure. Thought this means we might not get to see everything, it does work in our favour too since the crowds are apparently *well* down. Still, you can tell you’re in a tourist mecca when you hear English and German more often than Czech.

The Karlov Bridge

Starom Square

Narrow Lane

Took the trams back to our Hotel to get ready for a concert we’d booked for on the spur of the moment.

It turned out to be a quartet in the Municipal House whereas I had more a full symphony orchestra in mind (Gerswin, Bernstein, Bizet etc. usually are). Still, after the initial surprise (in retrospect the tickets did seem fairly cheap), it turned out to be quite interesting, especially when they had to improvise to fill in extra parts.

A more Italian style pizza (yum) on the way home. On the way home just turned out to be a bit longer for Adam and myself since Adam wanted to take some night shots of the city from the castle (this was not a trivial walk!). Some sections and roads in the city are taped off. This is either due to danger of collapse (sometimes the flooded cellars get some structural damage and you get sudden sink-holes), or a lack of power in that area making it dangerous. In places there are big portable generator sets humming away to provide power for that area. Even so, a couple of the streets we went down were alarmingly dark! Finally got back after midnight (with rather too many time exposure photos of city buildings).

Prague on (mostly) 2 Wheels

Today I was set to meet Maurice from the Belgium team as he was passing though Prague. I was at the appointed place and time so something must have stuffed up. Anyway, instead I checked out bike rentals and an internet cafe. I did end up hiring a bike, which included a 2 hour tour of the city. Ideal way to get around, and much more fun. I mananged to talk min into giving me an extra 2 hours of rental for the same price, so basically I had the mountain bike for the rest of the day.

The bike tour was good. I was just me, a couple of Londoners and the guide, plus a trainee guide tagging along. Probably a bit shorter on details that your typical tour but that didn’t worry me too much at all. A few titbits: Nick Cave lived in Prague for a short while. He wrote a song about a cafe here called the “Thirsty Dog”. That cafe now has a signed Nick Cave portrait 🙂

On the Bike Tour

Starom Square

More Flood Damage

Micheal Jackson had a tour here a whike back. He donated a huge blow up statue of, you guessed it, Micheal Jackson. It stayed on the hill to the North of the city for some years before it was “decommissioned”. They floated it up and down the river a few times as a boat. In it’s place they built a giant metronome. Yep…looks just like that metronome your Granny used to have on the piano. It’s meant to symbolise the continueous passing of time since it always ticks…..uh…except at the moment when it’s not due to power problem due to the flood.

Mozart performed Don Giovanni here for first time in 17?? something. It’s been playing in Prague ever since…uh…except for now when it isn’t and something else is instead.

There is a graffitti wall called the John Lennon wall. They paint it clean every year and immediately it is filled again. The first time someone had painted a portrait of John Lennon, which didn’t sit terribly well with the at the time communist regime. Later, when Czechoslovakia regained a democratic system, someone remembered the John Lennon had been painted over and re-found it.

Hmmmmm a noisy group have just arrived downstairs at the Hotel, so though it is late I may as well keep going…..

One of the girls keeps trying to say shhhhhh but I suspect it’s a hopeless cause 🙂 Of course I can’t understand a word they are saying/yelling.

Afterwards I took the bike to the park across the river to the North of town, took some photos of the city, and gave the bike a bit more of a workout than it would probably normally get riding up and down steps. (Hey, the tracks were marked with a bike symbol, and I was just following the locals :-)). Due to the wide paved areas in this park it seems to be a very popular in-line skating, biking and skate boarding area. A mountain bike is essential in Prague due to the cobbled streets. A road bike would be a disaster.

I rode up to the castle (again) but could not ride in since it’s only for pedestrians. Oh well, around the castle, and back through the river district and a complicated route back through the city (ok, my technique was to ride for a while anywhere it looked interesting, and then try to find myself on the map again…which wasn’t easy with this map!).

Radio Free Europe broadcasts from the centre of Prague from a big building. One of the most powerful HF transmitters in the world apparently. The building now is fortified and no visitors are allowed (since September 11). After returning the bike (damm what a pity…that beat walking) I did a bit of shopping (gasp horror…Bruce doing shopping).

Tommorow the Technical Museum, and possibly a Jazz Club dinner. Later in the week I’ll probably move onto Rock 🙂

Hmmmm that was a long one !

PS: Jodi, still no O’Henry Bars in Czech Repulic either, but I do have something else instead……

On the Jazz Train

I’m just back from a dinner Jazz night at a Jazz and Blues place recommended by the bike people. I wonder how this will come out after a few Czech beers. Well the beer was certainly cheap, and the Mexican style food excellent (and filling)…… but the jazz ? Well it was what I’d call country music (bleah), not one of my favorites. Maybe given a stretch you could call it Bluesgrass, and hence a tenuous connection to Blues, but only just. I was most disappointed.

According to an English couple I chatted to over dinner, a Jazz band is back playing at the bridge…they weren’t there when we went over the other day. It rained on me on the way home too (actually I would have made it back ok if I hadn’t got my tram stops confused….. it’s so much harder at night to tell where on earth you are in an only slight;y familier city). Oh well 🙂

It’s a relief to use a normal keyboard again. You have no idea how hard it is to use a European keyboard in the internet cafes. The Y and Z are swapped over, the numbers have to be shifted, and I still have no idea how to get to the 3rd and 4th characters on the keys (which include semi important things like : and !… bit hard to do a URL without an : I’m reduced to finding an old shortcut and changing it !

As for the rest of the day:

It was a bit of a slow start, partly because of a late night last night (recall those noisy ppl who arrived ?), and also because it’s a holiday, dammit, and it’s been up early nearly every morning (well Bruce’s definition of early anyway) for weeks.

I sent off the last report from an internet cafe just up then street. Pretty convenient really since this Hotel is in a bit of an out-of-the-way place.

Took the tram to the Technical Museum. Turns out it was just behind the park where I went cycling yesterday, but then things move much faster on a bike. I have to admit the museum was a bit of a disappointment… not at all like the visit to the one in US a few years back. I finally found the place by guesswork and a bit of map help…the 1:16000 tourist map is a bit of a beast to read at times; pictures of monuments and churches tend to obsure important steet junctions ! The museum would be excellent if you’re a steam train buff; and yes Roger, I took some photos for you. Otherwise the displays well, were a bit dull. The technical displays stop before surface mount chips, English only appears on about 30% of exhibits, and despite the pure volume of things in a particular category (say cameras), it was interesting but not fascinating. I think more thought needs to be put into the presentation of material. There are only so many box brownies I can look at before I yawn. The number of staff out-numbered the number of customers 2:1.1

Technical Museum

Steam Trains

Now why didn’t this Tandem design take off ?

The industial design exhibit was, erhem, well thought it was some sort of joke to be honest. Some vacuum cleaner company presented all it’s failed designs and called it an exhibit. Lots of curvy plastic and zero content.

There was a good school-level introduction to resonance and modulation of waveforms, and as well as the full actual steam locomotives and early cars, a whole room dedicated to steam train art (pretty strange for a technical museum).

Possibly I’m bagging it a bot much, or maybe I’m spoilt when it comes to sciece museums. It’s only 70 Kc (about A$5) so make up your own mind 🙂

A threatened species

New model analogue sniffer for Marvin

Afterwards having a bit more time than expected I walked back through the park (letenske sady) and visited the castle (properly this time). I bought one of the tickets simply to climb the cathedral steeple, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have bothered. Don’t bother buying a guided tour or anything… just lob past a tour group when you need to find out about something. It that doesn’t happeb to be in English, try another ! There’s enough of them. That way you can speed past the less interesting bits, such as the old palace. The view from the steeple was good. Worth it for that alone.

Prague Castle

Castle Cathedral

Riegrovy Gardens

Another interesting bit is where they have lots of little shops that were built into the original wall. There is an extensive display of body armour (that stuff must have been so uncomfortable!) in a room upstairs within the wall itself.

I went walking through Stare Mesto, the old town, after that. I wanted to check out the big square where there had been anti-communist student protests. It’s well just a big square (well actually a long rectangle).

Here’s another titbit: The Jewish part of town is one of the most well preserved Jewish quarters in the world…the reason being Hitler declared it off limits for German bombing in WW2…Why ? Why would *Hitler* do that ? Well apparently he wanted a monument to an completely exterminated race…and the one in Prague was to be it. Now that’s wierdness.

I also had a look at a room in Pension Unistas Cloister Inn. The rooms according the Lonely Planet Guide are originally jail cells. Well they did look pretty basic, but comfortable. A kilometre of corridor to walk down to get to them, and shared WC/showers, more little more expensive and harder to get to the airport… so I won’t bother moving. Interesting to see though.

I have to tell you this tourism stuff is hard work !! I’m footsore. Probably I tend to move a bit faster than most, and think nothing of walking across town. Oh yeah, I tried to track down a Northern Hemisphere compass for you, Bryan, but the trail went cold when I was referred to a shop that referred me to a shop that didn’t seem to be there. Probably faulty directions.


Oooh the noisy ppl are back . Oh well 🙂

The Rock of Stvanice

This’ll probably be my last report. [Many sighs of relief I hear that there won’t be yet more stuff filling up the mailbox]. Now, hands up who has read all of every report ??

Well if yesterday was a day of a few disappointments, today exceeded expectations !

After sending off yesterdays report at the local internet cafe I had some time left to do some research. Yay I found an orienteering shop…via, would you believe, the Rogaining World Champs web page, so nice and recent too. They had an email address so I asked if they had the Russian compass. As it turns out, I got to the place just after they’d sent the reply… and yes they did ! Sometimes the trams didn’t turn the way I expected, but that didn’t matter, just swap sides at the next stop 🙂 It’s cheap travel too… about A60c for 15 minute ticket and A90c for an hour ticket. Easy.

It was a funny little place where you duck down low into a doorway. Possibly it wasn’t the usual entrance since the building had some flood damage being near the river. I bought a plate compass fro Bryan pretty much the same as the one I bought in Germany last year. Also got a spare blank Russian plate so I can mount a plate permanently to each sniffer, and a thumb compass blank (for fox-oring in Northern Hemisphere in the future ?). There were also a nice range of O shoes, and since I’d thrown my old ones in the bin after the last event (they were surviving on gaffer tape) and I bought some 1999 “model” ones for a fair bit cheaper.

Next stop was a particular ticket office on Vaclavske (Wencelas I think) Square to see if there were any rock concerts at the this… nothing of interest this week, but some good things coming up in November (how useful to know). Then a bit of a walk in the sun (it had started off overcast and a bit dampish) to an obsure part of town (definitely not tourist trampled zone here) to check out a bike shop mentioned in lonely planet. It had disappeared, but it was a nice walk back through a big park I hadn’t yet discovered.

Some more internet research and I found a new list of bike hire shops (one of my possible plans for tommorow), and, by a bit of a fluke found out about an outdoor rock event…today !!

Looked ideal… outdoors so I could mostly avoid the heavy Czech smokers, a benefit concert to raise money for the “Roxy”, a venue that has had to close temporarily as it was completely flooded out (over 6m). It was all afternoon and evening, but from experience I knew the best is kept till later so I only headed to Stvanice Island SK8 park about 6pm. Luckily only a 20 min walk from the Hotel (I didn’t have a clear idea from the map how to even get ONTO the island, but it turned out to be quite easy).

All the ingredients were there…about 4000 people, lots of portaloos, hot corn cobs, and even Hare-Khristna vege-burgers. The only thing is I couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying, except for some of the songs that were in dodgy english. Didn’t matter much though.

No ID age checks, no wet/dry areas, no convoluted “double” mosh gating (hardly required with such a small event), but quite a few more cigarettes. There we 2 stages though, one for live bands and the other for DJs.

The first band I saw was a sort of electronic groove band.. not bad but a bit boring. The next one was a surprise…. trombone, trumpet, guitars… yep a ska band. They were good too. A lot closer to Jazz than last nights “country” at a Jazz bar!

The vege burgers turned out to be excellent on that yummy moist bread. The corn was, well corn.

The next band was popular, but since it was hip-hop entirely in Czech it had little appeal to me.

To make up for the healthiness of the previous courses I had a evil deep fried thingy with lemon and cheese on top. Reminded me a bit of those beaver tail doovers at Whistler. Also bought a T-shirt since it was getting cold. The final band are hard to describe. Sort of a mix between Enigma and Chemical Brothers with MachineGunFellacio’s taste in night-shirt dress. Bongo drums too. Very strange, but I liked them a lot.

On the way home for some reason a street didn’t go where I expected and I ended up on a railway siding. Hmmmmm not good. I wasn’t keen on back tracking due to some dubious characters I passed quickly in one of those “generator” power zones. I followed the railway line since it basically went the way I wanted. After winding through some stationary trains and past a few workshop buildings I saw the street I wanted to be on… below me. Dammm. Past some more derelict buildings (this was getting spooky) and then there was merely a fence between me and the road. Oooops… policemen guarding one of the many flood no-go zones right outside the fence. Bugger ! I didn’t fancy attempting to explain in sign language exactly why I was climbing out of a high security area at 11pm or so. I had no ID on me (I’m not going to take anything even vaguely valuable like a passport to a rock concert now am I ?). I had this nasty suspicion that my explanations would be met with some incredulity, or misunderstanding.

So lurk back into the buildings. OK…I’ll just walk along kind of parallel to the road and hope something better turns up. More derelict buildings. A few locomotives, an unscalable concrete cliff up to the road now. Ahhhhhh a carpark, with other people in it. I walked like I was entirely where I was meant to be, out a walkway and out the gate. Quick turn left and all was well…. Phew ! Exactly what the people in the carpark thought I was meant to to be doing stumbing about the railway lines I have no idea, and I don’t care.

The noisy people turn out to be a school group from Denmark, but it’s possible they were only last nights noisy group and the night before had been a different noisy group.

Well that about wraps it up. Be back in Oz on Saturday, but I doubt in a useful state. If I make it to the MTB-O on Sunday it will be a miracle !

I made it to the Chiltern MTBO !

PS: I did !!