Prague is the capital of the republic established in 1993. It is a beautiful medieval town known for it's spires, astronomical clock, gothic churches and a rather special bridge.
It is a bit of a shame then that I once visited this town for a weekend with a group of rowdy young men celebrating the end of a friends bachelorhood. In the UK we call this a "stag do" and they are of course a lot of fun at the time, and then difficult to remember afterwards, sometimes on purpose, sometimes due to over-hydration.
It is surprising that anything remotely resembling a sporting pursuit occurs on these trips, but the best of them usually involve a ring-leader who is determined to stick to a schedule and not be swayed by the neon-lights and more dingy activities that lurk beneath most cities, at least until later in the day. I was secretly pleased to hear that our first morning in the city would be spent in the saddle, cruising along riverbanks and later causing mayhem on the pedestrianised cobbled streets of the old town.
This was at a time in my life when not a lot of bike touring was taking place. I was working hard, and barely coming up to breath from an office job. I distinctly remember the pleasure I got from feeling the cool spring breeze on my face and the childish-buzz from darting around people and things. Although I struggled with a lack of fitness, it felt like a weight had been lifted from the hangover I had (more from the working week that was, than the night before). It was a great thing to do with a group of mates; plenty of banter and plenty of whinging, plenty of stops along the way.
I had been to the country once before, but in the winter-time. This time the place felt very different in the sun. It made me think about the impressions we form of places. We don't specifically think about what a place feels like, but we seem to absorb the atmosphere and quickly form an opinion. If it is a good one, we often let the people we meet confirm this, rather than spoil it and vice versa. This judgment made on first impressions is rather obtuse, and I have since realised that it can be a nasty infection. It's a bit like confirmation bias in the sciences; we know what we want the result to be and often mis-interpret results, or stage an experiment in such a way so that we find what we are looking for. This is a lesson about travelling. People, traffic, hills, weather, food and costs all add to the mix, but we can chose how to handle them.
The weather is certainly not the fault of a country, it just happens in the place that day. Ok, I accept that human-made climate change is definitely a thing, but we shouldn't be made miserable if it's cold and grey and lashing with rain. When on a bike all day, it's hard-work stopping this from impacting your mood, but with touring, there is always a sense of accomplishment that comes from battling through adverse conditions to get to your goal. I have always thought that if it wasn't for bad days, then we wouldn't appreciate the good ones. Even after doing a full lap of the world, I reckon that one of the most beautiful moments in life is when the sun finally breaks through the storm clouds, and the birds begin to sing again. One of life's little pleasures comes out of darker times. This is indeed a cheesy metaphor for my life at the time, but one that holds nicely here.