Czech Out Brno Part Three: Austria to České Budějovice, Home of Proper Budweiser.
Updated: Apr 15, 2022
The next morning, under the watchful eye of Willy, we geared up and selected the day's series of waypoints that would take us directly to our hotel in the Czech city of České Budějovice. Well, for most of us that was the case. I got a nudge from one of the riders asking me if my first waypoint was in Bulgaria, or if it was just him.
A tour of Bulgarian roundabouts was not on the agenda, nor was it even close to the direction that our journey was to take us. But there it was, one GPS unit with directions to a roundabout in Bulgaria...3.5 hours away, and after that it was 7ish hours to the waypoint that the rest of us would be going to first.
Why, GPS? You had one job!
We found out much, much later that even though Cat loaded the same waypoints to every GPS unit for each bike, not every GPS had the same preloaded map information. We didn't notice this at all in Germany or Austria, but it seemed like everywhere we went in Czechia somebody's GPS wanted them to turn right (and go to Bulgaria) when everyone else was told to go left.
How could the map data be so far off?
In order to answer that question, allow me to give you a brief history lesson of the region that we were traveling through. Trust me, it is kinda relevent.
The Duchy of Bohemia was founded in the late 9th century under Great Moravia.I like to picture "Great Mavoria" like "The Great Gazoo" from the Flintstones, but I don't think that is historically accurate. In 1002 it was an Imperial State of the Holy Roman Empire, until the Battle of Mohacs in 1526 where the Habsburg Monarchy absorbed the Crown of Bohemia. Religion reared its ugly head (as it does) with the Protestant Bohemian Revolt evolving into the Thirty Years' War. In 1806 the Holy Empire turned to a fine mist, and the region became part of the Austrian Empire. In 1918 the region became part of the First Czechoslovak Republic, and it remained a parliamentary democracy until 1938 when Hitler wanted it...because of course he did. After that shitty mustachioed coward offed himself in a bunker (take notes Putin, but don't wait too much longer, please.) Czechoslovakia was restored for three years until it became an Eastern Bloc state in 1948, which it remained until 1989. Finally, in 1993 Czechoslovakia was split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. (Edward, feel free to correct my probable errors in the comments section, but remember I said it was brief...)
I don't know about you, but that paragraph reads like Czechia has had a series of abusive relationships, and is finally free to be itself for the first time in its life. Like many people in similar situations, Czechia is doing what it can to define itself, to grow, and to put the past behind it. Czechia is doing the country equivalent of giving itself bangs after burning a box of stuff that belonged to their ex.
By that I mean road construction, and a shitload of it.
We ran into many situations where our route was detoured away from our waypoints and with at least two different sets of map data this became rapidly problematic. We had to make decisions based on what the majority of the GPS units suggested and hoped that we chose wisely. Even then at one point we went down a road that wasn't on any of our units, probably because the surface changed from fresh tarmac, to gravel, to dirt, and then finally just kinda stopped in a fallow farm field. While we were trying to figure out where we were, I noticed a vehicle approaching rapidly from the side of the field, and thought for sure it was the farmer coming to Dick Cheney us for trespassing. It turned out to be Cat in the van, whose more direct route GPS unit took him down the old road that came from the opposite direction. Much like in Italy where all roads lead to Rome, every road in Czechia lead to this poor farmer's field.
At this point those that are still reading this are screaming "JUST USE GOOGLE MAPS YOU UNEDUCATED SWINE", and to you both I say "No."
The problem with phone based navigation is you kinda need cell service to use it, and the only thing 5g along much of our route were the chips we all had injected when we got vaccinated. Kidding about the vaccination additive, of course, in case any flat-earth people stumble across this and managed to cobble together these words. There were sections in between towns with the population of maybe 50 people on our route that had zero coverage, and it didn't get much better once we got into even the most populated bits of Czechia. Using phone based navigation became VERY problematic for me in Prague, for example, which I will cover in an upcoming addition to this series that, if you are my mom, you should just skip. Please/thank you/sugar on top.
For as much shit as I am giving the GPS units, it is only fair that I call out one of their strengths...Speed camera locations. Every single speed camera on our planned route, our unplanned reroutes, and probably on roads that didn't even exist yet was on the GPS, giving us plenty of time to drop from a few kph below escape velocity to a much less fine-inducing speed at or below the posted limit.
Despite the best efforts of the mismatched-mapped GPS units we did eventually roll into České Budějovice, or as the German's say it, Budweis. We would be spending the night in the city that housed the Budějovický Budvar Brewery, home of ACTUAL Budweiser, not the swill consumed by Famed Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Carey before he spit Take Me Out To The Ballgame's fire lyrics all over the people under the press box.
Before you climb down out of your lifted monster truck (was the mall busy today?) to tell me monosyllabically that I know fuck-all about beer, allow me to give you another brief history lesson.
The King of Bohemia gave the city of České Budějovice brewing rights in 1265, and it has been doing the damn thing ever since. There is more to it than that, but just keep that year in mind when you move onto the next part.
The Anheuser-Busch website says that they have been "creating stronger communities and meaningful moments for over 165 years", which is cute, but does not even begin to match the timeframe that the city of Budweis has been whipping up the frosty suds. Notice that they don't mention "brewing great beer for over 165 years", because, well, Snopes would out that as a lie.
Oh, yeah. Budweiser Bier translates to "Beer from Budweis" not "Swill from St. Louis", so another point for Bohemian beer on top of the 757ish years of brewing experience.
I am not a Certified Cicerone, but I have had the the beer that capitalism corrupted and some from Budvar. One tastes a lot like cut corners to raise profits for stockholders, and the other was nectar squeezed straight from the teat of the Goddess of beer into my half-liter stein. The difference is the craft-like care that Budvar takes in selecting their ingredients, and about 88 more days of maturation than the sex-in-a-canoe beer America makes. Budvar is the most popular beer brand imported into Germany and the UK, so it isn't like I am some neckbeard pretentiously spouting off about my favorite craft beer you have never heard of, I am literally comparing Budweiser to Budweiser.
Anyway, back to Czechia, and why it reminded me of Kenosha, Wisconsin. How's that for a segue?
As a kid, Kenosha was known for two things: American Motors/Chrysler/Jeep/Renault, and more bars per capita than any other city in Wisconsin. In Kenosha, it felt like 99 out of 100 cars were part of the AMC family as a large portion of the city dwellers worked at the place that they were produced. Hard work demanded hard play, so as such there were bars on literally every corner. Add in a couple of collages, and for a tiny little speck on the map, Kenosha was a happening town on a Friday night.
The Czech Republic is home to Skoda, and as such 99 out of 100 cars were from that family of autos. Every car that I rode in (minus one in Prague...again, mom, skip that one please) was a Skoda. The general vibe in the city of Budweis reflected a hard working population, and while there may not have been a bar on every corner the ones that we went into were packed on a Tuesday Night. It also is the home of the University of South Bohemia, so that might have had something to do with it.
What Kenosha didn't have when I lived there was a historic city center that is protected as an urban monument reservation. The place was spectacular, and is in the cover photo for this part of the story.
Kenosha also isn't a days ride away from the Brno Circuit. Part 4 (and more) coming soon.