Well, I'm back...on this blog, I mean. I am in Prague and so far this place is delightful. I can see why people told me I'd love it here. I mean, I got into the car that took me from the airport to my hotel, and the first thing I heard on the radio was a Dvorak symphony. I mean, how can you beat that for an entrance into a city.
As I listened, I "conducted" with my hands, as I often do. The driver, a man about ten years my senior who spoke about five words of English, just gave me a smile. "You like Dvorak," he said. I nodded and smiled.
The hotel is in a quiet residential neighborhood a few minutes from the center of the city. I compare the neighborhood to the 20th Arrondisment of Paris, where I once stayed, or what the 14th used to be like, except that this neighborhood is even closer to the action than either the 14th or the 20th of Paris. The similarity lies in its apartment complexes and small houses full of working- and middle-class people, and the fact that it's so quiet in spite of the number of pubs and bars around here.
I also marvel at how clean and litter-free the streets are, even in comparison to other European towns I've seen. Plus, the mode of dress, among Prague natives as well as tourists, seems to be neat-casual with some style, but not the self-consciousness one sees in Paris.
Plus, I've been surprised at how easy it's been to find people who speak at least some English. I tried giving myself a crash-course in some basic Czech phrases, but I haven't gotten much past "Prosim" and " Ano." At least those words have vowels in them!
Some of the older people speak German, of which I don't know much more than I know of Czech. I know they had to learn Russian in school back in the days of Communist rule, but either they've forgotten it or don't want to speak it. I can understand, and I can't speak Russian, anyway.
All right...enough of a travelogue. Since this is a bike blog, I am coming back to that subject. More precisely, I'm going to show you a bike that was parked down the hill from my hotel:
It's a Favorit bicycle, which looks to be from the '70's or the late '60's. The first shop in which I worked actually sold a few of these bikes; not many came into that shop, or the United States. Their basic models, like this one, were actually pretty good bikes that compared favorably with, and cost less than, bikes like the Raleigh Grand Prix and Peugeot UO-8. The paint jobs were not very inspiring, but the lug work was clean, if not fancy. And Favorit made some higher-end bikes with some truly nice lugwork and elegant seat clusters. It was rumored that their higher-end bikes were made of Reynolds 531 tubing; I would not have a hard time believing it because I rode one of those bikes and it had a very similar feel to some other bikes I've ridden that were made from the same tubing. Also, Favorit were using Campagnolo Record (and, later, Nuovo Record and Super Record) components on their top racing model, and offered a model that was equipped with Stronglight cranks and other mid-to-upper-range French components. The components on the company's mid- and lower-level were their own brand but mimicked Campagnolo, Stronglight, Mafac and other western makers' equipment of the time.
They even made (or had made for them) their own brand of saddles which, like others of the time, mimicked Brooks and Ideale design and actually had leather that was a bit thicker.
I must say, though, it's been a long time since I've seen a saddle mounted so far forward on a bike!
Enough about the bike for now. And now to the legacy of racing in this country: