Greg and Laurie's Europe 2007 travel blog

Lor at entry to Pardubice - Home of her grandmother

Lor (in Pardubice) talking to our son (in Hawaii) a half a...

Lor at entry to Hermanuv Mestec - Home of her grandfather

Hermanuv Mestec- "Main Street"

Border stop before entering Poland

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An aspiring tour guide (you may need to turn up your sound)

Day 10 - July 20 (Friday)

Today was a very, very long auto touring day. With AAA maps and Google directional maps in hand, we set out to discover the birthplaces of Laurie's grandparents on her mother's side, and at the same time have the opportunity to plant our feet on the soil of another country.

Google maps does an extraordinary job of plotting destination to destination instructions, HOWEVER.....the problem is that most of the time, there are no street signs or road signs. The problem with the AAA maps is that many of the roads that do have road signs are NOT on the map! An example - what should have taken 15 minutes (Pardubice to Hermanuv Mestec) took 90! But, the good news is that we found both towns. Our suggestion to anyone touring by auto in Europe is to also buy a Michelin detailed map of the country you plan to visit and not rely on a multiple country map. (And, if you need to find your way back....drop breadcrumbs along the way!)

Laurie's grandmother was born in the town of Pardubice which is also the capital city of the region. When she was born in 1888, (her grandmother - not Laurie) this town was called Hvozdon in Bohemia and had much less than the 100,000 inhabitants it has now. It's an industrial city with a large plastic explosives manufacturer, oil refinery and electronic equipment manufacturer. We walked around the main square area (picture) and up the streets to the centum or center of the town. While there, our son, Brian called from Hawaii (picture) Amazing that a half a world away and we can talk as if we are in the same town (no delay on the phone).

We had lunch at one of the cafes at the square. The initial waiter we had was annoyed that #1 we asked for a menu (in broken Czech) and #2 we weren't ready to order when he was ready to take the order. We thought it was us, but then noticed he had attitude with anyone who was not Czech. Oh, well. Send in the next waiter. Good guy took our order with a smile and about 45 minutes later we got our food.

Oh my gawd!! Laurie's plate had 3 huge pieces of batter fried pork which had a mashed potato batter on them. Over all of them was a mushroom sauce and over that was sour cream. Can you say...."clogged arteries"? Greg's wasn't much better, although he did have produce on his plate. His was a batter fried chicken Cordon Bleu. Oh, my....just too many calories for our tastes, but then we are the ones who ordered. The good part was that both plates along with the mineral water we had was only about $12. So, we'll die with money in our pockets.

Speaking of costs, the Czech Republic is very inexpensive. Most meals (for two) are $20 or less which is quite a difference from Germany. You can also use Euros here, but it's better that you use the Koruna. We purchased ours through the ATM machine just as we did when we arrived in Germany to get the Euros. You get a much better rate and you don't have to carry traveler's checks or wonder how much you're paying in service fees at the Exchange stores.

On to Heřmanův Městec, the birthplace of Laurie's grandfather in 1885. Although we "landed" in Pardubice first (not what we had planned), we didn't think we'd have much problem finding Hermanuv Mestec. After all, both of us pride ourselves in our navigational skills and we could use our maps and just reverse the Google directions. Right?? WRONG!! What should have taken about 15 minutes, took us 90. The only way we finally got on the right track was that when we drove in one direction, let's say south, we looked at the signs in the north direction and bingo....there was a sign to Hermanuv Mestec. Guess you weren't to go there if you were traveling south.

So, we finally made it to Heřmanův Městec, a quaint village of about 3,500 inhabitants. Since Laurie's grandfather left here in 1903 to go to America, we thought we'd see if we could find the local cemetery which might have the markings of her great grandfather and grandmother. He was the tombstone maker, and she died early, so we should find something. We drove around a bit before stopping a policeman to ask where the cemetery might be. We showed him a paper with my grandfather's name, birthdate and birthplace on it and then tried to communicate that we were looking for the cemetery by drawing crosses, etc. He cordially gave us directions in Czech, which of course we couldn't understand, and then we handed him a pen to write the street names down.

We found the cemetery, but unfortunately, after walking through it, we found nothing. What was interesting, however, was that there were no dates of birth or death on the tombstones. Just family names. This was true of old and new plots. Greg took some pictures of possible stones Laurie's grandfather might have cut.

It appears you can find your way out of Heřmanův Městec without a problem which we did and quickly followed the road to Pardubice. They just don't want you finding Heřmanův Městec! It took 15 minutes back to Pardubice.

Since we had to trek back north through Pardubice and we were relatively close to the Polish border, we thought...why not? So on we went through the city of Hradec Kravlove and then on to the border which was another perhaps 40 km. We got to the border and, yes...they stamped our passports. It's always fun when they do that. They even scanned them. We crossed over the border and went to the next little town which had a hotel and restaurant but seemed to be uninhabited, so we just left and drove back over the border and again they stamped our passports.

We traveled back to Prague on mostly two lane roads and after again some missed turnoffs, finally arrived back at our apartment at about 9:00. It was an exhausting day, but well worth the adventure and travel back into time.

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