All roads lead to Rome, they say, but in the European box lacrosse community, they lead to Radotín, a small suburb of Prague with the most beautiful box lacrosse ring in Europe. Matthias Lehna and Gustav Weber, the authors and travelers in this story, set out for the Frank Menschner Cup in Radotín. With their scooters.
Vespa, Vedi, Vici: A Travelogue from a Trip to the Frank Menschner Cup
There are many ways to get from A to B in Europe. For the dull transfer, the easiest way is by car, bus, or train (if they don’t paralyze the entire country with a strike). But the most exciting way is by scooter.
On two 10-inch rims powered by an indestructible two-stroke engine and a solid three horsepower, it cruises slowly but surely to the finish line at an average speed of just under 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph).
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That means Radotín for every box lacrosse player in Europe at least once a year. The Box Lacrosse Mecca is located near Prague in the middle of the picturesque Bohemian countryside. For us, Gustav and Matthias of the Spreewölfe Berlin team, this means 360 kilometers (223 miles) across Central Europe.
With a Lacrosse Stick Through the Bohemian Countryside
The vehicles we used are real classics. Matthias started with his black Vespa LX50 S50 that was built in 2009, while Gustav had his Aprilia Mojito 50 Custom, affectionately known as the “Little Harley.” Jointly, their mileages reach 33,000 kilometers (20,505 miles).
With an indestructible engine and hardly any wear parts, the chassis has proven more or less indestructible except for minor incidents. Who needs a speed indicator when the maximum speed is 60 kilometers per hour (37 mph) in favorable wind conditions and downhill?
Matthias’s announcement that “an early start saves the day for the scooter rider” was not followed. Start time: 5:30 p.m. Stage destination: Dresden, 200 kilometers (124 miles) away. Sunset: 8:30 p.m.
“It’s gonna be a tight squeeze,” Gustav remarked as we left Berlin, and he was right.
We arrived in cold and darkness in the Florence on the Elbe at around 10 p.m. Highways and toll roads are taboo when traveling by scooter. The route winds through Lusatia in eastern Germany via district and country roads from village to village. After a short rest with friends, there is not much time left. The next day, the destination must be reached by noon.
At sunrise, the route continued across the Elbe River and into the Ore Mountains, where the scooters were pushed close to their performance limits on the winding mountain roads. Passing the bobsleigh run and the biathlon stand in the winter sports resort of Altenberg, the route cross the Czech border down to the town of Teplice.
After a coffee and breakfast break, the last 100 kilometers (62 miles) follow before the forested hills near Radotín are visibile. One last winding descent past the quarry, and the destination is reached: the arena of LCC Radotín. It’s the destination of all lacrosse riders in Europe who think something of themselves.
Radotín: The Lacrosse Mecca in Europe
What drew Matthias and Gustav to this place anyway? What drives one off-campus on a scooter in the first place, the East Coast college student might wonder?
It’s the unique atmosphere that can’t be found anywhere else in lacrosse.
Back in the days of the Soviet Union, sports-crazed young people gathered in the suburb of Prague, inspired by National Geographic magazines smuggled in from the West. Shots of Indians playing lacrosse impressed them. Fascinated by the sport, they build lacrosse sticks for themselves.
Then, on the grounds of Sokol Radotín, the home association of the Lacrosse Club Custodes, the cradle of European box lacrosse was founded in the 90s. The Aleš Hřebeský Memorial, a tournament in honor of the LCC member who died in a car accident in 1993, has been a firmly-established international lacrosse tournament since the 2000s. Teams from around the world make the pilgrimage to Radotín every April.
It’s little brother, the Frank Menschner Cup, is the late summer counterpart.
“We are remembering Frank Menschner,” said Ondřej Mika, the organizer of the tournament in Radotín. “He was a great person and helped us develop Czech lacrosse.”
In 2001, Frank arrived in Radotín with Rebels, the first American team to ever participate in the Aleš Hřebeský Memorial, and he faithfully attended every single annual memorial up until his untimely death in 2015. He was a keen promoter and supporter of the tournament and the game of lacrosse.
“We have a lot of requests at the Memorial Cup,” Mika said, explaining the need for the Frank Menschner Cup. “So we decided to offer all teams another tournament.”
Twelves teams came together for the sixth edition of the tournament in late summer this year. Among them was the newly-founded Spreewölfe Berlin, our team.
Pure Road Trip Feeling
Despite the travel stress in their bones, the tournament was going well for Matthias and Gustav. The Berlin box team, like all others, arrived by car and only had to admit defeat in the semifinals against the Old Dogs from Plzeň in a shootout.
After three tournament days, the Frank Menschner Cup comes to an end with a solid fourth place for the Spreewölfe Berlin in their tournament debut. The best pivo (Czech: beer), good moods, and competitive lacrosse almost lets you forget the one principle that always applies on a road trip: if you go to Prague on a scooter, you have to go back on a scooter.
We covered a total of 740 kilometers (460 miles), made six fuel stops, and had to use the kick starter once to start the scooter. Travel time there and back was just under 18 hours. We give the trip five out of five Piaggio stars. For possible imitators, we offer the following podcast recommendation: Lex Fridman and Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History.