I have been fortunate enough to cycle a bit of Europe. 85% of the time my final destination at the end of the day has involved a 1-3km climb. Makes sense right? Medieval times people built towns atop hills so they were easier to defend. You could see your enemy approaching. You can therefore imagine my giddy excitement at the fact that todays ride not only involved a freewheel down a slight gradient for the last 3 km but there was also a tail wind. And the sun was shining. And the road surface was billiard table smooth.
It was that sort of day.
We left Jindrichuv Hradecj earlier than our previous starts and did so because we knew we had to cycle close to 120km on the day.
Outside our very comfortable hotel was a very tall chimney with a massive stork‘s nest atop it and an equally large stork perched in it. Given my previously unsuccessful attempts (see yesterdays blog) to photo such an establishment you’ll just have to trust me it existed and that it was wondrous to look at.
Hotel Bili Parni in Jindrichuv Hradecj. Outstanding in terms of location and room size. Would definitely stay again. Ask for room #2.
The first 25 km of the days ride took us directly south and through heavily wooded forests. The roads were more like country lanes and were bordered on each side by thick forests. It was cool and the terrain rose and dipped as we made our way very close to the border with Austria.
Being April 30, a small hamlet we passed through in the first 10km had already primed their bonfire and are undoubtedly gathered around it as I type this tonight watching their witches effigies burn as they say goodbye to Winter and hello to Spring.
Like I said. The roads were more like country lanes. Totally devoid of traffic too. At the 17km point of the days ride we were thrust out into an opening in the forest and got our first glimpse of the border with Austria. it was here that the remnants of the Communist era could be seen with barbed wire marking the border and various signs from a bygone era prohibiting anyone from trying to cross the border from communist Czechoslovakia into Austria and onto the west.
Border markings from a bygone era.
About 8km further down the road from the border experience we were spat out by the route into a lovely town called Nova Bystrice. Here we stopped for coffee and cake. It was fairly evident that in this part of southern Bohemia and as close as we were to Austria the towns appeared more wealthy and better maintained than some of the villages and towns that we had passed through in the first two days of riding. Quite a few Austrian plated cars and quite a few more weekend cyclists on expensive electric bikes making the most of the long weekend.
Entering Nova Bystrice
Leaving Nova Bystrice the terrain opened up into vast expanses of open fields that were either being ploughed or were already starting to show the first shoots of their summer crop. The roads were ridiculously good. High quality surfaces and devoid of vehicular traffic.
Roads that were silly smooth and quiet too.
The scenery continued to impress through out the day.
3 gents simply cycling in the Czech Republic.
Shortly before lunch our route dipped a second time to the Austrian border. Again this was in the middle of a forest. Amazing to think that an invisible line, put onto a map somewhat arbitrarily by a bureaucratic boffin a century or so ago should determine who gets to call themselves what.
Border with Austria about 45km into the ride.
Border line. To the left (Austria) everything is more expensive than life to the right.
Given how far we had to ride today we put ourselves on the clock for pit stops such as lunch. We reluctantly agreed that instead of our customary sit down lunch and accompanying beer we would attempt to shorten food and drink breaks in order to get to our destination in time for dinner. This involved searching out “quick food to go” and we settled on a kebab shop which I have to say made a pretty tasty original kebab.
Places you eat when you’re on a timed stop. Probably the first time I have eaten a doner kebab sober since before University.
If the first two days were spent counting ponds and lakes then today should have been “bunker day” . After lunch the route was basically across very vast and open fields that were punctured with countless bunkers. We had a brief discussion as to whether these bunkers were defensive in nature or built to prevent residents fleeing into Austria. The two more intelligent men than me decided it was the latter.
If there was an outstanding feature of the ride in the afternoon it was the roads. More specially the quality of them. Add to that a slight tailwind and you’re not that far from cycling Nirvana. Time and again we expressed to each other our amazement at the surface of the roads.
Open fields and smooth road surfaces. Very few cars and a tail wind. Nirvana
Mid afternoon we passed through various villages that displayed a little more wealth and character than some that we had passed through earlier in the ride.
Here‘s a village skilled in preparation. A Maypole readied for raising tomorrow but not before they‘ve set that bonfire in the background alight tonight.
It was in the village above that I had one of those experiences as a cyclist that leaves you scratching your head. I had emptied my two water bottles through the afternoon ride and while Tim and Gareth took a rest I sought out a shop in the hope of buying some water. That’s called being optimistic when it’s late on a Sunday in a small Czech village with less than 300 residents. Discovering my optimism to be misplaced I noticed an antique hand pump in the village park that in its day probably drew water from a bore or well. I made my way over to it to see if it was still operative and as I operated it an expensive SUV pulled up at the house opposite and out climbed a couple. Seeing me struggle with the hand pump he said something which I translated as “ don’t be daft there hasn’t been water pulled from that well since Moses was a boy”. With that comment done, he turned, ushered his wife into the house and that was that.
Now riddle me this Batman.
If I saw a lycra clad cyclist in the middle of a warm day trying to pull water from the ground it would signal to me that he was probably thirsty. Cue - ”hey, would you like me to fill your water bottles? “
Dunno. But sometimes I am left scratching my folically challenged scalp at the irrationality of humans.
The flip side of that experience occurred 4.7 km down the road when our route took us to the edge of a steep gorge. Moments before plunging downwards we came across a magnificent Chateau. Complete with a road side vendor selling ice creams and cold water. That will be one Almond Magnum and two bottles of cold water for me please.
You can have your disused water pump and your house in your non descript village you driver of the fancy SUV you.
The magnificent Vranov Nad Dyji Chateau. A great venue for Almond Magnums and cold bottles water . https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vranov_nad_Dyj%C3%AD
Vranov nad Dyji Chateau seen from the floor of the gorge. We all agreed it was the most magnificent of all the Chateau‘s and Castles we had seen so far on our trip.
Going down into a gorge on a bicycle is exhilarating. That’s for sure. However the joy of travelling fast without expending energy is offset by the continuous thought that in the world of cycling what goes down must go up. Sure enough the climb out of Vranov nad Dyji was a somewhat taxing one. However not before we had spent a km or two cycling around the edge of a massive reservoir.
Vranov nad Dyji Reservoir.
As previously mentioned the climb out of the reservoir was a testing one but once we had crested we purposely left the Greenways Route for the first time in 3 days as our accommodation was about 15km off route. It was a remarkable way to end what was a special day of cycling.
The road was flat, the wind behind us, the road as smooth as a newborn backside and though we were now on a main road the drivers were courteous and afforded us plenty of space as they whizzed by. Our destination was Hotel N in the small northern Znjomo suburb of Primtrice.
A pretty special day of cycling that’s for sure.