Monthly Archives: May 2015

Castles and Bunkers

Today I really felt like I hit my stride biking wise. Although my legs and butt bones were both very sore, I felt delightfully comfortable on my shining  steed.

image

I got a relaxed 1030am start from the campground where the lake was as placid as ever.

image

By 11 I had covered almost 15km and reached my first sight of the day, the awesome ruins of the Cornštein (tsorn-shtine) Castle.

image

Luckily this castle I could visit on my own, so I spent half an hour exploring every nook and cranny, then set off again.

image

Not long after, I passed another awesome looking castle Hrad Bitov,  but alas it was too far out of my way.

image

I climbed my way back out of the river valley and linked back up with the Prague-Vienna Greenway path which I’ve been following for most of the trip.

image

The rest of the day’s riding took me through some gorgeous rolling fields dotted with bunkers that formed the Maginot line, built before WW2 to defend against a German invasion.

image

They’re literally all over the place. I must have passed one every 200 meters or so for the last 20km of my ride.

image

All of that work was for nothing though, as they were never put to use. Hitler ended up bypassing the entire defence network.

image

This one was so close I couldn’t resist the urge to go in and poke around a bit.

image

It was a tiny, oppressive little space with holes just big enough for the barrel of a gun.

image

After a pretty relaxed 50km total of riding I rolled into my destination for the night, the charming town of Slavonice.

image

It’s best known for its architecture that includes beautiful facades with detailed depictions and ornate vaults dating back to the renaissance.

image

Now I’m heading off to my host for the night, a janitor who is building an off-road motocross course and has helped developed part of the off-road cycling paths around Slavonice.

Through valleys and borders

image

After spending a relaxing evening in Znojmo with my hosts and their super friendly pets, I set off on day 2 of biking. Most of my ride was spent in or near the Podyji (poh-dee-yee) National Park, the smallest park in the Czech Republic. The park covers the Czech side of the Dyji river and so most of the day involved lots of descents and climbs as I danced in and out of the river valley. I loved being in the park though because the forests remind me of the Smokies a bit.

image

I skirted the ridge of the park for 20 or so kilometers before venturing in towards the ruins of an old castle.

image

Unfortunately you could only visit by paying for a guided tour and the next one was scheduled 30 minutes after my arrival. After biking for another 10-15 kilometers I again dove down into the park, but not before passing a sight where remnants of the iron curtain still stand.

image

I was surprised to read that while 600+ Czechs died during the soviet occupation, trying to escape, over 2000 guards died due to suicide, fighting, or electrocution (apparently the fence was pumped with over 10,000 volts of electricity). After passing the fence I coasted down a very long descent to…

image

Hardegg castle on the Austrian side of the Dyji river

Austria!! I’d been seeing how close I was to it on the map the whole first day and since I’ve never actually been there, I was eager to cross over. As soon as I did I realized that I speak even less German than Czech. Luckily everyone I passed was speaking Czech anyways.

image

I ventured up to the castle and after learning it cost a prohibitive 8 euros to get in (everyone does say Austria is expensive) I snapped a few photos and retreated back to the more backpacker friendly (read: cheap) side of the river.

image

Hooray for the Cešká Republika!

On the way out of the park I passed an awesome viewpoint with incredible views down onto the Austrian side.

image

AND I went to a restaurant where I finally had a chance to try the halušky bryndza I’ve been hearing about since northern Slovakia.

image

It’s kind of like the central European version of gnocchi, topped with sheep’s cheese and sour cream. Finally after 15 more kilometers I reached my destination of the day, Vranov nad Dyji.

image

It’s a beautiful town on a bend of the river known for the castle that sits perched above it. It was a pretty breathtaking sight to come upon.

image

Tonight I’m staying in a cabin in a campsite on a lake near Vranov where I can swim, do laundry, and watch a volleyball tournament (?). Huzzah!

After a long hiatus… Biking in the Czech Republic

I should begin by saying that the previous 2 1/2 weeks traveling with my sister was hands down one of the best traveling experiences of my life. It was a perfect check up to make sure that we were maturing properly and capable of really enjoying each other’s company for a long period of time. I’m happy to report that we are.

image

Hitchhiking to Poland!

It was sad when she left from Olomouc but luckily our incredibly cool host there Pavel (our favorite of the trip by far) invited me to stay an extra night. As you would expect with the co-owner of one of the most popular up and coming breweries in Olomouc, it was a night full of good beer, good company, and good conversation.

image

With Pavel and friend in Vertigo bar

The next day I stopped into the brewery again to pick up a couple bottles of his beer as a gift for my next host, and snapped a few shots of the brewing process.

image

Fermenting beer! And I cleaned that tank fyi.

image

One of the brewers hard at work.

But then it was off to Brno for a day on my way south to Mikulov, where I rented my bike. Brno was nice with a big castle and nice parks. But it was the tiny southern Czech town of Mikulov (population: 8000) that truly enchanted me.

image

Jan drinking one of his many delicious teas

That was probably partially due to my awesome couchsurfing host Jan who was one of the coolest, cookiest guys I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in a while. He’s training to be a shiatsu masseuse and was very knowledgeable about all things relating to far-eastern religion and medecine. He also invited me to his weekly English club where I met three of his friends, all interested in English (and really good at speaking it!) and willing to tell me all about their town and Czech culture in general.

image

The beautiful town of Mikulov in the background.

Today I finally set off on my biking expedition. The rolling fields with red flowers made for very idyllic scenery. Some of the prettiest I’ve seen on my trip.

image

After biking for 60km or so, I stopped at a very inviting wine cellar/hotel. The jovial Deni gave me a tour of his 200-year old cellar complete with tastings of some of his fresh and delicious wines.

image

I told him I wanted to buy a bottle for my couchsurfing hosts this evening so he took a freshly filled bottle, put the label on it, wrapped it up and gave it to me. And I mean gave it to me. When I tried to pay he refused and told me it was a gift. I was flabbergasted but grateful and continued on my way.

image

Finally after 75km of biking, I arrived at my destination for the night, Znojmo.

image

It was a tiring but very successful first day of biking. Tonight is Night of the Churches all over this region so I should have some fun events to look forward to.