Cycling East part 4 – The Czech Republic

On our last day in Germany the bad weather was back with a vengeance. It was non-stop heavy rain with a low mist and subsequently no views all day. The sole motivation to keep going was the milestone of reaching a new country in the afternoon. Germany had become quite monotonous and to make matters worse, the quaint villages and historic towns which propped up our interest were less frequent in the east. It was time to put our heads down and get out of this place. To pass the time, on days like this my mind does strange things. I tend to sing medleys of songs at the top of my voice or do calculations in my head like how many pedal strokes will I do on this trip, anything to pass the time!
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After one epicly horrible downhill, with the rain lashing our faces as if a cold shower was constantly thrusting at us, Marion decided she had had enough, so we stopped in a German cafe where they kindly dried our waterproofs out and fed us hot food and was suddenly much better! The hills began to grow as the Czech border approached and some slightly sinister wind turbines lurked around us disappearing into the whiteness.  The rain cleared briefly as we passed the Czech Republic border sign.
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The first sight in the Czech Republic was a ski resort, that’s how high we had climbed. The descent down to the town below, was again brutally cold and wet. It just went on and on. My Spyre disc brakes, which do overheat a bit, were hissing loudly in the water splashing up and Marion had now destroyed a set of brake pads in almost 3 days! The first shop to greet us in the Czech Republic at the bottom of the hill was a huge Tesco supermarket, just a tad unexpected! This first town, Litvinov was depressing, we changed Euro’s into Czech Crowns and promptly left. We headed down to the next town called: Most, partly because of the name of the place, but also to find a cheap hotel to dry out. Most is not the sort if place one finds tourists. In the sole hotel, the receptionist was intent on ignoring us. We rode on through estates of bright coloured concrete tower blocks wondering what the 1000s of inhabitants did. There was no real city centre just groups hanging out on street corners next to alcohol shops with no signs, it seemed everyone was eyeing us up. We were shattered but we just had to get out. Riding over all the broken glass I was super glad nothing had resulted in a puncture. We next passed multiple big dogs behind high fences in the suburbs. The abundance of industrial sites, many derelict became apparent leaving the city. I have no pictures of the place as getting a huge DSLR out didn’t seem wise.
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We just rode on as fast as we could until peaceful countryside surrounded us and then in a tiny village we found a disproportionately large hotel. Hotel Ring was oddly out of place there was nothing to see or do in the area, the reception desk had a fat man with slicked hair and a giant moustache. Opposite were two younger men, drinking beer and watching a laptop intently and there was another chap on his own drinking beer silently. The fat man checked us in before one of the younger ones showed us the bike storage. On our return he cagily whispered to the other something, I assumed the bikes would be gone by the morning. When we came down for dinner we realised we had misread the friendly staff and had a 3 course dinner for €2. 20140711132116_IMG_2630-Edit

In the morning the bikes weren’t missing so we carried on Eastwards. The next point of interest was Litomerice with a fantastic array of inspiring architectural styles. The pick was an old cathedral in need of renovating but it was somehow more genuine in its unkempt state, it impressed more than many of Prague’s comparable sites.
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From there we headed straight south for Prague. It was Friday night as we rolled into the centre. The place was alive with tourists, thousands everywhere. Having not seen another foreigner for the past week, it was odd hearing English. We struggled to find a hostel, everywhere was full but finally we checked in and collapsed. Saturday was to be our first rest day, however walking between all of the Prague sights was hardly a rest! Later some compulsory Czech beer and pretzels while watching the Dutch beat Brazil in the world cup!

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From Prague we basically headed south east trying to detour into historic cities and towns for cake and coffee in the beautiful town squares. We often timed this well with the mid afternoon thunder storm! The rural areas were very similar to Germany and not flat but unrelentingly just rolling. It was all a bit unspectacular to ride through, nice quiet lanes but dull!

The pick of all the countless pretty little historic towns were: Kolin, Pardubice:
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Vyseke Myto: Litomysl:
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In between these towns we stayed at an old school campsite complete with rickety water slide into a lake. The was a small restaurant that would show the world cup final so we stuck around. Up until this point we had found the Czechs quite reserved and almost unfriendly towards us. However after a beer or two there was no stopping them. The 60p pints and local ‘must try’ liqueurs were being lined up for us, we spent zero but struggled to find the tent and ended up passionately cheering on the Germans with the Czechs! 20140713220531_IMG_3396

On the 15th it was Marion’s birthday, so to celebrate we earmarked the city of Kromeriz as a place to chill out and relax. It has a UNESCO listed palace, castle and gardens to explore, we paid very little for a plush hotel room on the square and ate ice cream while exploring the sights. It seems to be off the tourist trail, which surprised us a bit meaning we were the only non Czech on the castle tour and in the gardens. It was a relaxing day, although we still rode 50 miles in the morning! The night before we wild camped in a nice spot, to the west we saw the sunset, to the east a huge lightning storm flashed away. We watched a fox hunting and ate cherries from the ever present cherry tree next door!
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We woke early to a man randomly striming the verges nearby. Kromeriz didn’t disappoint, we took a tour of the castle which had been the Congress of the Austrian Empire, to try to create a constitution to solve the unrest. They created one but it was never used. The place was mostly a symbol of the immensly lavish lifestyle of the local bishops. It seemed those in favour with the Pope held as much sway as the Czech king at times! After standing up on our weary legs for 90 minutes on the tour we had to climb the multiple steps of the tower. It was not the rest day we had in mind. After wild camping the night before we stayed in the Last Fresca, a 4 star hotel on the main square. We ate out and had two local specialities, fried cheese for marion and beef with dumplings for Ed, which came with jam and whipped cream, rather like a cream tea but beef not tea.
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This was day 7 in CZ and the country was taking longer to cross than we expected. It is deceptively wide, but we had enjoyed exploring the place with its interesting towns and peaceful roads. The crazy low price of cake and beer helped too. We expected Slovakia to present our first big mountain challenges and dispute tired legs we looked forward to it!

Our arrival into Slovakia was delayed a day as I had a rear spoke snap and mangle in my rear wheel. Surprisingly it was on a flat section of road outside a Zoo. We detoured into Zlin 6km away and were lucky to find a big outdoor and biking scene. We found the spoke length at the second store where we stocked up and they got us on the road quickly. The intense heat on top of the detour was just too much to reach Slovakia so we camped 3km short in another friendly old fashioned campground at another ski resort. Per usual it was €5 all in, for two, plus tent and hot shower!

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