A Travellerspoint blog

Czech Republic

Drahenice - Susice 77km

sunny

I had a strange nights sleep and was pleased to also find out that I hadn't been dreaming in hearing the strange noises outside our tents. We camped on the edge of a forest overlooking a field and hadn't really thought too much about our location at the time. We had obviously missed the signs informing us of deer in the area as both Tom and I were aware of the sound of hoof steps very close to our tents in the middle of the night. I'm not sure if one of us moved to frighten them but they shot off at a rapid pace once they realised there were others present. Subsequently I spent the next half an hour in fear of being trampled by more passing deer during the night; thankfully that wasn't the case.

It was porridge for breakfast on a slightly damp morning before we hit the road and our first stop of the day in Strakonice.

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We've changed our route slightly and instead of heading directly south in the Czech Republic and picking up our cycle trail in Passau Germany we have decided to head West and a more direct route to Ratisbone or Regensburg as it seems to be in German. This also looks a very scenic route which takes us through two national parks one on either side of the border.

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The upside to taking the more scenic route away from the main highway has been some quite stunning scenery but with every upside there is always a down. We find ourselves doing a lot of climbing and in this heat it is quite strenuous. Also because we are now off the main drag we need to be more focused on making sure we take the right turns. Each small village presents us with a whole variety of options and we need to make sure we get it right. It would be awful to find ourselves heading in the wrong direction especially in this terrain for half an hour or so.

We are taking it very easy though and it's been a real pleasure just to take the foot of the gas a little. In Strakonice we took the opportunity of a nice café to rest up a grab a cup of tea. We have a little Czech money left and want to obviously use it up before we leave the country. The café was very nice and set in the main square of this small town. I took this rare opportunity to test out my very limited Czech on the waitress serving us. If truth be told limited is stretching my language ability somewhat and one of the few sentences I can always remember is that of “One more beer please” The waitress obviously not realising I was just attempting to show off appeared five minutes later with a tray containing not only two pots of tea but also and ice cold pint of beer! Well it would have been rude to send it back so it was supped back with consummate ease. The combination of ice, sugar and ubiquitous Czech hops made for a unexpected treat in the afternoon.

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Both Tom and I can't quite believe how quite everywhere is, granted we are riding through small villages but everywhere looks totally deserted. Some of the villages have wonderfully curious names such as Laz, Dom and Lom or always seem to end in 'vice' or 'ice'

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We hit Suscine late in the day and soon found a decent place to set up camp right by a river at around 5:30. With the late evening sun still shining down on the river it meant there was enough time for a short dip and wash in the cool water.

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Refreshed and more importantly clean it was back to the camp for a feast of pasta , garlic, tomatoes and olives. With my time in the Czech Republic coming to an end it was only right that part of our daily shop went on two 'original' Budweiser’s. River chilled they certainly went down an absolute treat and aided our 8:10 bedtime.

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Tomorrow we will head out of Czech Republic and into Germany. I've loved being back here, spending time with old friends and more importantly rolling through the magnificent Czech countryside. If you have a bike and a couple of weeks to spare there surely can't be too many better places to come with you bike

Posted by Ontheroadagain 23:36 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Prague – Drahenice, South of Pribram 102km

sunny

Well I'm back on the blog and you'll be glad to know at the time of writing we now find ourselves in Cham, Germany. Blogging has been a little difficult of late as we've mostly been out in the countryside and have camped for the past three nights. So apologies for the lack of blogs. I had expected what with now being in Germany that WiFi access would be easy but this is not proving to be the case. McDonalds for example require a German mobile number to access their free WiFi, it has been a tad frustrating and not what I expected of Germany.

It was nice to be out on the road again riding. I loved being back in Prague but for me I tend to lose the sense that I'm bicycle touring when I'm in these big cities and while one has all the comforts that come with large cities I actually much prefer being out in the wild as it were.

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We got up early to leave Prague on Friday morning and no sooner had we left the hostel did we run into the inevitable early morning traffic. I wrote earlier about how entering Prague was difficult due to this heavy traffic and needless to say this proved to be the case as we negotiated our way out.

We've made a joint decision to keep away from the main roads as much as possible and really head out into the countryside; after all we're not in any great rush. With this in mind and having successfully worked our way out of the city we made our way West to Karlstejn a monumentally impressive castle some thirty kilometres from Prague.

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We rode through some stunning countryside and we're blessed with some truly great weather as we weaved our way through one small pretty Czech village after another.

One of the great things about being out in the countryside as mentioned previously is being able to feast on the endless supply of apples, plums and occasionally pears that line these small country roads.

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As we're now camping it's important that we carry a little more food with us and as I've assumed the role of chef it's my job to go into the supermarket to pick up supplies. Thankfully there are Tesco superstores on the outskirts of all major Czech towns and we were able to get all the necessaries in Pribram.

We rode a little further south of Pribram before setting up camp for the night. With 102km on the clock Tom celebrated his first one hundred on the bike and we found a small forest off a country road to settle down for the night.

I cooked up extra rice the night before in Prague so it was simply a case of boiling up some carrots, parsnips and onions and throwing it a bit of stock and hey presto a meal to end all meals, although I'm not sure Tom would agree with that! I'll soon have him on my diet.

I kept back some chocolate and pulled it from deep down in my panniers much to the delight of Tom and the day was complete. I'd told Tom that I usually head to bed around 8:30 when I camp and I don't think he really believed me until it actually happened and at 8:15 with the sun having set over the hill it was time to sleep.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 23:24 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Praha

Czech mate

sunny

IMG_3259.jpgIMG_3260.jpgI've now been in Prague for the best part of four days and will leave tomorrow. It's been great to be back and reacquaint myself with this incredible city. I've done the usual touristy things and visited all the major sites once again but I've tried to keep things as relaxed as possible.

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The hostel I've been staying at is really nice but unlike the other places I've stayed it I feel like I'm by far and away the oldest person staying here. Prague is full of youngsters and in particular with many university students seeing out their last days of summer living it up here. It's quite funny to see many of them heading out every single night to sample the nocturnal activities of this city where 24 hour partying seems a very real possibility. I on the other hand have been far more content to cook in the great kitchen how times have changed.

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You will be glad to hear that I am not alone in my travels now with the arrival of my mate Tom yesterday. He flew in with his bike and we shall now embark on the final leg of the trip which will see us head south tomorrow through the Czech Republic before probably heading into Germany on Saturday. From there we'll follow the river Rhine through Germany, then onwards into Switzerland before finally making our way north through France via Paris and back to England. It's great to have him on board and I pray that the weather will continue to be kind to us as we plan to do a lot of camping in this final section.

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I estimate we still have about 2000 kilometres to go but with time on our side we'll be able to take it at a nice leisurely pace. There hasn't been that much to report over the last few days. The bike has been taking a well earned rest as I have too. That is about all I have to say today as I need to get an early night tonight in preparation for our ride tomorrow. We'll be checking in again soon.

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Posted by Ontheroadagain 13:44 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Mlada Boleslav and Ride to Prague

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Before it was time to head off to the bright lights of Prague I still had one more piece of important business to take care of. As I mentioned previously I entered into the world of Teaching English as a second language in 2001 and having gained my certification I was on board a flight to Prague in no time. I imagined immersing myself in the bohemian café lifestyle of what is in my opinion Europe's most beautiful city but soon found myself whisked off to the small provincial town of Mlada Boleslav about 60 kilometres outside of Prague.

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I would like to say that I was swayed by the chance to experience 'real' Czech life away from the hustle and bustle of the big city but the truth was that they were willing to pay my accommodation which left me with a few extra coins in my back pocket.

It's funny how things work out though. Mlada Boleslav is most notably famous these days for being the heartbeat of the Czech automotive industry as it is home to the countries most famous brand that of Skoda. It is also where I spent just under a year of my life.

I have lost a significant amount of weight on this trip as one might expect considering how far I've ridden. It's therefore interesting to note that when I left Mlada Boleslav all those years ago I also did so very much also under weight having undergone surgery to remove my appendix or as I should rather say my burst appendix!

Despite my health scare whilst there its somewhere that certainly holds a special place in my heart. Most Czech people will probably raise an eyebrow when I say that I enjoyed my time living there but I forged some wonderful friendships, gained invaluable experience in teaching and came away with some great stories from my time in 'the Bolly' In fact I think I learned a lot more from living in the Czech Republic by being in Mlada Boleslav as opposed to perhaps working in Prague.

So last Sunday morning Kauli drove me the short fifteen minute drive to Mlada Boleslav. It's always funny when you go back to a place that you used to live in. Kauli explained that he sometimes used to take his grandmother back there and she would constantly make remarks from the front seat of the car about how things had changed as they passed through. I found myself doing exactly the same much to Kauli's amusement; “Oh I used to teach Josef Stafl there”, “....that building was never there”, “......oh the Internet café is still there you know it was one of the only places to get online back in those days”

As Skoda has grown so has Mlada Boleslav, it still remains essentially the same as when I left but somewhat depressingly it now has all the traits of other modern day nowheresvilles. How many shopping centres and massive factory like supermarket does one small town need? Do we really have nothing better to do with our time than to traipse around these soulless places spending money on things we probably don't even need?

We did the usual tour of the city and to anyone who hasn't been there it won't mean that much so I will attempt to keep this as brief as possible. The biggest change has to be in the shape of the bus station. Bus stations are never really known for their aesthetic beauty and this was certainly the case with Mlada Boleslav's station in the past. Much like Skoda cars which were previously known in the UK as something of a joke the bus station is now the epitome of modernity; a sleek, shiny, metallic monument that really goes to show the upturn in fortunes of this once small industrial town.

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The other major change is in the old town square which has also undergone something of a facelift. I believe that old towns should really remain essentially that....old and the new modern additions to it don't seem to quite work in my opinion.

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For all you ex-Boleslavers out there who might be reading this you will be glad to know that all the old haunts continue to be thrive; U-turn, The bowling bar, Kaufland, McDonalds, Penny Market and the Forum to name but a few. I didn't spend too long there as I sensed Kauli could think of far better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon and likewise I was getting a few puzzled looks from locals as I snapped shots of my old apartment block or I rather as I should say 'newly painted' old apartment block.

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Taking bicycle security to a new level

My pilgrimage complete we headed back to Mnichovo Hradiště I was pleased to have seen my old stomping ground and like I said before it's a place that still hold fond memories for me and shaped part of my life as I know now. I'm sure it is not the last time our paths will cross. Mlada Boleslav I salute you!

At the time of writing I'm now in Prague having left Mnichovo Hradiště on Monday morning. I was so happy to have met up and spent nearly a week in the company of my old friend Kauli. With my plans to settle much closer to home now I very much hope we'll see more of each other in the future, London marathon next year? I can't thank him and his girlfriend enough for their hospitality, delicious food and their steadfast determination to get my sleeping bag as clean and dry as possible!

I set off for Prague on Monday morning full of excitement and for anyone who has been to Prague in the past you will know exactly why; it is quite simply for me the gem of all European cities.

In keeping with last weeks riding I decided to stay as far away from the main roads as possible and weaved my way through small villages and some lovely countryside on-route to Prague. There wasn't too much really to say about the ride itself and was a fairly short one at around 80 kilometres and after three hours of riding I was on the outskirts of the city. By the time I'd reached this point I was eager to reach my final destinatio and jumped on a couple of the main roads leading into the heart of the city.... big mistake. These were probably the busiest and fastest roads I've encountered so far on the trip and after a couple of kilometres riding on the hard shoulder I was back off again and looking for a much quieter route in. I eventually found it but it was once again very much a case of stop start as I constantly had to check my GPS.

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Some places I passed through on the way to Prague

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With my battery almost dead I arrived at the hostel located in the previously working class and now somewhat arty and edgy district of Žižkov in Prague 3. I spent a lot of time researching hostels and eventually plummeted for 'Hostel One Prague' a Spanish run chain of hostels. Prague is known as something of a party city and something I can attest to from my earlier years here. However what with now being a fully paid up member of the 'thirty something travellers club' I was very much looking for something on the slightly more sedate side but also not wishing to abandon the slightly more 'youthful' elements of Prague life. I think I've found a happy medium here and my first impressions of the hostel are great. It's a good location, modern and has a massive and more importantly clean well equipped kitchen. There is a really nice garden and living room and despite being in a ten bedroom dorm it is surprisingly spacey in our attic style abode.

There is the usual diverse mix of people staying here but generally speaking it's a younger crowd all drawn here by Prague's old world charm, liberalism and vibrant youthful energy. The staff at the hostel are really friendly and they had a barbecue organised the first night I was here with plenty of burgers and beers to welcome in the start of the week. There is though very much a holiday like feel around the place and I've already been invited to take part in numerous tours and activities which it seems they have to push here. I think they will soon come to realize that I'm mostly here just for rest and I'm not so interested in all-nighters, paintballing and the like.

It was a glorious sunny day yesterday so I took the opportunity to walk around the city visiting all the usual touristy places and was amazed how I could once again find my way around with such suease.

I'm now awaiting the arrival of my best mate Tom from England who is coming to join me for the last twenty-four days of my trip. I've made a few changes to this final part of the ride. When I rode through China and Kazakhstan and to a certain extent Russia I didn't have a lot of choices with regards to what road I took. Now I'm back in Europe there are cycling routes everywhere throughout the region and it would be stupid not to take advantage of these.

I've come across the famous Eurovelo 6 route which runs from the Atlantic all the way to the Black sea check out this website for more information http://en.eurovelo6.org/?set_language=en It's a slightly longer way to get to Paris where we are going to meet up with Tom's wife Charlotte so that they can celebrate their wedding anniversary but it's a route I'm really excited at taking and one that also means I can add another country to the trip that of Switzerland. We don't have the maps for this route so I spent the best part of yesterday evening amassing as much information regarding it and making sure we are as prepared as we can be for riding it.

Well that is all for now, I may get one more blog up before I leave Prague with plenty of pictures for you to enjoy. Pedal onwards people.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 03:00 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (1)

Třebechovice pod Orebem - Mnichovo Hradiště 102km

Going back to my roots

sunny

It was another early wake up for me this morning at around six and I boiled up some coffee to watch the sun come up. With summer gradually disappearing there will be a lot less mornings like this where I'll be able to sit outside my tent in my shorts and witness the best part of the day.
We pitched up the tents not far from the city of Hradec Kralove last night but instead of once again taking the more direct highway from there to Kauli's home in Mnichovo Hradiště we decided to take the more scenic yet slightly longer route.

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I've been eating really well what with Kauli's cooking but I've missed my usual morning bread and couldn't resist the opportunity to pop into one of the massive supermarkets on the outskirts of Hradec Kralove to pick myself up some lovely straight from the oven fresh bread.
We stopped a little further down the way and as we'd be finishing this leg of the trip Kauli wanted to cook up the last bits off the food he'd brought with him. I certainly wasn't going to complain as I was treated to yet another macrobiotic culinary masterpiece.

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Early morning pitstop

Loaded up with food and full of energy we set off into the region known as Český ráj (Czech Paradise) which covers an area of nearly 180 km² It's been a long time since I visited here and was my first time by bicycle. One of the things I was amazed about was the sheer number of fruit trees lining the streets and apparently not owned by anyone. I'd seen apples trees in other countries but today was the first day that we were able to pick freely from plum trees. Kauli explained that they probably belong to someone and that the normal practice is to ask before you pick or perhaps offer some money but he said that people will usually just let you go ahead and take what you want.

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"oiiiiiiii..........you pay for that?"

We rolled into the lovely little town of Jičín in the late morning. It's like stepping back into time sometimes visiting these small towns and Kauli explained to me that Jičín is a place famous for children's stories and folklore tales.

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We continued along at the most leisurely of pace and it was great as had been the case in Poland to see so many people out on their bikes in the countryside. We stuck mainly to small roads but Český ráj is a labyrinth of hiking trails and bike tracks and Kauli was eager to take me a little off road and along one such track. I had my reservations as we were so close to his home by now and all I wanted to do after four days of riding was get off the bike and take a nice long shower. Nevertheless I followed him into the woods and down a very bumpy sandy trail. The bike must have thought we were back in Kazakhstan as I tried to plough on through the sand but in the end had to give up and push. Thankfully the trail did improve to a degree that I could actually ride if somewhat slowly. The trail wasn't that long and the forest reminded me very much of being back on the Ashdown Forest in Forest Row.

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I think Kauli could tell I was flagging a little and we jumped back onto the ashplat surface to finish off our ride to Mnichovo Hradiště. I was obviously full of excitement with my first sighting of a signpost for my old stomping ground Mladá Boleslav it's been over ten years since I was last here but it was good to be back in the same region and I very much look forward to going and visiting there in the days ahead.

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Yeeeeesssssssss

We finally arrived at Kauli's place around five and just in time to beat the rain that the weather forecast had promised.
Kauli's girlfriend Lucie had prepared a feast and I mean a feast and once again I'm sure her first thought of me as we sat at the dinner table must have been 'when did this guy last eat?'

My plan is to rest up here for a few days before heading off to Prague. Kauli's house overlooks a small lake and they also have a swimming pool which he informs me that they never use which to me seems somewhat crazy; if the weather picks up I will certainly be taking a dip in it.
At the time of writing it's now Sunday and I plan to head to Mladá Boleslav later today to have a good old look around the 'Bolly' and perhaps take in a football match; so more updates on my time in here in Mnichovo Hradiště to come perhaps later but until next time that is all for now.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 23:54 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

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