Friends of Czech Greenways  

  Deborah's Trip:

The Czech Republic is a beautiful country. When we looked at the map, we thought it must be pretty crowded because every few miles there seemed to be a town. In reality, these towns are only small villages, sometimes only a block or two long, most with their little town square centered on a church. The routes we rode were developed for bicyclists, so we were on small country roads, lanes, dirt roads and paths almost the whole time, and avoided busy roads and towns as much as possible. We experienced all kinds of scenery and terrain. My favorite area was a forested area with fishponds that were created 800 years ago!! It was fun to see the hundreds of fish jumping!! Unfortunately, the ponds also seemed to be home to millions of mosquitoes! Other areas were gently (and some not-so-gently) rolling hills surrounded by fields of hay or corn, or recently harvested or plowed fields. Sometimes we would be riding along and look off across a valley, only to see a castle set up on a hillside overlooking a small village. Or we would even just ride to the other end of a village or go around a curve in the road and practically run right into a castle or old chateau! Before we went, I learned about 100 words in Czech, like kinds of food, where is…?, do you have a room available? etc., which came in really handy!! We could look at a menu and I would at least know which things were beef, pork or chicken! The food was pretty good. They eat a LOT of meat and very FEW vegetables! Meals were pretty cheap though, costing usually less than $3.00 each for everything.

We stayed in a wide assortment of places ranging from campgrounds to a fancy chateau! The campgrounds were actually quite interesting because not only do they provide places for tents and campers, but they also had little cabins, usually with 2 beds in them, that we could stay in. They even provided us with bedding, including pillows! And they had bathrooms and showers available too! The chateau was quite beautiful with huge rooms, but the bed was one of the least comfortable on the whole trip! We also stayed in some private pensions and some pretty non-glamorous hotels. It usually cost $20 or less per night for the two of us.

We rode a total of 530 miles (800km)! All the way from Prague to Austria and then some. We crossed the border and rode in Austria for a couple of days, coming within 30 kilometers of Vienna, but we didn't go into the city. We really didn't want to go to such a huge place, with no maps or information about what to see and do there. We also didn't have the clothes for going to the nice places I would have wanted to see there. But Austria's countryside is very pretty as well. It was obvious to us right away that Austria is a richer country. The houses were separate dwellings with yards rather than the blockhouses we'd seen in the Czech Republic. Also, the Austrians had more cars, and newer and more expensive ones. Even their fields seemed more sophisticated, with a variety of crops planted side by side. And they definitely have better ice cream! Unfortunately, it is also more expensive to visit there. We ended up paying $50 one night for accommodations in a small hotel.

Because we had ridden so far away from Prague, the only way to get back to the airport in time to catch our plane home was to go a good distance by train, which we did. The train system is very accommodating for bikes. We had to change trains 4 times to get to the town we wanted to stop in, one day's ride from the airport, but we kept our bikes with us basically the whole time. On one small train, they put them in the baggage car, but usually, we would just lift them onto certain cars that were designated bike cars, and we would just leave them in the enlarged entrance way. It wasn't easy to get the bikes on and off fully loaded, but Don did a great job of it. After the last train ride we got down onto the platform only to realize to get out of the train station, we would have to take the bikes down a bunch of steps, through a tunnel and up the same number of steps on the other side of the tracks. I saw the ticket collector man, who spoke some English, so I asked him if there was a better way to get our bikes off the platform, and he said yes, for him to carry it for me!! Which he proceeded to do, much to his chagrin when he saw how heavy it was!

At that point we were about 22 miles from Prague. Our flight didn't leave Prague until almost midnight, so we had a whole day to get there. The weather was crisp and the terrain was mostly flat…perfect riding conditions. We took our time getting to the airport, but still arrived there in the early afternoon. So we found a nice place close by with some trees and grass and just relaxed until evening, when we got our bike boxes out of the long-term luggage storage and took the bikes apart for the trip home.