Sunday 19th May, 2002
Arrived at Landgut Kronberghof Hotel (www.kronberghof.com) near about 12 miles from the centre of Vienna. The hotel was family run and very friendly, although there was a slightly "laisser faire" attitude. They were quite happy for us to leave our car with them while we cycled to Prague. The rooms were comfortable, but still had décor circa 1965-70! The food was good and there was a hotel shuttle service. We did get the feeling that the equine guests were of more importance than the human ones! But, all in all it was a good setting off point.
Monday 20th May
We left Ulrichskirchen loaded up with panniers and had intended to follow Euro Velo trail 9 up to Mistelbach and then on to Poysdorf. We set off along quiet little roads through rolling hills. Either side of the road laid fields of crops edged with poppies, salvias, cornflowers or tidy lines of vines. The countryside was beautiful and we cycled on through little villages where conversations came to an abrupt halt as old ladies stared open-mouthed as we puffed by on our tandem! It was a lovely sunny day, the woods were full of the sound of cuckoos, and the hillsides were full of deer and hares running through the fields. We made our way with the map provided by the Austrian Tourist Board through Poysdorf, Hernbaumgarten and into Schrattenberg where we decided to look for lunch. Lovely schnitzels washed down with a glass of beer a glass of wine and loads of water. Just the thing to help us push up the really steep hill towards the border. We crossed through the tiny little border post and found ourselves in the Czech Republic.
It was a rather odd feeling cycling into a completely unknown situation. We could not understand any of the road signs or names of shops (or anything else for that matter). We flew down the hill into Valtice. We stopped and walked up to the castle and looked at the wine cellar in the grounds. The most beautiful place, but we couldn't stop long as we had to push on. From Valtice we went north, deviating from the prescribed Vienna-Prague route, as we wanted to cycle along the edge of the lake. We cycled down into Hlohovec and got ourselves a bit lost and had to retrace our steps. We soon picked up the signs for Mikulov along track number 3 which took us alongside a series of ponds where we saw kingfishers. It then became rather rough and we had to dodge the irrigation sprays watering the crops in the fields. We rejoined the VP route at Sedlec and stopped at the next lake for our afternoon "fruit break". We cycled alongside the railway line following the track and then turned right into the centre of Mikulov. The road was lined with cherry trees which were full of children scrumping the cherries. They all shouted and waved as we cycled up the hill. We had the Lonely Planet guide with us which gave us a map of the town. This enabled us to find the hotel Rohaty Krokodyl. This was a very pleasant hotel in the centre of town. English spoken. Our room was spacious and comfortable. We had a very nice dinner sitting on the roof terrace in the setting sun. Very speedy service! No sooner had we started on our first course then the second one turned up!
Jerry had soup followed by 3 meats stir-fried and ice cream with currants soaked in rum and I had duck's breast salad with French dressing (creamy and orange!) followed by salmon (rather overdone) and potatoes and apfelstrudel. We had a lovely stroll through the town as dusk fell and then to bed.
Wednesday 22nd May
As we approached Znojmo we saw that the greenway turned to the left by the bridge over the Dyje. We thought this would be a difficult climb up the gorge with the heavy load on the tandem. We opted instead to stay on the main road into town (4-lane highway) and ended up walking about 1.5 km into the old town. Again, we relied on the map of the town in the Lonely Planet guide. We found our way to the Pension Austis, which was extremely nice. The room was quite small, but everything was newly decorated and very comfortable. English spoken again. Had a stroll around the town and then headed for the recommended Restaurace U Radnice. Started with a bottle of Bohemian Sekt and had a good meal with no expense spared.
Thursday 23rd May
Excellent breakfast. Toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, orange juice, bread and jam and loads of coffee. Really good place to stay. The staff turned out to see us off the premises.
Went shopping for fruit and water to refill the water bottles, and then fought our way out of town on the Prague road through heavy traffic to find greenway 5007. Couldn't see any cycle path signs until we reached the outskirts of the town. We climbed through agricultural land towards Citonice. We stopped to look at the map and while we were debating which route to take, a local chap on a bike stopped to see if he could help us. He spoke English and we asked him what the cycle path was like and he said the surface was not good for road bikes, so we took his advice and stayed on the road number 408 until we met up with the cycle path again at Lesna where we passed the motor museum. We turned right where the road was being dug up, but managed to scramble through and followed the greenway 48 to Vranov nad Dyje. We climbed again then turned left and found ourselves going down a really steep hill towards the lake. We cycled along the shore, which brought us to an amazing bridge - solely for pedestrians and bikes. A little further brought us to the dam. It was very high and as we looked over the edge we could see House martins nesting below us on the dam face. We cycled on down into Vranov nad Dyje. No sooner had we whizzed down than we had to climb back out of the village again. It was very steep (1:4) we cycled slowly onwards and upwards and stopped at the entrance to the Chateau for an ice cream and some postcards. We set off upwards again... We stopped for a fruit break in the village of Pisecne. More storks on chimney pots and flying past. It was uphill all the way to Slavonice, but it was really worth the effort when we got there.
We stayed at the Hotel Dum U Ruze (www.dumuruze.cz) Excellent hotel. It has just been renovated in stylish good taste and the rooms were very good. There is a gym and swimming pool for the guests, but the pool looked a bit cloudy and green so we gave it a miss. Shame, as I could have done with a swim after all that hot cycling uphill. Slavonice is a beautiful renaissance town and the square in the centre is lined with elegant buildings, some with amazing scraffito decorations. After a shower and a quick change we went in search of dinner as we were hungry after our rather thin lunch! We found a pizza restaurant and had a delicious meal with good Czech red wine.
Friday 24th May
Very nice breakfast, but the day had dawned cloudy and threatening. Did our usual shopping for fruit and water and set off on a long uphill slog out of town. By then we had realised that for every descent into town in the evening, there was the uphill bit out of town in the morning! The clouds looked very black so we put on waterproofs and the pannier covers. It was cold too until we got moving. We cycled up to the old castle at Landstejn. We were daft enough to climb right to the top of this ancient castle. The view would have been wonderful if the cloud hadn't been right down over the hills. It was very chilly so we decided we would be best cycling. We set off in the direction of Nova Bystrice. We stopped for what we thought was an early lunch, as we were cold and wet. When we opened the door of a restaurace we were surprised to find the place packed at 11.30 with the local people eating their lunch. The place was almost empty by 12.30.
It was still uphill until we got to Perslak. The road became easier after that and the landscape changed to a more wooded and gently undulating scene. The fields were full of cornflowers and campanulas and we saw the first cows of the trip. We turned off the Prague-Vienna Greenway just passed Perslak and headed westward to Trebon along track 322. We navigated our way from the 322 to 1010 and then onto 1035. We bowled along through forests and between lakes. We saw deer, a red squirrel, a stork walking through the fields, loads of herons and we heard a bittern booming. The first time either of us had ever heard one. It is a very picturesque landscape. The greenway takes you round a lake to the north of Trebon, but we got into trouble near Smitka and couldn't find the turn off onto greenway 1034. We cycled across fields (hardly any track) and in the end ended up at Luznice. It was getting late and the clouds were threatening rain again so we took the main road into Trebon and found our hotel the Bily Konicek quite easily. This hotel was worst one of the trip. The rooms were adequate, but sparsely furnished and old. It was cheap though! We had tried to book the Pension Siesta, but it was full. Saturday 25th May
A lovely sunny day and we were ready for our breakfast at the usual time of about 8.30, but they told us that we could not have breakfast until after 9.00! We decided that we would cycle around and have a good look at the town without all the luggage on the tandem. We were very glad that we did as it is a really beautiful town - our favourite I think. We walked through the park and looked at the elegant chateau, crossed the road and looked at the beautiful Svet Lake, and back past the Regent brewery in operation since 1374. Definitely worth another visit sometime.
We stopped in Jindrichuv Hradec for a fruit break and just to have a look around. Another lovely town, but a bit big and busy.
Sunday 26th May
Woke up to rain. The skies were leaden and it looked as though it was there for the duration. We could have picked up a greenway to Tabor, but it was so awful that we just went along the road 409 until we got there. We only got a short distance before we noticed a strange noise coming from one of the panniers. We stopped to investigate, and found Jerry's beard trimmer had got switched on by mistake and was buzzing away in his washbag! He turned it off and repacked the pannier, but unfortunately didn't manage to get the cover on quite right as next time we opened the bag we found that everything was a bit wet. A cautionary tale, always make sure that your waterproof pannier covers are on properly! Anyway, it was a most unpleasant journey. Rain dripping into our eyes, and worse than that, although our bodies were quite dry, our cycling shoes filled up with water and we could feel the water sloshing around every time we turned the pedals. Yuk!
We consoled ourselves with the thought that we had booked ourselves into one of the best hotels in town and were looking forward to a bit of luxury. We had a bit of trouble finding the Hotel Kapital, but luckily the rain had eased off a bit by then. We walked into reception in the hotel and said that we had a room booked for the night. A very snooty receptionist gave us a cursory look and said that they had no rooms. I admit that we must have looked a wretched sight. Wet hair plastered to our heads and dripping water everywhere. I got the copy of my confirmation of the booking out of the pannier and showed her. She spoke very good English, but obviously had ideas above her station! She also found her copy of the confirmation but told us that there were no rooms. They had a party of French people in. She did ring the Pension Dasa and found us a room there. Actually, it was the only place we had stayed in that had a bath. Just what we needed after the awful wet ride. I asked if we could eat at the Kapital (we had looked at their menu on the internet before we left home and it looked good). She rather sniffily said that we could, but we would have to get into the dinning room before seven as the French party were going to eat then.
We went and had a bath, hair wash and put our best clothes on (out of a pannier!) and make-up (only me) and we obviously bore no resemblance to the drowned rats who had asked for a room earlier. We had a really delicious meal. The waiters there knew all about service (speaking French and English fluently) and the chef knew all about cooking. They waited until we had finished one course before presenting the next! We drank a wonderful Frankovka 1997 amongst other wines and finished with a glass of sekt with our desert.
Monday 27th May
Brilliant breakfast at Pension Dasa. Yoghurt, fruit, cereal, orange juice, omelette and ham, doughnuts, Coffee. Absolutely stuffed! Packed our bags and headed for the Infocenter to buy a Shocart map for the next leg of our journey. Lovely sunny morning (thank goodness) and nice lady in the Infocenter who found us the map we needed. After buying fruit and water, we were set for the day's cycling. Found our way out of town passed the lake and then back onto the greenway and away from the traffic - uphill of course!
It seemed as though most of that day's ride was uphill. I have a picture in my mind of endless little roads going up hill, lined with apple trees, but there were some downs. The weather began to turn a bit cloudy. It was a shame as I think the views would have been even better with clear skies. We climbed one really steep hill where we had to get off and push, but the view looking back was stunning. We stopped for a strawberry break at the top. And then it was down again, through fields bordered by blue lupins everywhere. Wonderful views and a lovely run downhill as we approached Sedlec Prcice and saw a stork in a field looking for frogs. We parked the bike outside the Pension Darbo and had a lovely leisurely lunch. Very nice place.
Climbed out of Sedlec Prcice and took a wrong turning and ended up cycling an extra 4 km to and from Sedlcany. (I wonder why most of the wrong turnings occur after lunch.) Back on the greenway we headed for Tynec nad Sazavou. It was a lovely journey and we saw 4 deer, one with a faun, a hare ran out from the crop next to the greenway and dashed away in front of us. There were more storks and wildflowers everywhere, lupins, cornflowers, poppies and stitchwort amongst others. The roads were again lined with apples or walnuts, and the scenery was so attractive.
We found Tynec nad Sazavou rather disappointing. There was an old ruined chateau, tucked away behind the road, but the town was obviously just a canoeing centre with a bit of light industry. The Bi-sport hotel was where the canoeists stay. There was another place upstream, but it was fully booked. Maybe this would have been nicer. The Bi-sport hotel was functional and clean (and cheap). We were asked to take the tandem up into the room with us. Quite interesting taking a tandem up a spiral staircase! We had a very nice pizza in the hotel for dinner.
Tuesday 28th May
It started to rain as we got the tandem loaded up so we donned waterproofs again and made sure that the pannier covers were on properly. Once we had left town we followed the river through a winding, wooded valley and the nearer Prague we got, the harder the rain rained. We reached Pruhonice and decided to see if we could get a warm cup of coffee or something. We found a hostinec and went in to find that there was not a single table spare. The waiter signalled something to us - we didn't quite understand- and then he opened doors at the other end of the room revealing more table and chairs. As everybody else was having their lunch we decided to do the same. By the time we had taken off our wet jackets and composed ourselves, the room had filled up with diners. We had schnitzel and boiled potatoes accompanied by pivo and vino and things began to feel a bit better. We warmed up and were ready to face the elements again.
The Greenway crossed the main Prague to Brno road where we then had a bit of trouble finding a sign for the greenway. We managed to pick up the greenway again and enjoyed cycling through parks and alongside the playing fields. The rain had eased off by then so we were feeling a bit more cheerful. We were fine until we came to the river. The signs were a bit confusing there, but a friendly passer by helped us and we cycled on into town. Suddenly we began to recognise where we were. We had been to Prague the previous summer and had taken a boat trip down the Vltava river. The greenway turned right into the town at the block before the Charles Bridge, but we knew our way to the hotel from the bridge, and anyway, we wanted to go over the bridge. Not a chance of cycling of course, too many people. We walked the last block and turned left onto the bridge. We stopped a tourist on the bridge and asked if he could take a photo of us with the tandem. He was British and was amazed to hear that we had cycled from Vienna to Prague. We walked over the bridge and up through Mala Strana to the hotel - Dum U Velke Boty, the House at the Big Boot. We had stayed in their annex the previous year, but this time we had a lovely room at the front looking towards the German Embassy. It was beautifully furnished with antiques, and there was a lovely bathroom. Soft, fluffy towels - oh, what luxury!
We really enjoyed our cycling trip. It was a joy to cycle on empty roads and tracks through such lovely changing scenery. We enjoyed staying in and looking at the ancient towns along the way. We were surprised that there is such a cultural history to be discovered in the Czech Republic outside Prague. It is something that is not widely known about, certainly in Great Britain.
We were very impressed with the Greenways, especially the route into Prague. They were very well signposted and clear except for the few examples, which I have mentioned. I think it would be foolish to undertake a trip like this if you were unable to read a map properly. It may have been our lack of observation that we missed some. Some of the surfaces we found difficult, but that was because our tandem is a road bike (loaded with six panniers) and not an all terrain bike. Luckily we have really tough tyres on it now, so nothing was too much for us.
We found the maps very good and very easy to follow.
The Infocenters were really helpful at the planning stage. I was able to email them about hotel prices, email addresses and in some cases they made the hotel bookings for me. Obviously the language situation was a problem for me.
We will come back. I think we would like to see more of Trebon and South Bohemia next time.
Trina Golland, United Kingdom