Acorns and castles …

https://www.google.com/mymaps/viewer?mid=1C4uyvPiVax-nOdsCrOdTudtU9fBdG2GY&hl=en_GB

Three days and 160 miles on we have been travelling in a south-easterly direction, and are set for a night in the delightful little town of Slavonice. This medieval town of 2,500 souls is just 1 kilometre from the Austrian border and hovers between the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia. It is a mecca for cyclists, the town is littered with bikes of all denominations and some very colourful lycra.

Town Square Slavonice from the top of the church tower. (Climbed 160 steps after a hard day on the bikes)

Slavonice town Square – three vintage tractors, two of them Steyrs, clearly much loved

The scenery has changed from, mainly, arable farmland to a mix of meadows, maize, pine forests and lakes. The region bills itself as Czech Canada. Riding through the pine forests is tranquil and atmospheric, except for fallen acorns popping off like turbo-charged tiddlywinks when a tyre catches them.

Castle at Jinrichuv Hradec reflected in the lake

Warm, sunny weather with a very gentle cooling breeze has been a very welcome feature so far. The terrain has remained quite hilly, although for the most part, the gradients have not been too steep. The place names defy pronunciation and we have had some comical conversations with Google translate putting its own interpretation on what is intended.

Cycling along old border patrol roads between former communist Czechoslovakia and Austria

A little autumn excursion …

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There are two places that I have long wanted to visit and this trip will tick both boxes. Late Tuesday we landed in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic and, provided we pedal fast enough and in the right direction, will return from Poland’s second city, Krakow. A crow would only fly 254 miles between these two, historic, cities but our route will take us somewhere in the region of 850 miles, so we should get a good look at the countryside along the way!

The Czech Republic; Czechia as it now calls itself, parted company with Slovakia in 1993, ending the Republic of Czechoslovakia which was formed as the Hapsburg’s Austo-Hungarian empire fell at the end of WW1. A landlocked country, with Germany to the North and West, Austria to the South, Slovakia to the East and Poland North/North East, it covers some 30.5 million square miles, (37.5% of Great Britain) with 10.6 million people (compared to GB’s 61 million).

Charles VI Bridge Prague

Wednesday was spent in the heart of Prague’s historic city centre, which straddles the Vlatava River. Highlights included walking over, the thousand year old, Charles VI Bridge with its many statues; visiting Prague Castle, which has an incredible gothic vaulted ceilings and the truly stunning stained glass windows in St. Vitas cathedral. Standing in St Wenceslas Square was pretty amazing given its dedication to the martyred, 11th century, King Wenceslas of Christmas Carol fame; and the velvet revolution protests there that saw the end of communism in 1989. Prague is a thriving, cosmopolitan city.

St Vitas Cathedral Prague

Getting out of Prague on our bikes first thing Wednesday proved quite tricky. Eventually, we hooked up with the Prague to Vienna Greenway, a quiet-road, marked, cycle route connecting the two cities. The signposting was excellent once we joined the route. Cycling through suburbs is never much fun so it is good to be back in the countryside with small towns, little villages and farm activity. All cereal crops have been harvested and most of the maize, the farmers are busy working down the ground for next year’s crops with, largely, very modern kit.

One of two huge piles of loose straw, very strange!

A curiosity of today’s 60 mile ride was the very many apple and pear trees that grow by the roadside. Most are absolutely laden with ripe fruit which is falling to the ground and rotting there. We did see a couple of elderly gentlemen relieving a pear tree of some of its burden though.

The weather has been hot and sunny so far, the terrain quite hilly, the roads quite pot-holed and rough in places and traffic busier than anticipated but all is well with bikes and riders.