August 30, 2013 Leave a comment
Monday night 19 August 2013 and Tues 20 August 2013
Hotel Kampa Gardens, Prague
We arrived safely in Prague, with the bikes coming off the plane right as they should. Olin reassembled them, and we quickly found the bike route leading out of the airport to Prague. Then, equally quickly, we lost it.
My bike was injured coming home last year and after the long and rough ride in the airplane the rear derailleur started acting up and making strange noises. We reached a short but steep hill and when I switched into a low gear it popped into my wheel and down I went. After having a look, our initial impression was bad and although we were about 6 km from Prague, as far as we were concerned, we were in the middle of nowhere as there were few houses around.
We hailed a fellow going by on his mountain bike, and he tried to arrange a taxi to come and pick us up. No taxi came. The dark skies then opened up and it started to rain. Olin phoned the hotel and they sent a car that did, reasonably promptly show up, but, the driver said that his car was too small (read nice and clean) for my bike and he just left us there.
After about an hour in the rain, we did what we should have done in the first place – Olin pried the derailleur bracket back into approximately the right position and managed to shift it into a middle gear in the back sprocket and then we together, me with 3-speeds, into the city. The ride proved reasonably easy as it was mainly downhill. The GPS directed us to our hotel area, and after one false start we finally arrived at the Hotel Kampa Gardens.
The next day we took the bike to a shop in Revolution Street, where a young fellow who spoke reasonably good English devoted his day to fixing it. He did not have a replacement bracket but managed to reshape the bent one and then install a new derailleur, although this one worked in reverse to the destroyed one. Very fortunate outcome. We spent the rest of the day and evening in Prague, walking up the hill to tour the church and castle at the top. We walked over the Charles Bridge around 3:30pm and it was FULL of people, so many tour groups you could hardly move. Had a delicious dinner then a good nights sleep.
Wednesday 21 August 2013
Hotel Florian, Sedlcany
77 km, 8.00 am – 3.30 pm
4 hrs 50 mins cycling; 16 kph;
up 890m, down 656m
We got an early start but slow trying to stay on the bike route. Getting out of Prague was very easy. We took an early morning ride across the Charles Bridge (no tourists except for four wedding parties with the brides in full regalia having photo shoots in the morning light) and then we followed the A2 bike route south along the east side of river. Too bad we had taken the other side of the river into Prague 3 years ago as it was much less inviting. We’re following, more or less, the Prague to Vienna Greenway route. (Friends we met en route made the mistake of taking the Greenway advice to start in Central Park via the subway – it took them hours to get out of the city as they could not find the start of the trail system.)
After the Barrandovsky bridge, we picked up the A22 going east. We made our first mistake almost immediately, going onto a side route into the woods (staying on the A22) instead of staying on main route to Pruhonice. Thus we lost the route shortly into the days ride. No more woods. Picked up A11 a little later, and did combo of A11 and country roads for the rest of the day. It turns out there were lots of hills today, not really long or nasty but just a lot of up and down.
We had lunch at Nova Hospoda, an intersection in the road; originally we stopped for coffee but we followed that with goulash soup and bread rolls (very delicious and cheap at 19 crowns each bowl) for lunch.
There were no places to stay right in Nevklov so we ventured on to Sedlcany, and found the Hotel Florian. We met a walking couple from Calgary here on a long multiple week walk from Prague to Vienna. We cycle round the world…they walk.
Thurs 22 August 2013
Hotel Concertino, Jindrichuv Hradec, S Bohemia
86.2 km; 1008 m up; 889 m down; 4hrs 40 mins
8.30 – 4.30
Beautiful riding through prosperous farms and ski country… ie many hills although the ski areas we pass are not big which is a good thing as we don’t have to ride up mountains. We’re not far from Prague and suspect the new homes being built in the country are for weekends and skiing.
There is a reasonable tourist infrastructure here for walkers and cyclists. Every tiny hamlet has a picnic bench and a way-finding sign. All the bike routes are numbered. The walking routes are signed by coloured flashes on the trees. Our hotel last night had 4 rooms booked: 2 sets of cyclists and 1 walkers, 1 other room of random people.
Coffee in Borotin, lattes and shortcake, in outdoor café.
We stopped at Tabor for a donar kebab which was delicious and drink to see us through the afternoon. Town is above the river, we took the hard way down (carried our bikes down a staircase) to the perfect newly paved bike path by the river. There’s an easier way, we just didn’t take it. The path south goes through multiple fields and sports down by the river.
JH is a small but pretty city with cafes, walking streets, a castle and a river. We walked through the castle/ chateau. Buildings closed for day (our usual story) but the grounds were open.
My dinner was trout, Olin has been turning his nose up at the ponds as we go by. But the little trout was delicious. We sat in an outdoor café where the ivy rained down berries on my head. Far too comfortable to move an inch.
Friday 23 August 2013
Pension Domino, Uhercice, S Czech near Austrian border
70 km, 9.15 – 3.30; 4 hrs cycling; 726 up, 768 down
It was a beautiful morning and made our departure from JH. The town was waking up – things start late here. A lady was putting her café chairs onto the street. The morning sun bathed the castle, lake and town square in a wonderful light.
We continued on the combo greenway/ roads route, generally following the Prague to Vienna greenway. One piece of perfect riding was through Prirodni Park and consisted of a paved path, for cyclists and walkers only (although we did not encounter any walkers).
We stopped for cappuccinos and cucumber salad in Nova Bystrice at a very pleasant outdoor cafe. I went into the Drogarie for some ibuprofen (sore knee), but needed the Apothocary.
We had lunch in Slavonice, in the beautiful town square which was full of cyclists. We’ve seen hundreds today, far more than any other trip we’ve been on.
Towards the end of the day we began to look for a place to stay. The first little town, Vratenin, was quite pretty but had no accommodation. The next, Uhercice, was tiny and run down, but a brand new pensione was available. We were the only guests. The young proprietress had to be telephoned, and came with her baby to look after us.
We ate in the only restaurant in town, neither Olin nor I dared to look in the kitchen or think too much about our food prep. We spent our time there swatting flies which there seemed to be an endless supply of.
No internet. No books. No cards. No New Yorker. Just Olin (on computer) and me (with notebook).
Saturday 24 August 2013
Retz Austria, Hotel Althof
40 km, 9 – 1 pm
Our hostess brought us her two beautiful children and a ham and cheese breakfast which started us off down the road running along the border with Austria. Olin has been watching the overgrown pillboxes from the cold war. We turned off at the tiny border hamlet, taking a rough track about 1km to the border, meeting the paved Austrian road from Regersberg.
Our first Austrian, right at the border, recommended the local castle so off we went, adding a huge hill into our day as we visited Hardegg, a spectacular remote site. Hard to imagine why it was strategically important but it must have been.
South then to Retz, where the friendly lady at the tourist information persuaded us to stay the night after a mere 40km of cycling rather than ride on to Hellabrun.
The Althof is in rebuilt old buildings and has made itself into a very pretty country hotel, in the middle of wine country. We walked through vineyards and the town and it was all very pleasant. We drank a bottle of local wine, we met the owner of the winery earlier in the day, on our patio in a very nice hotel. We had a delicious meal: Suzanne enjoyed her “boiled rump of grazing cattle” which was perfect.
We have finished our riding in the Czech Republic and have now entered Austria…tomorrow we ride into Vienna where we will stay two days. Czech was very wild, hilly and backward in many ways…they are still finding their way in the new world. It was fascinating to ride on the Czech side of the border with Austria and spot the pillbox observation posts every 500 meters or so….what a part of the world this must have been during the cold war. There are a million bike paths here and when there isn’t a path, the country roads are good and hardly any cars.
Sunday 25 August 2013 and Monday 26 August (rest day)
85.5 km, 4 hrs 40 mins
8.45 – 2.00 pm, cycling the whole way without a real stop, trying to stay ahead of the rain
We got up early and pedaled into Vienna, down the valley at first along country roads but then onto bike paths as the car traffic increased. We took a road across the Danube on top of a dam and then rode along the Donauradweg – a bike path all along the Danube river. We pedaled hard and straight through as the weather forecast was not good and indeed, the last 10 Kms or so it started to rain, only lightly luckily. The GPS directed us to a Hotel that a fellow Suzanne knows referred us to and we are here – it is very very very expensive but nice…2 nights, so this is our 33rd anniversary treat. Had a nice hot bath and now we are going out to see the town – with umbrellas though as it raining and is supposed to do tomorrow.
We were good tourists, went to the Leopold Museum, the Sisi Museum (how did the Hapsburgs lose it all?), and took in a “Mozart” performance at the Opera House.
Tuesday 27 August 2013
Hotel Carlson Radisson, Bratislava Slovakia
74km, 3.55 hrs, 9.30 – 4.20
All the hard cycling is over as one of the features of following a river is the there are generally no hills. We rode along the dikes and floodways to east of Vienna. No hills at all. But rain… everyday the weather is worse than the forecast, and today was the wettest of all. We’ve yet to have a really sunny day on this trip.
Bratislava is small with a very nice center of town but the outskirts are sketchy communist era buildings – we took a tram to the outer part of town and had two beer (half liters) for $4 in an outdoor pub. It is much poorer than other cities we’ve been in, but has a wonderful walking area in the old part of town with multiple outdoor restaurants. Many old buildings of which we visited exactly none.
We met a German family (a father and 2 daughters) along the path today that Olin had seen peddle through Uhercice late at night and we met them in the town for a drink and caught up on recent German/ EU history, travelling by bike, and election predictions. Very nice people, very good English – he is a psychiatrist.
The weather was, and continues to be poor, with lots of rain forcing us to pull over in whatever shelter we can find.
Wednesday 28 August 2013
85 km, 4hrs 16 mins, 10 – 5, 20 kph
We left Bratislava and met up with our German pals almost immediately, travelled together along the dikes to the art museum at Danubiana, the Meulensteen Art Museum. It’s in the middle of nowhere, out on a point at the front end of the massive flood control/ power project on that part of the Danube.
Then with the wind at our backs we flew down the dikes about 20 km to the big dam at ______. We had a good time watching the locks lower a couple of barges 32m to the lower river.
We crossed the river at the dam, then down the dikes on the east side of the river. We stopped for lunch at Sap, quite good. It turned out to be quite a long but annoying stop…. It started to rain and we waited a long time for it to stop. At a lull in the rain, we jumped on the bikes again, and took the fairly complicated but accurate directions in our guidebook across the border into Hungary and reached the town of Gyor, taking a room in a little panzio across the tracks from the main part of town. It had a very pleasant pub in the basement where we had a refreshing drink before going into town for dinner.
Gyor was pretty quiet but had some beautiful old buildings and walking streets. We ate as locals, in a small café off Hungarian only menus – fortunately there were pictures.
Thursday 29 August 2013
Panzio Alabardos, Esztergom Hungary
109 km, 5 hrs 56 mins, 9 – 5
Suzanne and I got up early from the pension in Gyor and had a good Hungarian breakfast to clear skies…the first time in ages that we were able to see that the sky is blue. We set off with two options, the first a 55 Km ride to Komarom or to press on if the riding was ok to Esztergom, which in the end we did. The riding was mixed today. Some empty country roads, some trails, some very muddy backroads, some interesting towns and about 4 Km of heavy traffic which was not nice…about the only time we have had that actually. And to make matters worse, it started to rain the last 10 Km. In fact it rained so hard, we had to pull over and take shelter beside a building where we watched the rain pelt down and almost back up the storm drains. It finally stopped and we made it in to town where we found a nice pension to stay in with a view of the largest church in all of Hungary which happens to be about 200 meters away from here.
We had some drinks in a local pub where the waitress seemed more interested in talking on the phone then in serving us. We then decided to search out a restaurant, which we found near out pension. We sat down to a Transylvanian feast for 2, which really could have fed 4 people, which it almost did do in fact as our German friends showed up at the same restaurant so we had a good time chatting with them. We also ran into a family of 6 – a husband and wife, two young boys ages 6 and 8, and two dogs. We had seen them the previous day crossing the dam with the big locks and they had camped along the way, then started late in the day to arrive here. They could not find a place to stay as the hotels/pensions either don’t want children or dogs, so they were going to camp again…such an amazingly tolerant pair of children and cheery parents.
Later we spoke to some Israeli boys who took 3 hours to find their way out of Gyor. We’ve been following Eurovelo #6, and the signs are not always where they should be. Luckily we were able to figure the route out quite easily. But is had its drama: muddy tracks through fields and woods made it slow going and challenging cycling.
Friday 30 August 2013
70 km, 4 hrs 6 mins, 11 – 4.30
Well we have finished riding and are sitting on the patio of the Sofitel Hotel in downtown Budapest on the banks of the Danube drinking a bottle of Hungarian sparkling wine. Overall it was an easy trip this year except for the weather.
The ride today was on both sides of the Danube, taking ferries across and looking for the best route. The Danube bend is spectacular, with castles and old town of Visegard. Coming into Budapest we would have been better to stick to the main road. The sidewalk was an ok bike route which improved nearer the city. Instead we took the Eurovelo #6, which took a circuitous and muddy route along the river, and likely an hour longer than it needed to.
But here we are in lovely Budapest. Will have dinner with our German friends and spend a few days being tourists. There is a lot to see in this city, with such a long and interesting history. We toured the castle area and hospital in the hill in Buda, and the National Gallery, the market and many other sights in Pest. The nights are amazing as the streets turn into party zones with groups of kids sitting in the parks and wherever it grabs them to sit and share a bottle of wine or some beer. Open drinking is common. There are so many outdoor café areas and streets. These people seem to enjoy life. Suzanne fell in love with the famous pastry shop/café just down the street from our hotel and seemed to find her way there at least twice a day for breakfast, a coffee, or a sweet. The weather has improved, but it still cool and very windy. We also took a dinner cruise up and down the Danube – the meal was forgettable but the scenery was first class, as the sun set and the lights of the city started to shine.
Olin found some bike boxes and packaged our bikes up for the trip home…the first time we have done that as we have either used Air Canada bags or wrap, so we will see if this works. I took a lot of dismantling to get Suzannes bike into the small box.