Cesky-Krumlov Saturday 12 July
Had a wonderfully restful day starting with a latish breakfast, a wander through the winding narrow cobbled streets surrounded by beautiful gabled shops and houses, and buildings with boxes full of geraniums. It is a very beautiful town with the river looping around, and rather confusing as we crossed bridges at different points in the town. Today being Saturday lots of people, many in their 20s could be seen or heard screeching as they rafted or canoed down the river.
The heavens opened as we had expected with the sky getting darker and darker, and we retreated into one of the many Pensions/restaurants for coffee and goulash soup,and watched the world go by. We were troubled by the couple in the next table lighting up and it highlighted for us the far greater numbers of smokers we have observed both in Lisbon and here in the Czech republic. There are warning words on the packets but branding is still allowed.
Greg finished a short story he has been working on and I had a sleep before going out in search of tea and then dinner.
Today I didn’t like being a cyclist!
After breakfast in another banquet room, some of he group took a tour through the castle which we didn’t do. It is a very castle-like castle with turrets like a mouth with missing teeth, and sentry boxes storing bows and arrows, but compared with some of the 12th century villages we pedalled through, not that old about 200 years and reputedly modelled on Windsor Castle. Wherever we go, we see buses spilling out tourists, mainly wrinklies and we thank The Lord we are not like them. Today however I would happily have traded places with them for a morning because they looked warm and dry!
Then it started raining as the forecast had said but we needed to stick to schedule and we set out all bundled up in polyprop and raincoats. My new one worked vey well but it was still rather miserable and the scenery passed by unobserved as we rode as fast as the conditions allowed in order to get it over and done with. Lunch was in a world heritage village – yummy soup and cherry pancakes and we left as the weather started to clear and with fuel in our tummies – the ride ended up being about 52 kms and over the last 10 kms I counted out the k’s and muttered and cussed to myself about every incline – I thought we’d never arrive. But we did and the sun came out. Accommodation at the Hotel Gold in the centre of this city, another world heritage site and we are here for a very welcome rest day so we can catch up on laundry and blogs and sleep in. All is forgiven when you’re soaking in a hot bath.
Dinner was in the village catacombs – deep underground and accessed by a spiral stone staircase and its height suitable for hobbits. Yummy chef-cooked food.
Quite a cool day. Again rode through beautiful landscape of rural villages,
with green and yellow fields growing wheat, barley, and rape on rolling hills interspersed with lakes.
A nuclear power plant looked sinister and out of place and we came upon a reservoir which collects water for cooling the reactor.
We stopped at a cafe for lunch and then cycled the last 11 kms on a cycle track through forests alongside the same river as the one in Prague, the Vltava. Some steep inclines and on one my speed got down to 5, the lowest ever but where others got off and walked their bikes I managed to zigzag up it. Got stung by a bee on the way up one incline and pulled out the sting when I got to the top. Fortunately I’m not prone to anaphylaxis. One chap’s bike suddenly developed a crack on the seat post, and the bike will need to be replaced/repaired – not sure how they will do that as we seem to be ‘miles from nowhere’ – I feel a song coming on!
Ended up doing 62 km and today the group divided itself in two with the particularly fast ones going ahead on their own, and the rest of us enjoying ourselves at a more leisurely pace.
We have found with the typical demographic of this type of bike trip – ‘gliking’ several professional people have retired young supported by their respective pension schemes. Not something we see often in NZ.
Tonight’s accommodation is actually amazing, located next to the castle at Huboka nad Vltavou, the Hotel Stekl. We have a suite consisting of three rooms, a bedroom with TV, sitting room with another TV and separate marble bathroom. The furniture is antique mahogany-like, there are Persian carpets on the floor and each room has a chandelier as have the bedside lights – but no tea making facilities so we had to make do with ordering it to be brought to our room, served in bone china teaset – and it was Early Grey…heaven after a day’s ride. The evening meal was served in a banquet room and we sat at tables put together in one long line, and the chairs covered in sort of satin arrangement which looked a bit like a down market wedding dress. Quite peculiar.
Bedtime was welcome after the usual post prandial briefing about the next day’s ride.
Woke up to find the temperature had dropped considerably – some guessed up to 10 degrees and that required digging into our suitcases for warmer gear, and once it was clear that it wasn’t going to get any warmer, my new red Ground Effect waterproof jacket. In fact I did not warm up properly until we arrived at our hotel in Tabor. All day the dark clouds suggested more thunderstorms pending, but they never actually came. A couple of places in the profile of today’s ride persuaded me and 3 or 4 others to be taken to the top of a couple of hills in the van rather than attempting the whole ride, which I actually was not ready for at the beginning of the day, yesterday’s ride having been so demanding. In the end I did 49 km. which was just fine. Rode a few significant hills anyway. Lost one of our fellow-cyclists, Steve from Sydney who eventually turned up thanks to his GPS after riding quite a few kms and on the main road.
Lunch was in a lovely village ‘pub’ where the brewing tanks were actually in the bar and the furniture and settings very rustic. Pity about the food. It seems stale bread some of it flavoured with caraway seeds, is the norm and we are told the locals like it that way and without lashings of butter, is almost inedible.
Villages charming, some painted plaster detached or terraced houses, flower boxes, orange tiled roofs, each village has a large pond and no people to be seen. Passed on the road by huge agricultural equipment trucks servicing the wheat and corn growing farms. The ony cows we have seen were housed in huge barns with calves housed in ‘dog kennels’. The country looks very prosperous.
Tabor is the largest town in this part of Bohemia and it beautiful with its cobbled streets, town square and well maintained houses Our accommodation, the Nautilus Hotel is right in the centre of town and after the usual very welcome shower and making ourselves presentable, wandered around the town before returning to base for the best and superbly presented meal we have had since we left home, with the chef personally having a chat with us through our tour guide, Manfred who interpreted.
Today promised to be the most challenging day with the most/worstest hills and after a van ride to the spectacular Karstejn castle, built in 1348, straight out of Rowan Atkinson in his spy movie or children’s fairy tales. We crossed the Berounka and Vltava rivers, riding on minor roads, through rolling hills and valleys to the Konopiste castle dating from 1300
A flat 5 km was followed by quite a challenging hill and discretion being the better part of valour 5 or 6 of us decided to ride in the van and get back on the bikes at the top of the hill – it was a good idea and enabled us to ride the remainder of the 65 km day without being too exhausted. I am a fan of this arrangement of hopping on and hopping off the van as the spirit …I mean body, leads.
Nice to see the rural hinterland – actually I’m not sure where all the city people live as we saw lots of sights in Prague itself, but no high rises. However the countryside was patchwork bright green alternating with yellow fields and houses with sloping orange tiled roofs and beige plaster walls – a reminder of Austria. This place does have snow in winter so looked a bit like Ohakune – a ski resort waiting for something to happen. We ate cherries from the roadside trees, most of the more juicy ones being just out of reach, and tiny very sweet raspberries.
We were very pleased to arrive at our digs for the night, a fairly swept up Golf Resort, as there has been many references to cold beers all afternoon as we sweltered.
Then a thunderstorm which had been threatening all afternoon and heavy rain immediately cooled the air.
What more can a girl ask for than chocolate muesli – yum. Need to suggest this variation to Frank our cottage muesli maker. But you could also eat green peppers, cheeses, meat for Africa, accompanied by horseradish sauce – also yum…..not!
At breakfast we met more of the people we will cycling with over the next week or so. Betty and Bruce, Sylvia and Gordon, Diane and Gordon and Rex a retired painter and decorator from Mt Eden whom kept us laughing out loud on both India trips. Greg sized up the men for their hill climbing abilities….but of course we know “it’s not a competition.”
When we saw the castle yesterday we were unaware of the treasures that awaited us today as we ventured beyond the gates, the highlight being the huge gothic cathedral. A choir of young people visiting for the Word Choir Games from Riga Latvia gave a breathtaking a capella performance, spontaneous I think, and we enjoyed the organ music. Music seems to have always been important here, and for the second day we enjoyed ‘busking’ quintets playing and singing in a shady spot. We are mindful that Smetana, Dvorjak, Mahler and Hummel were natives of the Czech Republic in its previous manifestations, eg Czechoslovakia, Bohemia. And the new women’s Wimbledon champion is Kvitova.
As usual people watching was a delight to me – a lone girl taking selfies in front of picturesque backdrops, guessing the nationalities of the guided groups with the leader holding an umbrella/stick as they lead the group around, a cross between the pied piper and a character from one of Roger Hall’s plays, Japanese tourists posing with the staunch motionless guards sweltering in their blue uniforms, fixed bayonets and all, a rail around them delineated their personal spaces – we wonder what fate would befall anyone violating this. If only motorists were so aware of cyclists’ personal spaces!
Finally it was time for the 20 strong cycling group to assemble and receive our briefing, meet the others and pile into the bus to be taken for our bike fitting. Riding created a breeze which was much appreciated on what was a very humid day, and we cycled along the river bank and back for 24k. This enabled us to get to know our bikes and to remember “always ride on the right side of the road, de dum de dum de dum de dum de dum”! As a non beer drinker, I have discovered cherry cider and am now a convert. Saw paddlers of various descriptions on the river.Then it was back to base, dinner together as a group and bed. The food we have experienced hasn’t been great – three very marginal ones really.
This hotel is amazing and beautiful with its 270 year old wooden stairway, casement windows, beams holding the freshly plastered ceilings, blonde oak furniture and floor tiles, all in keeping, iron bedstead – this may be modern but at times it is hard to tell, but also modern amenities. The cooling air conditioning is welcome.
Walked around the immediate area in the morning and went on a 2 hour Segway tour of the other hot tourist spots guided by a knowledgeable young university students, Magda in the afternoon. Quite hot and relearning how to drive the Segways initially was stressful until we relaxed. Didn’t run over any tourists or injure ourselves. Enjoyable. After much needed shower found another Pedaltours participant, Tony, a 73 year old Australian chap, who came and ate with us – goulash and apple strudel. He had cycled almost all the way from Vienna.