South of Prague to the Border

Starting Tuesday, August 15     Tynec nad Vltavou to Sedlcany

We left Tynec about 9:30 after a run to the market. It was another beautiful day with frequent use of our granny gears. We’ve been following the Czech Greenway #11 route since Prague, which is also the EuroVelo #7.  It goes all the way to Vienna, but we’ll veer off going west at Tabor in a few days.  As was the case yesterday, the route took us through landscape ranging from farm country05-IMG_3810 to mountainous terrain 12-IMG_3817with pine forests and lakes. 06-IMG_3811There were many ups and downs that, as you all know, are tiring. We stopped at the village of Nitovice that advertised a castle which we wanted to tour. The lady in the visitor’s office informed us that it was closed to the public and was now a home for the handicapped despite it being featured in a tourist brochure of the area. The rest of this village’s highlights were pictured in another pamphlet that she gave us. All were buildings around the small town square with absolutely nothing of interest or historic value. 11-IMG_3816One or two were pretty though. 07-IMG_381210-IMG_3815We had coffee and left a little disappointed. Almost all of the other villages that we went through today were tiny with no buildings except farm houses and out buildings.

Shortly after leaving the village without a visitable castle our route had a “detour” sign and another sign indicating that the road was not passable (in Czech, of course). We hesitated a bit and then proceeded uphill, thinking that surely they didn’t mean US! Shortly after that we met a local bicyclist coming from the direction of the work who spoke English. He confirmed that although the road was closed to vehicles it was possible for cyclists to get through. The detour would have added 8 kms of very hilly terrain to our ride.16-IMG_3821 The construction project was a new bridge over a waterway between two lakes. Fortunately, the crew had constructed a temporary wooden bridge that we were able to cross pushing our bikes that a car couldn’t have negotiated.  By this time we were starved and ready for a break so stopped at a bus stop shelter and had our lunch.  Note to self….always have your lunch with you in this part of the world as there aren’t any “outposts” along this pony express route.  We arrived in Sedlcany at 3pm very hot and tired.  After finding our Bowling Pension and visiting with our host using Google Translate on our phones, we showered, walked back to the main square 20-IMG_3825

and had our coffee in an air conditioned café which is a rare luxury around these parts.

 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017      Sedlcany – Tabor

It was raining lightly when we got up with very loud and long claps of thunder. We had a lovely breakfast at the Pension, loaded up with only rain jackets on and took off. We got perhaps 100 yards and it started raining more heavily so on went the rain pants.  About 1/2 hour later it was no longer raining and the sun came out for awhile. We climbed out of town to a high plain with farmland and some hills as far as the eye could see 

The area was very pretty with lakes, meadows, cows and fields of hay. Shortly before noon we stopped at a Stop and Go type gas station and had our morning cup. On proceeding we found another detour sign similar to the one we had seen yesterday. The detour was construction of a bridge just out of the town. From the road we were on we could see people walking across the temporary bridge, but no vehicle traffic. Once again we were able to go across the makeshift bridge and continue on our planned route.

Lunch was at the top of a very long climb at a corner bar/tavern. As we left it again started raining and on went our rain duds. After about 15 minutes it stopped and off came….

The terrain changed only slightly all day but the hills just kept on coming. Once again our” Grannys” got a huge workout. About 4 kms. from Tabor, our destination for the evening, one of the spokes on Ed’s rear wheel broke and the wheel wobbled greatly. We broke off the longer part of the spoke and rode gingerly into town. We arrived about 3:50 p.m., went directly to our hotel and got directions to a bike shop only a few blocks away. The hotel proprietor called the bike shop, as the owner was a friend of his, and we rode there panniers and all. Although a broken spoke wouldn’t ordinarily be a big deal, Ed’s wheels have bladed spokes and you don’t see many of them in Europe. To our relief, the bike shop owner was a real pro and was able to take the correct spoke from a used wheel in his shop and get us back on the road. He also changed the rear brake cable as it had worn through at the point it was connected to the center pull brake. It took about 45 minutes to get this done, but he wouldn’t take any payment, gave us a local bar of dark chocolate, and said it was his “pleasure” to get us back on the road.

Back to our hotel to check in, put the bikes away then walk around this really pretty old town. Many old and colorful buildings that would have deserved us taking the free audio guide tour in English, but we did not have the energy nor the time. Why no energy you ask? We climbed more than 2500 feet today in just over 31 miles, changed outfits 3 times and suffered the anxiety of bike trouble. All was well in the end though and we’re sure sleep will come easily tonight.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

It was extremely foggy when we took off, although the sun was shining in the city, far above the river below. Shortly after starting our ride, the addition of the spoke at the bike shop last night failed and the rear wheel began wobbling again so much so that the rear brake had to be disabled. The brake was unusable. The ride itself began with a long downhill to the river and into fog. Once at the river the road turned into a long slog uphill on the other side.  There were some long views of mountains in the mist and then in the sun, but the high plain was farmland. All of the villages that we passed through were tiny farming communities where the “Welcome to …” sign was visible from the “You are leaving …” sign down the road.  The middle section of our route took us to a single track path by the river with 5 kms. of ruts, grass, water and mud. It was slow going, a real challenge.  We descended into Tyn nad Vltavou about 1:15 p.m., had our lunch and went to the only bike shop in town. Although the proprietor tried, he could not true the rear wheel and he didn’t have a replacement. The next 3 days of travel will be interesting with no rear brakes and a rear wheel that wobbles. To add insult to injury, Ed began to feel tired and feverish. He retired to our room and slept the better part of 2 hours while Maggie wandered around this tiny village to scope out dinner and  to visit the church.

When Maggie returned to the room, we did a little route finding for tomorrow’s ride, then went to dinner at a local Kabab before calling it a night. The Pension we’re staying at looks great from the outside and is right on the river. Our room however is on the 3rd floor reached by 40 steps. It comes with what looks to be a 40 watt bulb (put your sunglasses back on), a minuscule bathroom with a door handle that fell off the first time we used it, two hand towels and nothing else.  A disappointment to say the least … just can’t wait to see what breakfast will be! Hopefully Ed will feel better in the morning as he’s already in bed, and it’s only 8:15pm.

Friday, August 18, 2017          Tyn-Tabor-Tyn- Hluboka nad Vltavou

As soon as we woke up the decision to try to replace Ed’s wheels was made. He not only had the broken spoke, but a broken hub on the rear. It started with a call to the bike shop where his broken spoke was replaced day before yesterday and finding out that he had compatible wheels, followed very shortly with a taxi ride back to Tabor with both bikes and all our gear. In a word, the wheel was caput.  Dan, the owner/chief mechanic of the shop, said he had 2 new touring wheel sets with 9 speed hubs for us to choose from. He was expecting us and got to work as soon as we got to the shop. He was finished changing the wheel set, tuning the gears, replacing the brakesand getting us back in the taxi who had waited for us in about ½ hr. We arrived back in Tyn shortly before noon and took off immediately. By then, it was hot and humid. The route we had worked out yesterday was about 40 kms with a lot of uphill and downhill. Although Ed felt a lot better and no longer had a fever, he felt very weak. The first part of the ride was through farmland. After that we were riding along the river path which was fairly wide and through thick forest. We met a German couple coming the other way who told us that although the map indicated an unpaved portion of bike path ahead for us, there was actually a new paved bike path along the Vltava River all the way to Hluboka nad Vltavou which ended up saving us about 6 kms of riding on dirt and gravel. We pulled into our hotel which is a golf/tennis complex along a lake, in Hulboka about 4 p.m. Maggie rode to the market while Ed showered then laid down to rest. Upon Maggie’s return, we went to the outdoor bar area at the hotel and had a cup of coffee. It was a beautiful mid-August evening with a slight breeze and much more comfortable than our room which was still about 80 degrees. We had dinner sitting in the same spot on the patio enjoying the evening.

Saturday, August 19, 2017    Hluboka nad Vltavou to Ceske Budejovice

Since we had only a short distance to ride today we headed up to the castle in Hluboka before riding on. It was about a 15 minute walk up the hill from our hotel.  We took the apartments tour that lasted just under an hour (no pictures) and led us through about 16 rooms of the 15th century chateau.  The whole thing was remodeled in the 19th century when the Schwartzenburgs whose ownership dated to the 30 years war when one of their clan led the hometown king or emperor to victory. This castle as well as at least one other was erected and furnished to display the family’s prestige and wealth. The place had fantastic wood and beautiful ceilings everywhere.  This is in the middle of a huge hunting area so everything was decorated in the dead animal theme with displays of maiming and killing utensils on display at every opportunity, even in the rooms and apartments that were designed for and used by the ladies. They were dark with hunting scenes where there was room on the walls not occupied by antlers and other parts.

We had a cappuccino in the old village below the castle where all the door handles were hockey skate blades.  The theme throughout was hockey and very cute.  We then hit the path (route #7) out of town.  It was a fantastic ride along the river. We happened upon a huge competition with many participants of both the male and female persuasion who were doing something like kayaking or canoeing at a water park.

The boats were s different from any we have seen in the US.

They were carbon fiber with different shapes than traditional kayaks and canoes. There were many age categories of both genders. The water park was man made and seeing it made us wonder why the plan to make a water park near Palisade died. It is a fun spectator sport.

From the water park it was a straight shot mostly along the river into Ceske Budejovice…..otherwise known as the Budweiser town since it’s where the Czech version of Bud was invented and still brewed.  It’s the largest brewery in the Czech Republic and they’re really proud of it. As surprising as it may be, there is no connection to the Budweiser operation in the US and the Czech beer, and, we were told, there are copyright disagreements still.

We found a Decathlon sport store on the way into the center of town and did a little window shopping.  Our timing was perfect as when we came out of the store it started raining really hard and didn’t stop for about 1/2hr.  We just hung out under the eves and when it let up, we started out again.   The town square is famous in the CZ for its size and the condition of the buildings that form it. We took a few pictures on the way past.                                                                                                                  

Our hotel is about 10 paces off the main square and our room is huge. Ed still wasn’t feeling so great so Maggie bought dinner from across the street and we ate in our sitting room. At about 9:30 we ventured out to walk around the square and see the old lovely buildings lit up.

                                                                             

Sunday, August 20, 2017        Ceske Budejovice to Ceske Krumlov

We awoke to a sunny day. Breakfast in the hotel was very good. The huge square, essentially right out our window was especially pretty in the early morning light and clear skys.       

The route was good with very little to no traffic. We stopped for coffee at a camping, hostel, water sport beach area along the river which was full of people packing up their tents after a weekend of rafting and canoeing. The sky darkened a bit as we moved on. We happened on a village fair with a slide and bump and jump for the kids and perhaps a dozen tents and kiosks selling mead, handcrafts, beer, and food.

Coincidentally this is the village that has tours of a 14th century monastery that we had read about but whose location we did not know. We just caught the 1 p.m. tour in the Czech language. However, our young tour guide gave us brief explanations of each of the areas after he had given them in Czech. This was very helpful for us and made the tour much more meaningful.  

After the tour, we bought some cheese from one of the concessions added jam and mustard to our rolls and enjoyed our lunch in the middle of the fair. The time we spent off the bikes gave us the energy to tackle the last 10 kms. whose profile on the GPS was scary steep.

 

In actuality, it was not a bad as we had anticipated, although the last stretch uphill was made a lot more difficult because of a very poorly maintained gravel road. The last 3 kms. were downhill into the medieval village of Ceske Krumlov. This is a very popular tourist area so we were not anxious to get here too early on a Sunday. Despite some unsettled weather, the town was still crowded. We found our pension after some frustration. It’s right in the middle of the ancient village and a stone’s throw from the castle.

Monday, August 21, 2017          Ceske Krumlov

The pension we are staying at is located on the main street (pedestrian) of this well preserved medieval city, just across the Vltava River that separates the royal area from the more plebian area. We are a 2 minute walk to the entrance to the castle and perhaps a 5 minute walk to the main church. Perfect. Since we had made separate reservations for each of the three nights here, we had to move to another room this morning. The one we had was very nice, large, with a private bath and foyer.  Breakfast was terrific and delivered on a tray to our door at 8 a.m. as arranged. We packed up and left our panniers in the room for the pension folks to move when they were done cleaning the new room. We returned to the pension around 4 to discover that our new room was actually a suite with a very large living room and bedroom as well as a private bathroom all on the first floor, so one less flight of stairs.  All of this for about $10 more.   

We had a full day. We started by going to the Visitor’s Center in the main square where we learned about a free walking tour of the old city. We have done many of these over the years and have always enjoyed them, so we wandered around checking out the old, beautiful and well preserved buildings and church until 10 a.m. when the tour began.

Our guide was a local who has been guiding for a few years. He was knowledgeable and articulate although we had to pay attention and listen carefully as he had a heavy accent. The tour lasted more than 2 hours and visited many of the must see spots       including about 5 within the castle walls.  The castle itself was closed because it was Monday. The gardens were lovely. He gave us the history of the region and the “royal” and gentrified families who have played a large part in the promotion of the area through the years. It came as no surprise that Ceske Krumlov was a big stop on the “salt road” which led to its initial prosperity. It also was no surprise that after about 1900 things in this area declined rapidly and the town was close to forgotten, including during WWII.

After the war and under  Communist control, things were no better. Then, in the 1990’s a light shined on this place and things started to take off. Land and houses that could have been bought then for the equivalent of $2000 would sell for millions today. The castle is the mainstay,but the large old town with its many varied and colorful buildings are also a tourist attraction. We visited a portion of it today, but will concentrate more on the place itself tomorrow. We visited the 5 courtyards, the huge gardens part in the English style and part in the French (a la Versailles), one of the castle museums which included recreations of some of the rooms furnishings and areas of note as furnished by the inhabitants in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and climbed the tower for the view of the town and surrounding hills.

We capped off the day with a crepe dinner and ice cream cones for dessert.  Ah, the things you get to do on holiday.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 Ceske Krumlov

We caught the 10 a.m. tour of the Baroque Theater at the castle. The theater is more than 250 years old. It has been almost completely restored, since, as with most historical sites in the Czech Republic, it suffered severely from neglect for many years, not just when the republic was behind the Iron Curtain. Most of the tour was a video in English of the restoration and workings of the theater backstage. The auditorium is really beautiful with a balcony and loge area and ceilings and walls painted al fresco. The operas that were performed here during the heyday lasted 5-6 hours. Members of the family Schwartzenberg and their invited guests and nobility would watch parts and then leave via a very long corridor/bridge about 400 yards long part of which was above the theater and which crossed the river which went to the “garden” that we visited yesterday or in the other direction to the castle to a ball.   The theater was able to change scenes frequently  in 10-12 seconds each that was done by the use of a series of ropes and pulleys rigged under the stage. It could also change the backdrop and raise and lower the curtain in the same way by hoisting and lowering them into and out of the fly loft. Very technical and advanced for 250 years ago. There were trap doors and “elevators” run with counter weights that could raise and lower actors from the stage as if by magic. Pictures by tourists were “limited.”

We moved next to the castle rooms circa 1700-1850. The castle during this period was owned by three major families in succession. The first went broke. The second failed to produce an heir and the third was the Schwartzenberg’s who had wealth and prestige that they had to display. They inherited the castle in the early 18th century from their relatives. They were able to build and remodel and modernize on the aesthetic accomplishments of their predecessors while not going broke or falling out of favor, as had their predecessors. They did a splendid job, (tourist pictures inside residence limited) but failed to keep up with the times in the mid-19th century (no running water or modern toilet facilities or electricity) so moved north to Bud castle (which we toured a few days ago) in the mid 19th century and updated there. From then until recently the castle fell into further disrepair which is being corrected to this day. We had the same guide for both tours.

We took a break and returned to our apartment, which was so convenient and tried to work on the blog, but, unfortunately, the internet would not cooperate so returned to the streets and continued touring this really fantastic medieval city.

We went back to the castle and toured the stables which had a couple of coaches from the 19th century   as well as the decorative trappings that went along with the coaches including tack and outfits for the horses and the men who worked them.

     

At 4 p.m. we returned to the castle proper and toured the rooms that were restored by the Schwartzenbergs in the middle of the 19th century. We felt that the guide was very friendly, although his pronunciation of words was hard to understand. Think English with a heavy slant toward Czech.  The style of furnishings in the rooms was very pretty and he gave a lot of history about the place and family. Very few people took this tour and photos were not permitted. tos. The last part of this tour was the very long corridors above the river and theater which looked to be perhaps 900’ long and gave access to all parts of the castle, the theater and the gardens above. The last thing we did was visit the Cloister of a Monastery down a little alley across from the castle.  It had 2 chapels, a large one and a small one.  They both were really beautiful with loads of wood and gold about.     The small one had many colorful frescos on the walls and ceilings.  Some of which were just discovered recently.

 

We rounded out the day with the 9pm free walking “Ghost” tour so ate dinner early then showered and prepared to be scared. We were not, but heard some good stories and got some nice pictures.

                    

Tomorrow morning we take a van shuttle with our bicycles over the mountains to Passau, Germany and meet up with our friends Gerti and Hans Bauer for Kirchberg, Austria and continue this adventure to Innsbruck.

 

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