July 29, 2003

Cycling in Czech then to Köln

There are a lot of Hills in Czech and the dew is thick and it is not so warm! Daniel showed us many things as he knows all about the history and ecology of these areas.

In an expensive Cyber cafe in Köln 40 cents/10minutes!

Köln is great for bicycles, perhaps better than Munichen! (debatable) It is very dense, very cultural. Magnificent Cathedral, one of the biggest and most elaborate in Europe.

We are staying in Uncle Seps apartment by ourselves. Very relaxing. Good to have a break from camping. Too bad it is not cheap like the East, Spent 11 Euros just on some fruit (Very Good Fruit mind you.)

We didnt stay in Prague much. Randy biked us home to his apartment and gave us a quick bicycle tour of the archiatecture. Almost no bicycle facilities in this artsy town. Randy lives on the 4th floor (called the 3rd because the basement is zero) of a tall apartment. Shared house but very nice. We met his two friends Noni (antonia from Australia) and Johanna (from Sweden) who were also going to cycle with us. We went out to a cool netcafe was still partly a used bookstore and had interesting old Czech Communist Books. We had beer and the girls did computing. Then Jane nd I went on with Randy to another beer place this time undergound and dark and very smokey. Aparrently an 'ex-pat' hangout meaning english speaking locals not native but not tourists.

We slept in Ian's room big bedroom as the house was full. Ian was very nice especially considering we never met him until the morning, though it was somewhat uncomfortable trying to be very quiet and not wake this person we had not met. Went out and bought some supplies for breakfast. Randy went later on to get more at a discount price :) Then we caught the train about 12:30. Our luck with nice Train conductors ended. The first train didn't let bikes on. The next one was a big hassle to load and we had to run around in and out and the conducter was a jerk. We head South to meet the others already cycling. The connecting train was late and then it went very slow and arrived 45 minutes after it should. Too late for the 8 minute connection to the third train. It was only 20km furthur to the rest of the group in Telc(h) so we rode. Noni and Johanna are quite new to bicycle touring, never used gears properly before or knew to pump the tires hard. And they planned to cycle two weeks alone after leaving us all! We tried to give as many tips as we could. We went to a restaurant in Telc and then met the group camping in a frmers backyard. The others were Daniel (organiser) and Julia and Eva. Daniel was working on checking bike trails and other project which the Ecological FOundation he works for gives grants out for. The farmer was mayor of the town of 69 and build bike paths and an outdoor public bowling alley.

next morning we got up at 7 and left at 8:30 to a meeting in another town. There are a lot of Hills in Czech and the dew is thick and it is not so warm! Daniel showed us many things as he knows all about the history and ecology of these areas. We stopped at a peaceful monestary for water. We had lunch after the meeting is SSomethingtiwn in the middle of Sudatenland at the crossroads of Bohemia and Moravia. There was a good vegetarian restuarant and a cool communityx centre where the meeting was. Eva and Julia left the group there to go home.

After more riding we went for a swim in a beautiful little river where the locals showed us a great rope for swimming into the water. We continued for the evening Janes tire blew out after it had bulged in a similar way to mine in Durrenzimmern. Ended riding in a little town where there was a maypole and a festival the next day. We had some local beer. Daniel told us about his experiences with the Communist Regime in Czech, he was 22 when the wall came down. Very interesting too much to tell here. Good to hear a local activists perspective. We camped just out of town in the woods. The Czech were so paranoid when we had a camp fire, we had to keep it small. Then it rained a lot phhhht. All night rain and lots of bugs. Daniel got two ticks removed by Janes trusty tick remover.

The next day warmed up fast after the rain about noon. We saw a Castle and Jane and Noni got lost from the group for a little while. I phoned janes parents about meeting up as that was our plan to contact. Just after the call of course Jane turns up. We bought some lunch. We went to the last remnant of the Iron Curtain in Czech and visited a wonderful little ecological museum there. We took many photos. The damn commies put toxic herbacide in the Iron curtain area to kill plants so the sightlines of the guards would not be disturbed. Now it is a national forest and still the border with Austria. We did not make it to the winery before it closed as Daniel had planned. We went through the trails of the park and took a wrong turn. We crossed the river on a tiny suspension bridge. The other route Daniel planned was where the bridge had been washed out last year due to flooding, this lead directly to the winery. The river was very big and daniel had wrongly thought we could carry our bikes across. Turns out they have a damn upstream and raise and lower the water twice a day so it was stronger than normal. We swam in the river and it was very very cold. We climbed the hill out of the valley and finally reached Mravia where the weather is warm and dry and they specialise in wine not beer. We went and saw a 300 year old wine cellar. We went to a nice wine restaurant and the waiter was bemused by our vegetarian order. Jane and I bought some very good wine for very cheap in bottles for later. We all slept just outside of town. It was out last night and very warm and dry so we all slept under the stars close together 'like a sleepover' which was Janes idea. it was fun talking late into the night. We drank a little czech hard spicey liquer similar to hungarian unicum but slightly less awful tasting.

in the morning no soccer players bothered us but the sun was very hot. Daniel and I went back to the river for a swim it was only 2km away. The water was much lower now but still as cold. Beautiful and refreashing. Not good for the ecology the constant water level changes however.

We rode with the whole group to the train station in Znojmo nearby. We said goodbye to everyone. Our trip was 10 hours and the last train took 5 hours from before Prague to Cheb near the German Border. Lond rides and kind of stressful with quick changes and Czech trains are kind of confusing regarding bicycles.

We slept the night outside of Cheb in the forest which was dark and not scenic but comfortable. We saw a farmer or some local in the morning but he didnt bother us. Cheb is a little bit sketch because it is the closest town to Germany and is cheap and many EU people come there and spend money on the cheap and somewhat sordid nightlife. The economy there will change a lot I bet when Czech joins the EU. We rode from there to Marktredowitz the closest German Train town. It turned out to be a little farther than we thought, 28km. Border was no problem, must remember to demand a stamp next time but there may not be any more borders to cross except the Canadian one!

What a contrast between Rich Germany and poor Czech. The train was so luxurious and it was very nice the bike facilities on all German trains are super. It only cost 34 euros total for the weekend deal pass across germany. Unfortunately the trains were busy with bicycles and seating was packed and we had to take out panniers off to fit in with many other cycling tourists. Now it is summer and there are many with fancy touring bikes. We went through Nurnberg and Frankfurt. Quite easy also since Jane knows German well and even i know a little and also it is more western and german is a similar language to english. We met a couple going on a cycling trip for 5 weeks starting that day. Arrived in Koln and cycled to meet Sep and Rita very easily in this bike friendly small town. Had Doner for dinner with thwem and went out for tiny koln beers. Next day we went on transit with sep and rita and looked at the cathedral and some street theatre and other nice stuff, good icecream. We helped Sepp and Rita furniture into their car and they left for home leaving us alone. This was Ritas mothers apartment until she died a few years ago. They kept it a while but they sold it the day we arrived, they were very happy to have quickly sold it to a resident who also lives in the building and wanted one with a balcony.

Since then we have mostly slept and done laundry. Went for food this morning and explored a bit. Read some books. Went to the university to find free internet and apparently it is all password only for students stuff. Found this place very close.

Going to head to Amsterdam maybe Thursday, Tuesday night now.

Posted by rusl at July 29, 2003 10:34 PM

mixed blessings everywhere,hey?!it's good that you and jane were able to take enough time to LIVE the life to a certain degree.be well,and hugs to your family and friends there.yours.

Posted by: barnett on July 30, 2003 08:12 PM

Aug. 2

Hi Russell and Jane,

You've heard we're back home. Talked to Naomi today who is now in London at Pat and Marian's.

Your accounts are great. Hope you're taking pictures too.

Spoke with Dutch people vacationing in Cork about how bike friendly Holland is, so I'm sure you'll really enjoy it. Quite a few cyclists in Ireland touring. Most roads are awfully narrow, tho.

much love to you both,


Posted by: dad on August 3, 2003 12:59 AM
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