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Friday
Aug042017

10 photos from the Czech Republic bike trip

Blue Skunk readers know that this blog is both professional and personal, and the personal part includes short documentaries of my travels. I post these primarily to help me remember where I've been and what I've done. So if you are looking for stuff about libraries, technology, or education, jump to the next link on your "to-read" list...

In late July, a friend and I flew to the Czech Republic to do a week-long "boat and bike" trip that started in Prague and traveled north for 5 days along the Vtlava (Moldau) and Elbe Rivers. The boat served nicely as our hotel, restaurant, tour organizer, and bike provisioner. Here are a few shots ...

We had one and a half days in Prague before the boat sailed and the bikes rolled and three days there again when we got back. Using Rick Steve's guide to the city, we managed to work in the highlights (Old Town, Wenceslaus Square, Prague Castle, etc.) This ancient city received relatively little damage during WWII so the Soviets had little space in which to construct the ugly monstrosities you see in many Eastern European cities. Prague is truly a beautiful and fascinating place and easily walkable (if you don't mind hills). Oh, and I've never seen more statues in a city - every building, lamppost and bridge is covered with them! From Cubism to Baroque to Gothic to Renaissance, the city is an architecture lover's dream.

The purpose of this trip was to experience the Czech Republic (a new country for me) by bike. The floating hotel MS Florintina, shown here in the background, traveled to each day's biking destination where we would eat, sleep, and relax. Bikes were lifted aboard each evening and lowered each morning. These touring bikes, rented for a modest cost from the tour company, were simple 7 speeds that worked well and came with panniers and a handle bar bag.

The cabins were small but clean and comfortable, bathrooms ensuite. Lounge areas and an upper deck were comfortable for reading, game playing, visiting, or just watching the scenery roll by. Food was good although lacking in veggies to my taste. Breakfast was buffet style from which one could also make a sandwich to eat at lunch if out biking (along with daily provision of a water bottle and candy bar!)

Bike routes were prepared for us and the guides included both maps and written turn-by-turn instructions. The route was also described each evening at a meeting just before supper. It was great fun figuring out the day's sometimes tricky paths. Each day's ride was relatively short - 18-24 miles - which allowed plenty of time for touring castles and towns along the way. I doubt most bikers averaged 10mph.

The villages of Kralupy, Litomerice, and Melnik were highlights. Castles, cathedrals (one with ossuary), charming squares, and old cobblestone streets and alleys were parts of each visit. Each town had its own legends and histories, of course, and an optional guided tour was available for many sights.

As with much of Eastern Europe, the dark sides of history were evident, especially in places like Terezin where the entire town was used a Nazi holding area for Jews before being sent to extermination camps further east.  Our hotel in Prague after the bike trip was the Unitas - now a lovely place but the site of brutal torture by the Soviet secret police we were told. But even after years of both Nazi occupation and Soviet control and depravations of both goods and freedoms, the country has rebounded.

No bike ride is complete without some challenging hills and each bike route usually had at least a couple good ones. Castles perched high above the river created astounding views, including the one of our ship above, heading through locks to the evening's port. A few trails were muddy and some rain did fall during the week, but very little while actually biking.

75% or better of the bike rides were on well-maintained, well-marked bike trails (mostly paved) that followed the river banks. Another 25% were lightly traveled streets and roads. The well-marked bike trail system in the CR is extensive and there were a lot of both tourists and residents taking advantage on bikes, scooters, skateboards, roller blades, and on foot.

One would think that when biking or hiking everyday, one would lose a little weight on a vacation like this. Thanks to trdlos (pictured above and tasting much better than they sound) and lots of meats, sauces, breads, and pastries - oh, and the ubiquitous beer - I managed to put on a couple pounds. 

Given the number of damn tourists in Prague, I'm happy much of my vacation was spent in the countryside. Prague Castle and the streets of Old Town were especially crowded. Supposedly Prague has the reputation as a very "safe" city, contributing to its popularity with international visitors.

Even Mona Lisa was not immune to the charm of Czech "pivo." One evening I ordered my usual glass of red wine with my supper and the waiter seemed a little put out. Turns out I was in a micro-brewery's restaurant and I committed the gustatory faux pas of saying a Hail Mary in a Baptist church by ordering wine.

For those counting - a bonus photo...

The "Love Tester" chair sits in the lobby of Prague's Sex Machine Museum. Check your own score when you visit.

Great trip that combined exercise, culture, history, relaxation, and lots of good eating and drinking. I recommend it highly.

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Reader Comments (2)

Sorry we didn't see you as we wandered about...we were in Praha July 28-29, Tebor July 30-31, Praha again August 1 and left for home on the 2nd. I agree with your comments about Prague, tourists, hills, walkability, etc.

August 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGregU

Hi Greg,

Hope you enjoyed the trip as much as we did.

Are you fully retired now or still working. Not sure if this TIES email will get to you or not.

Doug​

August 6, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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