Thursday 31 December 2009

My bikes

Here's the lowdown on the bikes I'll be riding on my trip. I say bikes because I'll be using two very different machines depending on the terrain (and because I can't afford to buy a specialised touring bicycle).

Thursday 10 December 2009

All along there's watchtowers

Hillwalking must have been a pretty unrewarding pastime in Central Europe before the 19th century. You'd struggle to the top, in woefully inappropriate non-Gore-Tex clothing, only to find your view completely blocked by dense forest cover.

But then someone (almost certainly a German) had a bright idea: If we can't see the world for the trees, then why not rise above the forest canopy?

And so, unlike in Britain, where the preferred option had long been to chop down all the trees and introduce sheep to stop them growing back, towers with 360-degree viewing platforms started springing up on hills and mountains across Central Europe.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Brewers loop

Svijany - my favourite beer on my favourite cycling jersey
When I worked at the Czech News Agency (CTK) back in the mid-1990s, hardly a month went by without reports coming in of another Czech brewery hitting the skids. Around 20 were closed down in the ten years or so following the 1989 Velvet Revolution. There was trouble brewing.

Anyone who knows beer knows the big Czech brands - Pilsner Urquell, Budvar, Staropramen and so on. But there are some 125 beer producers in the Czech Republic, most of them local breweries, microbreweries or brewpubs. And it was these small operations that were struggling the most.

But now they are bouncing back.