Friday 29 January 2010

The Man Who Cycled the World, by Mark Beaumont

(reviewed by the bloke who intends to cycle the Czech Republic)

On Sunday 5 August 2007, Mark Beaumont, a Scotsman, set out from Paris to circumnavigate the globe by bicycle in a world record time. I've just finished reading his account of the journey, which my parents kindly gave me for Christmas. I read it partly in the hope of picking up some tips for my travels.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Stage 1 route summary

I'm ready at last to unveil stage 1 of my route around the Czech Republic, which starts in the northern Moravian town of Bohumín. The first section is fairly flat and gentle, passing through Opava and around the Osoblaha salient. It then goes around the back of the Jeseníky Mountains and ramps up steeply through the Rychlebské (Golden) Mountains into Poland. Once back on the Czech side of the border, I'll turn north into the Orlické (Eagle) Mountains before dropping into the finish town of Náchod. World War II is a recurring feature of this stage. The eastern section takes in a number of towns that were badly damaged during the German retreat in 1945, and the western part features a series of border defences that failed to stop Germany invading Czechoslovakia in 1939.

Friday 15 January 2010

On the hooks

Recently I wrote about the history of the Czech border region. Now it's time for a geography lesson. Specifically, I want to draw attention to the hook-shaped areas of land that thrust out into Poland and Germany along the Czech Republic's northern frontier. They're called výbežky (projections) in Czech, and there are five of them. I find them fascinating.

Monday 11 January 2010

Gearing up

Santa kindly brought some new cycling gear for me to take on my travels. The arctic conditions in Prague at the moment mean I haven't been able to road test any of it yet, but I plan to do so as soon as possible.

First up is my new Brooks B17 saddle - the saddle for touring if all the rave reviews are to be believed.

Sunday 3 January 2010

Two wrongs

If I wanted to raise the hackles of my Czech friends and family, I could rename my lap of the Czech perimeter the "Tour of the Sudetenland". Certainly if I was doing this trip before 1945, stages 1-6 of my route would pass almost entirely through German-speaking regions. Only stage 7 would be on ethnic Czech territory.

Map of German-speaking territories in today's Czech Republic before 1945

Today, however, all these border areas are inhabited almost solely by Czechs. So why this historical discontinuity?