Tuesday 31 August 2010

Goulash guzzler reaches furthest point north

Stage 2, day 5 (Tuesday, 27 July 2010)
Zittau to Děčín (120 km) - Part 1

I love German hotel breakfasts! Stuffing oneself with as much food as possible first thing in the morning can be a laborious process. But it has to be done, otherwise you can "bonk" (run out of energy) before lunchtime. Food equals fuel when you’re cycling long distances. Calories become your friend, not your enemy. And when the breakfast table is groaning under the weight of such an opulent selection as it is at Hotel Dresdner Hof this morning, tanking up is not a chore, it’s a pleasure.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Heaven and bagpipes

Stage 2, day 4 (Monday, 26 July 2010)
Szklarska Poręba to Zittau (119 km)

When Czechs want to compare and contrast two very different things, they describe them as being like “nebe a dudy” - heaven and bagpipes. Well, if yesterday, with its agonising ascents and tooth-rattling descents, was bagpipes, then today is pure heaven. I’m on the lofty Jizera plateau and there’s not a soul in sight. There are rainclouds all around, but the sky directly above me is clear. The landscape up here is gorgeous, so gorgeous it makes the hair on my arms stand up. Moments like this remind me why I’m doing this trip.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Flash floods in Frýdlant

Today I was intending to post a write-up of day four of the latest leg of my cycling trip around the entire Czech border. I have been overtaken by events - tragic events.

Last weekend, catastrophic flash floods swept through the German-Polish-Czech border area - the exact same area I had cycled through in late July. At least eight people were killed. Many, many others saw their homes damaged or destroyed. In the Czech region of Liberec alone, 57 towns and villages were affected. Among the worst hit communities were Višňová, Frýdlant, Heřmanice, Bogatynia and Hřensko, to list them in the order I passed through.

Monday 9 August 2010

Testing spells and spelling tests

Stage 2, day 3 (Sunday, 25 July 2010)
Trutnov to Szklarska Poręba (84 km)

Funny things, borders. As I cross into Poland, where I’ll be spending the next day and a half, I feel like I’m somewhere new, somewhere alien and exotic. But the birds and the bees above my head don’t see it that way; they just see more of the same. And the beetle scuttling across the path in front of me just sees more colossal pebbles and towering blades of grass to negotiate - although maybe he should be paying more attention to the bicycle tyres bearing down on him at speed. Oops, sorry Ringo!

Saturday 7 August 2010

Broumov rocks!

Stage 2, day 2 (Saturday, 24 July 2010)
Náchod to Trutnov (85 km)

One of my goals on this trip is to sample as many local Czech beers as possible. I’ve not had much success so far. One reason is that Prazdroj and the other big producers seem to have bagged many of the best town centre locations. If the local stuff can be found at all, it’s usually in backstreet dives where a Lycra-clad lone ranger is not always made to feel welcome. But this evening I’m determined to succeed. I’m dressed to blend in, I’ve a pint of Guinness inside me already, and I’m on the hunt for Krakonoš, legendary lord of the Giant Mountains.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Cyclists Welcome - Náchod style

Stage 2, day 1 (Friday, 23 July 2010)
Starkoč to Náchod (9 km)

The hotel I stayed at in Náchod is part of the Cyclists Welcome scheme in the Czech Republic. As the scheme’s website explains:
“Cyclists Welcome is a nationwide certification scheme for evaluation and inspection of the tourist services and facilities of participating establishments. Certified establishments are labeled with a green and white logo depicting a smiling bicycle. The certification involves standards comparable with systems in other European countries (e.g. Bett & Bike in Germany and RADfreundliche Betriebe in Austria). Every tourist facility that wants to be awarded the Cyclists Welcome logo must meet certain requirements.” 
The site is available in Czech, English and German. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking for cycle-friendly accommodation (including campsites), restaurants and/or tourist destinations in the Czech Republic or Slovakia.