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.

Cyclists Welcome sign

Day 1 of stage 2 was not really a cycling day. I spent most of it working at home then caught the 4.10 pm train from Prague to the village of Starkoč. It was here that I’d ended stage 1 of my trip in a bedraggled state in May this year. This time it was brighter, warmer and a whole lot more welcoming.

Starkoč - as I left it in May, and on my return in July

The train itself was hardly a TGV, but it was fast enough and, best of all, cost me just 237 crowns - that’s about 11 euros for a 2½ hour ride, including bike reservation and storage en route.

I felt strangely unmotivated on the way up. The Tour de France was in full swing at the time, and I remembered reading an interview with top Czech rider Roman Kreuziger in which he said that rest days were unpleasant because you get out of the racing rhythm. I could identify with that: I’d lost momentum and it was hard to get going again.

I rode the short distance from Starkoč station to the town of Náchod, a major cultural and economic centre in this part of the country. A legend attached to the castle that dominates the town tells of a dragon reared from a lizard by a local physician, who fed it human blood. The monster escaped and began seeking human victims. Needless to say, a brave knight rode in just in time to save the lord of the castle’s daughter from a grisly death.

Náchod castle from the town square

I negotiated the town’s perplexing one-way system and followed cycle route 22 along the Metuje River to Hotel Bonato, where I had a room booked for the night. I didn’t bother to check whether it met all the Cyclists Welcome criteria, but it did have a lockable cycle storage room and I was made to feel welcome. Dinner was less impressive. Admittedly it was Friday evening and I didn’t have a reservation, but it was gone 10 pm by the time I was fed. Pork loin with Italian beans had sounded interesting, but I’m English and I know tinned baked beans when I see them.

Hotel Bonato Náchod

The weather forecast for the weekend had been pretty grim, and sure enough, heavy clouds were gathering by the time I went to bed. Would the sun ever shine on my circuit ride?

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