Monday 27 September 2010

Stage 3 slideshow

I'm afraid I've been far too busy recently with work, home improvements and imbibing wine in a Moravian wine cellar to write up stage 3 of my spin around the Czech border yet. However, I have found time to put together a slideshow of this latest leg of my journey. You'll find it in the left-hand column of the blog, or you can access the photos directly here. I've included some captions to explain what's going on.

Stage 3

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Stage 3 completed!

Pictured is the viewing tower (yes, another one) on Haj (pronounced "high"), which stands - ahem - high above the town of As in the northwestern corner of the Czech Republic. It marks the end of stage 3 of my jaunt around the Czech border. I'm now on the long slow train back to Prague for a well-earned rest. Stage 4 starts in spring 2011.

Monday 20 September 2010

Oh no, not another tower!

Yes, this time it's the one on Blatensky vrch Mountain. I've visited five observation towers so far this weekend, although sadly two were shut. I expect to clock up a couple more before I reach the end of stage 3 in the town of As tomorrow.

Greetings from crumbling Klinovec...

...highest peak in the Ore Mountains and highest point on stage 3 (1,244 m above sea level).

Sunday 19 September 2010

Goodbye Guest Rider CZ!

Thanks, Ryan, for keeping me entertained, amused and on the beers over the past two days. Your enthusiasm, good humour and tenacity on even the toughest climbs were, as ever, an inspiration. I felt a genuine pang of sadness as you disappeared into the trees. Can't wait for your return as Guest Rider on stage 4 in the spring.

In awe at the Ore Mountains

Today we passed through some of the wildest areas of the plateau. Wild mushrooms were growing in profusion all along the way. Ryan and I parted company in the late afternoon. He headed downhill to Chomutov to catch his train back to Prague while I continued to Vejprty, arriving at my hotel just as the sun was touching the horizon ahead of me.

Mikulov sing-song

I've woken up with a slightly sore head. Yesterday Ryan and I cycled up the long climb to Decinsky Sneznik (pictured). We spent the afternoon riding through the Ore Mountains before descending to our (very basic) hotel in Mikulov. In the evening we sang Irish songs with a party of Germans, gate-crashed a Czech school reunion and crashed out very late. Today is going to be a struggle.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Stage 3 coming right up!

Stage 3 of my cycling circumnavigation of the Czech Republic starts this coming Saturday. For the first two days I’ll be riding in the company of a very special guest - my great friend and partner-in-cycling Ryan. The two of us are veterans of several long-distance trips (Prague-Vienna-Bratislava, Prague-Munich, Prague-Berlin, Munich-Venice), and Ryan is now keen to get a taste of the Circuit Rider experience. Having cycled the first two stages alone I’ll be glad of his company.

Ryan (on the right) and I in Italy earlier this year

I was originally planning to do stage 3 on my road bike. However, Ryan only has a mountain bike and it doesn’t make sense for us to ride two completely different types of machine. Besides, I’ve since discovered some tempting off-road sections on the map, so it’s the MTB I’ll be loading up on Friday.

I've also changed the schedule. The original plan was to do this leg of the journey in three days. However, after ending both previous stages exhausted after a mad dash to catch the train back to Prague, I’ve decided to take it easier this time and spread the distance over four days. This should also allow more time to investigate places of interest along the way.

As on previous stages I’ll be blogging on the go from my mobile phone. This means you can track our progress by tuning into the blog periodically. For the most part we’ll be following the Ore Mountains Cycle Trail. The route is described in more detail here.

View Stage 3 in a larger map

The plan is to take the Saturday morning train up to Děčín (where I ended stage 2 in July). After exploring the town and grabbing some lunch we’ll head up into the Ore Mountains (Krušné hory). The first overnight stop will be in a small mountain resort called Mikulov. We’ll do a full day’s riding on Sunday then part company late in the afternoon; Ryan will coast down into Chomutov to get the evening train home while I will continue to Vejprty on the border with Germany. Over the following two days I’ll make my way southwest, stopping in Kraslice on Monday night and reaching the endpoint - Aš - on Tuesday afternoon. From there I’ll catch a slow train back to Prague.

And do you know what? The weather is set fair! Could this be the first rain-free stage of my trip?

Sunday 12 September 2010

New Czech road signs and road markings for cyclists

A few new road signs and road markings for cyclists come into force in the Czech Republic on 14 September this year. Read on for a quick guide to the changes.

Monday 6 September 2010

Germany-Switzerland-Czech Republic - in an afternoon!

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

Down, down, deeper and down. I’m on the long, winding descent through Saxon Switzerland National Park and I’m in a rush. I’m travelling over loose gravel and I'm having to concentrate hard to find a safe line through the tricky bends. The deeper I go, the darker it gets, as the low sun fails to penetrate the forested gorge. I’m entirely alone in this eerie, twilight world. Everyone else has escaped to the safety of civilisation before night falls. Now and then I pass a small sign indicating the direction of the cycle trail, but it doesn’t tell me which trail I’m on, or where it’s leading. If I get lost now in this rocky labyrinth, I can forget about catching the last train back to Prague this evening; I’ll be here all night.