Wednesday 13 October 2010

2 become 1

Stage 3, day 2 (Sunday, 19 September 2010)
Mikulov to Vejprty (85 km)

Our arrival in the breakfast room at Hotel Ice-Axe causes some merriment, especially when Ryan announces - in clear Donegal Czech - that his head hurts. I phone Mrs Circuit Rider to wish her a happy birthday. She knows immediately that we were partying the night before, as my voice is down by about an octave, probably from singing Ring of Fire too loud. With just five hours sleep behind us and residual alcohol still tainting our veins, we’re not in great shape for the strenuous day’s cycling ahead. We breakfast on bread, cheese and a couple of ibuprofen.

Ryan on the inevitable morning climb

In the cool bright morning we climbed quietly back up to the plateau and continued to the top of Mount Bouřňák (“The Stormy One”). Near the summit is a 180-year-old coppice of beech trees contorted by the wind and icy cold into bizarre shapes. The average temperature up here is less than 5 degrees above freezing and snow lies on the ground for up to 140 days of the year. Overwhelmed by the early morning ascent, Ryan lay down at the top of the ski run while I took photos.

This circuit riding is hard work

After rejoining the Ore Mountains Cycle Trail we headed west on quiet mountain roads, bothered only by the occasional rasping German motorcycle. We came across an odd building that we mistakenly assumed to be an abandoned military watchtower. Take a look at the picture below and see if you can guess what it really is. I'll put the answer in the comments below this post.

Can you tell what it is yet?

We skirted the shores of Fláje Reservoir, where saffron milk caps and other wild mushrooms were growing profusely at the roadside, and rode on through the wilderness to the border crossing at Mníšek, where we entered Germany in search of lunch. Neighbouring Deutscheinsiedel was mysteriously deserted and its sole restaurant (also empty) didn’t take credit cards, so we backtracked to the Czech side. There we found the entire lost population of the German town buying garden gnomes from a Vietnamese market and eating Czech food in a huge Vietnamese-run restaurant. We found a vacant table next to a life-sized model tiger and ordered noodles.

Černy Rybník ("Black Pool") near Mníšek

From Mníšek we pedalled along the frontier to Hora Svaté Kateřiny (St Catherine's Mount). I’d read somewhere that this was the prettiest village in the Ore Mountains. True, it doesn’t a have a great deal of competition for this title, but neither of us was much impressed with it. Even the viewing tower there was a bit of a letdown after the grandeur of Děčínský Sněžník the day before.

Viewing tower at Hora Svaté Kateřiny

A mid-afternoon snack of pancakes and coffee gave us a much needed boost for the long climb that followed. Ryan - who hadn’t had time to train for this trip - began to suffer, but in typical fashion he soldiered on without a word of complaint. We couldn’t afford to hang about, as he needed to catch the Sunday evening train back to Prague. At the top of the hill we took a right turn and pushed on through one of the prettiest sections of the route so far that weekend.

Ryan leaves me to catch his train (with three other cyclists in hot pursuit)

Ryan and I parted company in Kalek. Ahead of him was a ten-mile descent to Chomutov; ahead of me were another two days cycling solo across the Ore Mountains. I’d grown used to Ryan’s amiable company and I felt a pang of loneliness as I watched him disappear into the trees. The fact that I didn’t see a soul in the forested peatland that lies between Kalek and Highway 7 at the Pohraniční border crossing only compounded this feeling.

Typical peatland scenery in the Ore Mountains

At Pohraniční I admired the little memorial to Saxon folk hero Karl Stülpner, the “Robin Hood of the Ore Mountains”, who roamed this land some 200 years ago. In the nearby petrol station I treated myself to a bottle of coke and drank it as I rode along the busy main road, cheering myself up further by waving at oncoming cyclists. After about a mile I turned right onto a deserted woodland trail running along the border. At the bottom of a steep hill I emerged at Přísečnice Reservoir, its surface shimmering in the evening light. The ill-fated town of Přísečnice, where Stülpner once lived, used to stand here. Its ethnic German populace was expelled from the country after World War II and the remains of the town were demolished in the early 1970s to make way for the reservoir. Today I had the place all to myself.

Přísečnice Reservoir, early evening

Feeling enervated, I rode into the setting sun along the main road to Vejprty, my destination for the day. Just off the town square I asked a local whether there was a cash machine nearby. Without breaking step or uttering a word he first shook his head and then nodded. Fortunately his second answer turned out to be the right one. A few minutes later I was feeling flush with cash for the first time that weekend.

Vejprty square

My home for the night - Hotel Harlekin - was about a kilometre south of Vejprty town centre. I was given a friendly welcome and - compared to the previous night’s accommodation - quite a luxurious room on the top floor. That evening I dined on pork chop while my hosts watched Czecho-Slovakia’s Got Talent at the other end of the room. Just as I was finishing up, my mobile phone beeped. It was Ryan texting me to say he’d made his train and was already back home in Prague.


Anonymous said...

Great post Simon... I enjoyed this in the sunshine in Cyprus... Seems a while ago now...

Anonymous said...

ps - what was that tower???

Circuit Rider CZ said...

I thought you'd never ask, Ryan :-)

As Mrs Circuit Rider's cousin's 3-year-old son correctly pointed out, it's an electrical substation. Nothing to do with the military at all.

Have fun in Cyprus. See you back in Prague.

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