Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Riding down memory lane

Stage 5, day 1 (Thursday, 2 June 2011)
Nýrsko to Železná Ruda (36 km)

Just a half day’s cycling in store for me today, on the back of a four-hour train ride from Prague to the start point of Stage 5 - Nýrsko on the northern edge of Šumava National Park. I begin by retracing a small section of the Prague-Munich ride I did with a couple of friends three years ago. Back then, the weather was cold and wet. The steam rose from our backs as we laboured up the climb to Špičák pass, and the subsequent descent chilled us to the bone. In Železná Ruda we took refuge in a pub to warm up, but the manager switched the heating off as soon as we arrived. It’s none too warm today, either, and for reasons not even known to myself I’ve booked a room at the same place tonight. It doesn’t bode well.

Špičák pass, wet and cold, May 2008

Nýrsko was quite chilly and overcast when I alighted from the train on Thursday afternoon. The town was as unattractive as I’d remembered it, so I wasted little time there. Before long I was heading along a quiet road up to the nearby reservoir, where I stopped to take some photos and reminisce about my 2008 trip to Munich.

Nýrsko reservoir

I skirted the reservoir along its western shore, following a sporadically muddy off-road trail for a while. The climbing - of which there would be much over the coming couple of days - started in earnest in the village of Hamry, but I was aided by a slight tailwind and especially by a newly surfaced road winding uphill through thick forest.

Smooth riding up to...

I shared the last, flatter, part of the climb to Černé Jezero (Black Lake) with a large party of German mountain bikers. I began to see tourists, and quite a lot of them. On previous stages of my circuit ride they’d been few and far between, but Šumava is a national park - a frequently visited one - and Černé Jezero is one of its best-known beauty spots.

...Černé Jezero, the biggest and deepest lake in Šumava

I freewheeled to the busy main road at Špičák pass and sent text messages to Ryan and Ciaran, who had been there with me en route to Munich. Unlike last time, I decided to take a detour to a viewing tower called Pancíř more than 700 feet higher up. As I climbed, vividly coloured bullfinches fluttered and twittered through the trees to one side. My efforts were rewarded by fine views across northern Šumava on all sides. However, the tower itself - which sits squatly on top of a mountain lodge built in 1923 - turned out to be shut.

Pancíř mountain lodge and viewing tower

View across Šumava

The long descent to the frontier town of Železná Ruda was chilly, but not downright cold and wet as it had been that day in 2008. I touched 60 km/h on the wide road down without even trying. On arriving I had a quick cycle around the town to confirm that it was indeed as sleazy as I’d remembered it and I then checked into the guesthouse. Fortunately it seemed to be under new management. In contrast to my previous visit, the welcome and the premises themselves were warm.

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