Monday, 24 January 2011
Stage 7 will be the last leg of my jaunt around the Czech Republic, the one that takes me back to Bohumín, where I started my journey in May 2010. It’s another long stage across some arduous terrain. Day 1, however, should be relatively easy, taking me over the low-lying flatlands of southern Moravia, past the tripoint with Slovakia and Austria, and into the foothills of the Western Carpathians. Then things get seriously hilly as I negotiate the series of mountain ranges running along the Czech-Slovak border (the White Carpathians, the Javorníky and the Beskids). The highest point on the stage will be Čartak viewing tower at 950 m above sea level. From there I’ll enter Slovakia and head further east until I reach the Czech-Slovak-Polish tripoint near Hrčava. Then I’ll turn north and descend into the historical Polish town of Cieszyn, the final overnight stop of my trip. The last section is a short, flat run around the back of the city of Ostrava to Bohumín railway station.
Tuesday, 18 January 2011
It’s a long stage, this one, but it’s the flattest one of them all - especially once I’ve completed the first day’s ride between Horní Dvořiště and Nové Hrady. With a bit of luck I’ll have the prevailing wind aiding my progress as well. I’ve cycled through this region before, on my way to Vienna on the Prague-Vienna Greenways route. This time, though, I’ll be criss-crossing the border with Austria to vary things up a bit. Points of interest along the way include the northernmost point of Austria, the tripoint where the historical borders of Bohemia, Moravia and Austria meet, two national parks (Podyjí in southern Moravia and Thayatal in Austria) and several historical towns (Slavonice, Hardegg, Znojmo and Mikulov). And just before I end the stage in Břeclav there are two real treats in store in the form of the Pálava Landscape Protected Area (a UNESCO biosphere reserve) and the immediately adjacent Lednice-Valtice Area (a UNESCO world heritage site). I just hope I’ll find time to sample some of the region’s best-known products - its excellent wines.
Tuesday, 11 January 2011
Šumava - the largest continuous area of forest in Central Europe and the biggest national park in the Czech Republic - is the setting for Stage 5 of my trip. It’s a stage of two halves, this one: a brutally hilly first 100 km and a flatter latter section. Instead of following the relatively easy Šumava Cycle Trail (Šumavská magistrála), I’ve elected to use lesser known and - I hope - more interesting paths that pass through some of the remotest areas of the park. The climbing begins as soon as I leave the official start in Nýrsko and culminates the next day at the viewing tower on top of Poledník. At 1,315 metres above sea level, this will be the highest point of my entire journey around the Czech border. Later, I’ll be passing by the source of the Vltava, the river on which Prague stands. Things should get a lot easier on day 3, when I hit the 45-kilometer-long Schwarzenberg Canal, formerly used to transport timber out of the forest towards Vienna. As well as the Czech Republic, I’ll be riding through parts of Germany and (for the first time on my circuit ride) Austria. And if time allows I’ll take a detour in search of the most southerly point in the Czech Republic, before catching the train home from Horní Dvořiště.
Saturday, 8 January 2011
I’m not sure why, but I’ve had a sense of foreboding about Stage 4 right from the start. It’s certainly not the longest leg of my trip - in fact, at an estimated 270 km it’s going to be one of the shortest. Nor it is the most mountainous, although you could not describe it as flat (as the profile below graphically shows). It does, however, pass through one of the most sparsely populated and least-frequented parts of the Czech Republic - the Bohemian Forest (Český les). During the Cold War, this area was out of bounds to all except border guards, as it formed part of the Iron Curtain that descended across Europe after World War II. Indeed, for much of Stage 4 I’ll be travelling along the official Iron Curtain Greenway cycle trail. My base for the first two nights will be Cheb (one of the few towns on this stage). This will allow me to leave most of my stuff in the hotel and cycle super light around the Aš salient on day 1. Then I’ll pack my bags and head south, crossing in and out of Germany until I reach Nýrsko, gateway to Šumava National Park. Along the way I intend visit the westernmost point of the Czech Republic and (according to one definition at least) the geographical midpoint of Europe. However, that gut feeling of mine tells me things might not go entirely to plan...
Thursday, 6 January 2011
As you can see from the photo, I’m busy planning the remaining four stages of my circuit ride. In doing so, I have discovered - to my surprise - that I am almost halfway around the route already. Last year I rode the northern border of the Czech Republic in three stages, from Bohumín in the east to Aš in the west, covering 1,067 km in the process. All that remains for me now is to cycle back to Bohumín along the southern frontier. And my back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate this is only about 200 km further than I travelled last year.
Which brings me to the surprise announcement I mentioned at the end of my previous post - Circuit Rider’s review of the year: I have decided to try to complete all four remaining stages of my trip this year. My original plan had been to leave Stage 7 until 2012, but I admit it never made much sense to leave things hanging over another long winter. So, if all goes well I’ll have completed my cycling circumnavigation of the Czech Republic by the end of 2011.
I’ll be rolling out my route plans for the remaining stages in the course of this month. However, I can already reveal that along the way I’ll be dropping in on all four countries neighbouring the Czech Republic (Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland) as well as visiting the westernmost, southernmost and easternmost points of the Czech Republic. Bring it on!