Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Stage 5 starts Thursday

Stage 5 of my trek around the Czech border will start on Thursday this week. I'll be cycling through the "green lungs of Europe", better known as Šumava National Park. My route (described in more detail here) starts in the town of Nýrsko with a daunting 650 metre ascent through the forest to the pass at Špičák. After overnight stops in Železná Ruda, Strážný and Vyšší Brod, I hope to reach the stage finish in Horní Dvořiště on Sunday and catch the train back home to Prague.

View Stage 5 in a larger map

Highlights along the way will include highest point of my entire journey around the Czech border (Poledník, at 1,315 metres above sea level), the 45-kilometer-long Schwarzenberg Canal, formerly used to transport timber out of the forest to Vienna, and, if time allows, the most southerly point in the Czech Republic.

There is a cloud on the horizon. Literally. Until a few minutes ago the weather forecast was looking very good. Now they're saying that clouds will build up during the day and that there is a chance of storms in the evening. So, it looks like I'll have to get up early and finish early. As usual, I'll be blogging on the go, so keep checking in to the blog to track my progress.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Stage 4 on Bikemap.net

Here's the map of the route I took on Stage 4 of my circuit ride in April this year.

Bike route 1002648 - powered by Bikemap 

Friday, 27 May 2011

Return of the Curse of Circuit Rider

Stage 4, day 4 (Tuesday, 12 April 2011)
Babylon to Nýrsko (34 km)

Today is an in-between day - a transition stage, you might say. I’m leaving the Bohemian Forest, but I won’t quite reach Šumava National Park further to the south. I’m not travelling far either, only as far as Nýrsko railway station a couple of hours away. A good thing, too, as the weather has broken. The cursed rain that blighted the first stage of my circuit ride last year has returned in earnest.

I was woken up in the early hours of Tuesday by a chill wind gusting through the open window of my hotel room. A cold front had arrived. By the time I got up a couple of hours later, the clouds were lying low over Čerchov mountain, where I’d been the day before. It was a stark contrast to the glorious sunshine of the previous three days. After breakfast I cycled out of Babylon along a tranquil woodland trail then joined the road heading west. The weather held steady to begin with, but before long a drizzle turned into a downpour and I had to pull up and put on my raingear.

Čerchov from my hotel bedroom on Tuesday morning

Before setting off, I’d had an uneasy feeling about Stage 4 of my trek along the Czech border. Now, as the gloom descended, the wind whipped up and the rain came teeming down, I realised why. Cycling along those long lonely stretches of the former Iron Curtain would have been a miserable experience had the weather been like this the whole weekend. It didn’t matter too much now though, as I’d soon be heading home in a warm dry train.

Nearly there

I took shelter from the storm on a pub veranda in Velruby. I consulted my damp maps and decided to make straight for Nýrsko along the main road rather than take the more scenic route closer to the border. After a while the rain eased off a bit, so I set off again. A stiff north-westerly wind carried me at startling speed towards my destination, sometimes even threatening to sweep me off the road entirely.

Stage 4 completed

On the outskirts of Nýrsko I checked the time and discovered I might just make an earlier train home. After a mad dash through the town, and at least one wrong turn, I arrived in a bedraggled state at the station with less than five minutes to spare. My journey home was complicated, involving four different trains, one bus, one van and one missed connection, but I arrived back in Prague in time for tea.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Crank Honors 2011

Voting has just opened for the 2011 Crank Honors. This is your chance to vote for your favorite cycling blog and help determine the top dog in various categories. I'd like to encourage you all to go and cast your votes, not only because Circuit Rider CZ is up for the Best Travel Biking Blog award, but mainly because Crank is a great gateway into the world of bike blogging. You're sure to find something of interest among the sites listed there.

Riding down the Curtain

Stage 4, day 3 (Monday, 11 April 2011)
Přimda to Babylon (68 km)

God I love the mountains. This hill is steep - granny-gear steep, lung-burstingly steep, as steep as anything I’ve encountered since Poland last year. But I don’t care. However much it hurts, it's still more fun than staring at a computer screen at work. The day I’m no longer physically capable of doing this will be a sad day indeed. I feel lucky - so lucky - to be here. I round a corner and the twin towers of Čerchov suddenly come into view through a gap in the trees. I descend briefly, then hit the final ramp to the summit.

Čerchov comes into view

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Half way round

Stage 4, day 2 (Sunday, 10 April 2011)
Cheb to Přimda (92 km)

I’m standing at the base of Milíře, a steel telecom tower built in 2001. I’m feeling pretty exhausted after a long day in the saddle, so it takes me quite a while to persuade myself to tackle the 126 steps up to the viewing platform. As I ascend, my cycling shoes beat a slow percussive rhythm on the metal grill steps. The sound contrasts eerily with the plaintive moaning of the wind rushing through the girders around me. My cycling muscles complain painfully about this unfamiliar form of exercise, but I keep going to the top, where I can feel the whole structure swaying in the breeze. Some 80 feet below me, the long shadow of the tower on the field points east towards my destination for the day - the town of Přimda.

Přimda Castle from Milíře