Mikulov to Břeclav (46 km)
As I climb out of the village of Úvaly the crack of shotgun fire around me seems alarmingly close. It’s a sound I’ve been hearing throughout this stage of my trip, yet I've only laid eyes on one single hunter. I wonder just how much slivovice (a plum brandy very popular hereabouts) a hunter would have to consume before becoming incapable of distinguishing a bike rider from a roe deer. I also wonder whether it is true – as my old physics teacher used to claim – that you would be hit by the buckshot before hearing the gunshot (on account of the former travelling faster than the speed of sound). I decide it’s a theory I’d rather not test.
Mikulov, early morning
I slept well at the Herbalist’s House in Mikulov. At about eight o'clock I got up and went for a stroll around the town. It was a cool, misty morning, and there were far fewer people about than there had been on my arrival the previous evening. After a lap of the castle, I took a seat outside Cafe Agust on the main square and enjoyed a crispy croque-monsieur and an espresso.
Breakfast at Cafe Agust
Fortunately, the cycle path out of Mikulov - unlike the trail into town the previous day - was not under reconstruction. I followed the railway line as far as a village called Sedlec then headed south on an undulating back road to Úvaly. Was it my imagination, or could I really detect the sweet musty aroma of maturing wine in the air as I entered this wine-making village?
I climbed the hill out of Úvaly and coasted down the other side into Valtice, a town celebrated for its well-stocked wine cellars. Today was a public holiday – St Wenceslas Day – and the place was beginning to fill up with tourists. I stopped for a while to photograph the chateau and adjacent church.
I headed north out of Valtice beneath an almost cloudless sky and entered the Valtice-Lednice Area, a large woodland park criss-crossed with flat, sandy trails. Hordes of walkers and cyclists began to slow my progress through this fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site, but I was in no hurry. After winding through the park past some of its best-known pavilions and assorted other follies I came out at the Lednice Ponds, where hundreds of birds were bobbing on the water on either side of the railway embankment.
Rendezvous - one of several extraordinary edifices in the Lednice-Valtice Area
On arriving in Lednice town I made a beeline for the town’s famous chateau. There was a no cycling sign at the entrance, so I got off my bike and explored the gardens on foot. Built in 1805-11 in the Tudor Gothic style, Lednice Castle is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Czech Republic. On its right-hand side is a handsome glasshouse, which dates from 1843-1845 and was designed by the English architect P. H. Desvignes.
...and its adjacent glasshouse
For the last 10 km or so of Stage 6 of my Circuit Ride I cycled in dappled shade along a lovely nature trail through the Niva Dyje natural park. Despite the flatness of the terrain there were some fine views of the River Stará Dyje meandering through the trees. Along the way I passed more odd buildings. First up was John's Castle, an artificial - and rather kitschy - romantic ruin in the Gothic style, where a queue of cyclists were waiting to cross a footbridge over the river. The trail brought me out on the outskirts of Břeclav, believe it or not by another artificial castle ruin (although I must admit this one had me fooled).
The River Stará Dyje outside Lednice
The artificial ruins of John's Castle...
...and of Břeclav Castle
Břeclav is a rather unattractive town, its historic centre having been almost totally destroyed by bombing in 1944. It was the first town in today’s Czech Republic to get a railway (in 1839) and it is an important rail hub to this day. Fittingly then, it was here - after an ice cream and coffee outside a cafe near the station - that I caught the train back home to Prague.