Stage 6

Horní Dvořiště to Břeclav
(383 km, completed 24-28 Sep 2011)

Stage 6 route plan
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.

Stage 6 route

Bike route 1287137 - powered by Bikemap 

Stage 6 slideshow

Countdown to Stage 6
It’s raining here in the Czech Republic and has been almost continuously for the last two days. However, we’ve been enjoying some fine weather for most of this month, and according to the forecast the Indian summer is set to return today. This is good news for Stage 6 of my circuit ride, which is due to start on Saturday. I’ll be travelling for five days from Horní Dvořiště in the south-west of the Czech Republic to Břeclav in southern Moravia.

Stage 6 blogging on the go:
Stage 6 starts
Sensational September
Goodbye Bohemia, hello Moravia!
Hardegg Castle...
Heaven, I'm in...
Lovely Mikulov
Stage 6 completed!

Uneventful, but sensational
Stage 6, day 1 (Saturday, 24 September 2011): Horní Dvořiště to Nové Hrady (61 km)
Some days not much happens when you’re bicycle touring. Take today, for example. I’m in the Nové Hrady Mountains, a lesser known region deep in the south of Bohemia. It consists mostly of unpopulated forest and there are few tourist attractions to lure people in. But while there might not be much going on here, there’s more than enough to satisfy the senses: the sickly sweet scent of pine resin oozing from log piles at the side of the trail, the ever-shifting dapple of the auburn autumn sunlight on the ground below me, the cool crisp air roaring across my ears as I coast downhill. Yes, today may be uneventful, but it is - literally - sensational.

Tripoint number three
Stage 6, day 2 (Sunday, 25 September 2011): Nové Hrady to Slavonice (99 km)
The tripoint stone is tucked away behind some bushes behind a tourist information board. I tread carefully towards it, as the ground is littered with white tissues, a sure sign that it is used as an open-air toilet by people out walking in the forest. It is here that the historical border between Bohemia and Moravia meets the Austrian frontier. Each of the three sides of the base of the stone has a letter carved in it: Č for Čechy (Bohemia), M for Morava (Moravia) and Ö for Österreich (Austria). This is the third tripoint I’ve visited on my lap of the Czech Republic, the first two having been Poland-Germany-CZ and Saxony-Bavaria-CZ. Unfortunately, the German-Austrian-CZ one, high up in the Šumava mountains, is off-limits to cyclists, so I had to bypass it. As of today, I have two more to go: Slovakia-Austria-CZ and Slovakia-Poland-CZ, both of which lie on the final stage of my circuit ride.

Meandering down the Dyje
Stage 6, day 3 (Monday, 26 September 2011): Slavonice to Znojmo (86 km)
I know I tend to bang on about breakfasts in these write-ups, but they are vital when you have a full day’s cycling ahead of you. If I don't eat properly first thing in the morning, I grind to a halt well before lunchtime. Quality varies enormously from one guesthouse to the next. Yesterday's offering was almost up to German standards, with, among other things, fresh fruit, unlimited sausage and a wide range of teas to choose from. Today's, however, is feeble - bread rolls with sachets of jam and cheese spread, a single teabag floating forlornly in a large pot of underheated water, and, for a 50-crown surcharge, two greasy sausages. And if I hear Europe's “The Final Countdown” one more time on breakfast-room radio on this trip, I swear I'll put my foot through the speakers. Or more likely, being English, I'll just keep suffering in silence.

Arachnophobia on a bike
Stage 6, day 4 (Tuesday, 27 September 2011): Znojmo to Mikulov (91 km)
The slithery sandy track I’m on disappears into a thick, dark wood. It looks ominous, but I press on. I can’t see much with my sunglasses on, but straight away I feel the thick, sticky pull of cobwebs across my skin. And where there’s webs, there’s... SPIDERS! Big, plump ones suspended one after the other across the overgrown trail. The horror!

Lednice-Valtice: chateaux, follies and fakes
Stage 6, day 5 (Wednesday, 28 September 2011): 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.