Archive for the 'Czech Republic' Category


Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Good news everyone – our luck is changing. The day Jamie got his new FORT bike I found a very rare five leaf clover! Not kidding, I think this is a once in a lifetime find. And to my brothers: I do not need you writing to tell me that a five leaf clover is actually bad luck…I know you were thinking it!

After getting the new bike we set out for Adrspach-Teplice National Park. We camped near the park and spent two days hiking around exploring the gigantic rocks. The first day we’d cycled most of the day and did a short loop trail in the evening. The next day when we went back during the day we realized we were lucky to have visited the park outside of peak hours – it was packed full of Czech and Polish tourists and was an absolute madhouse. We did a longer hike through the park on the 2nd day. Many times the trail narrowed down to tiny staircases going up and down through the giant rocks. This was horrible because the trail was absolutely packed with hikers, so we’d all march along slowly in a long line. The BO problem we noticed in other parts of the Czech Republic was operating to full effect in the tight quarters of the stair-marches.








We found a nice campsite only a couple of kilometers from the park, but there were no picnic tables, so we spread everything out on the ground for each meal. I think we shocked the entire campground by doing this; people could not get enough of us. They walked past our site to stare at us, and then craned their necks to start some more. It feels like we blend in here because we don’t look very different from the Czech people, but we get started at a lot so there must be something very interesting about us… We just don’t know what it is.


After two days of hiking we left Adrspach-Teplice this morning and headed for Poland. We crossed the boarder at a “bicycle, pedestrian, and environmentally friendly wheelchair” crossing. There was no guard, no passport inspection, just a red and white painted pole that we walked past.

Picture 002

We cycled about 50km to the city of Swidnica where we spent over an hour searching for a campsite in the rain. We finally found what appeared to be the city’s campsite but it was deserted and locked up. It was getting too late to search much longer, and the countryside did not look promising for free camping – lots of open farm fields and fences. So we ended up in a way too expensive hotel. This is the first time we’ve tried to find camping and ended up in a hotel. We’re annoyed at the budget busting price, but we are also looking forward to the included breakfast smorgasbord!

My New Whip

Monday, August 13th, 2007

It’s a FORT. Not the coolest name, but things could be worse; it could be called a FART.


My Longhaul Trucker has been relegated to the scrap heap. I’ll never again be able to call out “10-4 Lil’ Buddy. We’ve got some smokey up ahead!” to Sarah when we see a police car up the road.


The bike is not bad looking. It is an aluminum frame that claims to be handmade in the Czech Republic and its got a cool looking headbadge.



It also has a Suntour oil-suspension fork. I thought I was going to have to get a new front rack, but the mechanic at the bike shop was able to get my Surly rack on with a little bending of the attachment plates.



All the components were pulled from my bike except for the headset, crankset, and front derailleur. My crankset and front derailleur where also mangled during the accident, so now I’ve got a new crankset with 28 cogs on my little chainring. Nothing smaller was available so hopefully my legs and knees will be able to handle it!


The FORT felt comfortable on a short test ride; the biggest difference is that I am in a more aggressive position. I was expecting my Brooks saddle to be unridable in this new position, but it doesn’t feel too bad. We’ll see how it feels after several hours in the saddle though.

Sarah got her rear wheel trued and some new pedals. The total cost for everything including the minor repairs to Sarah’s bike was 9545 crowns (~US$477.25).

Tomorrow we hit the road again.

What’s Next?!

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

Our bad luck with our gear continued today when our tent and bicycles were hit by a car! Things could have been much worse though and luckily we were not injured at all.

We were sleeping in our tent at 8:00am when we heard a loud crunch and then felt our tent being pulled to one side. At first we didn’t realize what was going on, then we both woke up and realized there was a car right next to us that was still moving! We screamed for the driver to stop and he shut off the engine as we crawled out of the opposite side of the tent.


A large crowd formed immediately and after a lot of back in forth in Czech, we learned that the driver was attempting to pull out of his campsite without starting his engine and in doing so he lost control of his car and slid on the wet grass through our campsite before colliding with a tree and our bikes. He then attempted to start the engine and back the car away from the tree, and in doing so ran over the corner of our tent.


We were very lucky he didn’t run directly over our tent, or things could have been much worse. As it was, Sarah and I were OK, but our bikes were injured. My frame was bent in a couple of places, including the chainstay.


Sarah’s bike had less damage. She had a bent pedal and front rack and her rear wheel was out of true.


Our tent also now has two broken poles instead of one!


We spent the next couple of hours waiting around for the police to arrive. Everyone urged us to take a lot of pictures, especially once they learned we were American. “You know, in case you want to sue their asses.” It is funny to hear the conceptions people have about Americans. A few weeks ago we met a Dutch girl who asked us if it was really true that if you want to drink alcohol in public in America, the law states that the alcohol bottle must be wrapped in a paper bag!

Once the police showed up they helped us take the bicycles to a local mechanic to asses the damage. Luckily at this point we were being helped by Jana, the operations manager of the campsite, so she was able to translate for us. The mechanic’s verdict was that my frame was totaled but that Sarah’s bike was pretty much OK and just needed some minor repairs. We relieved to hear that he could put my components on a new Czech frame for less than $500. For a while we were wondering if our trip was going to be cut short!

After that, it was back to the police station to fill out a police report. We left our address in the United States with the police and the driver with the understanding that we would be reimbursed for the costs of the bicycle repairs after an insurance claim had been filed. We’ll let you know how that turns out!

We planned to leave Trutnov today, but now we will be waiting here for three more days. There is a train that runs to the National Park, so we may take that to the park to do some hiking while we wait.

Heading for Poland

Friday, August 10th, 2007

We spent two days sightseeing in beautiful Prague and have had an interesting couple of days since leaving the city.


First let’s talk about the Czech bicycle trails. We made a brief mention of the elusive Route 3 when we first entered the country. I think we now know why the route was so elusive. Let’s start with getting out of Prague. We were optimistic that leaving the city would be easy because we picked up a nice bicycle map of the area from Tourist Information and there was a trail leaving north from the city – perfect for us! Things went decently well for the first 10 km through the city but then the trail deteriorated into a dirt rut covered in large sharp rocks. I am not talking gravel – I’m talking about brick-sized jagged black rocks. Not fun at all on a loaded touring bike! We pushed on because we were definitely still on the marked bicycle trail, we thought maybe the trail was under construction.

Next the rocks went away but the trail narrowed to a single-track dirt rut running alongside the river and through thick undisturbed forest. This part would’ve been really fun on a mountain bike – zipping around sharp corners and riding within twelve inches of the river. But what I mostly felt was terror. It is not easy to precisely steer a heavy bike with front panniers and I was not at all confident in my ability to stay on the path and out of the river! I spent the next hour with white knuckles thinking about what it would feel like to fall six feet off the retaining wall and into the river.

Every once in awhile the path would wind its way up a steep root-covered hill so we’d have to get off and push.

Picture 008

The trail also passed under a giant leaning tree which we had to duck under. Please note how close I am to the actual river bank; this was the reason for my white knuckles!

Picture 009

I am willing to bet that Cycle Route 3 was a dirt trail running off along some crazy mountain ridge and that’s the reason we couldn’t find it. Thank goodness we didn’t!

We got off the trail at the first opportunity and began cycling on secondary roads. There was almost no traffic and many roads were lined with apple trees. We started a contest where the first person to pick an apple from a tree while riding (and without slowing down) won. Jamie claimed the title after two days of playing. He ate his prize and claims it was very tasty.

Picture 019

Once on the road, we passed through hilly, rural scenery with the occasional pipeline passing over the road for entertainment.

Picture 017

The one thing that has stood out about the architecture here is that so many buildings are falling apart. All the small towns and villages we pass through are usually in pretty rough shape; at least half the buildings look totally neglected.

Picture 014

One side effect of sticking to secondary and tertiary routes is that it is impossible to ride a decently direct route to anywhere. Instead we have noticed that after three days of riding we have managed to ride in a semi-circle or hook shaped route each and every day. I am not exaggerating. This drives me absolutely crazy. I try to relax and enjoy the scenery but when you ride all day long and then see a sign saying you are only 26 km from your original destination it is infuriating! Also, the back roads tend to be much more hilly than the others. One day we turned off a too-busy highway and ended up climbing up and over a 744 meter peak, the absolute highest thing around!

Now for some more observations about the country of Czech Republic. We’ve noticed some interesting behavior. First of all is the omnipresent bikini and speedo. Everyone wears swimming wear as often as possible here. There is no need to be close to water – a bikini while mowing the lawn or taking your baby for a walk in the stroller is considered normal. A speedo while unloading the car or sanding the stucco wall of your house is acceptable. Today a woman riding a bicycle in her bikini almost ran into me outside of the grocery store. The closest swimming place was at least 10km away.

Next is body odor. Maybe deodorant is not popular here, but we have noticed a big upswing in the number of times we’ve smell wretched BO since we’ve been here. There’s always a moment of panic in the line at the store when you wonder: is that ME? Then you realize it is the normal looking guy behind you and you are temporarily relieved. But then you think again and you know for sure: everyone in the store thinks that smell is coming from you because you are obviously the one that’s been out cycling all day in the heat!

Finally, Jamie says he gets stared at a lot here. Our theory is that people are wondering whether or not he is blind. He got these new prescription sunglasses in Bangkok which he wears all the time. He tends to forget he is wearing them after a day of riding and wears them indoors at inappropriate times, like in the bathroom while brushing his teeth. People are probably staring at him thinking (1) he doesn’t know they’re all looking at him, and (2) how is a blind man able to so dexterously floss his teeth?

Picture 057

We were originally planning on cycling to Bohemian Switzerland National Park, but we changed our mine and headed for Adrspach-Teplic National Park instead. The scenery is supposed to be more dramatic there. Today we are about 15km away in a town called Trutnov. We are pretty close to the Polish border now. After checking out the park, we are going to cross into Poland and check out Wroclaw and maybe Krakow.


Friday, August 10th, 2007

Bad news! We’ve had two pieces of gear fail in Europe already. Only seven months into the trip and we are falling apart! Good thing we are not in Tibet.

The first thing to fail was our REI Trekker sleeping mats. They would no longer stay inflated; 30 minutes after we filled them up they’d be flat again. We tried searching for punctures, but that didn’t work and then we realized that both mats were leaking air where the valve connected to the fabric.

The second thing to fail was one of the poles of our Mountain Hardware Haven 3 tent. One night while setting it up, I heard a soft cracking sound. At first I thought I must have stepped on a twig, but then I realized the top of the tent was askew and further investigation revealed that a section of one of the poles had split at the end.


We were able to construct a splint using a stake and we can still attach our rain-fly (even thought it is a little lopsided).


The good news is that the customer service from REI and Mountain Hardwear has been great. Immediately after we told them about our problems they asked where they could send the replacement parts. We had everything sent Poste Restante to Wroclaw, Poland so hopefully our gear will be waiting there for us when we arrive.

Speaking of camping, we haven’t free-camped once in the Czech Republic. The fact that a campsite costs around $7.50 and that every single one has a bar serving 0.5L mugs of great Czech beer for less than $1 sapped any motivation we had to free camp here.

Picture 060

East Meets West

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

Our last stretch of riding in Germany on the Regental and Chambtal Radwegs was our favorite of all. The countryside was less populated and there were fewer fields of corn and more forests; it was the most beautiful scenery we have seen in Germany. No spectacular mountains, but just nice green forested hills with clear blue lakes and rivers.


We also got off the cycle paths and onto the roads more on this last stretch. For some reason, cycling on a road is more enjoyable than a cycle path for us. There is something nice about traveling along quickly along a smooth, open road and we feel like we are actually seeing the country rather than riding in a park the entire time.


Saying goodbye to Germany meant saying goodbye to amazing bread and copious amounts of Haribo gummy bears. I spent most of the last days with my cheeks packed full of gummy bears as we rode along. Better than any energy gel I’ve ever tasted!


As we neared the border, things got more and more hilly. We were never very high, but the climbs were short and steep. Sarah shows off her now famous “Lance” face.


We were glad we were going down this one instead of up! The German translates roughly as “Give up you poor bastard.”


We were just about to cross the border from Germany into the Czech Republic when we decided to stop on a residential corner to eat our last meal of German bread, cheese, and salami. We had only been sitting in the grass for a few minutes when a woman came over and said something quickly to us in German. It took us a few seconds to realize that she was asking us if we would rather eat our meal on her porch instead of the curb. Once we understood the message we quickly said yes and followed her to her house. I can speak a little German, so we were able to tell her that we were Americans and that we were cycling through Eastern Europe for four months. She was impressed, but even more impressed when we told her that we were cycling for one year and had come from New Zealand and Southeast Asia before Europe. We chatted for a few minutes and she fed us some delicious cheesecake and coffee. Just as we were about to leave, she asked us where we were going to stay for the night and we told her that we planned to cross the border and after that, we didn’t know. Hearing that, we were invited to camp in the garden and we accepted. As we headed to the backyard to set up our tent, we realized that there were a dozen kids running around the yard. At first we thought it was a daycare but then we realized all the children were cousins and they were together to celebrate the first day of summer vacation from school in Bavaria. We were introduced to all the children of the family and we spent the evening practicing our German with all the kids and cousins. In the morning we had breakfast with the family and then set off. Here are Monika, Veronika, and Helena. Vielen Dank to the entire family for welcoming us into their home!


After we crossed the border into the Czech Republic (very easy, the guard was impressed we’d ridden from Frankfurt), the terrain was very similar to Germany.


The towns and villages looked a little shabbier though. All the buildings were a little more run-down.


The people were noticeably different too. Mullets are popular here as is dying your hair various shades of red. Blonde with red stripes is a popular option.

The Czech Republic has a network of bicycle routes running all over it, including the elusive international route number 3. Route 3 runs from Vienna to Prague and we were thinking of following it, but this sign was the last we saw of it and soon we found ourselves on the busy main highway.


We stopped at an internet cafe along the way to try and figure out where we went wrong, but there is very little information on the Czech cycling routes online, so we decided to forge our own path. This is actually the first country where we have had to avoid major roads. In every other country we have cycled in, there was only one road to follow so we didn’t have much of a choice. There are lots of roads here in the Czech Republic so we have been searching out the nice quiet ones where we can relax.


We were planning on riding all the way to Pilsen on our first day, but the hills got the best of us and we stopped at a campsite outside a small town called Nepomunk. We only had to pay 135.00 crowns for our site (less than 5€)which is quite a bit more reasonable than the 20€ we paid once for a nasty, crowded site in Germany!

Today we woke up with some tired legs, so we decided to take a rest day here at the campsite. We spent the day relaxing by the lakeside and enjoying the famous Pilsner Urquell lager while perusing through our Lonely Planet Eastern Europe and planning the rest of our route. Tomorrow we head for Prague and the Bohemian Switzerland National Park.