Archive for August, 2007

UNESCO Trifecta

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

We just visited three UNESCO World Heritage sites in less than a week! Not bad for a couple of pedal pushers!

The biggest tourist draw in this region of Poland is Krakow. It’s like Wroclaw, but not as colorful. That was our impression at least.


We almost didn’t come here actually. A couple of days ago Sarah tried to convince me that we should just head for the Tatras Mountains and bypass Krakow completely. We had veered too far south into the mountains and were way off course in terms of getting to Krakow. The area of Poland west of Krakow is the most heavily populated and you could definitely feel it on the roads. Even the smallest roads on our detailed map were filled with cars and trucks, so we had been forced south in our attempts to avoid being run over by an 18-wheeler. But, being UNESCO geeks, we decided we could not afford to miss the largest medieval square in all of Europe. So, we pushed on and spent two days sightseeing in the city.




Sarah was really on a roll in Krakow. Comments made by her included the following.

James – “They tore down the medieval city wall and built a park, since the wall wasn’t needed in modern times.”
Sarah – “That must have been before the Germans decided to pay a little visit.”

Sarah – “An onion is considered a fresh vegetable here. That is actually insane.”

We came here by way of Oswiecim, better known by it’s German name of Auschwitz. We didn’t realize that Oswiecim was Auschwitz until we actually arrived there.

“Hey look, this sign says straight ahead to the center. Hey look … that’s a … concentration camp.”

Oswiecim has also easily taken over from the tricycle graveyard as our spookiest camp site ever. The campsite itself was great; new and modern. But it was literally across the street from the former concentration camp. It made for a strange night looking across the street at the imposing buildings and listening to the trains go by.

In the morning, we walked around the grounds of the camp. Unbelievable is the only way to describe it. We have already visited Dachau and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia, but we were both awed by the sheer scale of Auschwitz.

The ride to from Oswiecim to Krakow didn’t have much of interest except for the giant bird’s nest we saw. Sarah keeps telling me there are supposed to be storks all over this region of the world but we haven’t seen one yet.


As Sarah mentioned, we have fallen into quite the food rut here. Yogurt and muesli in the morning followed by bread and cheese for lunch. The bread and cheese bit has been posing some problems for Sarah as she has been setting new records in terms of messy eating. Check out this slovenliness.


It’s so bad, pigeons have started circling her like sharks every time she dines on crusty bread.


After Krakow, we headed south to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. I didn’t take any pictures (here are some other peoples’ pictures on Flickr), but Sarah and I both agreed it was pretty amazing. And it better have been too, it cost over US$20 per person to get in!

We are continuing south now and are actually nearing our fourth UNESCO site, the UNESCO biosphere reserve of the Tatra National Park. We are maybe 100 kilometers from the park and the hills are already killing us, so here’s to hoping we make it there with our legs in once piece! In addition to the terrain, it feels like the weather is changing too. We’ve noticed a definite chill in the air these last couple of days. Better break out all the cold weather gear we’ve been carrying but have barely used!

Perogie Heaven

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Our first day out of Wroclaw was distinguished by its extreme winds. It was also very sunny and hot, so we could sometimes feel thankful that the wind was keeping us cool. Other times it was just annoying. The winds were blowing to the north and we were riding to the south but somehow we managed to ride 110 km in spite of the wind! There aren’t many campgrounds in Poland so we are attempting to plan our routes between campsites. The 110km took us almost 7 hours of riding. The terrain was very flat, but the winds took their toll and I was pretty tired by the time we arrived.

Dinner was one of the best we’ve cooked for ourselves so far. We had Perogie Ruskie, which are dumplings filled with potato and cheese. We fried these and then topped them with sour cream and fresh tomatoes. It’s Polish-Mexican fusion! Yum!

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We woke up the next day and did another 110km! After eyeballing the map I’d expected the next campsite to be within 80km but as it turns out I was off by a full 30km. This second day of riding was distinguished by extreme rain rather than wind. I can’t decide which one I hate more.

Here I am, soaked to the bone. FYI, our rain jackets have officially stopped working. My new theory on outdoor gear is that none of the products are nearly as durable and tough as the promotional material claims. Instead all outdoors companies are banking on the fact that 1) people will never actually use the product enough to wear it out and 2) even if they do wear it out, most people won’t bother to complain about it. Bah!

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Here’s Jamie. He had steamed glasses for most of the day:

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We ate the usual bread and cheese for lunch. On days like this it is tough to stop for lunch because the bad weather makes you feel cold as soon as you stop pedaling!

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The scenery was mostly flat farms – really pretty on a rainy misty day.

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The snails were out and having a grand old time in the rain.

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After another 7 hours of riding we arrived at a campsite near the city of Rybnik. I was feeling really tired after two long days so we are taking a rest day here before continuing on to Krakow. We had potato dumplings for dinner, and then dessert was more perogies. This time they were blueberry and cheese – delicious!

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Sightseeing in Wroclaw

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Jan gave us a ride into the city of Wroclaw in the morning and gave us some advice on what to see. The city was really beautiful, we spent the first half of the day sightseeing.

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The second half of Saturday was spent running around from post office to the DHL Office in a frantic race against the clock to collect our replacement gear before everything closed for the weekend. We needed to pick up our replacement sleeping pads from REI as well as two replacement tent poles from Mountain Hardware. First we visited the post office for our mats – they were not there yet. We were really frustrated because they’d been shipped 14 days ago and were supposed to arrive within 10. This delay meant we’d have to stay in Wroclaw until Monday to make another attempt at pick-up.

Next we needed to visit DHL to pick up the tent poles. First we tried to call the offices to make sure they were open and the tent poles were there. Only the fax picked up. We decided to hop on the bus and ride to the offices to try our luck. This turned out to be an unwise decision. After a 40 minute bus ride deep into the suburbs we arrived at the completely deserted offices of DHL. We crossed the street and sat and the bus station and waited for 1/2 hr for a bus returning to the city. During this wait I had to go to the bathroom so badly that I was reduced to peeing behind the bus station shelter. Obviously this trip has really blurred the lines between human and animal behavior for us – I would have never done something like this before the trip!

We spent one last evening with Jan eating his delicious food and watching Abba videos together. The next morning we set off for a campsite to wait out Sunday. On Monday morning we resumed our mission to claim our replacement gear. First stop was the DHL office. We rode our bicycles rather than the bus this time, but were met with bad news again. Our packages weren’t there. The DHL guy was really helpful and called his friend at FedEx, who looked up the tracking number and gave us a phone number to call so we could find the address our package was actually sent to. This address turned out to be the Post Office’s – same place our mats were supposed to be!

Considering the one week of back and forth we’d had with Mountain Hardware where they insisted they would not ship to a Post Office, this was more than I could take. I was officially infuriated and turned into a raving maniac about poor customer service for the rest of the day. We went to the post office next. Once again they didn’t have our mats or our tent poles, but this time they told us that the Post Office address we were looking for wasn’t them. Thanks guys, wish you would have let us know this last time we visited you! Some might say this is our fault for not matching the addresses correctly, but I was not expecting for there to be literally three post offices on the same street within 3km of each other! Anyhow, raving aside, at the post office 1 km down the road we were able to pick up our packages. Turns out the Mountain Hardware tent poles were accidentally FedEx’d to the office building next door which is where some very kind person signed for them and then walked them down the street to the Post Office where we picked them up. Talk about a lucky break (thanks five leaf clover!) – if this small delivery accident hadn’t happened we’d have never gotten our tent poles.

To top it all off, Mountain Hardware forgot to send us two poles like they’d promised. We just got one. I’d like to dedicate a few final words to a customer service stank rank:

#1. DHL – our package wasn’t shipped through them and it wasn’t delivered to their warehouse, either. The employee helped us out anyway by calling FedEx and pointing us in the right direction.

#2. REI – responded to our email about the defective sleeping mats within 24 hours, and sent replacements to us 24 hours after we gave them an address!

#3. Mountain Hardware – took one full week to respond to our email about the defective tent pole. Took another week of back and forth to agree on where the pole would be sent. Conversations went exactly like this:

Me: Filled out a “Contact Us” form
M.H.: Please contact someone else, I’m on maternity leave.
Me: WTF?! …sent another email to a sales address from the website.
M.H.: Um, sorry about that. How can I help you?
Me: Our tent pole broke. The other was hit by a car. Can you send us new poles to this Post Office address.
M.H.: FedEx can’t ship to the Post Office, sorry.
Me: OK, here are the three options I came up with. 1) FedEx the poles to a Mountain Hardware retailer in Wroclaw. 2) send the poles via DHL to this specific DHL address in Wroclaw. 3) don’t use FedEx and send the poles via regular mail to the Post Office.
M.H.: OK I will do the DHL option.

End result: Mountain Hardware went with a bizarre ‘hybrid’ option previously stated as impossible – using FedEx to ship to the Post Office – WTF. My final assessment is that they meant well and did replace our tent pole for free, but the execution needs some work.

All griping aside we were really happy to get our new gear. We left Wroclaw the next day with a new tent pole and new sleeping mats to get us through the colder autumn months!

The Road to Wroclaw

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Our breakfast smorgasbord at the hotel in Swidnica was delicious, although I think our perceptions have shifted a little bit over the past few months because it wasn’t quite as spectacular as we’d hoped. Here’s what I think is going on: in New Zealand we were eating oatmeal for breakfast every single day. When we got the chance to eat toast, cereal, eggs, pastries, and more at the hotel during our forced layover between Auckland and Singapore, we thought we’d died and gone to heaven. All that food practically made up for the canceled flight and one day delay! Here in Europe we’ve been eating more than just oatmeal every day. When we stay with families we get to eat meals with them, which is wonderful. Also, we can usually afford to buy bread, cheese, muesli, and yogurt because they’re not as expensive here as they were in NZ. Yogurt is only 50c for 500 grams, and you can buy generic bags of muesli for only $1.

After breakfast we visited Swidnica’s World Heritage church. This is the largest wooden religious structure in Europe. It was built after the Catholic-Protestant war. The Catholics won the war and told the Protestants that they could build a church if it met the following conditions: built outside the city walls, made of impermanent materials (wood, clay, or straw), and finished construction within one year. So the most impressive fact is that people managed to build this gigantic structure in only one year and it is still standing.

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The pretty city center of Swidnica:

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We followed bicycle route 9 from Swidnica to Wroclaw. I was fed up with attempting to follow bicycle routes, but for some reason we decided to give it one more try. R9 was fairly well signed and we only got lost two times on the way to Wroclaw.

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It was grey and rainy all day long which made the 85km seem to last forever. Ugh.

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We arrived soaking wet and an hour late to the home of our couchsurfing host Jan. I felt a little embarrassed hauling our soaking wet bags and bikes into his apartment, but he was extremely friendly and sweet about it all. Jan turned out to be an excellent cook. We love food, so his efforts were very much appreciated by us! He had a delicious three course homemade Polish dinner waiting for us when we arrived. We had homemade tomato soup with cheese first, then chicken with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut, and finally a homemade dessert that was sort of like a warm gooey jello filled with tart cherries.

Sarah and Arthur (a cousin of Jan’s who was there during our stay):

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We chatted with Jan and Arthur over a glass of wine after dinner. We had a lot of fun listening to them say Polish words that have an amazing number of consonants but almost no vowels. They sounded more like buzzing bees than people speaking. They also taught us how to say a few words. For example, the city name Wroclaw sounds nothing like we thought it did (Row-Claw or Raw-Claw). Instead it is pronounced something like Vrote-Suave.

In this picture I am looking up Polish words in the dictionary and asking Jan how to say them.

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We went to bed early to get ready for a day of sightseeing in Wroclaw.


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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.