Heading for Poland

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.

One Response to “Heading for Poland”

  1. Julia Says:

    Great tales of biking! I’m glad you have discovered the secondary roads, I think they are mostly easier than Czech bike paths, because they are at least somewhat paved.

    Re the BO – my theory on the smell is that it isn’t a lack of antiperspirant that drives it (though that helps) but clothes being worn over and over between washing. Laundry detergent is expensive here and most people don’t have washing machines.

    Good luck on your trip!

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