a bike ride from paris to prague

Publié le 3 Novembre 2011

May 7th, 2011. Heidelberg - Heilbronn, 92 km

Excellent weather. Hot day

 

Along the Neckar river: Neckargemünd, Neckarsteinach, Hirschhorn, Eberbach, Zwingenberg (river crossing), Neckargerach, Diedesheim-Schreckhof, Hassmerscheim, Bad Wimpen, Heilbronn. Camp ground in Neckarsulm.

 

Early start at 7.15 after a rather unpleasant night, courtesy Aldi's Goulash dinner (Daniel had warned me...)...

No dew: tents folded dry ! 

Beautiful bicycle track along the river, winding through meadows and forests and up and down a few acceptable hills.

 

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Huge barges carrying scrap metal and other goods.

Many castles, surrounded by vinyards, sprinkled along the steep hill-sides.

Hirschhorn, in the early morning light, was absolute magic with its rows of half-timbered houses reflected on the waters of the river. We had hit the spot at the best time of day. The bright sun was illuminating the bank where most castles have been built. 

Passing through during the afternoon would have left a quite different impression.

 

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As we were cycling along, enjoying the scenery, we came accross a young man who was fighting with the rear brakes of his rowing bike (more details on this interesting machine at <rowing-bike.com>).  It moves along like an 8-oar scull except that a single cyclist does all the rowing. The arms and legs  transfer the power to the rear wheel through a series of cables and pulleys. The derailleur is rather complex...

 

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Our Flemish friend had been thinking of cycling all the way to India but was no longer quite so sure... With the help of the two of us it wasn't long before we had his machine up and running again.

Morning coffee in Eberbach.  

Further down the path, a couple of hours later, during our "lunch" pause, the crazy machine raced by, heading East. Good luck friend !

The day was spent cycling along the river through incredibly beautiful scenery. The castle in Zwingenberg and the small, one-car ferry accross the river were quite an experience.

 

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Jean-Marc was right: the cycle path came to a halt, facing the river. We were lucky: the small ferry was operating ! For 1 Euro, were were among the last people to use this crossing method: a brand new bridge had been built. It was planned to be open a few weeks later.

All this was rather sad. The old ferry, with its chain-drive system and overhead cable, to prevent it from running away down-stream, kept one man busy and was quite an experience ! 

 

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We continued our way along the beautiful Neckar: the path along the river is called the "Romantike Strasse". Arrival in Hassmersheim early afternoon. A lady watering her garden filled our water bottles, and seeing the Breton flags on our bikes, informed us that her small town was twinned with Chartres de Bretagne. Small world !

On the way out of the village, we came across a group of young people celebrating the upcoming wedding of two of them... One of the guys was pushing a pram loaded with several crates of beer....

 

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We had to stop to take a few pictures and in no time, ended up having a drink with them... On starting up, we rapidly came to the conclusion that in spite of cold beer being very enjoyable, such an approach, mid-afternoon on a very hot day, was not the best option.. !

Arrived in Bad Wimpen a bit later. The Tourist Büro was closed. Ended up in a gas station to get the coveted stamp on our Travel Logs.

Only a few more kms to Neckarsulm. The very tall chimneys of the Heilbronn power station couldn't be missed.

Once again, quick visit to the local Lidl for the evening meal. (We tied the bikes to a bubble-gum machine in the mall to be on the safe side).

Finally, after getting lost several times, we finally reached the camp grounds, located on the other side of a nice steep hill, among the vinyards. 

Once the tents were up and the shower taken, we could finally sit down for the usual evening ritual !  The day had been particularly hot but the  ncredible scenery along the Neckar and the encounters we had made along the way were worth every minute of it.  Nicest leg so far !  

 

 

 

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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague

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Publié le 2 Novembre 2011

May 8th, 2011. Neckarsulm - Schwäbisch Hall, 59 km

Very good weather. Hot !

 

Via Weinsberg, Obersulm, Lowenstein, Wustenröt, Mainhardt, Michelfeld, Schwäbisch Hall. Camp grounds in Steinbach.

Golden rule: always double-check information received.... (next time)

 

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Early start after a rather rough night due to a lot of noisy beer-drinking people in and around the camp. (Saturday night...). We reached Obersulm in time for our usual morning coffee and pastry, after passing through Weinsburg in the early morning mist. On the way out of town the road signage caused some confusion. The proper Radweg track through Bretzfeld, Ohringen, Waldenbourg was missed in 'favour' of a much more manly obstacle-course winding through the vineyards.

Not sure which way to go, we asked another cyclist. He sent us to Lowenstein, which was not located in a valley as the name could have indicated, but at the top of an endless steep hill.

I will not mention the number of times we got off the bikes to push them... nor the choice words used to qualify the man who had sent us along this road. However, in his defence, it must be said that the view from the village square over the valley was quite incredible. Only problem was that the hill was not finished yet...

 

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Gehrardt, a very kind old man cycling down-hill through the village, stopped and drew us a map on the asphalt. He then turned around and lead us to the top of the hill using a short-cut through the nearby woods.

Thank you Gehrardt ! Pity we didn't meet you before, at the bottom of the hill...

The parking area at the top was completely taken over by hundreds of motor-cycles of all ages, models and sizes, all of them in mint condition. Our two dusty asphalt-dragons, with their insignificant wheels and tyres, loaded like donkeys, parked among all these chrome monsters, looked pretty miserable... not to mention their riders ! 

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A quick drink and we were once again on our way.

The road was now 'relatively level' and the wind had calmed down ! We passed through Wustenröt, Mainhardt, Michelfeld at an average altitude of 500m.

 Had to stop at an Aral gas-station to check the air pressure in the tyres.  The instructions were in German and the machine was quite sophisticated. We probably ended up letting air out instead of inflating them.

Arrived in Schwäbisch Hall during the lunch hour.

A youngster informed us that there was no camp ground in town and that we had to continue on to Steinbach, fortunately just 2 km down the road.

 

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The camp grounds were closed for lunch but the owner told us to go ahead with the tents and whatever we needed to do. We'd sort out the paperwork afterwards. The camp grounds were the best we'd seen so far. A lot of attention to detail; flowers all over, superb grass, impeccably clean facilities with music... The only issue was that the hot water in the showers worked with tokens...

Too bad: couldn't wait till 15.00, so that day it was a cold shower.

Having arrived early gave us a lot of time to visit the city. Instead of going back by road, we took the path along the river. It wound through trees, parks and meadows, crossing quite a few bridges, some of them covered. Schwäbisch Hall is an incredibly beautiful town with many interesting streets and houses. The church square and the buildings down by the river are magic !

 

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17.00: time for beer and some rest before heading to the "soccer field" restaurant for an early dinner. The local team had just played and the fans were "re-hydrating" at picnic tables just below us. After a  solid Bavarian dinner we walked back to the camp ground and enjoyed a recital of local football songs for another couple of hours, until the wives finally arrived to collect the drunken fans and take them home to bed !

    

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A hot, sticky, thirsty day, quickly erased by the regal Schwäbisch Hall camp ground and the astounding beauty of the old city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague

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Publié le 1 Novembre 2011

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May 9th 2011. Schwäbisch Hall -Rothenburg o.d. Tauber, 76 km.

Very good weather but wicked North-Easterly wind !

Happy birthday Joanna !!

 

Kocher-Jagst Radweg to Braunsbach; then Kraichgau-Hohenlohe Weg to Rothenburg.

Via Langenburg, Billingsbach, Herrentierbach, Kottmannsweiler, Schrozberg, Leuzendorf. Camp ground in Detwang, 2 km North of Rothenburg.

 

(A few short cuts towards the end with respect to the original Kraichgau Weg. The heat, the wind, the "one-way" hills (up only) and a solid lunch of Beer and Wurst had knocked our legs out !... should have known better...).

 

Very early start at 7.00. First stop just outside the camp grounds, at the Bakery in Steinbach for coffee and a healthy (?) sweet sticky bun stuffed with raisins and poppy seeds...

Unbeknown to us at that stage... we'd need the energy a few kms down the road...

Back through a very quiet Schwäbisch Hall before life started picking-up. A few streetsweepers were nonchalantly cleaning the city center. The morning sun gave us another perspective of this beautiful medieval city. The reflections of the half-timbered houses on the river were superb !

 

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The Kocher Jagst was pure magic all the way to Braunsbach, running through meadows and woods, alongside a stream. Daisies, buttercups, wild forget-me-nots and many other flowers were in bloom, celebrating another glorious Spring morning. 

The light was very soft and mist hovered over the lower parts of the vales, still hidden from the morning sun. There was no noise: just the trickle of water in the stream.

The cycle path wove through the countryside, passing under the Geislingen viaduct that was for a long time the highest and longest in Europe, until the one in Millau was built. 

 

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We stopped at the Rathaus in Braunsbach for a new stamp in our Travel Logs. The gentleman confirmed that the weather would remain excellent for the next few days. So far, so good ! Just outside the village we hit our first ordeal of the day... suddenly, the road started to climb through the woods inconsiderately, winding steeply upwards.. The result was an altitude gain of close to 400m in just under 3 kms... No need to say that that portion of the way was done pushing the bikes until we reached the top of the hill.

My arms and shoulders were aching from the effort.

For a few kms we thought that we were done with this nonsense. The long ride down to Bächlingen was our reward for all the efforts made so far... but an experienced cyclist comes to fear such moments of happiness: the climb up the other side of the valley is unsually strictly proportional to the downhill ride... and in any case, a hell of a lot more painful !

True to form, the cycle-path leading to Langenburg was a killer ! It wove through meadows and fields and was lined with rows of apple-trees that we had plenty of time to admire, pushing the bikes along, swearing and panting, trying to avoid looking too far up-hill, so as to not lose heart...

Finally, we got to the top. One main street of half-timbered houses, ended by a beautiful castle surrounded by rose gardens didn't take long to visit. For aficionados, the castle houses a major collection of motorcars.

 

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Being Monday, most shops were closed. At 11.30 AM, we decided that the morning efforts deserved some strong fuel so we sat down in the only restaurant open in town for a super meal of Wurst, potatoe salad and Beer.... Once Again !!!

 

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After lunch: back on the Kraichgau Weg. Third ordeal of the day ! (they say that they come in threes...). Hills, hills, hills. (UP only !!)

 

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The map was not very helpful. The normal cycle path was leading us through a succession of small villages and the distance to Rothenburg just didn't seem to go down. After a while, we realized that we were being "taken for a ride" through the German countryside and that if we continued to follow the Kraichgau, our legs would be shot before reaching our destination.

 

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Along the road, we met Felix and Juta, two cyclists enjoying their 8kg bikes... Their indications saved 20+ km, but exposed us to the strong North-Easterly wind, since our track remained 'on top'.

The road took us through Kottmannsweiler, Kälberbach etc.. a string of farming villages polluted by the stink of pig manure... Stopped in Schrozberg to refill the water bottles in a flower shop and then enjoyed a mad full-speed, down-hill ride all the way to Rothenburg Ob der Tauber which is considered the most beautiful medieval town in Germany.

Indeed it was, but once again it was perched on top of a hill...

Fortunately the camp ground in Detwang was in the valley, just outside Rothenburg.

Tents up, showers taken, aluminium donkeys unloaded, evening ritual performed...

 

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Up the hill for a visit of this incredible town... Dinner in one of the many restaurants and back "home" for a well deserved night's sleep! 

Since we had started, this stage had been the most testing due to the landscape, the wind and the heat. However, it had also been one of the most beautiful !

We had just passed 1,000km. Prague was getting closer !

    

 

 

 

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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague

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Publié le 1 Novembre 2011

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May 10th, 2011. Rothenburg o. d. Tauber - Nürnberg. 100 km, 7h02, 13.9 kph

Good weather, some cirrus clouds.

 

Via Neusitz, Linden, Windelsbach, Cadolzhofen, Burghausen, Poppenbach, Oberdachstetten, Rosenbach, Flachslanden, Obernbubert, Unternbibert, Leonrod, Dietenhofen, Grosshabersdorf, Ammerndorf, Wintersdorf, Zirndorf, Fürth. Camp ground at Messe Nürnberg, after quite a search.

 

Rothenburg 4.00 AM. In spite of a super quiet camp ground, woke up at day-break freezing cold ! The river was just the other side of the fence and dew was intense. Got up and ready to go. Swallowed a mug of cereal and milk at the camp entrance before leaving.

Another trip to the city at the top of the hill, this time fully loaded, to get onto the road leading to Neusitz, on the other side.

 

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The first hill of the day was long but manageable. The countryside was rather level along the early part of the Altmühlweg although we had to push the bikes up the hill in Wachsenberg !

Linden: a nice little town with clean streets and small houses with gardens in front; lots of flowers and shrubs; probably a bedroom suburb of Rothenburg.

Cadolzhofen: a farm community perfumed by a powerful stink of pig manure...

Super breakfast in Burghausen at the 'Korn' farm then back on the Paneuropa Radweg through a string of small villages.

Had to stop in Flachslanden at a cycle shop since I was having a few head-aches with the rear derailleur. The guy looked at it and bent it back into shape. I thought that Daniel had seen me enter the yard.  He hadn't and continued on his way. We finally met again a few kms later: he'd been asking everyone if they'd seen another cyclist... He was rather unhappy !

 

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We stopped in Dietenhofen for'lunch'opposite a church with a multi-colored spire.  The catering service did a rather poor job that day: tuna fish, apple sauce and water !

From that point we just followed the Biberttalweg. It lead us slightly North-West of Nürnberg, to Fürth. We probably ended up doing a few un-necessary extra kms.

As a consequence, we came into Nürnberg following the Pegnitz river and finally hit the city, not too sure how to find the Centrum. I asked some policemen sitting in a car on the side of the road for directions to the city center. All they could say was "follow the cars...", with a smile...

They were right ! The street lead us to the Hauptbahnhof (main station). There, we crossed the huge intersection and got a stamp, some maps and indications to the camp ground from the Tourist Büro. Crossing streets in this city was a bit tricky. No way could we have jaywalked like we'd have done in France... People in Germany wait for the 'little man to turn green', (and considering the size and the speed of the cars, they're probably right...).

 

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The camp ground was open: we just had to follow the signs and the map that the young lady had highlighted...

 

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Before heading there, we went into the 'old' town. The whole area, having been flattened during WWII, is a replica of what it used to be. Beautiful !

Having enjoyed a cool Weiss Bier in the late afternoon sun and done some shopping at the local Netto, we started looking for the camp ground, "just following the signs".

 

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A few more kilometers and a lot of powerful swear-words later we finally found the entrance, just opposite the Messe buildings.

It was a few minutes after 6.00 PM. The Camp attendant had left so we entered the grounds, set up the tents, used the facilities, went through the evening ritual, ate and went to 'bed'.

 

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In spite of the distance and the heat, the day had been OK : it had not been too physical !

 

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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague

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Publié le 31 Octobre 2011

May 11th, 2011. Nürnberg - Hirschau (kaolin capital of Germany), 86km, 5h51, 13.7 kph

Very good and hot weather.

 

Via Zeppelinwiese, Ben Gurion Ring, Business Tower, Wörhd lake, Dr Carlo Schmid Str., 5 River cycle path, Hammer, Lauf an der Pegnitz, Ottensoos, Reichenschwand, Hersbruck, Hohenstadt, Pommelsbrunn, Sulzbach-Rosenberg, Road 14 to Hannbach, Schalkenthan, Kainsricht, Gebenbach, Hirschau: Monte Kaolino Camp Ground.

 

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The Nürnberg camp ground was fast asleep when we left at 7.00AM. Very little dew but the tent was folded wet; it'll have to dry tonight.

Daniel suggested that we visit the Zeppelin Stadium which was on our way out of town.

7.15AM: alone in the middle of the Zeppelinwiese, originally the landing site for Zeppelin airships... Later, it became one of the high places of Nazism and the very thought of this sent shivers down my back. The massive and austere buildings, designed by Albert Speer,  architect of the régime, futher contributed to my feelings. Although the structures are no longer in very good condition, one is still allowed to climb up the terraces and stand on the small platform from where the Führer delivered his electrifying speeches in the 1930's.

 

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I had parked Rock 'n' Roll on its stand, right in the middle of the huge area where the parades took place and where the fanatic Hitler Youth performed massive gymnastics ballets to the glory of what was supposed to last 1,000 years...  and all this seemed just as surrealistic as me standing where Hitler once stood !

The early morning silence added to this unreality... there was nothing to disturb my thoughts...all my senses were on edge to "feel and absorb" this place, to imagine the period through the pointless hope of picking up ripples from the blast, that the past 80 years might not have totally absorbed, yet...

The stadium had been built to contain over 200,000 people. The low terraces and  access towers on the three other sides of the immense square were in very poor shape, taken over by bramble bushes, wild flowers, tall weeds and nettles. Time had also taken its toll on the soft limestone.

Nürnberg, Berlin... two cities bathed in history and tragedy !

After cycling to the other side of the monument, which, in fact, was the main entrance, we followed a very wide street that ultimately lead us to the 5 River cycle path.

Super ride through fields lined with willows; along narrow streams... excellent signage.

The cycle path started at the Wörhd lake, heading straight East. First stop in Hammer, an old village of low wood and red sandstone houses.

 

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We were ready for morning coffee and decided to get back on one of the roads leading into/out of, the city (road 14). There, Daniel finally got a picture of the 'Nürnberg' city sign. (Yesterday we had'nt seen any on our way into town, too busy looking for the Center..).

Coffee at a bakery in Schwaig. I walked into a post-office to buy some stamps. People followed me outside, asking all sorts of questions about our trip, the bikes, the load... !

Long and easy trip on flat terrain through Lauf and Ottensoos. In Reichenschwand we stopped at a tyre repair shop to ask for some air... we'd lost a bit of pressure since the last check, a few days before. The guys there were super and let us use the blower to do some dusting:

 

the bikes were beginning to need it !

 

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In Hohenstadt it was time for lunch. A couple of Wurst with potato salad and enough beer to wash it all down seemed an OK proposition. After lunch, the road continued on to Sulzbach-Rosenberg, up and down, but manageable... (we were starting to understand some German, and places ending in 'berg' were usually not good news..)

 

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I picked up a bicycle pump along the way and took a few pictures. By that time Daniel had disappeared. No panic : back on road 14, straight to Sulzberg where I waited for him on the lovely village square.

The afternoon was extremely hot. After a cold drink in the shade of a sun umbrella and a stamp at the tourist Büro, we were off once again on a road that was supposed to be perfectly flat...

 

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A couple of nice steep hills stood between us and Hirschau and nearly finished us off.

We got to Hirschau at 5.00PM, did the shopping and arrived at the camp ground after a final 2 km ride that seemed endless. 

The attendant was gone but after a quick call, he arrived and we were inside 15 minutes later.

The Monte Kaolino camp site is incredible. It is at the base of an artificial mountain of kaolin waste. There, people can practice all sorts of 'mountain' sports ranging from skiing to bobsledding down a rail track that goes for ever.. Some idiots were even climbing the huge pile, lost in clouds of extremely fine dust...

 

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The extraordinary camp ground was nearly empty, which was fine for us. The tents were up and dry in no time. We took over all the facilities, even getting some washing done (about time...). It was hung in the ping pong room that was at the top of a glass tower just 'round the corner from our tents. The place was like a green house and by morning, everything was dry.

 

Evening ritual, dinner, dishes and straight to bed. The Czech border was getting closer!

 

 

 

 

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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague

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Publié le 30 Octobre 2011

P1110118 modifié-1

May 12th 2011. Hirschau - Waidhaus, 92km, 5h54, 14.5 kph.

Wet and miserable: grey skies, rain and thunderstorms most of the day.

 

Along Road 14: Schnaittenbach, Holzhammer, Wernberg Köblitz, Grünau, Unterwildenau, Weiden i. d. Oberpflaz, Neustadt an der Waldenaab. Then: Bockl Radweg via Störnstein, Floss, Abersrieth, Altenstadt bei Vohenstrauss, Vohenstrauss, Pleystein, Lohma. Overnight at Waidhaus camp ground.

 

Heavy rain woke me up at 5.00AM. Got up at 6.00AM. Tent was soaked as usual, but I was now getting used to this and did not worry quite as much as the first time.

 

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We started off on Road 14 after passing by the huge open pit kaolin quarry... and an incredibly long railway refurbishing machine that was stopped alongside the road. 

 

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Road 14 lead us through pine forests, sceneries that I had imagined when studying the maps last year.

After coffee and a sticky bun in Wernberg on the village square, we headed North, along the Naab river that flows without haste through woods and meadows. Entering one of the villages along the road, I rode by a cross with Christ, Mary and a third, smaller figurine in a box below... probably the local Saint ?

In Weiden we stopped for a quick look around. Not much to visit but the bakeries had some very appetizing poppy seed cakes, so ....

 

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Neustadt, just a little further: went to the Rathaus for a stamp in the travel log and spent some time talking to the very helpful city employee who loaded us with maps and other local info., even covering the immediate Czech side.

The rain had started and was becoming a pain.

We'd decided to stop in Störnstein at the Gigl restaurant. The place was supposed to be the hometown of the World champion "beer cask roller" ! Couldn't miss such a highlight on the trip! After riding back and forth through the village, we finally found the place.... closed ! By that time it was pouring rain ! 

 

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I parked my bike inside a small covered arbour while Daniel went to see if we could use one of the tables to have our lunch. The owner was very seriously unpleasant and threw us out. Told us we could find a place to eat in Floss, 5 km further down the Bockl Radweg. A few minutes later we were arrived there. The town was at the bottom of a very steep hill. The restaurant shown on the signboard seemed OK..

At 1.00PM, having locked the bikes, soaking wet, looking like a bunch of tramps, we were about to enter the one and only eating place in town. No luck, the owner told us we were too late and that the only option was a butcher shop on the other side of the street. Second very unpleasant encounter in less that an hour. (Fortunately, these would be the only two during the whole trip and would be offset by some extremely generous people met later during the day).  

The butcher shop had a snack area with a couple of tables. The small pizzas, with salad and beer and the warmth quickly erased our bad feelings.

 

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A bike push up the hill, and off to Vohenstrauss. The rain had ceased but the sky was very low and grey. A few kilometers down the road, Daniel stopped at an intersection. He was worried about his rear wheel. He'd broken a spoke during the morning and we had fixed it so that it wouldn't do any additional damage. However, he was not feeling happy at the idea of doing another 500 km with his damaged wheel. Having read Jean Marc's account, we knew that some sections on the Czech side would be rather rough..

We decided that the best approach would be to stop at the first cycle shop, hoping to find one this side of the border, and get Daniel a new wheel.

 

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The morning had been disappointing; the afternoon finally made it our lucky day.

In Altenstadt bei Vohenstrauss, a village rather that a town, we came accross Max Stich's cycle shop. Max is 84 years old and he runs the shop with his daughter.

Neither one of them spoke a single word of English but we managed to communicate, and, in less than one hour, the wheel had been disassembled, reassembled with the original cassette, tested and was ready to go... all that for € 42 !

Thanks to the two of you for your competence and generosity !...

and thank you for giving us directions to shorten the day by a few kilometers. This gave us the opportunity to meet two other very hearty inhabitants of Altenstadt bei Vohenstrauss...

...As we left the shop, the skies suddenly turned dark grey and the first cold, fat and wet drops of another thunderstorm were felt. We had to make a quick decision to avoid being drenched. Again, fortune smiled on us... Barely 300m away from Max Stich's  there was a municipal workshop, its huge doors wide open, with a truck or two being fixed inside.

 

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I asked the manager if we could take shelter under the canopy for a few minutes.

Thomas, told us to come inside and invited us to his office for a couple of beers. Another gentleman (his father ?) was already sitting there. The office was a kind of warehouse, full of various machine tools, boxes, large sheet-metal components, welding sets, spare parts, and scrap in all sizes and shapes. In the center of all this: a small table and a few chairs... and plenty of crates of local beer. Thomas understood enough English for us to explain where we were coming from and where we were heading. They just couldn't believe it ! Fortunately, the storm didn't last too long and after thanking them profusely, we were back on our metal donkeys, fully equipped in "deep-sea" clothing, just in case....

The last kilometers were not too tough although the legs were not as strong as they should have been... The cycle path lead us once again through a pine forest and came  out in the open a few kilometers from Waidhaus.

Did our shopping at the local Netto and went straight to the camp ground where we picked a place in a grassy area surrounded by hedges. The weather had improved and we even enjoyed a few rays of sunshine.

A lady from a neighboring caravan, who seemed slightly intoxicated, kindly helped us out, calling the camp attendant who had already left.

The wet tent was unrolled, set up and dry in no time.

Evening ritual with plenty of calories, to keep warm...

 

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Again, there were very few people in the camp so we tied our clothes line between the posts holding the roof above the ping pong tables and hung all our soaking clothes to dry. The bikes spent the night under shelter too !!

Tomorrow:  Czech republic. The border's only 2 km away !

 

The people in the caravan next door were, indeed, expert drinkers !!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague

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Publié le 29 Octobre 2011

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May 13, 2011.  Waidhaus - Stribro, 71km, 4h58, 13.1 kph

Excellent weather. Hot and sunny.

 

Via Bockl Weg, Eslarn, Tillyschanz/Zelezna, Cycle path # 37, Bela nad Radbuzou, Dubec, Borek, Bernartice, Racov, Brod u Stribra, Kladruby. Hotel in Stribro.

 

Awoke at 4.00 due to a cramp in one leg and a need to evacuate the beer and wine from last night's dinner. No way I was going to get out of my sleeping bag in the middle of the night.. An hour later, I'd lost the fight !

Up; shower; tent folded soaking wet because of heavy dew; quick breakfast. The bikes and clothes were under cover but the clothes were still damp... had to roll them in a plastic bag. They'll finish drying tonight !

Once the aluminium donkeys had been loaded we had to find our way out of the camp. The attendant had locked us in.... Finally made it through a narrow service gate, just wide enough to let us slip out. Another Frühstück in town before heading for the border. Radweg to Eslarn, then super ride on a forest road towards Tillyschanz. Last German stamp at the Rathaus ! One final German hill before enjoying a beautiful long downhill ride all the way to the border.

 

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The border area was depressing. The Czech side was a clutter of junk shops selling all sorts of cheap odds and ends. We stopped at the petrol station to get our first Czech stamp. It was just before 10.00AM. 

The posh building, right next to the church which marks the beginning of the cycle path, was a whore-house ! At that time of the day, the ladies were airing out the place ! 

The beginning of the Czech track was more 'physical' than the smooth cycle paths we had gotten used to in Germany. Many years ago, the path probably had an asphalt finish when it was used by border guards for patrolling purposes. 

What we were now facing was a very deteriorated track, full of pot holes and pebbles. To make matters worse, it was up and down non-stop and our loaded bikes with 5-bars in the tyres were sometimes difficult to manage. Fortunately it was dry !

 

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In spite of the beauty of the scenery, we decided to exit cycle path 37 at the "Waldorf" intersection and to continue on the excellent road, through the forest. 

Several times we had to "dismount" and push the bikes. The roads followed the land scape and the land scape seemed to be uphill only... 

The first town we came accross was Bela nad Radbuzou: a cluster of traditional pastel- coloured houses in the center; rows of more modest dwellings with small gardens and orchards on the outskirts, and a few dilapidated Khrushchev-era pre-fab. buildings, surrounding what seemed to have been, the local factory. 

 

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We stopped for lunch in Pavlikov.

 

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There was a picnic table on the village square, surrounded by a few houses. Some games had been installed nearby for children to play on, but there wasn't a soul to be seen.

 

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We continued our way on the Radweg that we had caught up with in Bela. Again, the road was up and down with a lot of painful ups... Dubec, Borek, (train station !), Bernartice, Racov, Stare Sedlo (very beautiful church)... all in all, a super afternoon of pedaling through the scents of meadows and pine forests... but often on very poor tracks.

 

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The sun was out, it was hot and lovely summertime cumulus clouds hovered through the blue skies overhead. What more could we ask for ?

 

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In Kladruby, we decided to go straight to Stribro (6km), instead of going the full length of the Radweg (12 km...). 

Arrived on the Mze river bridge at 15.30. Most of Stribro is built on the heights overlooking the river, so we pushed the bikes up-hill (once again),  on the wide cobblestone street, all the way to the main square.

On our way there we came accross a guy who had probably escaped from a lunatic asylum. He was in full battle dress with cap and boots; so was his 6 year-old kid. Their muzzled German shepherd was carrying the bags... 

Hotel Rybicek seemed a very good place to stop. In addition to being a small 'pension' it ran its own brewery on the premises. The large shiny copper vats that were used to make their own beer were installed at one end of the restaurant room.

 

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The brewer worked there all day long producing fresh batches of beer from ingredients that were put together in a small room just off the back-yard. Hops ran along a series of over-head cables strung from one side to the other of the 'beer garden'.

Since we could not hang the tents to dry in the back yard, we attached one end of my 10m clothes-line to the shower pipes and the other end to the pegs in the small corridor, running the line back and forth. All the bathroom floor-mats were put to contribution under the dripping nylon to avoid damaging the wooden floor-boards...

The clothes were hung to finish drying in the cupboard.

 

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The small city center, basically one very large square surrounded by beautiful pastel- coloured buildings, was our next destination -on foot this time !  The town was quite empty in the late afternoon, except for a few 'Fangios' racing their run-down Ladas on the hot cobblestones.

The shops -both their windows and their contents- were quite typical of what I'd seen so often in 'Eastern-Block' countries: sad displays of discoloured boxes, cheap plastic toys, small appliances, shoes, pop bottles, junk jewellery, combs and hair-clips, etc.

Surprised to see so many of these places run by Chinese nationals !

 

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Picture taking of the beautiful Town Hall would have to wait till the next day: the sun was right behind it and the strong back-lighting would have spoiled the detail.

The main square, the couple of streets leading into it and the historic bridge at the bottom of the hill were the highlights of this interesting little town. 

A 1L glass tankard of beer from "U Rybicek Rodinny Pivovar" helped clear the dust, at the end of a 'physical' the first day in the Czech Republic. 

An excellent dinner of roast duck, cabbage and dumplings thoroughly soaked up the second Liter.

 

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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague

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Publié le 28 Octobre 2011

Radweg 3 635

May 14th, 2011. Stribro - Rokycany (Kocanda), 67 km

Cloudy, sunny, storms.

 

Via Vranov, Pnovany, Jezna, Plesnice, Bdeneves, Kozolupy, Plzen, Doubravka, Kysice, Ejpovice, Rokycany. Bivvy in Kocanda.

 

We were ready to get up at 5.00AM but decided to wait until 6.30AM to move and prepare for another day of roller-coaster pedaling... Tents were folded -this time, finally dry-, bags were packed and the aluminium donkeys were loaded in anticipation of an early start.

Just before 8.00AM the manager arrived to unlock the main gate of the hotel and suggest breakfast. It didn't take long to decide: by having it now, we wouldn't have to stop a bit later, as we had been doing so far.

Breakfast was serious: eggs, sausage, cucumber, tomato, cheese etc.. plus plenty of tar-black coffee; enough to keep the cyclists alive and pedaling for a while. 

Back to the main square for a few pictures of the beautiful town hall. Unfortunately, the sky was overcast !

We then took off following the signs and, after a couple of kms, realized that we were going the wrong way. Back to the city center; down hill to the river and up the other side to the train station where the road to Vranov started.

 

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On the bridge above the railway tracks there was a group of people with cameras, all looking in the same direction. Daniel's comment was that they were probably waiting for some minister or a local big-shot coming by train. After enquiring, it turned out that the Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, was on an inaugural train due any time now. So we decided to wait too. After all, if such an event had happened at home, the whole area would have been sealed off; hundreds of 'Keystone' cops would have been running all over the place, in utter confusion, helicopters would have been flying up and down the railway line; in other words the peons would have been condescendingly isolated from our republican Sun Kings. 

One of the guys on the bridge gave us a timetable showing the times at which the train would be passing through other stations along the line. "No thank you" we told him... no way we were going to backtrack down the road, even for the Czech President.

Once the train was out of sight, we started off towards Vranov pedaling up and down, over an endless number of hills, alongside lakes, through forests and empty villages, most of which were in a rather sorry state.

 

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People met along the road were not very talkative either...

 

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Pnovany railway station with its red locomotive that seemed to have come straight out of a children's pre-scool story book...Jezna with its abandoned church with very interesting windows...Plesnice with its row of pretty datchas overlooking the river... bumpy paths through fields and forests along the Mze river all the way to Kozolupy...

 

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At that stage we'd had enough of having our bones shaken on the very uneven tracks and decided to go straight to Plzen by the very busy #605 road, the only available alternative.

Plzen: Beer Mecca ! A terrible place to visit if one likes beer !

When we got there, the sky was grey and low and the suburban industrial and residential areas looked gloomy and depressing. Passed by the ramshakle Skoda factory on our way towards the city center where the Saint Bartholomé church marks the end of cycle path # 37. 

It was midday. The sun suddenly managed to break through, casting a very different light on the buildings surrounding the church square, even brightening up the massive dark-stone church itself.

For lunch we'd decided on Pizza and Pilsner beer... in an Italian restaurant. We hadn't been very active during the morning, covering a mere 40 kms... the afternoon performance would be no better...

After a quick visit of the main sights, we took off along the road that the Tourist Buro had indicated to us. In no time we were lost. We checked with a guy who had no idea of what we were talking about, and the cops couldn't read the map... Cycle path N° 3 was nowhere to be found.

Finally, after several attempts (or was it because there is a God protecting beer drinkers ?) we ended up in front of the main gate of the Pilsner Urquell brewery.

Some event was going on inside so we decided to have a look. We were seriously ambushed !

 

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Two very helpful guards offered to keep an eye on our aluminium donkeys while we investigated further, in search of an official Pilsner stamp !

By the time this was achieved, the weather had turned hot and sunny and there was no way we were going to leave without having tasted the 'real thing'...

By 4.30PM we managed to extract ourselves from the festivities. Cycle path N° 3 started right outside the main gate, so, within minutes, we were finally on our way East.

After a couple of hours we arrived in Rokycany, did our shopping at the local Lidl and started looking for a campground. No luck: the closest one was quite a distance away and would have put us seriously off-course. We decided to continue until we found a suitable place for a bivvy. 

In Kocanda, on the outskirts of Rokycany, a Czech family was enjoying the early evening in the garden of their small Datcha, drinking beer and preparing a barbecue.

As we went by they waved.... Kolossal mistake ! Immediate U-turn to ask them if they knew a place where we could stop for the night.... for instance alongside the lake behind their datcha... They discussed the matter between themselves and showed us a super place between their garden fence and the lake, where the grass had just been mown. They told us that there would be no problem for us to stay there, since the lawn more or less belonged to them.

In no time the tents were up. While we were going through the evening rituals, the husband came along with some beer... I pulled out a couple of small 'Eiffel Towers' that I had bought in Paris just in case... a few minutes later the husband was back with 2 pieces of cake: it was his daughter's birthday !

 

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Kind and generous people; what a pity we couldn't talk to them !

We'd hardly finished the evening meal that the storm hit us ! It had been 'brewing' all afternoon and had finally selected its landing-strip: the Rokycany/Kocanda lakeside where we had just set up for the night ! Straight into the tent; we'll pick-up in the morning...

And the rains came down... all night, non stop!

 

 

 

 

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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague

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Publié le 27 Octobre 2011

 

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May 15th 2011, Kocanda - Prague, 95 km

Miserable weather to start with, gradually improving as we got closer to Prague.

 

Via Dobriv, Strasice, Olesna, Komarov, Horovice, Lochovice, Neumetely, Vizina, Skuhrov, Svinare, Revnice, Cernosice, Radotin, along the Moldau, Velka Chuchle and finally Hotel Rubicon in Prague !

Heavy rain all night. No way I was going to get out of the tent to relieve the bladder. Such an adventure would have meant getting dressed in rain clothes inside the tent... a totally unrealistic proposition... and my nylon poncho was in one of the bags still on the bike that was tied to the tree ten meters away.

6.00AM: no need for a wake-up call, the rain was making enough noise ! Rolling up the sleeping bag, the pillows and the inflatable mattress, bending over on all fours inside the tent, and getting everything packed into the waterproof bag was an excellent way to warm up for the 90 or so kms that lay ahead of us today.

The miserable weather slowed us down but we finally got the aluminium donkeys loaded and ready to go. The soaking tent was once again rolled up in a bundle and shoved into a plastic bag, dripping ! Dressed like Breton fishermen, we finally left the lake side at 7.00AM having skipped breakfast.

In Dobriv, we tried a small café: closed. Same result in Strasice. No option but to continue in the rain, up and down through fields and forests. Tene, Olesna... there, a sign indicated that the road to Komarov was closed, indicating a 20km detour. We decided to continue nevertheless since we reckoned that with the bikes we would be able to make it.

We got to Komarov after a super long 5km glide downhill only to come to a dead end: the bridge crossing the river had collapsed and was being rebuit....

 

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After careful checking we had to admit that it would be pretty difficult to get to the other side of the river.

We were left with two options: either we unloaded the bikes and carried everything over a narrow construction gangway with a serious risk of something or someone ending up in the river, or we climb back up the hill and go the full length of the detour. Merde !!!

A lady from a neighbouring house came out and saw the two miserable cyclists. She called her husband with whom I was able to exchange a few words in Russian. The good man had come with a bunch of keys and unlocked a gate that closed a small road climbing through a residential area, explaining that we could get to the other side of the river using another bridge a few hundred meters away. The local authorities had blocked this road to prevent trucks and other heavy vehicles from using it and destroying it. 

Thank you 'Neighbour', you saved our day !

In Horovice we finally came accross a small café. But there was nothing to eat apart from a couple of stale sandwiches that were far from inspiring... We decided against food poisoning so it was coffee with energy bars instead.

 

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The town square at the top of the hill was interesting. One one side, a beautiful classic pastel-coloured building; on the other side, a massive ugly concrete structure that had probably been the Town Hall or the "Cultural Center" in Communist days. Quite an architectural contrast !

 

 

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Not too sure which way to go on our way out of town, we checked with a young couple just outside the local hospital. Their directions added 4 unnecessary kilometers to our day...

 

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A couple of hours later it was Sunday lunch in a corrugated iron bus-stop shelter near Skuhrov. Not very luxurious but dry and equipped with benches. The rain had finally stopped and the skies were gradually clearing. We were now pretty sure that with a bit of luck,  we could make it to Prague before the end of the afternoon!

 

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The last leg, via Radotin, took us through a string of sad villages in various states of disrepair.

We were now both on the lookout for the "arrival sign".. that finally materialized, in the middle of nowhere in the form of a small enamel plate stuck sideways in tall weeds on the side of the road, bearing the words: "Hlavni Mesto Praha".

(Capital City of Prague).

 

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Just to be on the safe side we shot a few pictures of it. A good thing too, since there would be no others. 

The final kms took us along the Moldau river, due North. We passed the camp ground and decided to continue to the city center and find a place to stay in town.

After getting lost a couple of more times we ended up on the main square, just underneath the Astronomical Clock.

 

It was 5.00PM, May 15th and we had Arrived !!!!!

 

Still dressed in rain clothes, our dirty bikes fully loaded, we looked as if we had just arrived from Mars. A few tourists asked us where we came from and how we had made it to Prague...

 

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On telling them we'd just arrived from Paris by bicycle, some of them -French- asked if they could take pictures of us...  We would have gladly signed autographs but time was running and we had two urgent things to do:

1° find the tourist buro (it was right in front of us...)

2° find a hotel that would accomodate the cyclists and their metal donkeys.

After fighting our way through a huge, noisy, inebriated crowd of young hockey fans celebrating the victory of the Czech team over the Russians

 

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- being watched by a squadron of fully equipped 'robocops' - we ended up at Hotel Rubicon, ideally located in the city center, on a very quiet street.

 

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The bags were unloaded and taken upstairs and the bikes locked up in the laundry room..

After a welcome shower and shave, the tents were hung to dry from the bedroom window, dangling two storeys down into the back yard of the hotel.

 

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The trip was over !

 

With Rock 'n' Roll locked away and a change into 'civilian' clothes, the spell was broken. I was now no more than an average tourist visiting the city... my mind trying to realize that the dream had come true, tossing back and forth the events of the past 19 days: the landscapes, the encounters, the scents, the colours, the North Easterly wind... happy and sad at the same time, but proud to have made it: 1 591kms of paths, roads, tracks and lanes that lead us all the way from Paris to Prague.  

 

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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague

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Publié le 26 Octobre 2011

 

Radweg 3 814

Monday, May 16th 2011. Prague.

Mostly excellent weather with a few drops of rain late morning.  Wind !!!

 

Fully awake at 5.00AM we had to wait until 7.00 for the breakfast room to open. We then collected the bikes from the laundry room and rushed off to the main train station to buy the return tickets to France.

The first stop was at the information counter to check trains and define the route, then over to the ticket counter to buy the tickets. We'd taken the bikes inside to be safe rather than sorry and managed to aggravate the security person who demanded that we park them in the area provided outside...

 

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The trip back home would be Prague - Offenburg by night train equipped with a cycle carriage. The second leg was Offenburg - Strasbourg. We decided to take care of the third leg from Strasbourg to Paris in Strasbourg since we were not 100% sure that the TGV would accept bicycles.

 

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Departure from Prague at 18.31 Tuesday evening. Arrival in Strasbourg approx 8.00 Wednesday morning. Within 20 minutes we were done and on our way to the city center.

 

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Along the river to Charles bridge lined both sides by dark, pious statues... up the hill on the other side to the castle and cathedral area.. Mid morning coffee in a small place where I managed to blow the main electric fuse box using the hand dryer.. The managers were not surprised... it happened all the time...

 

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We continued our way through all sorts of areas and gardens, along narrow streets, through cobble-stoned squares, passing by whole streets of breath-taking architectural wonders. The morning light added to the magic!

 

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Difficult to refrain from taking pictures of every building in sight.. In spite of everything happening "above" us, we quickly learned to keep an eye on the traffic and the trams that raced by without much of a warning. 

 

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Returned to the hotel to drop off the bikes and continue on foot. Bought a bunch of post cards and sat in a café opposite the astronomical clock to write them. Back to the hotel late afternoon to prepare the bags.

Spread my tent out in the hotel corridor to fold it and hung the tarpaulin used underneath it from the bedroom window, to finish drying.

Dinner in town at a "Czech" restaurant. Digestive walk around the main square that was back to normal after yesterday's celebrations..

 

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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague

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