If I were a princess, I’d like to live in Czech Republic. Every week I’d choose a different castle to stay in and I would organize balls. There are plenty of castles to choose from. Each town has its own palatial residence of former princes or archbishops.
And if I was inclined to become an alcoholic, I’d also like to live in Czech Republic. It’s a country of hospudkas (inns) where you can have beer or wine. They are even situated by cycling paths (I’m sorry to say that I don’t enjoy either beer or wine so all those opportunities were wasted).
I entered Czech Republic like a queen, escorted by a nice couple on bikes who leaded me on sideroads to Ostrava and then through mysterious bike paths of the town. Cycling paths will take you through suburbs, near the river, behind factories and companies, under the viaducts. They cross with each other creating a web so thick, that you’re bound to get lost, if you don’t know the way. Well, I had my guides. We even stopped by the town hall in order to try to get me some cycling maps, but Saturday means you won’t succeed. I trusted my new friends and hit a very nice and picturesque path to a town called Frydek-Mistek.
The path was picturesque indeed, the town not so much. I was lucky though, because I met Karen and Robert who gave me a map of the country (weekend means almost everything is closed). However, it turned out that to get out of the place, I needed to cross some hills of Czech Beskid Mountains which was a difficult challenge for someone unfit and with a heavy bike like mine.
The next flatter area appeared near Holesov in Central Moravia and that’s where I entered a region of castles, wine and great cycling routes. It results that you actually can pave some country roads so that they make long distance connections among fields and between villages. Maybe somebody should suggest this to Polish politicians. If you don’t believe it works, try to count Czech cyclists.
Once you are in Czech Republic, you can also happen to be in Slovakia. One wrong turning and you’ll find yourself among Slovak cornfield. You need my luck to meet a nice couple of Slovaks among the corn who will direct you on Slovak cycling path leading where you need it to.
Did you know that in Czech Republic there’s a Panama Canal? It’s called Bata Canal (yes, the one of the shoe industry). Tomas Bata had a vision to link the Baltic with the Black Sea. It didn’t serve for a long time, as soon after the end of the works, WWII started. Today its reopened and you can have a tour. And, according to the Slovak, beavers returned. And of course, there’s a perfectly flat cycling path along it.
Let’s have a mini ranking of Czech towns:
- Kromeriz – old town resembling a mix of Cracow and Zamość (visit Poland first) with the castle of archbishops enlisted by UNESCO
- Mikulov – on the hill with beautiful winding streets, old palaces and a castle of course. Castle is always given for granted in Czech Republic.
- Lednice – for the minaret
There are a couple of interesting people connected to Moravia. Mendel grew his beans here, Bata started his shoe emporium, Mucha painted mysterious women, but say what you want, nobody beats Alois I. He belonged to the family of Liechtenstein so to say the least, he wasn’t poor. If you don’t believe it, visit the triangle between Lednice-Miklov-Valtice and watch vast manor with lakes, forests, palaces scattered along the countryside and of course, castles. Anyway, they say that Alois wanted to erect a church on his land but he encountered some opposition from church officials. Without thinking twice he ordered his architect to design a minaret instead. Thumbs up for his sense of humor.
Apart from Alois I, Czech Republic gets its thumbs up for comfortable cycling paths and many interesting towns. Although they tend to get deserted after 6 p.m. And only in Czech Republic you can see a jewelry shop where jewelry is exposed on paper tissues dotted with ladybirds.
A minus for the fact that I had to wear clothes that I had expected to take out of the panniers sometime in November. And for a disappointing first impression with the sleeping arrangement. So this is the way I do it: I cycle for the whole day, I find a nice, flowery garden in the evening and ask the owners if I can camp in their garden. In Poland I had 100% efficiency. But in Czech Republic I knock on the first door, the second, the tenth and all I hear is “no, no”. What’s wrong? You need to try many times before you find those hospitable, nice people on whom I rely so much. But when you do, you might get some delicious, homemade cake or a comfortable bed at Jitka and Jaroslav’s. So it’s worth it.