Děkuji Czech Republic, it’s been Lovely

30 08 2012

As we rode into the Czech Republic Rose turned to me and said, “it feels different doesn’t it?” We both agreed that it did, although we hadn’t spoken to anyone, the environment was similar although the house’s were a little less preened and we were certainly cycling along the same river since Dresden. So although not much had changed barring the number plates on the cars we felt the atmosphere had changed, But would we have noticed this ‘change’ if we weren’t aware of the border we had crossed? I guess we can’t know for sure but we think it was our sub conscious perceptions of the Czech Republic that influenced our initial feelings of this new country. It would be nice to let a new place make a completely fresh impression on you with out any additives.  Just a thought, anyway that’s enough of thinking for now.

The other notion that struck us some 40km into CZ was that the beer prices outside the bars we passed were marked in Kc’s. “Uh oh,” was the communal dread! We hadn’t even considered the currency of this new country, so we found a bank in Usti and withdrew 2000Kc not knowing whether we had just gone bankrupt or not. However being seasoned beer drinkers we were able to pretty accurately deduce from the pub chalk boards that 30 was about a quid.

On leaving Dresden our friend Thomas had boldly declared that the Czechs do the best beer in the world, better even than the Germans. This statement  has more weight to it when you consider that Thomas is German. I must admit I was dubious having enjoyed the liquid cuisine of Deutchland a little too greedily for the last few weeks. That was until I met my new best friend (Mr) Braznak, who is a delicious dark beer.In the interest of Eurpean exploration we have sampled many more, all of which will be included in our future compendium of beer. It is worth noting that the Czechs like there beer so much that it is not uncommon to  see them drinking large quantities for breakfast, one chap camping opposite us had 3 before his coffee and breakfast.

Although we cook most of our meals ourselves we have eaten out a few times. The highlight of which has to be my roasted pigs knee with a dark beer sauce, if you like ‘meat’ and the fattier cuts then this has to be tried. Dad I thought of you when ordering this, remember the pigs ears and duck feet fiasco?

We of course went to Prague where we treated ourselves and our bikes to a double room in a hostel in the old town. Prague has the feel of most Europen capitals although this maybe more beautiful than many with wonderful architecture around every corner.

We were also lucky enough to bump into Vicky and Steve,  Roses good friends from Manchester.Another place of note has to be Cesky Krumlov which we accidentally stumbled across and has a fantastically pretty old town.

We have been following another bike route from Prague to Austria. It has again loosely followed the Vltava river to our current position alongside Lake Lipno by the border.

We even got to cheer on Team GB in the European rafting Championships yesterday, which makes up for missing the Olympics which we hear was quite average.

Unlike previous routes this has been somewhat hillier and a lot more rugged. The hills have reduced our daily distance to around 65km and the ruggedness has reduced my lovely soft Panasella Racer tyres to shreds, the result being that I have a temporary replacement tyre on and have arranged to pick up 2 new stronger tyres in Vienna.

As we prepare to leave the Czech Republic it has to be said that it has been a tougher ride than previous routes but it has completely been worth it. The views have been astonishingly beautiful, the people warm and welcoming, the food good if not gourmet, the prices cheap (excluding Prague) and did I mention the beer is OK too. Good ingredients for a holiday destination I’d say.

Austria and the Danube here we come!

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The Truth! (My days at fat camp)

21 08 2012

When we planned this trip I was promised beautiful views, camping in the wild, city hopping and meeting lots of lovely people. And yes all this has happened so far, we have met some amazing people already been to lots of cities and seen some glorious sights along the way…what I didn’t expect was the grueling ten day stint at fat camp!

I never did join a gym or go on a silly diet to try and lose the pounds, no I decided to quit my job, sell my belongings and cycle 100KM+ a day to try and lose the pounds, and that I did (I don’t do things by half).

So who would have thought that eating great hearty meals, a block of cheese, bar of chocolate a day, carbs galore and tasting all the delights of beer that Germany has to offer would actually help me to lose weight in such a short space of time!This cycling malarky is much better than any gym.

We now have our own beer compendium of all the German beers we have tasted and have been assured that the czech beer is even better.

The cycling is not the hard part although it is tiring when the sun is beating down ( we have now invested in sun hats, although Jimi thinks hes a teenager again in his and forgets its for a purpose) I will also be investing in a second pair of cycling shorts as saddle sore is a slight problem. (Sudocrem is a godsend.)

Since the 1000M dash we have now chilled out and the day after we only cycled 30km and relaxed by the lake. This is now more like I imagined, camping, cooking dinner, reading lots of books and enjoying the scenery and wildlife. The next map after Prague however has many hills, so my next blog may be a different story!

We are now in Dresden and have stayed two nights with a lovely young couple from Warm Showers who have just returned from a year on their bikes around Australia. They welcomed us into their home like we were old friends and we have had a wonderful few days and a well needed rest.

We did the obligatory tourist sightseeing things, the military history museum was very interesting, then we had a bbq in the 40 degree heat! We are now busy planning our next few weeks as we will be crossing into the Czech republic today, where we will be able to wild camp along the river Elber cycle route as much as we like as it is more acceptable. We don’t have Wifi very often so when we do we will blog and keep you all up to date with our trip. More photos in the photo gallery.

 





The DamLin Dash

15 08 2012

The Damlin Dash as it shall forever be known by the gallant three contestants was a awesome, exilerating, tiring, greedy, fun bike ride which almost got the better of us, but not quite.

From Amsterdam we rode to a ‘Polecamping’ site, which are hidden sites where you can camp for free as long as you leave no trace and there aren’t more than 3 people in a group. After an hour of searching the forest (they are hidden) we found the site. From the company we deduced only ‘strange’ people used them, from this we also deduced we maybe strange. We were visited by two beasts during that night. The first a huge in-obedient rottweiler that one of the strangers had taken camping- harmless. The second a cute little field mouse which ate through our panniers, our food and devastated the dive bag containing the food- harmful. Lesson learnt, we’re going to buy a cat.

If you believe in karma you will know who we came across on our first road after the forest…

We picked up our map and a new bag in Antwerp and headed over the border in Germany where Jake unwittingly revealed he had studied German extensively from the age of 11 all the way until he was 14. He would from this point be known as ‘The Translator’ or just plain ‘Valter’. With these canny skills we would surely be fine.

The R1 is a wonderful route, it avoids main roads and unattractive towns, instead zig zagging East through National Parks, pretty villages and farmers fields all the while passing impressive old buildings, picturesque lakes and panoramic views. It is also and almost flat route, but not quite, as our aching legs are a testament to.

We met many other cycle tourers on the same route, always doing our best to look like we weren’t trying but in fact trying very hard to overtake them, a stealth race you could say. Often they would stay at the same campsite too as there can be only one or two every 100km. Here everyone could eye up each others kit from a safe distance and measure camping competencies. We were always the last to arrive, 7 being the norm and 9:30 the latest, and we often arose to find flat grass patches where once the tourers had been.

A typical day on the Damlin Dash involved coffee and cereal at 09:00 and on the road at 10:00, 50 km then lunch, 30 km then coffee and cake, the final slow push and  then a high carb/ calorie dinner of peanuts, beer, hot food, chocolate and more beer to finish.

We rolled into Berlin on the evening of the 13th having covered 1000km in 10 days. Not the pace we had in mind or intend to maintain. However, we did it and it feels good to know that we are fit enough to go that far that fast.

Berlin has been lovely, we recommend the DDR museum, a sort of interactive look at life as it was in the East under the GDR. Also BurgerMaister in Kreuzberg for a cool place to eat and drink.

We have just put Valter on a plane back to the UK after his epic, but ultimately triumphant struggle to get a bike box from one of Berlins many bike shops.

We will miss him but not for linguistic reasons. I hope he doesn’t ask for a reference for his next translating role. If you do hire him don’t make the same mistake as I did, paying him in advance in chocolate biscuits, it’s very difficult to get your money back.

We have decided on a route for the next leg of our trip. We are going to head back through Potsdam to the Elbe river where we will follow it to Prague, at a more leisurely pace.





Amsterdam

14 08 2012

In Amsterdam after using our 1:200000 map and following some sound advice from Dick and Els, whom we stayed with in Den Haag and cycled the world for 10 years, we decided to pay a visit to a Map Shop and boy are we glad we did. There is a series of long distance bike route maps produced by BikeLine and they make navigation much easier.

Amsterdam was great. We arrived late and and decided to take the metro into the centre for a beer anyway. We sample a few of Hollands finest and also a few of Belgiums too. Palm was the winner of this competition.

After a buses not turning up and a taxi driver trying to rob us we rolled into the tents at 4am. The next day we went to visit this chap Rembrandt we’d heard so much about. He wasn’t in but we had a good look at some of his paintings.


We saw some ‘aMaZing’ break dancing in Leidseplein Square and in the evening we watched an open air movie in another square. It was a British film called The Weekend although we missed the ending not wanting to repeat our first nights travel antics.

We had heard of the ‘R1’ bike route which ran from Antwerp to Berlin. The bike book was old and there was only one copy left in all of Holland. It was in Antwerp. Could we get the book and get Jake to Berlin in time for his flight home in 11 days?