Saturday, September 20, 2008

Prague to Vienna by Bike

For my birthday I wanted a memorable trip with special friends. Pedaling the Praha-Wien Greenway seemed a perfect adventure: visiting two great cities and the physical challenge of traveling under our own power. Seeing the countryside from a bike saddle seemed like a good idea and it was. Our route was well signed and maps that Daniel Mourek gave us in Prague made it easy to figure out how to get from one place to another. We learned there are many signed bike routes that criss cross the Czech Republic as well as signed long distance routes from Budapest to Prague or Warsaw.

What we didn't expect was how cold it would be in September. Unusual weather, everyone said. Train stations in most towns of any size made it fairly easy to catch a train to skip ahead if we were behind schedule, it was pouring rain or to venture up to Telc, 40 miles off our route.

The language barrier between English and Czech was broken by smiles, nods, sign language, pointing or using a limited travel glossary to struggle through Czech pronunciations without vowels. We found accomodations by pedaling up to the offical tourist offices in town squares that were usually staffed by an English speaker who would telephone ahead for us. Our meals were usually meat, potatoes, bread dumplings and beer. Once we found a Chinese restaurant for a needed infusion of vegetables.

We bikes 30 to 45 miles a day, after a filling Czech breakfast stopping to tour castle ruins, peeking into Gothic churches, and pedal into Renaissance town centers. Most of all we enjoyed looking around the rolling Czech farmlands cultivated in corn and wheat. The variegated browns, yellows and greens, depending upon what had been harvested, were a soft background to the red roof tiles of nestled villages.

For the first few days we would stop for lunch in a cafe, later just coffee or beer and a snack since we were so full from breakfast and in anticipation of the large dinner at night where we would stay. If we were hungry for a snack while we rode, we would grab and munch on juicy apples hanging from loaded trees edging the farm fields lining the country roads.

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