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Czech Republic
 

 
country summary

 

We entered the Czech republic on 21st May 2005 and took 3 weeks to cross from West to East. On the way we passed through Prague and interrupted friends during their exams. We then carried on Eastwards and visited friends in Zlin before crossing the border to Slovakia. Our knowledge of the Czech republic and the Czech language was fairly minimal so it proved to be an interesting couple of weeks.

 

 
map

 

 

 
entry & visas

 

As we are both residents of the EU, the Czech Republic presents no visa or entry restrictions for a cycle tourist. On the contrary to our entry in Germany, there was a proper border, which we could not miss, and passport checking.

 
  language  
 

This is where the fun starts. Because we did not want to carry too many books, we thought we would buy a czech-English dictionary once in the country. It took us one day to reach a big town where we could buy that kind of book. Near the border areas most Czech speak very good German and this has been a great help. We have purchased a phrase book and dictionary in Marianske Lazne, but as we soon realised, it is a guide book for Czechs so it gives the english pronunciation of words, not the Czech one. This is when a welcome crash course in Czech was given to us at the Stanowitz campsite (see below). Now we can just about get buy, but if you plan on spending time anywhere else than Prague, where English seems to be spoken by a lot of people, it is worth investing in a small phrase book purchased in England.

For the record, one of the longest words without a vowel in Czech is "scvrnkls", meaning "you flick". And it is pronounceable (not by us though!). And there is a Czech word that everybody know. Yes, even YOU! It is the word "robot". Thank god, we can pronounce this one!

 

 
camping

 

The plan had been to stay in campsites where possible. The choice of maps have proven to be extremely unreliable with the positional indication of campsites. One map indicated 6 campsites around Marianske Lazne - we became concerned when none of these were signposted - as it turned out only one campsite existed and that was about 5 km from the town. We wanted to give a special mention to this little campsite in Stanoviste On top of a beautiful setting, the landlords are genuinely helpful, provide excellent food on wet days (as well as sunny days I am sure) and a lot of tourist information on the area and the Czech Republic in general. We even had an improvised lesson in Czech pronunciation! The link to the Stanowitz (or Spessart) is here if you ever go into the area.

The campsites cost in the region of £5 to £7 per night (115 Kr to 325 Kr in Prague). One pound is worth about 40 Kr (one Euro about 29 Kr).

We found that a map is sold in some shops that indicates all the Czech campsites of the country (we think it is an ADAC map). Be careful as there is a lot of out of date information and some of the campsites simply don't exist anymore. On top of this, some campsites, when they exist, are not open out of season (this was at the end of May), which has meant for us a few nights of wild camping.

 

 
cycle shops

 

Generally cycle shops seem to be quite thin on the ground. We have tried looking in a shop in Marianske Lazne, which is a big town, for some headset spacers for Isa's bike but they didn't stock such exotic equipment - this doesn't bode well for the more remote areas!

cycle routes and maps

We first tried to follow the Czech cycle routes (marked in yellow and following smaller roads - there is no dedicated tracks), and got lost in the forest near the border. We then tried again a few days later and got lost again. We gave up totally on them as the marking is quite random and bitty and there is only so much of Terry's ranting one can take!

Regarding the maps, we finally found Terry's dream map, indicating contours (the first we found) and with a 1:100 000 scale. These maps are called Turisticka mapa (yellow cover) and cover the whole of the Czech Republic. They indicate many walking paths, tourist paths and cycling paths, monuments and notable trees (!) and have been a great help to us. The other map we used was a Michelin map of Poland , which luckily covered the North of the Czech Republic and Slovakia- perfect for us (more ranting: the marking of green roads seems totally random and is of little help).

 

 
food & drink

 

Drink seems to be exclusively lager based with names similar to those known in England - Pilsner Urquell, Budvar Budweiser and other variations on a theme. Generally drinking in bars or from the supermarket is extremely good value (a bottle of beer in the supermarket is about 15p, and 0.5 l of beer in a bar is 50p). Generally the prices of food and drink are about 1/3 to 1/2 of the price of Germany and the Netherlands.

The initial impressions for buying food are that there only seems to be the bargain supermarkets such as Lidl and Plus. These are very good value offering discount, over produced, end of line type products but not ideal for the fussy cyclotourer eg they do not stock tinned tomatoes, but you can buy any type of tinned fish (in every variety of accompanying sauce). The most serious cause for concern is the lack of bakers - our fascination with the regional variations in cake and biscuit production may need to come to a premature end. We finally asked the question where to find bakers and bread ("chleba" in Czech). The answer was that we can find bread in Potraviny (little grocer shops) or samooblusluha (supermarket). The bread is good - I am still wondering who is baking it though. This is not the case in Prague. We found a few bakers, who sell a whole range of sandwiches and drinks too.

In the more remote villages the only option for food is to find a "Potraviny". With the exception of tinned tomatoes all your staples can normally be found, although fresh fruit and veg can be difficult. In the bigger cities such as Zlin, absolutely everything can be found in supermarkets such as Carrefour or Tesco. It is like you never left England or France.

Cheese Report: Well nothing to report, absolutely, totally disappointing. Virtually all shops contain varying types "laughing cow" type cheese. The only way to buy cheese with any flavour is to buy smoked cheese - and that soon gets quite tiresome. There are a number of Balkan cheeses available (Feta) which are good but rather differing in quality and flavour (the language barrier cannot be underestimated here - it's very difficult to know what you're buying)

 

 
weather

 

Late may and early June should mean warm and sunny weather - ideal for touring. Our last few days of good weather in Germany continued with 2 days of 22 C, but then we decided to have a rest Marianske Lane and the heavens opened - not continuous but great heavy downpours. The weather then suddenly changed and we are at our fifth day of continuous sun without a single cloud in the sky. Isa has been sun burnt in Prague and the temperature is well over 30 C. We were told this is the Czech weather: all bad, then all too good.

We finished our time in the Czech republic with a good solid 4 days of proper rain. We were in the more mountainous area and I suppose there must be a reason why it is so lush and green (when we reached our destination across the border in Slovakia they had received 8 days of constant rain)

 

 
medical

 

So far we have not needed any reason to consult with medical practitioners in the Czech Republic. Being members of the EU and working in the UK we have E111 forms which should help to ensure we get reciprocal treatment if the need arises.

 

 
flora & fauna

 

There is a great deal of forests in the Czech Republic. The Western area from Cheb onwards is rolling hills covered with pine forests over the summits. Lower down is a mixture of arable (the ubiquitous rape seed) and open meadow land. The meadow land in late May makes a wonderful sight - memories of being about 6 years old and the farmer making hay and straw bales came flooding back. It is a sight which is not seen very often these days in the intensive agricultural environment of the UK. With the meadows come all sorts of birds and insects - the best being the skylark - always an evocative sound of early summer.

With the large amount of woodland lining the roads we have been startled on a number of occasions by deer jumping out on to the road and running alongside us before leaping back in to the safety of the forest - quite scary on a downhill at 50 km/hr.

Red Squirrels abound with their lovely big fluffy tails - none of those ugly grey tree rats found in England. Even the odd black (red) squirrel. As we moved further the instance of storks has increased, initially only in the manmade nests atop 10 metre posts, but latterly just stood in a field watching the world go by.

 

 
graphs & stats

 

In the Czech Republic:

Distance Travelled - 801 km

Days Travelling - 13

Average Distance per Day - 61 km

Highest Point - 876m on the Slovak border (highest of the trip so far)

 

 
Cyklista Report
 

21st May 2005 - Fichtelsee to Cheb (Czech Republic) - 61 km

What a change it was once on the other side of the border. We changed our last euros to an unknown money (we quickly find out it was korune (crowns)) at the border. About 500 yards after the border, there was a service station as you would expect to find next to big motorways. But there was a concert there. Very intriguing.

We carried on to our campsite, which was next to a lake just before Cheb. Another concert was going on (lots of cheesy songs like "I will always love you', but mostly in Czech). We are still not sure what was really going on. Anyway, we finally made it to the campsite, the weather was nice, the view on a lake fantastic, the toilet blocks seem to have been designed for a prison camp. What the heck, we were in the Czech Republic. Terry went to buy his dose of beer for the day and came back with one litre and a half in a big plastic bottle (previously containing Fanta). If you have never seen the face of a happy man, you should have seen Terry that night!

 

We made it to Czech

Border crossing is no laughing matter for Terry

 

 
 

Language problems start

 

Czech Toilet/Prison Block

Prisoner cell block H

 
 
In the Czeck Forests
 

22nd May 2005 - Cheb to Stanoviste (near Marianske Lazne)

The day started with a visit to Cheb. It is a big city with a fabulous square in its middle. As we found out later, the square is a local pride and has houses dating from the 12th century. it was really nice and there was a local mountain biking race around the town. It is nice to see other people suffering too sometimes! Outside the main square, we found the town quite rundown. Beautiful houses literally crumbling away. What was most intriguing was the amount of casinos and game bars around the town. But very sad were all the signs between our campsite and Cheb with "Love story" or "Aphrodite" written on neon boards and pointing towards the woods.

 
 

No doubt that a lot of dodgy business is going on in this area. We even saw two girls being picked up (this was Sunday morning at 12 o'clock). Terry tells me that a lot of German lorry drivers come to Czech because the prostitutes are much cheaper. He has not told me yet how he got old of this piece of information...

Anyway, off we went following a cycle route out of Cheb towards Marianske Lazne. From our map, it looked like the region further North was a coal mining area and we decided to avoid it (not the best idea, but we did not know at the time). Somehow, we quickly lost the cycling route and went Southwards following a forest track. We found a marked path, which Terry assured me was marked on our map too. So we were lost. A little argument there, but we followed the marked path until it turned into a walking small path. Then we must have been pretty closed to the German border because we kept on going South and westwards instead of Eastwards. Out came the compass and we finally made it out of the bloody forest. I cannot blame the forest, it is pretty enough, but the bleeding forest tracks just cut straight through hills and fords and it is truly hard on the legs and on the mind!

 
Bad Hill
 
 

 

We then went on Marianske Lazne, truly tired (but I was happy not to have to spend the night in the forest eating berries and roots). This is when we found out that from the 6 campsites marked on our map, there was only one 5 km after the town in Stanoviste. So we pushed on and found a lovely campsite and had our first Czech meal!

An interesting fact that we later learnt about our patch of forest is that it is considered (by the locals at least) to be the very centre of Europe.

 
 

23rd May 2005 - Resting the legs in Stanoviste

The campsite was too nice and we had three hard days since leaving Bamberg. We decided to stop for a day and ... it rained like hell! Once again!!! Raaah!!!!

We still managed to spend a few hours in Marianske Lazne, which is a big spa town. We were wondering the day before why there seem to be only hotels around in this town (and what hotels - very grand!), with nothing else to be seen. We finally found the answer to our question. The main attraction for people who don't have to money to spend on the town many spa treatments is to drink water from several different springs. Some are fizzy, some flat. The one we tried smelt of rotten eggs and tasted rusty iron. Disgusting, but still recommended by doctors. Makes you wonder what I was doing removing iron, manganese from the water when it is a selling point here!

 

 

 

 
 

Meadows full of dandelions

 

 

As it was raining,we had a lot of time to learn about the area and prepare our trip through the Czech Republic. We learnt that Marianske Lazne is the southernmost town of the Bohemian spa triangle. The main spa town is Karlory Vary, which we decided to avoid because it was by the mining area.

 

 
 

24th May 2005 - Stanoviste to Kralovice - 73 km

We left Stanoviste and headed straight Eastward. Our first stop was a few kilometres after our start to visit a monastery at Tepla. It was fabulous. Again, as we noticed for so many villages after the border, the building was in a pretty bad state, but restoration work is ongoing. We were told that the whole area suffered greatly during the communist period. A band of 10 km wide from the border was forbidden to anybody and some villages were destroyed. On top of this, all the German citizens were sent back to Germany after the war, leaving some villages totally empty. Then the communist regime simply did not invest in the area and things were left to go from bad to worse.

As for Tepla monastery, there was mainly a lot of big empty rooms with very little left in them. The building was used by the Soviet Army until 1973 after all the monks were arrested and imprisoned in 1948, when the country came under Soviet Control. However, two essential things were left untouched. They are both amazing: it is the library, which is the second biggest of the country after Prague monastery and the church, which is in the purest over the top baroque style. It is well worth a visit!

 

 

Tepla Monastery

 
 

Mariansky-Tynec, above

Czech campsite cottages , below

 

 

After Tepla, we headed for Manetin where we knew there was a baroque castle. It was there indeed, but we had no time to look at it as a man coming out of a Potraviny shop got chatting with Terry. He did not speak any German or English, but they still manage to talk about skoda and ford cars! It is sometimes amazing what you can say without knowing a language. We manage to find out how far was Kralovice and were ready to go when the Potraviny man somme us to stay. He came back with a beer for Terry and "une orange pour madame" (in his own words!). He was so impressed with our trip that he refused to take a phone call to carry on "talking" to us (his wife was not so pleased though..).

So off we went through the strange town of Manetin. The castle seems to have been stuck to the main village road and there are statues lining the roads in and out of the village. Strange town but we did not have much time to spare. We went off to Kralovice and just before reaching our campsite, we had one last piece of wonder in front of us: the cloister of Mariansky-Tynec. All renovated and looking fabulous in the evening sunlight!

 
 
What I did not mention is the sheer beauty of the landscape in the area. It is very hilly and the roads never seem to follow the obvious river valley: it is all up and down. However, the roads are lined with apple, plum and cherry trees and fields and various woodlands can be seen everywhere. The views are fabulous and all is helped by the fantastic weather we had since leaving Stanoviste. We both think it is a cyclist paradise for the quietness of the area. Unfortunately, the Czech roads are quite prone to massive pot holes and gravel when you least expect it, so we sometimes needed to pay more attention to the roads than to our surrounding.
 

 

 
 

Following the River Berounka

 

25th May 2005 - Kralovice to Roztoky -58 km

On that day, we decided to aim for Krivoklat castle, which is set in a national park next to the river Barounka.

The plan seemed easy: aim for the river then follow the river and then find one of the four campsites that were shown on various maps we looked at. Hum... the first mistake was to think that following a river in the Czech Republic would be easy. We went up and down and up and down like never (our map doesn't have contours). Sometimes we could see the next village one kilometre ahead on top of the next hill, but to reach it involved a 8 km detour and a 280 m climb. It was all quite taxing, but again, we crossed some genuinely fabulous area of the land. And quiet, quiet like you would never believe it.

The road finally seem to follow the river Berounka and we found a campsite. We decided to carry on to the Krivoklat castle (only 3 km further) and to the three other campsites that we were expecting. The road started to go seriously up and then down and up again to the castle, with no campsites to be seen (second mistake!). The castle was worth the detour, but it was hard on the legs to go back up the hill to the campsite we passed an hour before!

 

 
 

26th May 2005 - Roztoky to Prague - 68 km

By then, we had no illusion on the type of day this was going to be: it was going to be hilly because that is the way the roads go here and it was going to be hot, up to 30C!

We headed slightly South, through Beroun to Karlstejn castle, which is a must-see in terms of Czech castle. The first sight of Castle one turns the corner into the small, pedestrianised approach street is quite striking.

 

 

Karlstejn Castle

 
 

Limestone quarries and gorge alongside the Berounka

 

 

Unfortunately it was also the first really obvious tourist honey pot we came across. Having said this, the castle is genuinely impressive and we were happy to go there. We were not so impressed with the guided tour (you cannot visited the castle without a guide): it was so closely timed that there was no room for questions.

From Karlstejn, we joined the Vltava river and followed it up to the our campsite, which is on an island very close to the city centre. Actually, we were directly opposite the Vysehrad - the smaller Prague castle. Nice view!

 
 

Approach to Karlstejn Castle

 

 

Krivoklat Castle

 

 
 

27th to the 30th of May - Heating up in Prague!

The thermometer must have exploded! It is suddenly so hot here, we are struggling being basic tourists in our big walking boots!

The nice things about the heat is that we finally managed to wash our laundry and dry it quick and you cannot move too much in the heat of the day, so it gives us a chance to do the website (in my swimming suit!).

We have seen bits of Prague so far but our most enjoyable moments were with our friends Jo and Duncan in a fresh beer garden (Letna park) overlooking Prague. It is nice to meet friends after so long spending time just the two of us and the coolness of the beer garden was well needed after a day visiting in the blazing heat!

 

Sunset over Prague from Letna Gardens

 
 

Isa watching the Folk dancing competition

 

 

We have seen the old square of Prague, the jewish ghetto and Prague castle. There is no point in describing the area to you, a guide book would do it a thousand times better than us. It is simply beautiful. Many houses and churches are in the baroque style, which means to me well over the top decoration-wise and expression-wise. Makes the bishops look like cool dude trying to tell you "all is cool man" (this is what I translate from their exaggerated gesture).

The city is unfortunately packed with tourists and the heat does not help. It had changed very much since I came in 1998. Nobody spoke English then, only Czech and German, and when you ordered a meal, you were never sure what would come (apart from the traditional dumplings on the side of the plate). It is all over now and it is no doubt a pity. KFC and McDonalds seem to have taken the place over and you can eat mexican or italian while ordering in English anywhere.

Our final day touring around Prague was a Monday and we managed to get out of bed earlier than normal - helped by the thumping heat of the sun on the tent. The day turned out to be much quieter and pleasant for sightseeing - less queues and not as many packs of guided tours. There are so many guided tours that they are now using personal amplified PA systems to allow their huge groups to hear everything they are saying.

 

 
 

Terry & Isa - Karlov Most

32 degrees - some people were born to enjoy these temperatures - others turn red and sweat like an old race horse

 

St Nicholas Church, Praha

The Inside of St Nicholas Church in Praha - a bit over the top if you ask me

 

 
 

St Nicholas Church, Praha

12 Midday - Bright sunshine and Terry is wishing for the cooler temperatures of old blighty

 

 

Hail in Praha

One hour later Terry gets his wish - 1 cm hailstones, lashing wind and rain

 

 
 

We made the obligatory tourist walk over the Charles IV Bridge, and interior tour of St Nicholas Church before settling in for some lunch - it was very good timing - the heavens opened and an enormous storm with viscous winds and huge hail stones cleared everyone from the streets.

We returned to the campsite amongst broken branches and blown over fences - fearing the worst for the tent - but luckily all the weight of our bags kept everything in place.

 

Campsite near Uhlirske Janovice

 
 

Terry must start using a higher factor sun tan cream, and a shave and haircut wouldn't go a miss either!

 

 

31st May 2005 - Prague to Uhlirsky Janovice - 84 km

We followed the river South out of the City of Prague and into the suburbs before heading Eastwards. Our target was to reach Zlin to meet up with friends we had made at a wedding in France in 2002. The initial roads were very busy (as always near big cities) so we tried to stick to small marked "tourist paths". Terry had found some 1:100,000 maps to quench his hunger for accurate cartography - so navigation was much easier. As much as possible we avoided the planned cycle routes as their route indication and directness are poor. The cycle route surfaces are also very unpredictable and can easily add hours onto a seemingly straightforward route.

 

 
 

We planned to stop and camp at Sazava and have an early finished. We reached the village early after following the Sazava river. The route had turned out to be less picturesque than expected (perhaps we are starting to get a bit greedy). We made a tour of the old church and monastery before locating one of the two campsites. One was closed completely and the other had the builders in - no camping allowed! This area of the Czech republic had very few campsite options so it would be wild camping again - and yet another early, civilised finish thwarted.

We continued to Uhlirsky Janovice and found a beautiful spot to camp in a cherry orchard, the grass freshly cut - and the road opposite closed for bridge repairs - the situation turned out for the best in the end.

 

 

Terry can cycle too! Near Zd'ar nad Sazavou

 
 

Single Track Heaven

Single track heaven - Great routes for Mountain bikes - but a little slow going on our cumbersome bikes - and it makes for thoroughly exciting downhill - Next stop Coed-Y-Brenin

 

1st June 2005 - Uhlirsky Janovice to Zdar nad Sazavou - 87 km

We set off from our lovely campsite through quiet countryside - hardly a soul around and virtually traffic free. To avoid the major roads to the North and South we were cycling through a virtually deserted area, there were forests and meadows punctuated by small villages and hamlets - and road was never flat - 40 metres up, 50 metres down, 100 metres up, 40 metres down etc etc. This continued for the whole day.

The temperature was 28 C and we decided a campsite was needed to allow us to freshen up. The day finished alongside a lake just North of Zd'ar nad Sazavou. It was a small bar with a field and a strange shower arrangement - 6 washbasins around a room with a open shower in the corner - the shower curtain had long since disappeared - and window to the outside world - I suppose this was to allow other campers can see when the shower was free.

 

 
 

Rocky road near Zdar

 

 

 

Pilgrimage Church of St Jan of Nepomuk on Selena Hora (Green Hill) near Zd'ar Nad Sazavou

 
 

2nd June 2005 - Zd'ar to Tisnov - 68 km

In the morning we visited Zd'ar to see the UNESCO heritage monument - Pilgrimage Church on the Green Hill. This is a wonderful 17th century church built designed by a Czech architect called Santini (maybe a bit Italian too). The whole church is surrounded by a 10 sided (decahederal) cloister full of all sorts of imagery and symbols. The church is based around a five sided star, with five doors and, five chapels and a variety of designs of windows to satisfy the needs of the various benefactors.

The church is based on the theme of St Jan (St Jean Bouche d'Or in French) and his famous tongue - he could be trusted with secrets - so much so that he was drowned in reward for his discretion. To celebrate his sacrifice the church is dedicated to him and the ceiling has an enormous tongue painted upon it - the windows above the chapels were also designed to resemble tongues. Apparently Gene Simmons from Kiss will be having a similar memorial made for him when he is drowned.

 

 

The Zd'ar church on the hill was a very popular point for school visits. One particular group teacher ended up having a chat with us regarding our trip and route - he suggested a number of sites to visit on the way to Zlin - including his wine cellar if it was unfortunately not on our way, so Terry declined the invitation!!!

 
 

Zvole Church

 

 

Detail of entrance door to Porta Coeli monastery in Predeklasteri near Tisnov

 

 
 

Good to see that the cultural influence of the English Language is alive and kicking

 

 

One of our planned stops had been to visit the castle at Pernstein - unfortunately the English teacher told us that there had been a fire in the castle so there were no longer any visits. We visited the area anyway as it allowed us a nice afternoon following a beautiful quiet river valley.

The lack of any campsites forced us into a local bar to kill a few hours until dusk began to fall and we could then put the tent up. When wild camping we tend to leave putting the tent up until later to avoid being spotted or causing offence to people. The narrowness of the valley and the large areas of barley and wheat fields made the choice of campsite difficult - in the end we found a patch of rough ground alongside the river amongst some flood debris - never mind, it can't always be the idyllic fairytale camping spot.

 
 

Industrial Activity near Blansko, the start of the beautiful Moravian Karst

 

Cycling along the gorge to Sloup

3rd June 2005 - Tisnov to Plumlov - 77 km

We followed the river Svatkra to the town of Tisnov, another tip from the English teacher and spent some time looking at the Roman style monastery before searching for some Ice Cream or in Czech"Zmrzlina", a difficult word for the English to pronounce as it has the rolling "R" found in french - Terry left the ice cream ordering to Isa!.

 

 
 

From Tisnov we headed Eastwards towards the Moravian Karst. A large area of limestone landscape with gorges, sink holes, caves, disappearing rivers and steep wooded vallies. The route through the valley to Sloup was closed to all traffic except bicycles so it was a perfect spot to cycle through.

The day was sunny and 28 c, so the steep vallies and the cold air from the caves made for a refreshing route. The area had been inhabited by man 12000 years ago and there were all manner of animal remains found within the cave systems including mammoth, lions and a hairy rhinoceros (?)

One strange point regarding the 1:100,000 Czech maps is the indication of "Notable Trees". These are marked with great frequency on the map but are impossible to find in real life - unless the stunted, little apple tree hides a story and life far more "Notable" than it's mere appearance shows.

We camped that evening in Plumlov, a small town on which we were once again the only persons in tents. The remainder of people were staying in the small bungalow/cottages around the periphery of the campsite.

 

Church in Sloup

 

 
 

Architectural variety in Kromeriz

 

 

Big storm coming in Otrokovice

 

 
 

The campsite included of a group of 19-20 year students from the local town who were out to enjoy the weekend. They were very interested to speak to us and practice their English. They were very concerned about there chances of getting jobs in the local economy - their opinion was that there were no jobs in the area, the Czech economy offered them no opportunities. They were all looking for jobs in England, Ireland and Sweden (Apparently France and Germany were too difficult to get into!). Because of the huge competition for jobs in the UK they thought of maybe using agencies to find work for them - an introductory fee of £700 and half of their new salary to the agency - someone is making a lot of money from the new, bigger Europe.

Since joining the EU they had concerns that the prices in the Czech republic would rise beyond the means on the average Czech worker (the average wage is £350 per month). A valid point when you consider that the prices of everyday items seem to be 50% higher near to the German border.

It was quite surprising to meet these young people who were already so disillusioned with their future prospect. They thought that the Czech republic no longer produced anything except beer and football players- and that all the new factories are all foreign owned by the US, Germany and France. It doesn't sound all that different to never ending inward investment in the UK.

On the positive side they gave us their own preferred list of preferred biscuit snacks, Czech and Slovakian dishes and the Top 5 Moravian beers - vital information for any traveller.

 

 
 

The caped crusader

 

 

Fatman & Robine

After 7 weeks of travelling all self respect and dress sense comes second to practicality - but we shouldn't be threatening to anyone - we're armless

 
 

Outside No 21 - With our fantastic host, guide, historian and, in emergencies, eye surgeon, Richard

 

 

4th June 2005 - Plumlov to Zlin - 78 km

We left Plumlov campsite in bright sunshine - no sign of the students, they had seen the dawn in with a bonfire and some funny cigarettes.

We reached Prostejov at midday to buy some lunch from a Potraviny only to discover that Saturday is early closing day in the Czech republic. The city centres are almost like ghost towns on Saturday afternoon. It makes for a very pleasant atmosphere without the hustle and bustle and traffic of the Saturday rush. It definitely makes the weekend more family orientated - perhaps Morrissey was partly correct - every day is like Sunday.

 
 

We followed the main road from Prostejov to Kromeriz passing through small sleepy little villages - everything was closed (our previous Saturday was in Prague - hardly indicative of the rural Czech republic). In Kromeriz we were eventually forced to have our first cycle lunch in a restaurace and sample some of the dishes indicated by our student friends.

The rest of the day saw the sky darkening and the temperature drop until a big summer storm hit us and rained consistently on us all the way to Richard and Dana's in the Middle of Zlin.

Richard and Dana had kindly agreed to to put us up in their house for 2 nights - It would be our first night not sleeping in a tent for 33 nights. We could stretch in bed - never thought we will be missing this feeling! What else can we say? Richard was a fantastic guide, Dana a fantastic cook and host and Eliska fantastic fun. They even gave us a bottle of Slivovice for the road (local plum alcohol)!

 

The old shoe factory units in Zlin

 
 

Living areas in Zlin

 

 

5th/6th June 2005 - Zlin with Richard & Dana

Zlin is known for one thing - it was the birthplace and original manufacturing centre of the BATA shoe empire, created by Thomas Bata in the early part of the 20th Century.

Thomas Bata tried to create an ideal society based around his shoe production manufacturing empire. The centre of the town included all the factory production units and the global headquarters of the BATA shoe company. Shopping, cultural, hotel, hospital and sporting facilities were provided for the work force. The surrounding hillsides were dotted with the workers accommodation. Architects of world renown were employed to provide the living spaces - providing open spaces, greenery and space for people and work within a design that was both functional and cheap to build.

 

 
 

Typical Zlin House

 

 

Thomas Bata also employed young people from the area - girls and boys were kept in separate dormitories and were only paid part of their wages - the rest was put into trust funds (to prevent the return of money to their parents and families). Everyone had to take part in sport and cultural activity and alcohol was not tolerated.

At the age of 18 a young person could get married, have a house and their own car from their savings - a remarkable achievement in 1938.

The BATA empire was badly disrupted by the Nazi occupation and the conversion of the Czech republic to protectorate, and following the war the nationalisation of all the Czech assets by the new ruling Communist party. The son of Thomas Bata (also Thomas Bata) continued the business from Canada (from the new town of Batawa). In Zlin the factories fell into decline and gradually closed down.

 

 
 

Modern Version of the Zlin house

 

 

It is only in recent years that the architectural value of the city has been recognised and the central area refurbished - including the centre of the old BATA empire - No 21. Even the modern buildings still follow through the style, function and idea from the 1930's.

Zlin also has a fascinating museum exhibit to Zikmund and Hanselka. Two young Czech men whom during World War 2 decided to travel around the world by car. Due to Nazi "protection" travel was not possible so they spent their time in preparation.

 
 

They split the tasks required between themselves such that they would be fully prepared, including learning all the languages required for the trip. They decided to take a standard, off-the-shelf Tatra 87 car manufactured in the Czech republic. To ensure they understood the workings they spent time on the assembly line to know the car inside out (in comparison, Isa is still not sure she can mend a puncture without Terry's helping hand).

Their trip took them through Europe, Northern and Eastern Africa to South Africa, up the length of South America, Central America and Mexico before being thwarted by the ever paranoid American Government. The trip came to a premature end because the potentially evil spies from the communist occupied Czech Republic may discover the secret of Kentucky Fried Chicken - therefore a visa could not possibly be issued.

 

 
 

Milking a goat is not as easy as it looks

 

 

7th June 2005 - Zlin to Ticha - 82 km

Before our departure, Richard contacted his friend Pavel, who lived close to the Slovak border near the town of Frenstat. We were keen to meet with Pavel as he has managed to complete a bicycle tour of the Black Sea in 18 months on a budget of $350 back in 1992 (needless to say we are already above this limit...).

So we left Zlin on Monday morning and set up for a long bike ride to Ticha. After the flat run of the Moravian plane down to Zlin, we were facing the first little mountains of our trips. The weather was wet and cold and we arrived at Pavel's late and exhausted.

A warm welcome and a plate of good food from Pavel and Lucia was all we needed. That night, we also tried to milk the goat Cosa. We were not too successful, but we had a good go. A bit of early practice may be helpful in Mongolia...

8th of June - another day of rest in Ticha

8 o'clock in the morning and the heavy sound of rain drops on the roof tells us we should stay a bit longer in bed. Mid day and it is still raining heavily. We decided to call it a day and to stay with Pavel and Lucia, who were definitely making us feel very welcome. We got an introduction to cooking with buckwheat and Czech spices and in the evening Pavel prepared a sauna in the house, which ended up with a deep in the river behind the house. Cold cold cold, but you are definitely left feeling great after such a treat!

 

 
 

9th of June - Ticha to the woods before the Slovak border - 37 km

Before leaving, we went to one of Pavel's friends house. Pavel and his friends are making a roof for a hay barn and we were invited to have a look on the work. So we did and again, we were treated to a nice hearty meal. It was quite hard to leave this joyful bunch of people, but hey, we have a world to go around! We left everybody after lunch and cycled up and up and up towards a pass in the forest over the Slovak border. Shall I mention the rain again? An hour after we left Ticha, it started raining and it did not stop for 24 hours. The temperature was below 10 dC and we saw people in cars actually laughing at us! It is nice to know we made somebody's day that day...

At 19.00, we finally decided to stop after having found a lovely camping spot by the road. Well, it would have been really lovely without the rain. And it would have been perfect without the forest guard who turned up at 20.00 to told us that we could not camp here! Where the heck did he come from? We cycled for two hours along the one road without meeting a car and he turns up when we are just about to eat our wet pasta?

Okay, okay, we made a few amateur mistakes: the first one was to camp by the road and by the forest gate, which we really did not see, apart when the guard closed it at the end of the day. And then, we were in a natural protected area. Fortunately, after a bit of "you must move out, next campsite is at 30 km" the guard smiled and said in English "okay for the night". Yihaaa!!!! So we carried on eating our wet and now cold pasta. Terry said it could be worse. It could be windy. And then the wind picked up...

 

 

Pavel's house in Ticha

 

The excitement was all too much for Isa, 5 degrees C, in the pouring rain, and she's still steaming up

 
 

Highest point of the trip so far - also the wettest by far

 

 

10th June 2005 - somewhere in the woods to Raztoky in Slovakia - 42 km

"Rain drops keep falling on my head!" The first impression of Slovakia was a wet one and a hilly one. We were now in the mountains (highest point of the trip so far with 876 m) and we started to cross typical villages made entirely of wood.

The Slovak border passage was painless: Isa actually went through without showing her passport. The custom officer could not be bothered to wait for her to find her passport under the many layers of waterproof and warm clothing she was wearing.

We reached Raztoky absolutely soaking wet, but we were welcomed there by another friend, Joseph, and his daughter Ivana.

 
 

At the Czech / Slovak border cafe waiting for the rain to stop

 

Still raining, but we reached Slovakia!

 
         
         

 

     

 
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