Sunday, 23 December 2012

Source of the Labe/Elbe.

On November 15 Vaclav asked if we went to the source of the Elbe/Labe, we have only just found his comment.

Here is a photograph showing the spring with Shiel hiding in the background below the signpost.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Wed. 22 Aug. Heidenau to Dresden.

We had two violent thunderstorms during the night and a third one was finishing just before breakfast. 

We left early, in fine weather and had just a short walk to reach the West bank of the Elbe. The surrounding  land was pretty flat, mainly farmland and we passed our biggest flock of sheep to date. They seemed to have no problem understanding my yorkshire baaa. In fact I had the longest "sheep chat" of my many walks.

We passed an old castle, Pillnitz, on the far bank and a bit further on stopped at a small bakery for cakes  and coffee. This was our first lunch stop in over 30 days walking! As we left the bakery the clouds darkened and we soon had to don waterproof clothing. There was a short thunderstorm, which we waited out, and then we walked for a while to dry off.

The route alternated between suburbs and green open areas where 'betreten' was 'verboten'.  As we approached Dresden the land on the far bank rose up to accommodate old chateaux with vineyards. 
It was a very pleasant walk 

 For the statisticians among you, today's walk was 19km.
  Frauenkirche Dresden

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Tues. 21 Aug. Stadt Wehlen to Heidenau.

Today was another hot day with two very spectacular thunderstorms in the evening.

We left our hotel a little late, about 9:10am, after a very good breakfast. The walking was partly open and partly shaded by trees. After a couple of hours we reached the older bridge over the Elbe at Pirna, the first bridge since Bad Schandau. The terrain has changed quite a lot,  the steep cliffs have gone and the hills are much lower.

Having crossed the bridge we headed North bypassing most of the old part of Pirna. Some people we met told us there was a very good church worth visiting. However we wanted to get to our hotel before the storms came. We stopped shortly after for a sock change and ritual "airing of the feet."

Shoon after we crossed under a second, newer road bridge, we stopped at a cafe to take in fluids. I had a dark beer, Shiel an orange juice. We arrived at our hotel in Heidenau slightly before 2:00pm.

For those familiar with our blog Heidenau seems to be the German equivalent of Steti. However unlike Steti we were able to get a good meal in our hotel, after the first thunder storm and before the second.

Heidenau seems much less wealthy than the Spa towns we have seen so far, probably lacking the tourist/health spa income. We looked but failed to find the centre. It was very hot so we didn't try too hard.

Mon. 20 Aug. Rest day Stadt Wehlen.

If yesterday was hot, today was hotter. Up to 36°C. So what did we do on our rest day. You've guessed it! We went for a walk.

We had two nights here so that we could walk up to the Bastei. This is one of the areas to visit in this part of Southern Germany for the rock formations. We started uphill in forest and were soon in what was an ancient river gorge. Towering cliffs either side and many enourmous boulders littering the terrain. When we got to the top it was a bit of a let down to find cars, and a 4* hotel etc. We thought walking was the only to get to the top. 

However the walk was well worth it for the rock formations. The walk up took about 2 hours and we covered about 14 kilometres there and back. At the top we had great views of the Elbe valley to both the north and south. It really was a beautiful walk and well worth doing if you are ever in the area. 

We had our evening meal in a restaurant in the town square. Thunderstorms are forecast for tomorrow!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Sun. 19 Aug. Krippen to Stadt Wehlen.

One word describes today's walk. HOT.

We left our hotel at 9:00am and walked on the west bank of the Elbe until we reached the bridge to cross over into Bad Schandau, our official arrival (on foot). There were attractive views of Bad Schandau from the track on the way but it was already warming up. 

There then followed a long walk on the east bank up a pleasantly wooded hill. Some people were pushing their bicycles. We didn't mind the hill as shade came with it.

We came off the hill on to the river flat opposite Konigstein where we were lucky to find a ferry just leaving. The ferry was full for cyclists but they still had room for four foot passengers on the deck in front of the wheel house.

We took refreshment in Konigstein. We then had a very hot walk, beside the railway line, until we reached a spot opposite Kurort Rathen where we took the ferry back to east bank of the Elbe.

The final few kilometers into Stadt Wehlen were partly shaded and part full sun. The shade really helped. We arrived just around 3:00pm which was also the time we could access our hotel room and a shower. 

The temperature when we looked in the evening was still over 30. (Predicted to be higher tomorrow). We only walked 19km but it felt a lot further.

We had a good meal with a bottle of wine in the evening on a terrace over-looking the Elbe. The air was warm and the view delightful. There was plenty to see with the ferry going to and fro and the odd pleasure boat going past.

There was only one waitress for lots of tables and service was slow. Lots of Germans were complaining but we were quite content. In the Czech Republic they tend to rush you if they are busy so it was a pleasant change.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Sat. 18 Aug. Rest day Krippen/Bad Schandau.

Krippen has a few hotels and that's all. Most of the life is in Bad Schandau, the other side of the Elbe.

Last night we had to change a 100 crown note to get 4 euros from our hotel owner so we could get the ferry up to Bad Schandau. The ferry takes about 10 minutes and cost 1.7 Euro for a return trip. It's a very pleasant journey. We had to go to Bad Schandau (BS) to get Euros as there are no atm machines in Krippen. We had a good meal in an Italian restaurant while we were there. BS is a small Spa town with a narrow main street which can be so busy with traffic it is at times impossible to cross. 

Germany  has the same problem as the Czech Republic (CR) of too many smokers. It is impossible to get a meal in a restaurant without the flavours being masked by someone else's foul cigarette smoke. I didn't used to believe how dangerous second hand smoke could be but I do now. I've got a second hand smoker's cough!

Today I went to get a new Sim card for my phone as my Czech Sim card no longer works. However unlike the CR you can't just go buy one, you've got to present either an identity card or a passport! Perhaps that's why Czech phones don't work in Germany, the state isn't able to track you down. :)

That reminds me of another difference between the CR and the UK. Very few video cameras are visible in the streets in the CR. I find it somewhat ironic that security services in the west now appear far more active than those in a former Warsaw Pact country.

As I can speak a little bit of very bad German I asked a waitress how much one is expected to tip in Germany as being a foreigner I didn't know. She said 20 to 30%!!!! Not believing this I went to ask the same question in the tourist beaureau. The woman there said about 10%, if you do tip. When I then explained why I asked she almost exploded with incredulity and rushed off to repeat the story to her colleague. 

 In fairness to the waitress who suggested 20-30%, when I expressed my great surprise, she did say that tipping was not compulsory.

For those planning holidays, Germany seems at least 50% more expensive than the Czech Republic.

Fri. 17 Aug. Decin to Krippen.

We went down to breakfast at 8:00am. We were the first there. We started with muesli and were just going on to toast and honey when an elderly guy came up with a menu written in Czech. He was very concerned we didn't want anything more to eat, explaining to us in German what else was available, cheese eggs etc. He did eventually accept we only wanted muesli, toast and rolls and butter with a couple of cups of coffee.

We left the hotel around 9:00. One of the advantages of walking up to the hotel yesterday was that our start today was downhill. We headed NE across the city centre to pick up the cycle route 2 on the west side of the Labe, soon to become the Elbe.

Going through Decin in the morning seemed much brighter and more positive than it had the previous day. Perhaps it was because we were leaving! 

Initially the Labe flowed much like a canal, as it has for most of the trip, but after about an hour it began to flow more like a normal river. It was easy to see the river flowing past stationary bouys for example. This is a comparatively rare sight. With even just a slight wind rippling the surface it has often looked like the river was flowing back to Mlyn!

As we left Decin and headed north the sides of the river valley became much deeper with great sandstone cliffs, especially on the Eastern bank, much narrower than the Hutt valley.

There was a clear cycle track the whole day sometimes shared with a few cars.

We stopped at a cafe for a last drink in the Czech Republic. I had a black beer, less creamy and not as viscous as Guinness. I think I prefer it to the normal beer. Shiel had her usual, orange juice.

There were just a couple of metal posts to indicate we were leaving the Czech Republic but nothing to really indicate we were entering Germany. You reach Germany on the west bank of the Elbe first, on the east bank the border is about a kilometer further on. On that side we could see a large concrete building located above the road, probably the remains of the old Czech border post when it was in the Eastern Block.

As we got nearer Krippen the valley walls lowered and the view opened up. It was easy to see, just by looking at the buildings that one was in a different area to the Czec Republic. Although there were very many beautiful buildings in the C R they were always interspersed with a number of shabby or decaying buildings. On entering Krippen/Bad Schandau along the Elbe all of the buildings seemed very smart.

We are staying in a hotel with a special area for cyclists following the Elbe cycle route.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Thur. 16 Aug. Nebocady to Decin.

We left Nebocady at 9:20 having been delayed by cleaning our boots. The walk was mainly suburban, passing from one little area to the next. The good news for us was that there was a continuous pavement almost all the way to the road bridge leading into Decin, on the west side of the Labe/Elbe. Near to Decin we left the road to walk on a cycle track near the river. We knew our hotel U Kaple was on a hill opposite a church and we could pick it out even before we crossed the river. 

Decin is basically two towns separated by a river. Sadly the west side, the one we were on, is not particularly interesting to the tourist. We went walking later and found the East bank much older and much more tourist friendly. Having said that there is a nice church dedicated to St. Francis on the west bank.

However our hotel, on the west side, made up for the somewhat depressing town. It is sited on a hill, in a little wood, opposite a church. It is only rated two star but our hotel room was one of the best we've stayed in and most have been 3 star. The shower in particular was excellent. It was firmly fixed to the wall, most are not, and when the rose position was adjusted it stayed put. Most don't. Even better the shower drain ran freely so one didn't have to stand in dirty water. Here again most don't.

We've both just had a very good meal in the hotel restaurant, probably in the top 10% of all evening meals we've had. After a dissapointing day looking around the town it has made a nice end to our holiday in the Czech Republic. 

Contrary to what it said in the old version of Lonely Planet Guide (we read before leaving New Zealand) we have not been ripped off by waiters or waitresses. The bills have been for exactly what we've drunk or eaten. Only once in over a month has one hotel added a cover charge and it was there for us to see, if we had looked carefully. 

By and large serving staff have been very accommodating of our lack of knowledge of their language and have treated us very kindly. We've been very impressed by our first visit to the Czech Republic! If the gods permit we would very much like to visit again. :)

Dobry den.

Tomorrow we cross the border into Germany.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Tues. 14 Aug. Rest day in Usti nad Labem.

We arrived in Usti yesterday by walking across the rail bridge over the Labe. There was a very large barge passing beneath us at the same time and its appearance was accompanied by a very strange smell. At first we thought it was produced by the barge but it turned out it was produced by some chemical or animal processing works, as we could even smell it in the town square before we went to our hotel. We didn't detect the smell again so either we grew accustomed to it and didn't notice it or it went away.

Our hotel was one of the few I've chosen because of its location and not the price (low). [Did I mention I'm a Yorkshireman?]. It was in the centre of town and nearer to the next town we are staying in than were the other hotels. It was also more expensive. It turned out to be our worst hotel so far. The only good thing about it was the breakfast.

It is currently under renovation. We had scaffolding (and builders) outside our room. Most of the fittings were old and tired and the carpet had been ripped up in places, I think to accommodate new radiators. The lift went up 10 floors and had no doors. Stand well back!

However it is only the second hotel, out of about 22 we've stayed in in the Czech Republic that I would not choose to visit again.

We had a very leisurely rest day. We went to see the church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and took a few photographs. Bombs fell nearby during WW2 and the vibration caused the building to shift on its foundations. The top of the spire is shifted 2m sideways. 

We took a cable car from the city centre to a Chateau on a hill nearby. It was only built in the late 1800's. There is now a cafe in the building. We sat on the terrace, looked at the views, and had a drink.

In the evening we had a very good meal at a Mexican restaurant.

There was a Marks & Spencer in Usti so we just popped in to compare it with the UK version. It seemed much more 'up market.'

Monday, 13 August 2012

Mon. 13 Aug. Brna nad Labem to Usti nad Labem.

Last night we stayed at the Hotel Srdicko in Brna nad Labem. It was our most expensive stay so far but the room was slightly better arranged than any we have had before. The hotel has a restaurant attached which has an excellent chef who regards each meal as a work of art. (He speaks good German and English.) We shared pancakes for dessert and they tasted and looked fantastic. The breakfast on the other hand was no better than we have eaten at many cheaper establishments. The downside of the location, more so for the accommodation than the restaurant, is that it lies just beside the main rail line to Germany. 

An important note for any who may approach the hotel on foot or cycle..... There is a safer way in and out of the hotel. Don't divert up the main road as we did! Continue along the cycle track until you see signs to the hotel. There is a quiet route which heads uphill under the railway track and comes out at the restaurant.

We left the hotel late, 9:45, and had a pleasant and leisurely stroll into Usti passing the ruined Schloss of Strekov on the way. It was only a 6.5km walk so we arrived about 12.00 and have to hang about until our hotel opens. 

The information bureau in Usti has a very good display of the LabeElbe cycle route, with the route we have walked in the Czech Republic described in great detail.

Usti is the 1/8th largest city in the Czech Republic and is more industrialized than most towns we have visited and also more Westernized. We find it interesting that there seem to be more obese people here than in the smaller towns we've visited. We've also seen our first McDonalds and first KFC since Prague.

We are writing this whilst waiting for our hotel to open. We are sitting in the square opposite a Marks and Sparks :)

Sun. 12 Aug. Litomerice to Brna nad Labem.

We left Litomerice on a quiet Sunday morning with little traffic. We stayed on the N/E bank of the river all day to Brna nad Labem. For the first time we had significant hills climbing up on both sides of the river. It was warm but not as hot as it has been. We lost the cycle route a few times and followed the road but it was not too busy. In fact the worst part of the road walk was the last 500m uphill to the hotel. The road was narrow at times with steep banks so one had no escape route if a vehicle lost control. At times I felt a bit like a skittle in a bowling alley.

We had a nice stop in a pub, in I  think Libochovany, where I had a chat with a young Czech guy who had visited New Zealand. When l said we came from Upper Hutt his first comment was:- "Lord of the Rings."

At one stage during the day we walked on a very dusty part of the trail where they were putting down a new wide asphalt cycling track. Seemed a bit like overkill to me.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Sat. 11 Aug. Litomerice.

Today we had a quiet day looking around Litomerice. Plenty of beautiful old buildings, St. Stephens cathedral for example. We then returned to the hotel where I caught up on route planning and hotel bookings, using wifi and Shiel watched the Olympics on the television.

I forgot to mention yesterday that in defiance of the Geneva Convention a number of prisoners of war, persistant escapees, were also imprisoned in Terezin.  A significant percentage of them came from New Zealand.

Fri. 10 Aug. Rest day in Litomerice.

Today we had a rest day from the Labe walk. We took a side trip beside the river Ohre, a major tributary of the Labe, to visit Terezin. This town is better known by its German name Theresienstadt. 

It was here where many Jews from across Europe were imprisoned during WW II before being shipped to extermination camps where they were murdered. I found it an extremely moving and depressing location. That one group of "civilized" people could inflict such suffering on another group is almost incredible in the modern Europe. However we have yet to visit Dresden.

Even today, to me at least, Terezin is a movingly sad town. It seems like a town that has lost the will to live.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Photo set two

Photo set one

Thur. 9 Aug. Roudnice nad Lad Labem to Litomerice.

We were a bit slow leaving Roudnice nad Labem so it was almost 9:00am by the time we left the N end of the bridge over the Labe to follow cycle route 2. We thought with such a low number, 2, all navigation problems would be at an end. We were wrong!

All was well for the first few km. a one lane road through farmland to Cerneves. However in Cerneves we saw cycle route 2 signs indicating a right turn whereas our Viewranger maps with GPS suggested we carry straight on, which we did, as it was a much quieter road. We were following the exact cycle route 2  on our map but there were no more track markers and the road gradually became quieter. Then the seal finished. Then the ruts in the dirt track became fainter and overgrown with weeds. The nettles grew to chest height and the track disappeared at the edge of a ploughed field. We were in a small wood near the river bank for a while. We had gone so far on the track we didn't want to turn back. We did eventually pick up the remains of the track again and finished up,  back with cycle route 2 in Lounky. Route 2 has obviously been re-routed. 

We found a little shop with a woman who appeared not to really want to sell anything.  We wanted orange juice but all she had was orange concentrate and bottled water.I did eventually get something called Grep in a beer bottle which was very refreshing. Shiel shared the bottle as we thought we couldn't finish two bottles.

One of the advantages of our deviation was that we flushed out two small deer from the undergrowth.

Our last stop of the day was at Kresice where we had a beer and an orange in a pub and then crossed the road to some park seats where we aired and then powdered our feet. We've already finished our first tub of Neat Feet.

There then followed a short bit of  hairy road walking before the route returned to the N bank of the Labe. On approaching Litomerice we were next to the railway line, a less than electrifying experience so as soon as feasible we crossed the line and took a short cut up to our hotel. At first it was a bit worrying as what started as a sealed road was soon blocked by bollards to become a double grass track. Then it became a single path running above allotments. We anxiously awaited the appearance of nettles but it was not to be. Everything turned out OK this time and the short cut turned out to be an excellent path to our hotel. Appropriately our hotel is named The Labe. We are on the 10th floor with good views but no wi-fi. (Pronounced here wee-fee.)

We are having two more days in Litomerice so we can visit Terezin and Shiel can see a bit more of the Olympics on TV. Today we saw a horse with four white feet take it's rider to Olympic gold.

Wed. 8 Aug. Steti to Roudnice nad Labem.

The hotel we were staying in didn't do breakfasts so we had to go looking around the town. We found a breakfast place but it didn't serve the kind of things we wanted. Most things were cooked like soup, frankfurters and chips and whilst we could eat those later in the day,  walking on them was not an option.

We had a coffee and a bread roll in the cafe and then went across the road to Tescos where we bought grapes, a couple of nectarines a carton of orange juice and two filled croissants.

We left the hotel about 9:30. We were not in a hurry as we were only supposed to have 14 km to go. In the end we walked about 16.5km, arriving in Roudnice nad Labem just after 2:00pm.

In the early stages we went wrong twice trying to keep to paths too close to the river. This was a mistake, they finished at dead ends. They were just access points to fishing pozzies.

Later on we went wrong but only because the cycle route we were following (8410) has obviously been changed, if not abandoned. We found bits of it but they were very overgrown and near Roudnice  nad Labem a sports stadium had been built across the cycle track route!

We have a very nice hotel in Roudice nad Labem,  on top of the town square. At first when we went out at 5:30pm to look for a restaurant we couldn't find one so returned to our hotel. It turns out our hotel, the Amber Hotel Vavrinec, has a very active restaurant located down the end of an alleyway behind the hotel. It was very busy but we got excellent service from a friendly waiter who spoke a little English.

NZ$28 in total for a bottle of a bottle of local Muller Thurgau (very pleasant) , one tuna and olive spaghetti, and a parma ham salad followed by one very good espresso. I also forgot we also had a bottle of water. 

A very pleasant end to what at times was a strenuous day. At one time we were both wearing leggings when we were determined to battle through nettles on a very, very overgrown path. 

Today we saw a small deer on the path as well as a pair of industrial gloves. Usually one only finds single gloves! I've lost count of the total number of gloves seen so far but all have been photographed. Shiel is better at spotting them than I am so on joint walks occurrence rates may be higher than when I walk alone (JoGLE).

Monday, 6 August 2012

Sunday 5 August. Tisice to Melnik.

We took a quiet, but interesting rural road out of Chrast (Tisice), it headed south west towards the Labe. There were quite a few new houses under construction. They looked like they were made of a red tile material but the size of a NZ concrete block. However unlike NZ they don't seem to use much mortar. Lots of air gaps. 

We joined the Labe by going down by the side of a railway line which continued on over the Labe on a bridge. We kept to the North bank of the Labe and headed down and under the bridge heading West. We then spent quite a while passing an enormous chemical factory located on the South bank. It had an extremely tall chimney, which looked in good condition but some parts of the factory looked derelict. Other smaller sections seemed to be under repair or construction. The sections we passed first were mostly derelict with the later sections looking newer. The factory is in the town of Neratovice. I did wonder what they made and what, if anything, finished up in the river. People were happily fishing downstream of the factory.

We headed inland, through a few small villages, and in one of them we stopped at a small pub. Every table outside had an overflowing ashtray.

I don't think I've mentioned it before but cigarette smoking is very, very popular here and is accepted almost everywhere. We have yet to have an evening meal which hasn't to some extent been spoiled by second hand cigarette smoke. There doesn't seem to be any segregation of smokers and nonsmokers, even in restaurants. I may have mentioned before that you also see many dogs in restaurants. We now only really notice them when they start barking.

The last part of the walk into Melnik was very quiet, which surprised us as it is one of the most significant regions in the life of the Labe. It is here that the Labe is joined by the Vltava coming in from Prague. The Czech Republic's two largest rivers are now one! A few hundred metres downstream the Labe is also joined by a canal.

It was quite a surprise to find that although Melnik is on the North bank of the Labe one has to climb quickly up from the river, through a vineyard, to reach it. You do however get great views over the surrounding countryside as a result. Tomorrow is a day off in Melnik so Shiel can catch up on the Olympics on TV.

I meanwhile will use the time to treat my insect bites. Over 70 when Shiel last counted. I got most of them two nights ago. We had the Velux window in the roof open because of the heat. They itch! Shiel has only got 4 small bites for the whole trip so far.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Saturday 4 August. Stara Boleslav to Tisice

We left Stara Boreslav initially on quiet town roads. We stopped by the cathedral on the way out hoping the doors would be closed, as we wanted to take a photograph of the beautifully carved wooden doors. Alas it was not to be.

Our road merged with a main road and then it was pretty busy for about 2km, unpleasantly so in fact. We passed the local airport where small craft, the size of powered hang gliders were taking off and landing. We eventually found the side road, supposedly the cycle route 24 which took us down to the river. We were to follow it all day until we turned north to our pension near Tisice. In fact we never saw a single sign for the route 24 and most people were walking or cycling or roller blading on the other (south side) of the river. We think it likely the cycle path 24 has been re-routed.

The big news today is that we saw our first fish caught. We have passed hundreds of fishermen camped beside the river but have never seen any fish caught. The fish was caught by a young girl near the river. Her father was sitting the other side of the cycle track, near their tent, shouting instructions. He did however get up to help her land it. It was about the size of a plaice, but it wasn't a flat fish. It wasn't very lively and didn't seem to put up any fight. I don't think I'd fancy anything caught in the Labe south of Spinleruv Mlyn! (N.B. Shiel thought it was a son, not a daughter, with long hair".)

It got pretty hot as the day wore on and we were again looking for shade trees. We turned off to Chrast, about 1pm and reached the pension, Monika, about 1:30pm. A bit too early to book in. We walked past to a petrol station to get a couple of what looked like orange drinks and the main taste was orange but they had a peculiar, what can best be described as sewage works odour. It's four hours since we had them and we are both OK.

When we first walked past the pension everything was locked up but on returning from the petrol station we saw they were getting a delivery and so we could get in through one door. It turned out to be the young delivery man leaving who indicated we should be trying the other locked door. Luckily for us an older man came out of the "wrong door" and saw us trying to raise the pension by phone. It turned out he spoke a little german so communication could be established. It turns out the pension is run by his son-in-law next door. He took us through the "wrong door" and around the back through the garden to join up with the pension where he found his son-in-law who I had talked to on the phone, and who also speaks some German. We are now in our room which is of much the same standard as all the ones we have had so far. We have had 3 power cuts within the space of two hours though. Did I mention we've seen more lightning displays in the last 3 weeks than in our 35 years in NZ!

Friday 3 August. Lysa nad Labem to Stara Boleslav.

We left Lysa nad Labem in light rain which shortly became a downpour. As it was warm and humid R had chosen not to start in waterproof leggings but this decision was quickly reversed. We left L nad L on a quiet road heading west which after a while met up with cycle route 24. It took about 1.5 hours to reach the Labe by which time it was fine enough to remove our waterproof clothing.

We decided to cross to the south side of the river at Celakovice and remained on that side to Brandy's nad Labem. The route was almost always along the river bank. The track ended at B nad L with a steep climb to a schloss which was in the process of renovation. We walked on into town and stopped for a drink at a small cafe. Just as we were leaving it started to pour with rain again and waterproofs were needed for the short walk back north across the river to our pension in Stara Boleslav. 

The town square in B nad L was undergoing a major renovation so we were quite pleased to be staying in Stara Boleslav which has two fine churches and a cathedral. A man entering the cathedral, which was closed, allowed us to enter it for five minutes to look around. He didn't speak English and we didn't speak Czech. It's surprising what you can manage with sign language. It was a very impressive church, especially to a couple of proddies. We read later it is one of the oldest Baroque churches in the Czech Republic. 

We had a meal in the town courtesy of Google Translate. Only a Czech menu was available. It was not one of our better Czech meals, more like the food you get in a big chain restaurant.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Wednesday 1 August. Nymburk to Lysa nad Labem.

We left Nymburk about 9am and we just had a short walk through the town to the river. It was river bank walking all the way today until we reached the turn off to the town of Lysa nad Labem. 

For the first time we saw large river cruise ship, the largest vessel we've seen to date. It was just heading west from Nymburk and approaching a railway bridge. The ship was so large they had to lower some of the sun shades on the top deck so they could pass under the bridge.

Although it was cool to start with it soon heated up and was around 30°C by the time we finished walking. There was not as much shade as yesterday and we finished up walking quickly from shade spot to shade spot, where we stopped or at least slowed, to cool down.

Near the end of the walk we found some shade by taking a yellow blazed trail. It ran through a small woodland and was also a more direct route than the cycle path

Lots of fish plopping out of the water today and we passed some of the largest fields of sun flowers we've seen.

Initially the turn off to Lysa nad Labem involved walking on our busiest road so far, but only for about 1/2km. It was nearly longer as I was navigating from memory and forgot the turning. 

As we were arriving a bit early, i.e. before 14:00 we stopped at a Pizzeria for a drink. At first we thought Lysa nad Labem was the Czech equivalent of Heckmondwike, but on closer inspection, today, the day after the walk when we are writing this, we found a very nice chateau with extensive gardens which is now a home for the chronologically challenged. 

Total walk about 20.5 km which is a typical walking day.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Tuesday 31 July. Podebrady to Nymburk.

Today was a short but very pleasant walk on well surfaced cycle track almost all the way from Podebrady to Nymburk. It was nice and cool as we left Podebrady but it very soon warmed up. However as we used the path on the N side of the river we were able to make use of shade from trees on the river bank. With a walk of only 10km we arrived in Nymburk well before our pension nomally takes in guests (14:00) and so we stopped for a liquid lunch followed by a little sightseeing.

We took our evening meal in the town square at a pizzeria. We now know what calzone means - "a Cornish Pizza?" It came as a bit of a surprise as I was expecting a flat pizza but I will definitely order one again. It was very good. 

Shiel ordered a salad from the Czech menu, we thought salad was a safe bet. The bacon bit went down a treat but the liver put a bit of a damper on things! Note to self - must learn Czech for liver, kidneys and, for a worst case scenario, tripe. 

The red wine I ordered was also a mistake, worse even than Shiel and some of her friends are prepared to drink!!! It was supposed to be a merlot. Well it wasn't like a New Zealand merlot or even an Aussie one. :)  

However as we only paid NZ$33, including tip, for 3 x250ml glasses of wine, an espresso, and two main meals you can't expect perfection.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Monday 30 July. Kolin to Podebrady

Today we had an easy walk with very little walking on main roads. Mostly we followed the cycle route 24 but where it deviated from the 'red' trail we followed the 'red' trail instead. We still walked over 20km but as the temperature stayed below 25°C and there was plenty of shade from trees it was not as tiring as it could have been. 
Because of a pretty active thunderstorm last night the path was quite muddy so it was very much like a country walk in the UK. We only passed through one village where we bought orange drinks and drank them whilst we did a sock change and waited for our feet to dry out.

Shortly before reaching Podebrady we had a long chat, whilst walking, with a 74 year old Czech who spoke pretty good English. He had had a pace maker fitted and was walking for exercise.

Podebrady is a nice little spa town with a different structure to most towns we've visited so far. It has a rectangular town square, with the required statue of saints, but this does not seem to be the centre of activity. Podebrady has a very beautiful park with two long avenues running the whole length and this seems to be the area of greatest social interaction. It also has some very cunning automated fountains. We are in a small Pension off one of the main avenues. Tomorrow we are having a short day and we are only walking as far as Numburk.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Saturday 28 July. Tynec nad Labem to Kolin.

We left Tynec nad Labem at 10am after a late breakfast. We initially had a bit of road walking, uphill, to join the cycle route 24 but this shortly left the main road to cross the country fields to the banks of the Labe. It was very, very hot and we sought the shade of trees where we could. Both Shiel and I ran out of water before we reached Kolin.

We crossed the Labe at Kolin and popped into a pizza parlour to get 2 bottles of orange. We then rang our pension, as requested, to tell them we were on our way.

Tomorrow (Sunday 29th) we are having a rest day.

Friday 27 July. Prelouc to Tynec nsd Labem.

We initially thought that on leaving Prelouc, heading north, we would be on a busy arterial road. It was shown as a red line on the map. However it turns out this is the colour used for some cross country trails on Czech maps. As a result we had a nice quiet walk north out of Prelouc passing over the Labe in the process. We eventually hit a minor road heading west, which is also cycle route 24. It was pretty quiet but had long straight stretches. It became very hot and we searched out all the tree shade we could. The main crops grown in the area seem to be sunflowers and sweet corn.

We stopped for a liquid lunch at Kladruby nad Laben, at the only place we had seen open so far. It turns out this is the location of a massive stud. We had a sneak peek in one of the stables, full of occupied loose boxes. All the horses were grey. As we walked on we passed several large fields with about 20 horses in each.  Earlier we saw a large group of mares and their foals being moved to a different pasture. We walked for about 3 kilometers with the paddocks on either side of us and came upon another set of stables in which there were a few enormous black horses. This estate was first established in the 1400's and served as the royal stables of the Haspburg dynasty. After a few kilometers we turned off on to a track which went through farmland before joining the banks of the river. It was very hot! When we reached Tynec nad Labem we had to climb up to the village first before walking back down again to get to the river. 

We found the marina where we were staying alright, but I think we missed the proper reception place. The people we chatted to had as much English and German as we have Czech but we eventually sorted things out using Google Translator and a lot of hand waving. I don't think we were expected but a few guys rallied around and after about half an hour we were taken to a mobile home which we had booked for the night. It had only just been opened up so took quite a while to cool down. It was very well set up and had room for 4 people. The hot water worked really well with an on demand gas heater and the shower, which effectively had a plastic armchair built into it, was great for oldies. The units are set up for self-catering but we were not, so we ate at the adjacent restaurant where we also got breakfast. We really had an enjoyable stay there as the people were so friendly. If you are walking or biking the Labe/Elbe path this is a good place to stay. Plenty to see with boats being launched etc.