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.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Thursday 26 July. Pardubice to Prelouc.

We left the hotel on a quiet route via the old city and soon reached a path beside the Labe. We started on the eastern bank and shortly crossed to the west bank. We saw the fire brigade having an exercise deploying a barrage across the Labe presumably to contain something like an oil spill. After a few kilometers we crossed back to the eastern bank via a one lane bridge with traffic lights. It was here the 24 joined the road  and for a time it was quite busy. This was followed by a section of good cycle path, better than the road alongside but this soon ran out.

It became very hot and sunny and although the road became quieter it was really too hot for road walking.

We walked through many small villages and between fields of maize and corn. In passing through the villages we were always greeted by a cacophany of canine barks. Often many households had two or three dogs, all barking.

We stopped for a liquid lunch and shortly afterwards the road became more of a track. We eventually left the cycle route 24 to take a green blazed walking trail into Prelouc. The walking trail ran through a wood and it was great to be out of the sun. The downside was I was attacked by a cloud of bighting flies. The track came out on the main Pardoubice - Prelouc road about 2 km from our hotel (Fontana).

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Wednesday 25 July. Hradec Kralove to Pardubice.

We left H K at 8:30am and headed south out of town on a track beside the river which we reached just where the Labe was joined by the Solice. It was an overcast day and very warm. We had a few small showers throughout the day and a very heavy one minutes after we reached our hotel in Pardubice.

The track soon joined a very busy road which we walked on for most of the day. At times it was quite hairy with lots of heavy industrial  vehicles and farm machinery. The combine harvesters were also busy working in the fields. 

Things were somewhat improved as we went from the county ruled by HK to the county area run by Pardubice. The small villages started to have better and longer sidewalks.

It was only in the last 5 km, after we had passed Kuneticka Hora, a delightful castle on a hill, that our route was on a rural track again. The last two km, beside the Labe, were more tree lined and quite deserted. We didn't pass a single person.

We passed a large solar panel set up just where the cycle route 24 joined the road south of the last major suburb of HK. It was just sited on farmland and had an area of about 20,000 sq.m 

We went through several small villages, during the day, having refreshment in one. We also had a couple of rests at bus stops as they had seats and were undercover.

In retrospect the walk was too long at 26km and over 7 hours with stops but there was no suitable accommodation to be found between the two endpoits.

Tuesday 24 July. Rest day in Hradec Kralove

As the last two days were pretty long, and we've been on the road for a week we took the day off to rest and catch up with washing. We couldn't find a laundrette so we were busy in the bathroom fo a while.

As usual I packed too many "just in case" clothes making my pack heavier than I liked so today we also visited the post office to ship back 2kg of clothes to my sister in the UK. This means tomorrow Shiel can pass 1kg of her bag contents on to me.

It's been heating up as we've come south, ~29C today, so it was nice to be able to 'blob out.'  

Thinking it would be easier to blog on a full size computer we visited the local tourist infomation centre to use their internet, 50 crowns/hour. Beware if you try this as it is not as simple as it first appears, quite a few of the letters are in different places on the Czech keyboard to their location on the NZ/US keyboard.

As a general comment we have found the standard of living seems to be quite high, at least for some people, but the cost of living (holidaying at least) seems much cheaper than NZ or the UK. We've passed lots of large detached houses with large gardens and many with swimming pools. In contrast we've also passed some very delapidated houses very near the well maintained ones. Sometimes next door.

Another feature of the Czech landscape that has surprised us is the number of dog owners (and dogs!) Shiel has been using walking poles and the noise they make on hitting the road seems particularly irritating to our canine friends. There are dogs in almost every garden, dogs in hotels (barking to each other), dogs in restaurants and dogs on carriers on bicycles. I haven't seen, let alone trodden in any canine faeces though. 

I never thought I'd say it but I think the English come second to the Czechs as dog lovers.
 Holy Spirit Cathedral and White Tower

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Monday 23 July. Jaromer to Hradec Kralove.

We forgot to mention on yesterdays post that the way was a mixture of very quiet roads, so quiet an adult couple were getting exercise by roller blading down the road, and muddy farm roads. About half way between Jaromer and Hardec Kralove we came across the Kuks Hospital, the remains of an old spa built on the site of natural springs. In the gardens of the hospital there were many Baroque sculptures by Matthias Braun.

We left Jaramer by the main road and after about a kilometer we turned left to pick up the cycle route 24. The cycle route also ran parallel to a route marked by a red line on the map. This was the route we were to follow for much of the day. The route initially ran through small villages like Semonice with corn fields on both sides of the road. A bit like walking on the Wolds Way. At Cernozice we went wrong and continued south on the route 24 whereas we thought that we should have turned left over the bridge to follow the red route down the east side of the Labe, shown clearly on the map. That route does not exist anymore. We found a group of people surveying north of the bridge and from one of them we discovered that a new path had been put in down the west side of the Labe. As there had been quite a bit of rain overnight the path was muddy. At Smirice we crossed from the west bank to the east and took the 4252 to Skalicka and then the 24 to Lochenice where we rejoined the Labe. It is now possible that the red route runs all along the side of the east bank of the river from Smirice to Lochenice. We saw red markers at the begining and end of that section.We crossed the river at Predmerice nad Labem to look for a pub but all we could find was a dairy with a not very happy owner. We managed to buy a can of beer and a bottle of orange juice. Suitably refreshed we continued  along the east bank of the Labe all the way to Hardec Kralove. The route along the side of the river got more and more attractive and as we approached the town we saw a couple of paddle steamers moving up river.

We made our way to the town to look for our hotel and found that our penzion was again located in the town square.  Our hotel room has a fine view of the square. The lift in the hotel  is frightening, it has no door. It just moves up past the walls and makes terrible squeaks and groans in the process. There are 3 very beautiful churches located around the square.

Tomorrow is a day of rest.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sunday 22 July. Dvur Kralove to Jaromer.

I am writing this in the bathroom of our hotel room (Penzion Expanze, Jaromer) on the second floor of the hotel. WiFi reception is not good enough in the bedroom. The bathroom is enormous and is fully tiled and spotless. The hotel was a bit like the Marie Celeste when we arrived but after applying Google translate to a message on the door, written in Czech, we were able to make contact with the young guy who handles reception. He turned up in about 5 minutes on his bicycle and fortunately had a good command of English. Even better he was able to recommend a good restaurant nearby, Ukoule, only 5 minutes from the hotel. We had a good meal there with friendly service. The menu was printed in Czech and English.and they even had pictures of the meals.

Before coming to the Czech Republic we read the Lonely Planet guide (circa 2005) and were expecting to be ripped off in restaurants. Whilst it might be tempting providence to say it, we have had nothing but fair and friendly service. Possibly a bit of 'up selling' but with meals for 2, with typically 4 drinks, costing $NZ30 one would have to be very picky to complain.

Well what about the rest of the day!  
We left the hotel about 9am but we did a quick circuit of the town square and nearby church  so I could take photographs. (My camera batteries were flat by the time we arrived in Dvur Kravole.) We then headed south out of town and I decided to take a short cut. There looked to be a path on the map going in the direction we were headed which was more direct than the cycle route. We never found the track and finished walking on an unmarked track on the edge of the Labe. A Czech gentleman had tried to warn us I think, but gave up in frustration/disgust on finding we only spoke English or German. The track petered out to a dead end!

After an inauspicious start we had a pretty good, if tiring, day. We walked on very quiet roads at times surrounded on both sides by sweet corn plants above head height.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Saturday 21 July. Hostinne to Dvur Kralove

We were on the road by 9:00 am and initially set off in the wrong direction. We eventually picked up the correct route after a few minutes. It crosses to the right bank of the Labe, over a railway line at the Hostinne rail stop. It follows a well maintained track behind the town but crosses the Labe and then the main road as it leaves Hostinne's southern boundary. There follows a short stretch of cycle path but then the rest of the way, for us at least, was all along the roadside. Initially things were quite busy but they quietened down considerably after we crossed back to the right bank of the Labe.

We were stopped twice along the way by Czechs asking directions. On both occaisons we were able to help without being able to speak each others language.

It was a pleasant country walk through farmland and forest and much to our surprise we had a reasonable amount of height to gain. We stopped fo a liquid lunch at Nemojov and Suitably refreshed reached the northern boundary of Dvur Kralove about 14:00.  In the space of a few minutes the skies darkened and it started to pour with rain. We even had some hail. As a result we were pretty bedraggled by the time we reached The Hotel Central in Dvur Kravole. The town square in Dvur Kravole is very similar to the square in Hostinne. Even the location of the hotels was similar, just a mirror image. However whereas in Hostinne we had a view
of the town square from our room in Dvur Kravole we just looked down on a side street.

 We saw a snail moving house shortly after Hostinne railway station, a European relative of the snail I saw on the Land's End to John o'Groats walk. I also today noticed our first two industrial gloves on the road, one in Hostinne and one in Dvur Kralove. Actually one of the depressing features of today's walk was the amount of rubbish in the gutters beside the road, predominantly plastic bottles.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Thursday 19 July. Spindleruv Mlyn to Vrchlabi.

We left the Lasana hotel at Mlyn at about 9:00am in shirtsleeves with the forecast predicting rain about midday. It was our first day of road walking in the Czech Republic and we were a bit apprehensive. The road from the hotel joins The Labe near a small but scenic lake/reservoir.  We initially walked on the L.H.S. of the road to face oncoming traffic but for most of the walk The Labe was on our right and so we switched to walking to the R.H.S.of the road to get a better view of the river.The switch was well worth while and made the walk    much more enjoyable. On this part of the walk there was a pretty wide cycle lane on each side of the road. The walk was through a deep wooded valley with The Labe at the centre. The main road was pretty busy but we eventually moved onto a quieter side road before our entry to Vrchlabi. We were staying at the TTC hotel which was located on the banks of The Labe about 1.5km north of the town centre.  We arrived about 1:30 so had to hang around for a while before going to book in. We had a drink in their cafe area on a small balcony overlooking The Labe.

We got a very warm welcome at the TTC and the owner himself took us up to show us our room. It had a very good view of The Labe and part of a very attractive northern suburb of Vrchlabi. Like the Lasana hotel the toilet and bathroom facilities were immaculate. We had a very good meal in the hotel's restaurant in the evening.

Friday 20 July. Vrchlabi to Hostinne.

We left our hotel, TTC, at 9:30am after a very good breakfast. The TTC was picked at random but turned out to be an excellent b&b hotel and restaurant. Vrchlabi was a very pleasant town with some beautiful old buildings and churches. Like Spindleruv mMlyn it is mainly oriented to serving the winter skiing industry.

We had an interesting walk through Vrchlabi. On passing through the south of the town we were approached by an elderly lady (older than us!!) who started speaking rapidlt to us in Czech. Even when she knew we didn't understand any Czech she was not deterred.  By sign language and gesticulations she indicated she wanted to know how we were travelling. She was horrified when we indicted we were walking to Hostinne and not taking the bus. I think she had the impression that the pack Shiel was carrying was too large. It does look pretty bulky with its waterproof cover on. Such encounters are what make walking so interesting and enjoyable.

A little further south we passed a Skoda factory. We were walking  on the cycle route 24, which runs alongside the factory.
We saw cars being driven around an oval test circuit at varying speeds.Shortly after the Skoda factory the 24 left the main road for a quieter route through some very  smart semi rural housing areas. The 24 eventually returned to a main route to Hostinne. 

The main road was narrow and we chose to walk facing oncoming traffic as this gave us the freedom to leap out of the way of dodgy drivers. The weather was warm, a mixture of overcast and sunny weather. The road passed through rural areas and the natural surroundings were much like they are in the UK, the difference coming from the man made structures. Pictures will be added but it may take a while as they are on my camera and not the phone.

We saw a marvellous sight on entering the village of Klasterska Lhota. A chap was sitting fishing in his garden pond and across from him was a garden gnome doing exactly the same thing. It looked so ridiculous that I nodded to the chap and indicated that I would like to take a picture. He nodded back that it was OK. He could also obviously see the humour in the situation.

We stopped for one foot powdering stop after about 4 hours walking and arrived in Hostinne after almost exactly 5 hours. Hostinne is not really a tourist town, more a market town, but it has an excellent main square. A market was in full swing as we arrived. Hostinne appears to be more ethnically diverse than Vrchalbi or Mlyn.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Cancerwalker Update July 2012

Although Shiel and I went walking in the UK last year I'm afraid there was no blogging on the walks. My Nokia Music Express had an attack of  'water on the brain' whilst we were on our first walk, the Wolds Way. We were approaching the brow of a hill, about 3 miles before Filey, when we were caught in a torrential thunderstorm.  Suddenly I could hear Joan Sutherland singing an except from Elgar's Sea Pictures. It appeared to come from nowhere.  It was an eerie experience. Then I remembered I had a copy of Sea Pictures on one of my CD's on the Music Express.  It had suddenly started playing. At first I thought it was an electrical trigger from the lightning but sadly on opening my breast pocket I found there was water inside my Nokia phone.  It was quite surprising really as it was in the breast pocket of a brand new Vent jacket, made by  Macpac. The zip appeared watertight on cursory inspection  but obviously it wasn't.

On finishing the Wold's Way we went on to walk the Cleveland Way and then the Hadrian's Wall path.If I ever get time I plan to do a retrospective blog on the 3 walks.

So why the sudden flurry of activity after almost two years, well we are going walking in the Czech Republic. Hopefully this year there will be more to follow.