Day 36 Dresden (Germany) to Decin (Czech)
We had an early rise today to say our goodbyes to George, sad to be heading off but excited at the same time, new country to be had!
Even though we got up at 7.30am, we didn’t start until 10.15am. This was due to changing Vanessa’s front bike tube and adjusting her back tube as it was bulging at the valve. The issue was that the back wheel put up a fight and we couldn’t get it out, it was wedged in!! So we headed to the bike shop and as we were repeat customers the bike mechanic forced off the wheel free of charge!! Yay to nice People!! finally we were on our way. Oh, we forgot to mention the exhilarating but little chilly 5km cycle to the bike shop, all down hill!! Lots of fun just wish we had put that extra layer on.
On our merry way armed with a booklet with great maps but unfortunately in German, we followed the river Elbe out of Dresden and towards Czech border, a mere 54km away.
There was little to no wind, sun was shining and we felt energised. The path was well paved and it weaved itself around the river with some inclines but it was mostly flat. As we entered Saxon Switzerland, the landscape changed quite dramatically. Sand stone cliffs, rolling green hills and idilic villages.
Our first stop was at Kurort Rathen which is the gateway to the National park. We planned to hike up to the romantic Bastei massif. The jagged rocks of the Bastei were formed by water erosion over one million years ago and in 1822 a bridge was constructed to connect the rocks for tourists. Plenty of hiking and rock climbing to be had in this area.
Arriving in the village, we padlocked our bikes and caught a small ferry to the opposite side where all the walks start. It took an age for the boat to get going but only a few minutes to cross.
We planned to hike one of the certified health routes. There were two to choose from a round trip taking 2.5hrs or a more direct and steeper route taking 40 minutes. We went with the more direct option. We were surprised with how easy it was (this may have been due to us being accustomed to South American interpretation of steepness), as it wound itself up the rocks, passing lush vegetation and a solo yodeller busking away.
At the top a mere 305 metres above sea level, the views were sensational of the river Elbe and surrounding rock formations, real picturesque.
We stopped several times to snap photos before reaching the wooden bridge which is built around the rock formations, very impressive. Snapped some more photos, then headed back down as we were both getting hungry.
We picnicked under some shade in town next to the river, then headed off.
Only 5km later we reached Konigstein and were a little confused as to whether or not to follow the map and take the ferry across the river or stick to the cycle path and see where it ends. We choose to cross over paying a steep €2 each!
We cycled for another 15km, on undulating minor roads and bike paths until we reached the border town of Schmilka. Again the map indicated that we should cross over on the ferry but before jumping onboard, a well earned ice cream was needed.
Crossing to the German side meant we still had 3km left, reaching the border sign to Czech, we snapped a photo or two and then cycled on, Tourism without borders, fabulous and so easy!!
The campsite was easy to find but unusually placed under a rather busy looking freeway. The facilities were excellent and we enjoyed resting and chatting to some other cycle tourers. A good days cycle had .
We slept surprisingly well in our campsite next to the motorway flyover. Whilst getting ourselves ready to leave, we spotted a neglected bicycle which was in need of some TLC and set off shortly after 9.30am for our first full day in Czech.
After briefly heading the wrong way, out of the campsite, we followed the correct route continuing alongside the Elbe. Fortunately for our pockets there were no ferry crossings necessary today as we stayed entirely on the west bank of the river.
The conditions were perfect, with little to no wind, hazy sunshine and generally smooth bike path. We breezed past some very cute Shetland ponies, a quarry, and an impressive suspension bridge (that we didn’t need to cross), before reaching a dam, with steps over it.
They had considered bicycles when designing the steps as there was a ramp on which to push them but clearly they forgot that bikes have panniers, as the ramp was only a few inches wide and next to the railings. After a few minutes of potential hernia or slipped disc bike-heaving we negotiated the stairs on either side of the dam, only to find that there were further stairs a few metres later when we had to take an underpass below the adjacent train line.
When our stomachs started calling we stopped and ate lunch, where a couple of swans hung out.
By mid-afternoon we started to notice the abundance of fruit and vegetables growing all around us. We stopped at various points and helped ourselves to a couple of apples, a pumpkin, a corn cob and an onion, which we planned to each for dinner…yum.
5km before reaching our campsite we spotted at a riverside open-air bar, complete was fuse ball and table tennis table. Jon fancied a beer and easily convinced Vanessa to stop for a quick drink. Unfortunately his lack of Czech language resulted firstly in ordering a bottle of sparkling water and then a non-alcoholic root beer type drink. Resigned to not getting a beer this time round, Jon had to settle for thrashing Vanessa at table tennis instead (scant consolation).
Heading off we found our campsite at the well advertised Kemp Cyklo, near the town of Roudice nad Labem and pitched our tent in what seemed like the perfect spot on the near-empty lawn next to an impressive tree. We grabbed ourselves a shower, only to discover on our return that an army of kids on vacation with the Rotary Club of Bruxelles had arrived and had pitched their tents next to ours.
We cooked and ate dinner, which included (probably too much of) our harvested pumpkin. We attempted to eat the corn but it was too hard and we ended up giving the onion to a couple of German cyclists who asked if we had a spare onion they could use.
We had cycled a relatively easy 77km today, leaving ourselves a similar distance to Prague the following day. We put ourselves to bed, although we weren’t so sure how much sleep we would get with our young neighbours and the train line across the river, which we were told ran all night!
Day 38 Roudnice to Prague (Czech)
After a night full of disturbances, including trains passing every 30 minutes, churches ringing their bells every 15 minutes and a few snorers, we woke up pretty early and got ourselves ready. Camp Cyklo had all the facilities anyone would want but gees, it was noisy!
Heading off at an early hour of 9am, our goal was to reach Prague, which would entail a 80km cycle. We were ready 🙂
The first few hours flew past as we meandered along the river, with similar but still gorgeous luscious green rolling hills and cute little villages.
We stopped a few times along the way. Briefly to watch an international canoe race (which was well attended), then snapped a photo of a pillar indicating the river levels over several years, (check out 2002, all the surrounding houses would have been well under water ) and briefly for Jon to release his inner Tazan, swinging on a rope swing over the river, (Unfortunately not falling in ……hehehe?).
The second half of the day had more challenges, which neither of us had expected. At first, it was relatively the same, with some undulation. Then turning away from the river, we encountered our first few seriously steep hills, then meandered along the riverside but on dirt tracks, which felt like we were mountain biking more than touring (which was fun and included a few unannounced steep climbs).
We stopped at what we thought would leave us only 10km to cycle and had a well earned cool refreshing drink (well what we thought would be 10km, but we didn’t include the cycling to Kamila’s friends house, our accommodation for the night).
Checking Mapsme and asking a couple of locals we decided to stay on the side we were on and not cross over with the ferry but to do this a little further along. The next section to the very small ferry was mostly flat and along the river.
We had reached the outskirts of Prague and were now concentrating on locating Kamila’s friends apartment (name unknown), which he was lending to us for the weekend as he was away (Kamila by the way is a friend we met in Melbourne a few years back).
This proved to be quite challenging, as first we had to find wifi, to let Kamila know we had arrived and what time we would be outside the apartment and secondly Prague doesn’t seem to have any flat areas, so our tired legs were screaming at this point, as each turn involved an even steeper section to climb plus we had already done 100km. Vanessa took a slight paddy on one section, cursing her bike and anyone around her, hopping off she pushed her bike up this very cruel hill, to find Jon at the top snapping photos. Not cool !! Especially when you’re knackered!!
Finally, reaching the apartment we hung around for a short while, checking and double checking that we were in the right place. Before long, Kamila arrived, we hugged , then went into the building. Kamila showed us around the compact modern apartment with impressive views of the city. We made plans to meet the following evening and then she left us to it.
We were really tired and energy was low. We cooked a, what turned out to be a delicious, meal and sat on the balcony admiring the spectacular view. What a day! All up We think we cycled 105km!! Crazy ?