Day 10, Pilsen, 954 km
After a week of exercising my legs on German roads, I am ready to move on elsewhere, in this specific case in the Czech Republic. Side note, I wonder when I leave Dresden why Germany isn’t called the flat country too. 500 m of elevation gain over a 500 km journey, we can say that it is far from hilly … First stage after Dresden, Saxony’s Switzerland (literal translation of the German expression). Having followed the Elbe without fuss for a few kilometres, I begin to see rocky hills on each bank. It’s very pretty and it makes you want to take a closer look. The only downside is that there are a lot of people and I don’t dare to leave Jay alone… I decide on a hike-bike combo. Not a brilliant idea: it’s full of steps, cobblestones, and trails clearly impassable for a loaded bike. I try on a waterfall. It’s closed. No luck. Decide to continue and hope that the next village might be more suitable for bikes. Direction Königstein. Through the forest. We cross the Elbe once again. I tell myself that as long as I enjoy the Sächsische Schweiz, I might as well do it with Jay and I decide to cut through the mountains straight towards the Czech Republic. Best idea of the century…
We are leaving the Elbe. And we are riding towards the mountains. The first climb is so violent that I hesitate to turn around. I liked the flat on the Elbe. Finally I grit my teeth, I reel and I climb. I was so proud of my 18-20 km/h average on flat land, I find myself going 6.6 km/h. Let’s say that’s gravity… At least I appreciate being in the forest, it changes. And the descent after. A treat ! We peak at 57 km/h! Then it goes up again, then down, but it has the merit of making the trip interesting. I am crossing towards the Czech Republic. I expected a border post, guards, dogs, a suspicious look at my passport, a check of my bags… well no. Just a sign. Sometimes reality does not match your ideas… I tell myself that I will have a beer to celebrate the event. I am told that they only take cash. Apparently Euros too, but I don’t realize that until I leave. When I climb the road after that I am happy not to have had a beer…
I also realize that Czech cycle paths are not German cycle paths. I’m doing a descent that any mountain biker would have appreciated. I don’t. In addition, one of my gourds, probably overwhelmed by my too sporty driving, decides to jump off … I declared the loss at the nearest police station but I do not expect a happy ending to this story. I arrive (in one piece) at Ústi nad Labem. Not very pretty. I grab a bite and look for a place to sleep. I cross brownfields. Ride along the railway tracks. Not very nice. Finally I find a wood which, even if it looks like trash at first glance (another difference compared to Germany: there is waste everywhere …), conceals a small clearing where I set up my tent.
After a night without fuss (without mosquitoes, dogs, wild animals or gamekeepers, a good night in short!), I set off again in the direction of Karlovy Vary. In comparison with Germany, a lot of things are happening: it goes up, it goes down, I’m on the national road, I go along a railway line, I have to take a stone path, I have a super clean asphalt track , it rains (hard even for an hour, but the bags are waterproof so everything is fine), I pass abandoned stations, factories, quarries, I have the impression of being alone on the road and two minutes after I get brushed by a truck driving by, in short, a busy day!
I arrive in Karlovy Vary, a city famous for its spas and natural springs. It smells like money, apparently Russian investors have given this destination a new life for Czech holidaymakers, but I have to admit it’s pretty. I walk between two drops of rain, hesitate to climb Diana (Dianas of the world, please don’t get offended, it’s the name of an observatory, I swear, you can check), realize that it is closed. Decide to head for the camping site. Realize it’s closed too. Bad luck. I fall back on a park nearby, praying that no one will come and annoy me… Well, it’s Sunday.
Quiet night, I leave for Pilsen. I saw in the guide that you can visit the brewery that produces Pilsener Urquell (amateurs will recognize), but only with a guide, and the last visit of the day is at 4:30 PM. I run against the clock. I take a little detour through Loket (the elbow in Czech), a village located in an « elbow » of the Ohre river. The path to get there is magnificent. The result lived up to expectations (even if the back lighting of my photos does not do the landscape justice entirely).
Then I rush towards Pilsen, braving climbs over 12%, the blazing sun, the attacks of flies, an unforeseen shortage of water, to arrive at the brewery at 3:50 pm and find out that the only remaining guided tour of the day is at 16:00 and in Czech. The booklet that comes with it is well done and I understand 1.3% of what the guide says, which prompts me to say it was a successful visit!
If I had to sum up my experience in the Czech Republic so far I would say: it’s hilly (more than 1000m of elevation gain per day since Saturday), the Czechs invented the concept of the ascent after the ascent (and I thought it was always going down after a climb, I was totally wrong), it is not as clean, straight and flat as Germany (which still has the merit of making the road more interesting), we communicate better in German than in English (maybe the proximity to the border), all campsites are closed (at least when I am looking for one), you can fill your bottles at natural sparkling water sources (it happens at least one out of three days, that’s statistically proven), and I’m exactly 46 km away from kilometre 1000, which should prompt a celebration worthy of the event tomorrow! With that, I’m finishing my fourth beer and my second coffee, so I think I’ll leave you for tonight before you hear from me live from Prague (I’m told in the headset that I should be there in 4 days).
And thank you for all your messages, even if I do not answer right away it makes me happy to read from you!!