European Tour 2009 VI - Germany, Czech Republic
Hamburg, DE to Prague CZ
July 30 to August 14, 2009 Start 55,816 miles (89,305 km)
Section 1 Hamburg to Magdeburg
July 30 - August 4
Hamburg is Germany's richest city and it really feels the part. With the day starting out with a little bit of rain and then clearing nicely, we had a nearly perfect day for our pass through this upper crust city.
With one ferry ride we were soon passing through Hamburg. What we found was a city that felt very comfortable. Being August, many of the businesses seemed to be closed with the exception of the main shopping street. This was abuzz with activity. People wandering up and down the main street looking for good items to buy or simply just window shopping. We even contributed to this as the first book store we found we went in to buy another Bikeline map.
Most of Hamburg is a fairly modern, well heeled town. But there are a few old treasures. It has an absolutely spectacular rathaus, one of the most opulent in all Europe. It is a very large Rathaus, taking up the entire side of one very big plaza. We suppose it must house very large opulent rats.
Hamburg was and still is a major port city. Much of the modern shipping activity has been moved down river. So the question became what to do with the old port.
Lining the old port they had 5 to 6 story warehouses. Each had large doors facing the canal so that goods could be winched up to their appropriate storage level. These old brick buildings have been restored and are still in use as offices and apartments. It makes for a rather unusual looking canal system within the city.
Along the former main quay, they've completely rebuilt the area adding new and expensive looking condominiums. The old cranes have been cleaned up and painted to become part of the décor. They've done a very nice job and the old harbor is getting it's second life as a residential and business area.
After wandering around Hamburg for a few hours, we headed for the Radweg going upriver.
We soon transferred back to the south side of the Elbe and once again took the first bridge to the north side to Geesthacht. We've discovered that ferry rides in Germany tend to be expensive. Downstream on the Elbe they can run as much as 5€ or the equivalent of $7.20. That is a rather expensive 10 minute ride. Further upstream we paid anywhere from €2 to €3 for the short ride. These ferry costs add up after a while. So we tried to avoid ferries when we could.
We were starting to see hills again which is a nice change from the extreme flatlands of the coast and Netherlands. The short route between Geesthacht and Lauenburg winds through another of Germany's small forests. The road is a well packed dirt road with 3 short but reasonable climbs. The forest is thick with pine and deciduous trees but not an enormous amount of undergrowth. In fact, the ground seems to be more covered with dead leaves than living plants. We only passed a couple other bikers on this road so we almost felt like we were in the wilderness for a change. It was so nice to be away from the crowded coast.
Along the north bank we stopped to look around the town of Lauenburg. At first we were disappointed with the town. It seemed to be just a slightly less than booming modern town. But, once we got off the high embankment and down to the river shore we found the real charm of the village. It has the narrow cobblestone streets winding through crooked half timbered houses. If this town were on the Rhine it would be jammed with sidewalk cafes, trinket shops, and tourists. But because it's on the lower Elbe, it's filled with mainly residences and a couple hotels. Hardly any tourists seemed to be about
A few days earlier my rear rack broke in 2 places. Finding a new rack in Germany wouldn't be a problem. However, we paid a lot for these racks and they really should be covered by a warranty. If we could just get it back to the US to the nearest REI we could get a replacement. But making a repair that can survive the rough roads we're expecting in Romania may be problematic.
The first thing we tried was buying some JB Weld glue. Caryl's dad swears by this stuff so we thought we'd give it a try. We tried to spread it into the broken joint as well as along the aluminum tube hopefully replicating a real weld. It dried nicely and we thought we had it licked.
Unfortunately within just a few miles the glued joint broke right through. So now for plan B.
We decided to make a splint. Taking 2 of our tent stakes which happen to have an L cross section, we used electrical tape to splint the two broken tubes. This seemed to work. Later, to reinforce the splint, we added small metal hose clamps on both sides of the joint. This looked good. Now the only thing is to see how resilient it is over the long run. It really is amazing what kind of repairs you can do with just a few parts and things like stiff wire, duct tape, tent stakes, hose clamps. We've had to make on the spot repairs so often that these items are now a standard requirement for our spare parts bag.
The campground we stayed in after Hamburg was a very nice ADAC owned site. ADAC is the German auto club. Many campgrounds in Germany now require that you use a key for the bath facilities and the deposit for the key can be very stiff. The maximum deposit we paid so far was 25€. Thankfully that was just a deposit and not a fee. If you forget to return that key it's one very expensive mistake.
Well, this day was the first time we forgot. We were about 10 km down the road and were just getting ready to cross the river on another ferry. Suddenly Brian recalled that we still had that 10€ key. So back to the campground we rode. With that extra 20 km to retrieve the key deposit, we had a long riding day yet didn't get as far we'd like.
The route on the south side of the river called for some hilly terrain on dirt roads through some forests. We were just about to head in that direction when we noticed some other riders reading a printed note posted at the intersection. Turns out the route ahead was not recommended and the note gave some alternates. So we headed back to that ferry where we first noticed the key we'd forgotten.
With this plan we had to cross the river once at Darchau and once again on a tiny bike only ferry at Hitzacker. The cost for these 2 crossings wound up being 5€. We would rather have avoided these two extra ferry rides, but with my rack in questionable condition we concluded it was best to avoid the rough road instead.
The town of Hitzacker is another old crooked town that would have been filled with tourists if it had been on the Rhine. It seemed just a sleepy little town at this time. Nice and relaxing to wander around. This section of the Elbe definitely is not on the tourist venue.
In this region they have some unusual decorations on the barns. At their roof peaks they often have 2 wooden horse heads facing each other. We'd seen something similar in the Netherlands only there it was 2 swans. We wonder if it might be an old fashioned good luck symbol.
The farmers also seem to like to attract storks to their roof tops. They'll build large platforms high on a post over the barn with the hopes of having a stork couple set up nesting arrangements. It appears that it usually works. This is another of those good luck charms we think. So the barn we spotted with the stork preening its feathers right in between the two horse heads must really have good luck.
Another thing we noted in just this very small region is an addition to the typical half timbered house. On the first horizontal timber above the main floor they often carve a very long saying in the wood. It appears to be some blessing for the house as the word God usually appears. We don't read German but we had to wonder if anyone has inscribed "bless this mess" on their beam.
Finally some aspects of these houses remind us of what we saw in southern Chili. Front center porches with curved decorations look very much like what they had. We wondered if this is the region where those Chilean Germans originated from.
On August 1 at a point on the north side of the river right around Kietz is an ugly tall concrete watch tower turned view point. This is one of the remaining watch towers from the border that used to separate East and West Germany. Back before 1988 there used to be 2 rows of fencing with a trench between. These towers were regularly spaced along the entire border. The army manned their stations day and night for years and years. All this came to an end when Ronald Reagan forced the end of the USSR simply by out spending them.
Today the fence and trench are gone. Trees and farm fields have returned and the one remaining watch tower has been turned into a viewpoint for bicyclists on the Radweg. Remarkably, just over 20 years ago people risked getting shot trying to get across this border. Now days there are travel agencies throughout the former GDR selling tickets and tours to anyplace you want to go.
The dykes along the river seem to either be a new creation or very recently renovated. There's little in the way of population near the river as we suspect it may have tended to flood regularly. In fact, the current government has established both sides of the river as a new green zone or park to remain unpopulated into the future. This park runs all the way to Magdeburg. New bike paths seem to be a major part of this park.
Wittenberge is the first former GDR town of reasonable size on the Elbe. It's river bank now sports a new yacht harbor and a few new restaurants and hotels. The main town, however, still shows a fair amount of the decay that was so prevalent before reunification. While many buildings have been renovated, there's still a lot of work to do.
Oddly, it seemed we encountered a bit of that old Soviet attitude here as well. The town seemed to be practically deserted. There were hardly any cars or people on the streets. We understand that most of the young people have gone west looking for jobs. That along with the fact that a lot of folks would be taking their August holiday seems to have left the town empty.
So it was really strange when some old fellow got quite angry when Brian rode the wrong way around a traffic circle. There wasn't another car in sight and he was just hopping from one street to the first one on his left. We just figured this fellow must have been a former GDR official who now feels impotent in the new free society.
It was also in Wittenberge where we first noticed a very unusual aspect for German towns. There was virtually no shopping in the main center. In the west virtually any town of any size has a main shopping street where all sorts of boutique shops, restaurants, and bakeries can be found. These are usually turned into walking malls with lots of outdoor seating for the cafes and bakeries.
Wittenberge had none of this. In fact, as we continued up the Elbe we found that only the very largest towns had anything close to this central shopping district. The only thing we can figure is that during the communist era people weren't allowed to open their own little shops. So the center of the towns became simply residential districts, no stores. These days they find it easier to build new stores on the outskirts of the towns rather than in town.
Unfortunately when arriving on the bike path we usually would skip the outskirts of the town and wind up right in the center. As a result we often missed the stores. Finding a cold drink on these hot August days was proving to be difficult.
Fortunately as we continued east the towns became more and more like their western counterparts. Then finding cold drinks and groceries became easier.
A little further upstream we came to the town of Havelberg. This town, having managed to keep a few of it's old buildings that would attract tourism, appears to be in significantly better repair.
We met a couple who have been coming to this area regularly since reunification. They tell us that each year, block by block, building by building, the towns have slowly put themselves back together. It's cost the western Germans a lot of money and at first there was a lot of communist style corruption. But gradually east Germany is coming to look more and more like the west. Roads have been rebuilt, new bridges now cross the Elbe, the new trains now pass through the region, supermarkets sit on the fringes of towns, new hotels are found everywhere. Even those ugly communist style concrete apartment boxes are being renovated and turned into something not quite so depressing looking.
We suspect that had they allowed east Germany to redevelop on its own as was the original plan, it would be nowhere near where it is today. It's been expensive, yes, but in the long run it'll probably pay off. The couple we met say it's been an 18 year long process so far and they suspect it'll be another 20 before it's complete.
August 2nd was to be our second to last Sunday in Germany. It's become a bit of a challenge for us to survive each Sunday. Stores will close on Saturday evening and don't reopen until Monday around 8 AM. So come Saturday evening we always are on the prowl for a good store in which to get a full day supply of food. Come Monday we usually sigh and say, "That's one more Sunday down."
Usually we'll wait to buy Monday's breakfast on Monday. That's because we can usually find a bakery open early in the first small town we pass through. Not in this east Germany area. Since they don't have shops in the town centers we weren't able to find any sort of bakery or supermarket until we got to the much larger town of Tangermünde. If things continue this way we may just have to rethink the way we handle Sundays in East Germany.
After finally finding a bakery we looked around town. Tangermünde is nice town with lots of reconstruction already done. It's main point of interest was the Rathaus which was rather interesting looking. Other than that it's a cute town to just ride on through.
The next town, Burg, on the other hand is one of those you'd prefer not to have stopped in at all. It seemed to be just a plain rather run down town. It seems to be primarily a blue collar type of town with a large industrial size bakery on the outskirts. The walking mall seemed a mix of nice stores combined with unrefurbished buildings. There is virtually no bike culture there to speak of and drivers seemed rather aggressive. Apart from a few scattered old town wall towers and the town hall there just wasn't much of interest to see. We just did not like this berg (Burg) one bit.
After seeing Burg we were really concerned with quality of the campground just outside of Burg. It was the only one within easy reach of Magdeburg that we knew of. So we had no choice.
To get to the campground you have to bounce down one of these old GDR style concrete roads. These are really strange affairs. They took preformed concrete slabs and lay them side by side to create the road. Each slab is slightly bowed so even when aligned perfectly, which they weren't, there was still a slight step at each intersection. The thing is it seems that the width of the blocks is such that it triggers the natural frequency of the bike. We dreaded seeing these roads as they really do cause quite a bounce.
As we had feared the campground proved to be a rather tired affair. The toilets and showers were located in old rundown trailers. The former restaurant building was abandoned and falling apart. But, despite this the location was quite fine. It's right on the shore of a pretty natural lake. It's a great swimming hole and the local seniors seem to gladly partake of early morning skinny dips. It was quiet, shady, and grassy so it worked out well in the end.
Section 2 Magdeburg to Dresden
August 4 - 9
In the morning as we continued on to Magdeburg we passed by one of the most remarkable structures we've seen so far. There is a large canal that snakes its way through the middle of Germany, called the Mittlelandkanal we believe. Prior to 2002 boats used to have to come off the canal, go down a tributary of the Elbe for a bit and then up the Elbe before heading off on the main canal again. They made a big Z. The Germans decided that this was too inefficient. So they built this absolutely enormous aqueduct that carries the entire canal across the Elbe directly.
It takes a double lock of around 100 ft to move the boats up to the aqueduct and we assume there's a double lock on the other side to move them back down. This whole thing really is quite an engineering feat and the Elbe Radweg goes right by it.
Magdeburg is the capital of this former GDR state and, consequently, has had a lot of money poured into it. The result is a rather pleasant though somewhat sterile looking town. The entire city was flattened during W.W.II and the reconstruction was pretty much done in that ugly communist concrete box style.
Despite this, the Germans have been doing a fairly decent job at making these ugly buildings look nice. Although there's only so far you can go with a concrete box. They've added stucco, added or rebuilt the patios, replaced the windows, and added color. The wide streets have been turned into a pedestrian/trolley/bike street which gives the town a relaxed feel. This city is growing the bike culture rather successfully.
There are a few interesting buildings in town, an old church here and there as well as the town hall. But one of the most unusual buildings is something called the Green Citadel. It's color is actually pink, pink stucco with waves of pink and red stones cover the sides. Columns and decorative touches are made of ceramic pots of multiple colors. On the roof are three huge shiny gold balls. The entire structure, built in 2002, was the last piece of "art" by the architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. It's called the Green Citadel because it has a garden on the roof and trees growing right out of the rooms. It's really one strange looking building.
Once again we found ourselves riding through fairly flat landscape and a lot of farm fields. We've gotten a pretty good idea of what the Germans grow throughout the country. The Elbe Radweg has a tendency to wander from one side of the river and back again quite regularly. In the upper regions it's more and more common for them to use the unique motorless ferries for transport. They place an anchor out in the middle of the river and attach the boat to it via cables. Using these cables to angle the boat they use the simple hydrodynamics of the boat hull to move the boat. They go slower than a motorized ferry, but the quiet is rather refreshing.
The next main town after Magdeburg was Dessau. There's not a whole lot of interesting structures there except if you are a fan of an architectural style known as Bauhaus. We've never heard of it before. Evidently it was quite avant-guard in the 1920s. There are a couple of examples around town. One was a large university building and the other was a couple of houses originally built for the Bauhaus school professors.
These structures are made from white stucco boxes accented with windows. The whole idea was less is more and form follows function. Funny thing is this style would be right at home in Malibu these days. It does seem a bit out of place in the Old World, however.
One other interesting item in Dessau was a very, very tired looking aerospace museum. It was named after a famous German aircraft designer, Junkers. This area appears to have been the design and engineering facilities for his planes. Just imagine, if Junkers had been in the U.S. rather than East Germany we could well have had another Boeing.
From here is was an easy ride to the much nicer looking town of Lutherstadt-Wittenberg (no "e" on the end of this one). This is the town where Martin-Luther lived. He was a local teacher in theology. His ideas for reformation came in direct response to the excesses of the DeMedici pope. This Pope and his Cardinal cousin led an exorbitant lifestyle of parties and feasts. To fund this they invented the idea of the "indulgence". Basically Catholics could purchase forgiveness for their sins. Sounds a little like buying a "carbon credit" these days.
Martin-Luther rebelled against this excess. He made up his list of 95 theses and posted them on the church door. These theses became the foundations of the Protestant religion.
The large cathedral now in town has a beautiful bronze door on which these 95 theses are molded. Even though the original door burned, this is supposedly the correct church and location where it stood.
At about the same time the two Cranach painters lived in town. Lucas Cranach the elder and younger, as they are now known, were originally catholic. They were influenced by Martin-Luther and converted. Some of their paintings grace catholic churches and others have no religious subject at all.
The Cranach house/studio has recently undergone a complete renovation. But pictures in the entrance show the sad state in which they were found following reunification. The walls were cracked, the roof caved in, the stucco crumbling. And this house would have been just one of the many lining the now restored shopping street in that same state of disrepair. It really is amazing just how much has been accomplished in the short 18 years since official reunification.
Torgau was the first town that really is looking a lot like its western counterparts that we had encountered in the former GDR. It's center has been completely restored and looks great. It still has those ugly concrete boxes on the outskirts, most of which have been decorated a bit. But for the most part the town looks like a typical German village.
Torgau has an absolutely fabulous castle with a beautiful gate. Strangely they've got 2 grizzly bears housed in the moat. These poor bears looked miserably hot on this steamy August afternoon. We wondered why they didn't give them a water sprinkler to play in.
Torgau marked the beginning of a much more interesting section of the Elbe river. It was also where we started seeing a lot more bike tourists going both directions as well as tourist boats on the river and tour groups in town. We now had hopes for a much prettier and interesting ride.
After a rest day in Torgau we headed on to the town of Riesa which is home to the Riesa noodle factory. Of course, we immediately headed for the factory also known as the "Knudelcenter". It is a store, restaurant, noodle museum, and you can take a guided tour. They also have noodle conferences and cooking classes. Surprisingly the tour and museum actually cost money to visit. We're just used to the idea that a company that wants you to buy their product will give free tours and even free samples. But that's not the way they do things in Europe. Expect to pay for everything.
Reisa is another town that has seen a good influx of money since reunification. The downtown is in really great shape. Being Saturday by the time we got to town almost all the stores were closed for the rest of the weekend. This region of Germany seems to still go by the 1PM Saturday afternoon closing concept. A lot of western Germany has at least adopted a later Saturday closing than that.
The only store we found open was the one supercenter in town. It thankfully stayed open until 10:00 PM. So on Saturday afternoon the downtown walking mall becomes very dead. We just wandered up and down staying in the shade and then spent time in the supercenter mall drinking cold drinks until the sun and temperatures started to go down.
As you approach Dresden, the largest former GDR city on the Elbe, the river begins its cut through steep canyons. This is the wine region of the Elbe, a very small wine region. There are large castles in the valleys and vineyards lining the cliffs. It's sort of a mini Mosel, not as dramatic and large but still very pretty. Towns in this area are seeing a definite revival and all look nicely restored.
Meißen in particular has a charming old town with a fabulous palace and church sitting high on an outcrop over looking the river, very much like the Mosel. The outside of the palace looked great especially when seen from a distance across the river. But when we climbed the stairs and crossed the bridge to the courtyard we found the interior covered in scaffolding. Well the reconstruction has to be done sometime and that always involves lots and lots of scaffolding. That's the story of nearly anyplace you visit in Europe. These centuries old buildings need a lot of repairs so if you're visit lasts any length at all you're bound to run across scaffolding someplace.
Section 3 Dresden to Bad Schandau
August 10 - 11
The camping in Dresden isn't right on the river. It's somewhere in the north suburbs across this very busy city. We decided that trying to make our way through this crowded town in search of a campground that we weren't exactly where it was was not a good idea. So we made it a short riding day so we could have time to look around. We didn't get to see the museums this way so they'll have to go on our "someday in the future" list.
Like so many of Germany's major cities, Dresden was bombed nearly to rubble during W.W.II. While under Soviet control there was some amount of reconstruction. But since reunification the rebuilding has taken off at a rapid pace.
The reconstruction has focused on returning the older, more important buildings to their former glory. However in some cases you might be inclined to say they're just making modern copies.
The cathedral, for instance, has some of the old black looking stone blocks placed in its wall Otherwise it's entirely new, newer than 1989 in fact. The Soviets had left it a mere pile of rubble as a so called war memorial. It's only post reunification popular pressure that got it rebuilt. Even being brand new it's still quite a structure.
One most unusual item of interest is a huge ceramic mural. This mural is about the length of a football field and around 2.5 meters tall. It features a long row of all the Dresden princes through the ages in a long parade of horses. Originally it was painted. Later the ceramics guild made a replacement. It's in great shape and we believe it's original. So it's amazing it managed to survive W.W.II.
Another absolutely beautiful building is the palace. It's a huge building shaped in a square with a very large central courtyard. There are 3 main entrances to the courtyard. One is topped by the clock tower and carillon. Another is topped by this spectacular crown topped gate. This gate must be the most photographed item in all of Dresden.
One other very spectacular building is the old Opera house. It fronts the palace and just adds a sense of completeness to this wonderful city scene.
Across the river from this fabulous old city is the more modern Soviet construction. There's a long, wide boulevard that leads away from the old city bridge. This is lined with new shops at street level while the upper buildings are refurbished versions of the Soviet concrete boxes. Most have been spruced up. But one single building remains in it's original decrepit state. It's no longer used. Still, no matter how they try. These ugly buildings just never look all that good.
After wandering around for a while, we resolved we'd come back to visit the museums someday and we headed on.
After Dresden the Elbe begins to track through a wonderful canyon that has been named a national park. The sides of this canyon appear to have what looks like New Mexico style hoodoos. In fact, this region reminded us a little of the Gila River canyon.
This national park is now a big tourist destination. There's easy access at the bottom of the canyon along the road/bike path as well as at the top of the cliffs. Of course, there are restaurants everywhere.
For our last night in Germany we stopped at Bad Schandau, the town closest to the border. This town is located right in the national park. It's loaded with tourist facilities and would rival many of the US National Park support towns, although not quite so Disneyish.
The campground is located about 3 km up a side canyon. As we rode up this side road we were following along a set of trolley tracks. This national park has done a very interesting thing with tourist traffic. They installed this trolley that makes frequent runs up and down this main road within the park. Thus people park their RVs and cars and take the trolley instead. It's an electric trolley so it's very quiet. Perhaps some of our national parks could take a lesson from these Germans.
Section 4 Bad Schandau, DE to Prague, CZ <P><img border="0" align="center" src="EnteringtheCzechRepublic.JPG" >August 12 - 16
Very soon after leaving Bad Schandau entered the Czech Republic. We knew we were there because there was a very large group of German bikers who cajoled us into taking there group photo again and again. We got them to return the favor. Other than this and the fact there's a sign we wouldn't have known exactly where the border was. The Czech Republic is now part of the Shengen group and all passport controls are gone. As this Shengen group gets larger and larger it'll be harder and harder for us to spend long times in Europe without a visa. They're required for visits over 3 months.
Ten years ago when we rode through the Czech Republic for the first time there was no one on bikes. Now we find that they are actually starting to develop a bike culture. The first baby steps are there. They've built a few bike paths, have designated a national network of bike routes, and posted new bike route signs. We suspect most of the bikers we saw each day are from the west. But there were some who were obviously Czech. Most important is some of the bikers were little kids. So they've got a start and maybe the future looks bright.
There are other big changes from before. Shopping in even the smaller cities has improved dramatically. They now have Tesco, Lidl, Penny Market, Plus, Rossman, DM, and a whole plethora of other western shops filling their downtown squares.
It was along one of these bike paths we saw an interesting sticker. It's a knockoff that famous photo of Che that so many teenagers are now sporting on their T-shirts. On this sticker the Che head is replaced by a skull and the caption says "Against communism forever".
Our first day in the Czech Republic we went by a lot of brand new factories and several abandoned former communist factories. Plus there are still a lot of those dreadful communist concrete housing boxes.
We roamed the town of Decin a for a while. This town has seen some rebuilding. The main square has been refurbished and so has the church. The castle on top of the hill is about half done. So it's in a state of flux. The castle does have one dramatic entry road. It's a long, sloping road lined on both sides by tall white walls. So an attacking army would have had quite a time trying to get up this road into the castle.
On our second day we roamed around Litomerice for most of the morning and then attempted to follow the new Bike route 2 out of town. It starts on a new paved section that suddenly ends. You wind up on a rough rock road that appears to dead-end at a canal so we turned around and took the road. They've done a lot on the Elbe bike route but it's obvious there's much more to be done.
On our second day we got a taste for the less expensive prices. We stopped in the town of Roudnice for lunch. We sat at a nice outdoor café by the square and ate full meals of meat covered in special sauces, rice or dumplings, salad, and even a coke for just 95 Kc or about $5.50 each. In Germany we would have been lucky to get away with paying less than $30. Here we can afford to eat out more often.
In the few days it took us to get to Prague we noted that construction is everywhere even after 18 years. In Roudnice the castle is partially renovated and they just redid the main square. When we stopped for lunch they were in the process of putting new rock down for the road surface. They probably just installed new sewer, water, and electric lines. They did put in lots of new trees.
We found the town of Melken was completely torn apart. The roads were dug up for new utilities, sidewalks were getting new rock, the church a new retaining wall, two buildings on the square a complete face lift. Banging and pounding could be heard from all corners. We simply gave up trying to get the bikes through this mess.
Just before ending the day we boarded the most unique ferry yet. A cable has been strung across the river. A small flat bottom row boat is attached to it with a cable on a roller. A single rudder/oar at the rear directs the flow to make the boat go back and forth. It will probably fit at most 6 or so bikes. At 25 Kc per person and the recent popularity of this bike route we wouldn't be surprised if the fellow is getting at least 500 Kc or more per day. He's cleaning up.
We had a relatively short day to get into Prague. Or at least it would have been short. We took a ferry across the Elbe that we shouldn't have. Unfortunately it was the last ferry before his lunch break. So we had a nice shorter ride around a nondescript town while looking for a cold drink and waiting the 1 1/2 hours for his next run. Ah well, not everything goes right all the time.
The Valtava (Moldau) at this point runs through canyons cut into the rolling hills of the Czech countryside. In some places there really isn't much of a bike path along the river. Here it was just a dirt track. So we rode up the hill to the top of the plateau and then returned to the river at the town of Rez. The ride up goes through dense forest that looks so much like a forest service road in the US. It was actually not a bad ride up the hill.
From Rez it was an easy ride on a new bike path right to the Prague suburb of Troja.
Troja has a total of 7 campgrounds. The largest was the original state owned site. When the communists left, the individual homeowners along the same street got the idea that they could open their own campgrounds. So the other 6 campsites are little strips of land tucked behind each house. The owners built bathrooms, showers, kitchens and sometimes even a bar or restaurant. We selected the one that looked like it has the best shade.
The owner of our particular campground is an elderly lady who used to work in a pension in town. When she retired she decided to open a campground. Her son worked in China for a while and brought home a wife when he returned. Lina, his wife, now pretty much keeps the campground going. She runs a spotless ship. She speaks good Russian, Czech, and Chinese, of course. But her English comes from her earlier school days. So we pitched in and helped her write a few signs in correct English. The sign she had on the refrigerator said "When ride away, capture her groceries." This didn't make any sense.
To thank us for our help she gave us a full bottle of a very strong Czech liquor. She even wrapped it and put a gold ribbon on it. What a nice lady. We definitely did pick the best campsite for our short stay in Prague.
APPENDIX A – ROUTE
July 30 Elbe Radweg thru Winsener, Geesthacht, Lauenburg, Hohnstorf, Barförd,
Brackede, Radegast, Bleckede, to Alt Garge. 75.70 km July 31 Elbe Radweg thru
Walmsburg, Neu Darchau, Darchau, Pommau, Bitter, Hitzacker, Jasebeck, Barnitz,
Damnattz, to Dömitz, 66.17 km Aug 1 Elbe Radweg thru Besandten, Höhbeck,
Lütkenwisch, Cumlosen, Wittenberge, Hinzdorf, to Abbendorf. 88.12 km
Aug 12 Elbe Radweg thru Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna, Czech border, Dolní Zleb,
Horní Zleb, Decín, Kresice, Boletice, Nebocady, Techlovice, Male Brezno, Svádov,
Strekov, Brná, Sebuzín, Církvice, Libochovany, Velké Zernoseky, Zalhostice, to
Litomerice. 86.35 km Aug 13 Elbe Radweg thru Kresice, Roudnice Labem, Melnik,
Luzen n. Vltavou, to Veltrusy. 84.54 km
APPENDIX B – CAMPSITES
July 30: ADAC Campingplatz Alt Garge: (14.00 €/night)
Aug 12: Autocamp Slavoj in Litomerice: (215 Kc/night)
Lonely Planet Guidebook Central Europe Bikeline Radkart Elbe No. 1 and 2
Copyright © 1995-2011 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.