After we finally found somebody to fix Max’s bike, Prague spat us out via a beautiful bike path that let us eventually join the Elbe River again. There is something soothing to follow a river on a bike. The Elbe is dotted with picturesque towns, the bike path is perfect and holiday season is well and truly over. I think we met one other group of tourers, that was it. It was just perfect and easy cycling, until the Elbe got smaller and smaller and finally disappeared in the mountains of the Riesengebirge. Then the real cycling started, with tough mountains, mainly on forest roads. But the forests are just beautiful, and the weather was perfect. Cold, sometimes misty mornings and warm sunny days. Kurt Tucholsky, one of my all-time favourite writers wrote a piece of prose call “Die fuenfte Jahreszeit” (the fifth season) and he describes these days between summer and autumn perfectly. Somewhere in these mountains we must have crossed the border to Poland, but like in most of Europe, you just do not realise it anymore. Borders are for losers. A last and extra hefty climb brought us to Czarna Gora, a hideous ski area, where we nonetheless stayed for two nights. It was a good place to break the ride, as it is summer, and you can get very comfortable apartments dirt cheap and there was much to do. We took a day leave from each other. Max hired a downhill mountain bike and shredded the trails, supported buy a chairlift, I hired an enduro mountain bike and did one of the perfectly groomed 50km single trail loops and Ellie took a rest day more seriously with some leisurely mushroom hunting and in bed laying.
Sort of rested we left for Ostrava, our next destination, something like 200km to the east. I had not many expectations for that part, it was just going from A to B. There are no points of interest in between, no travel guidebook mentions the area and I just drew a map with Komoot, based on what looks good on the map. And once again I realised why I love travelling with a bike. It was my favourite part of the biketour so far, stunning forests on very little roads, tiny friendly villages and just quirky little things to discover. It was also steep on some very questionable trails, so exhausting to say the least.
We finally reached Ostrava, in dire need of a rest day. Ostrava was one of the old industrial powerhouses, known as the “Iron heart” of the Czech Republic and is not really a pretty sight. That was exactly the reason we chose it for a day of. We are very drawn to these places, the eclectic mix of soviet style architecture, fairy tale 17th century townhouses and dystopian industrial ruins. It is full of surprises, great art and a surprisingly bicycle friendly infrastructure. The first night we went for dinner, based on some local advice and ended in a strange block of flats, that had a beer garden in the back. The dinner itself was brilliant, with different marinated cheeses, meat in all varieties, dumplings, potato cakes and rich cream-based sauces. We washed it down with half liters of beer that just kept arriving at our table. While we thought we deserved some calories, Ellie is right; No one can work so hard to justify that lot.
Today we visited the old steel work, that was very similar to the one in Duisburg, we liked so much. We wondered for hours around the rusting old machineries, huge towers and newish art installation. So brutal, but weirdly romantic that place. Interestingly workers were setting up a mountain bike course that will be a world cup race this Saturday, that will go up and down old stairs, ramps and jumps, partly through the intestines of the old factory.
On top of one of the largest towers is nowadays a little café, that offers outstanding views over the factory and whole Ostrava. This place is worth a visit! Tomorrow, we continue our ride, with a long and steep climb up the mountains to reach Slovakia and in three days we meet Toby, Ellies brother, who will join us for a while. We all can’t wait (For Toby, not sure about the 1000m altitude gain on forest roads).
Many photos, because everything so pretty.