Behind the iron curtain: Znojmo to Jindrichuv Hradec

After a mostly sleepless night of wild camping in the woods, we were looking forward to getting to an actual campsite for a much needed shower and some quality wifi time.  We were aiming for the exciting sounding place of “Cyklocamp”, which we assumed had at least something to do with camping and/or cycling.

Cyklocamp was 49 miles away, following the Prague to Vienna greenway, which is also part of the Eurovelo iron curtain trail.  It turned out to be one of my favourite cycling days of the whole trip.  The Czech Republic is an AWESOME place to cycle, there isn’t a flat or straight road in sight! For the whole day, we were either going up or down hills, the roads were smooth and winding, passing through woods, farmland and countryside with bunkers dotted along the route, interspersed with deserted villages with castles, beautiful churches, lakes and surreal looking buildings that looked way too picturesque and perfect to be real.

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It was really well signposted too (along with the cross-country skiing routes!).

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At one point, after cycling up a particularly massive and winding hill, we were rewarded at the top with an awesome view of a massive baroque style chateau and a railing overlooking the valley covered in love locks.  We stopped to add our own impromptu Cycle Tramp “lock” that we created from bits and bobs we found in my bag (including a Smurf card and a squirrel sticker I’d been given in a supermarket in Hungary for some reason).

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We dropped down the other side of the hill and went for a super cheap coffee in the village before cycling up the next hill and past the chateau.

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After a while, we picked up some food from a tiny village store and sat outside one of the peaceful pretty churches to munch our lunch.

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When we got to Cyklocamp in the village of Pod Landstejnem, we were greeted by two giant straw bale bees, which is always a good sign.

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It was a strange and empty place in the middle of nowhere with a huge sports building and a promising sounding “bike bar”.  The man at reception had to go to the bar to get a lady who spoke a little English to communicate with us (she was the first English speaking person we’d come across in the Czech Republic).

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After paying an unknown amount for our pitch (we still hadn’t figured out the exchange rate), we set up our tent and went to the bike bar for the most garlicky garlic soup I’ve ever eaten and some “sweet strawberry things” for pudding that turned out to be insanely tasty sweet dumplings  filled with strawberries and covered with cinnamon butter.  Yums.

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We sat in the bar for a while and I tried to do a bit of work as the bar got busier and busier around me.  Arg.

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Then, suddenly, everyone left and started heading into the woods.  Eventually, curiosity got the better of us and we headed into the woods after them to see what we were missing out on.  We did not expect this…

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It was a shooting range and what seemed like the tail end of a biathlon event with a packed awards ceremony taking place.  We watched some of the odd entertainment before heading back to the safety of our tent.

The next morning, we had a HUGE breakfast in the bike bar and with our bellies stuffed full of cheese, bread, jam, ham and yogurt, we only ended up cycling 27 miles to our next stop-off.

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Continuing on the iron curtain cycle trail, it was more of the scenic and peaceful cycling of the previous day with no-one else on the road and interesting things along the route to amuse/amaze us.

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We stopped at one lake to watch some guys doing tricks on jet skis.  Bizarre.

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When we arrived in the town of Jindrichuv Hradec we were greeted by crowds of people lining the cobbled streets with cameras pointing in our direction.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a welcome party for Cycle Tramps, but we’d accidently arrived on the final day of a massive cycle race.  The town was beautiful too, so we decided to hang around and watch the race.

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We stumbled across a little pub-come-hostel that looked promising so we went in to enquire about a room.  The man behind the bar was so rude that although they had a room available and it was pretty cheap, we decided to stay somewhere else.  It was the first in a series of encounters with shop keepers, bar staff, waitresses etc that made us think that everyone from the Czech Republic hated us for some reason.  Maybe they hate cyclists? Maybe they hate English people?  Maybe our obvious inability to speak Czech has offended them?  None of the above!  Apparently, Czech people are just a bit on the grumpy side and don’t have the same “have a nice day” customer service culture we have in the UK.  Who knew?!

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After watching the race, a bit of the awards ceremony and having a massive meal and a couple of beers in the pub, we headed to the river to find somewhere peaceful to camp.  That’ll do nicely…

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