We’re very behind on the blogging and we’re very sorry about that… We have very little down time now so it’s been hard to find time to write. I’m going to try to catch everyone up through the Czech Republic, here we go:
So in the last post I mentioned we slept in Slovakia, and then the next morning we crossed back into Hungary to see the Esztergom Basilica. After seeing the Basilica and eating delicious Hungarian food, we crossed back over to Slovakia on April 30th and started our riding for the day. We realized that morning that we’d left our tiny, adorable traveling French press in Hungary and I almost broke up with Haegan. I’m kidding (mostly). It rained a bit that day and we saw lots of other tourists who we enthusiastically greeted. They didn’t seem to want to talk much though and we realized that we’d now crossed into countries where bicycle touring is very common. The awesome bike paths continued and eventually we ended in Velky Meder at a bar where we hoped we could ask around to find a place to stay the night. Turns out the bar had rooms for rent so we were set.
It was raining the next morning and we didn’t have very far to go to Bratislava so we spent the morning drooling over long missed items like tortillas and curry paste at the local supermarket. (Billa is awesome). We left and found ourselves on long straight paths with a wind directly against us. We took frequent breaks but still managed to get to Bratislava in good time. We went to a hostel and found they were booked for the night. So we went to another hostel and found that they, along with every other hostel in the city, was also booked. The cheapest hotel was well out our range so we hung out in Wild Elephant Hostel to use the wifi, desperately trying to find a place to stay. What had totally forgotten was that it was May Day weekend, so everyone was taking a holiday, and had booked their rooms weeks in advance. As we were searching WarmShowers and CouchSurfing, we started talking to Sarah and Sam, who are also from the US, but are working/studying in Austria. They offered to share a bed to free another bed up for us. We checked it with the owner who said it was fine, and we couldn’t tell Sarah and Sam how grateful we were. Not too long after we made the arrangement, there was a cancellation so they got to keep their beds and Haegan and I shared the one free twin bed in all of Slovakia. We went out with Sarah and Sam that night to see the fireworks over the river. It was really nice to talk to them and we were both inspired by how much they’ve done even though they’re not much older than us. The next day we toured around Bratislava: accidently spent about 3 hours at the museum in Bratislava Castle, saw Michael’s Gate, Church of St. Elisabeth, St. Martin’s Cathedral, and walked around the old city.
That night we went to dinner with some friends we made from the hostel. Look at this giant vessel of beer:
The next day we said goodbye to everyone at the hostel (Wild Elephants has been one of our favorites so far) and rode to Devin Castle before heading Vienna. Devin Castle is about 15km outside of Bratislava right on the Danube River, built on a cliff. The castle was first built in the 9th century and was continually fortified by different groups for the next 6 centuries.
It is very strange to be able to ride from a major city in one country, to another major city in a different country in one day. Bizarre. The riding was actually kind of boring, although very very safe as we were on paths far from roads most of the way. When we crossed from Slovakia to Austria (on a pedestrian bridge no less) we found wide open fields with beautiful views.
The bike infrastructure seems to be getting better and better as we go, and Vienna did not disappoint, although a bit confusing direction wise, navigating the city felt safe on a bike. The hostel we found was very nice, very clean and a really nice kitchen which we didn’t use that night because we needed cheap Chinese food.
The next day we were completely overwhelmed by everything that there is to see in Vienna. First we walked to the Schonbrunn Palace and walked around the (free) garden.
We started walking back to the center and realized that if we tried to see the whole city by foot it would take too long and we’d be exhausted. So we got day passes for the public transit and saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Belvedere Palace.
The Belvedere Palace has a large collection of paintings by Gustav Klimt, including The Kiss. The museum was a little more than we usually like to pay for sights but completely worth it to see all the paintings we saw. Here are three of our favorites:
Napoleon at the St. Bernard Pass- Jacques-Louis David
The Kiss- Gustav Klimt
Fritza Riedler- Gustav Klimt
The Kiss was absolutely incredible, I don’t think I’ve ever been so enticed by a painting. I waited about 20 minutes for a guided group to leave so I could look at it full on, and I was very glad I waited. It’s rather hard to explain, it’s not a feeling I have words for.
After learning all of Austrian history through paintings we went to Hundertwasser, a collection of funkily decorated and designed buildings.
We then just hopped on the trams and rode around until we saw something we wanted to see up close. It didn’t take very long and we got off to see Karlskirche.
After a long day of sightseeing we made dinner at the hostel and got ready to make our three day ride to Prague.
The first day was quite beautiful, open sky and giant fields of yellow flowers, and very very flat. Overall, pretty uneventful and that night we stayed with the Leutgeb family in Eggenburg, Austria. We had a really nice time talking with Eva and Lisa, and they recommended stopping in Telč, Czech Republic.
We were up very early the next morning and walked around Eggenburg a bit before heading out. That day was very slow for us, and we weren’t really sure why. Despite our sluggishness we made it to Telč that evening. The next morning we toured around the city, climbed an old bell tower, and walked near the river. Telč is a cute little city, and we enjoyed our morning there.
We rode 100 km that day through the beautiful Czech countryside.
Although long, this was probably one my favorite days of riding. On of the descents we turned a corner to see the sun was setting over the hills and fields, a view that made me feel both comfort and awe at the same time. I stopped to take a few pictures as Haegan continued down… maybe stopped a little too long as he started to get worried. Worth it though:
We rode into a little village and stopped outside the town bar where many people were outside to ask about a place to set up our tent. We were invited to set up our tent in the yard of an apartment building right next to the bar. After getting set up we went to the bar, Czech beer is supposed to be very good, so we had heard. We walked in and just so happened to be standing next to the one person in the bar who spoke English. We sat with Ota and had a great time chatting with him. He plays the piano and sings, so he was the jukebox for the night. We got to hear some Czech songs and few American ones too. We felt so lucky to be there, the sausage was good, the beer was good, and the company made the day one of our favorites. Ota invited us to have breakfast with him and his family the next morning, which we were happy to accept.
We met Ota’s wife, Lucie, and their two kids Jaro and Maruska the next morning while we tried some Czech cakes and homemade jams made by Lucie. We decided to spend the day relaxing and hanging out with them. We found out that they actually live in Prague but Lucie’s family is from the village we were in so they spend the weekends there. They invited to stay with them in Prague, and again, we couldn’t believe how lucky we were to run into such generous people.
The next day we rode to Prague and met up Ota and Lucie later that evening. They helped us plan out what we should see in the city and the next morning we walked with Lucie to the train to get to the center. We got to the center pretty early, before many places were open, and before there were many tourists. Again, I’ll let some of the pictures do the talking here:
We met up with Lucie in the afternoon and went grocery shopping to get some things so we could make dinner for the family. With mixing and mashing assistance from Jaro and Maruska, grill help from Ota, and kitchen guidance from Lucie, we made pork chops, mashed potatoes, and Southern biscuits. It took us a little longer than we had hoped (we get rather excited about cooking in full kitchens), but we enjoyed spending time with the family.
The next day we set out again for the city and saw the main sights of the Jewish part of Prague. We were able to buy a pass for all four synagogues plus the cemetery and took the better part of the day.
I learned a lot from the exhibits in the old synagogues (I think Haegan learned some too), and the memorial in the Pinkas Synagogue had me pretty close to tears. The walls inside the synagogue are covered with the names of the families from The Czech Repulic that were murdered during the Holocaust. The sheer number of names was overwhelming, it made me feel very small and very helpless. To see the names listed on the wall is such a powerful visual of the tragedy of the Holocaust.
The rest of day we just wandered around and walked up to the Metronome to get a great view of city.
The next day we said goodbye to Ota, Lucie, Jaro, and Maruska, and left to make our way to Germany. The rest of the riding through the Czech Republic was really nice, the bike paths were very well maintained and as we got closer to Germany we started passing more and more tourists. More to come soon…