Day 5 and 6 – Znomjo to Vienna

Posted: July 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Day 5 – Sunshine, flat roads, and wine

Today I woke up to sunshine and an itinerary that promised mostly flat terrain and a wine tasting 5km from the end of the ride, and best of all no transfers on the bus.

Sunshine, wine tastings, and flat terrain need no explanation, but let me tell you why no transfers (meaning we travel by bus for a portion of the route) is such a great thing. There are 15 people taking this trip, plus the guide that makes 16 people, plus the driver, so 17. Each of us has luggage, some… have big suitcases. We have a bicycle for each of us, plus a pannier to go on the back of the bicycle. We also have a couple spare bicycles, so let’s call it 18 bicycles. To carry all this humanity, luggage, and bicycle we have a mini-bus which seats 18 plus driver, but the front passenger seat isn’t bolted into the floor so whomever sits there is really taking their life into their hands so generally it’s unoccupied. There is room in the minibus for the tour guide and drivers stuff, and us. Attached to the minibus is a trailer, big enough to carry all the bicycles and the luggage, provided that it is packed with care and by someone who generally wins at tetris. In short, getting everyone off their bikes, onto the bus, all the luggage and bicycles packed away carefully takes time… and because the minibus trailer combination is such an unwieldly beast to drive it we always seem to be doing it in scenic parking lots by abandoned buildings.

I digress, no transfers today, sunshine, flat terrain, and wine tasting – a perfect day.

The day went mostly according to plan, except someone thought it appropriate to order up a strong headwind along the whole route. By the end of the day, despite liberally applying sunscreen, my nose was beet red from the wind.

On the plus side I’m learning all sorts of useful cycling techniques like drafting (riding close behind someone else so that they break the wind for you making your ride easier). I’m only slightly thick, it didn’t take too many kilometers for me to figure out how this whole drafting thing worked… I noticed (eventually) that for some reason I was in front of the pack, with the whole glorious road open in front of me, just labouring over the pedals and working through the wind I eventually glanced behind me and see all the strongest cyclists lined up right behind me enjoying the convenient wind break I was providing.

At the next stop I made sure I didn’t start out first 🙂

It takes some practice but even as the largest person in the group I can still take a little bit of a break cycling behind another and escape the relentless wind.

Other than the wind it was flat terrain as promised, and the wine tasting was tasty.. however that extra stop was enough to kill the battery on my phone so I couldn’t map the last 5 km or so of our route. The wine itself was pretty decent, the south moravia region of the Czech Republic makes a good reisling, with climate and soil similar to Ontario I think, but their reds were really flat (except for one straight out of the barrel, still needs another few years to be bottled, sample, which was good if a bit rough around the edges).

Tomorrow we leave the Czech Republic and enter Austria. Czech has been great, with good cheap beer and friendly people, but I’m out of Czech crowns so it’s time to move back into Euro denominated countries.

Day 6 – Crossing the border

We started out today riding directly out of the hotel parking and made our way to a bicycle path right away, and for pretty much all day we spent our time off of main roads and enjoyed the quiet of cross-country cycle paths.

Still in Czech republic we navigated rough paved/gravel paths along the former no-mans land of the iron curtain, with plaques (all in Czech unfortunately) about various aspects of the challenges facing anyone seeking to cross from east to west, and past guard stations where the soldiers had shoot to kill orders for anyone seeking passage. Matej, our Slovakian guide, told us some personal anecdotes about his family and their struggles to cross over during the cold-war. It was pretty solemn stuff, and it felt a bit weird feeling so damn good bicycling along it. The headwind from yesterday was gone, it was sunny, and in some small way I think it’s probably better to enjoy the natural beauty and peacefulness of spot of such former suffering.

Around 11am we reached the former border checkpoint between Austria and Czech and had the opportunity to visit a museum that lives in the former Czech border station (photos to be uploaded eventually), then we had a picnic at the border and with no cermony, no stamping of passports, and not even a nod from anyone we passed into Austria.

The most noticible change, from the perspective of the long distance cyclist, was that the pavement got better. Good pavement, rolling hills (nothing like the first couple days riding, these were long gentle hills) covered with majestic wind turbines. I really don’t understand people who claim that wind power ruins landscapes, I personally think they look beautiful turning on the hills. Obviously the Austrians think the same because the things were everywhere. Out bicycle path wound through the hills surrounded by the things.

It did get pretty hot today, going up to 30C with not a cloud in the sky, which made the uphills a bit challenging even if they were comparatively gentle, but the nice long downhills that followed made up for it. We all made it though, with Matej continually reminding all of us to drink water and avoid dehydration.

We ended the day about 60km away from Vienna, and took a transfer to Vienna arriving around 4:30pm. Tomorrow we start the day with a cycle tour of downtown Vienna and ride all the way to our hotel in Bratislava, it’s about 70km but supposedly it’s super flat so it shouldn’t be too challenging (fingers crossed).


By request 🙂

Nobody on this trip brought their own bicycle, we’re all using the exodus provided 24 speed hybrid bicycles. They’re aluminium frames (I think) with all the standard bells and whistles, nothing super fancy.

Before I left Canada I bought a couple pairs of padded cycling shorts at MEC, but other than that I had no gear… so before the trip started while still in Prague I searched out a sporting goods store and got the bare minimum. I tried to get a Czech cycling jersey, but when I asked for one he pulled up the Canada Jersey and said “Typical Czech jersey” which made me laugh so I bought it. I also got a fancy German cycling helmet much better than the one I have at home and some gloves. If I was only doing this trip I would probably bring 3 or 4 of each (shorts and cycling jersey) but as this is only a small bit of a larger trip I’m making due with one jersey by washing it every night in the hotel sink.

One Comment on “Day 5 and 6 – Znomjo to Vienna”

  1. 1 Jeff said at 10:16 pm on July 26th, 2012:

    Darren, you are a cycling god. Good for you for figuring out the whole drafting thing – if it was good enough for Lance it’s good enough for the rest of us. Happy trails.

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