Day 11: Nová Bystřice, Czech Republic to Vranov nad Dyjí, Czech Republic

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Start: Nová Bystřice, Czech Republic
End: Vranov nad Dyjí, Czech Republic
Distance: 70.3km
Elevation Gain: 2823ft
Elevation Loss: 3491ft
Time: 7h12m
Reading Material: A History of the Jews – Paul Johnson
Audio Material: On The Media, WTF podcast (Conan O’Brien episode)

I followed the Austrian/Czech border all day today helping to impart several history lessons. First, the imposing ruins of Landštejn Castle. Originally built in the 13th century, large parts of the original castle remain standing and you are even able to climb inside the tower. Finally, a castle that felt like a castle!

Met several biking groups. Forty middle school kids on retreat from an international school in Prague. They had biked 5km to the castle had lots of questions (“how can you go so far?” “slow and steady like the tortoise”). And, a group of 20-somethings from Prague who I believe (based on their bicycles) were day touring out of Slavonice. We leapfrogged each other a few times (I’m getting good at picking up speed on slight downhills by taking advantage of the momentum from my extra 150lbs, but as soon as the hills start, it’s like lead). Saw my first two recombinant tourers going the opposite direction just past Slavonice, as well.

The second historical highlight was from much more recent history. A string of ~150 fortified bunkers that I passed for the full 70kms along the Austrian border. They were originally built in 1936-7 to protect Czechoslovakia from an invasion by Nazi Germany. Each bunker was self-sufficient and could protect two machine guns + a grenade launcher from large-caliber assault.

I must have passed 50 bunkers. They became easier to spot near Stálky since (bonus history lesson) the Soviet Union clear-cut the land and depopulated the border zone after the the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia in an attempt to keep citizens from leaving. So, if you’re keeping score at home, the bunkers were 1) never actually tested since the Western Allies abandoned the Czechs to the Nazis without a fight, and 2) were eventually put to use by the second power to invade Czechoslovakia without a fight to keep the people from escaping.

There’s a reason why Czechs don’t exactly wave at me when I bike past…

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