One way to read Czech history is as an attempt to craft an independent, cohesive nation-state while being buffeted by large external forces (Germans, Russians/Slavs, the Holy Roman Empire, The Hapsburgs). Language is a powerful way to create unity. From 1817-19, several historical texts written in Czech and describing epic Slavic history were “discovered.” Over the next 70 years, these texts (known as the RKZ) became powerful fodder for creating a uniquely Czech national history.
Turns out they were fakes. Slavic Professor David Cooper has an interesting article on one of my favorite topics — authorship — in the context of these texts.
Start: Laa an der Thaya, Autria End: Brno, Czech Republic Distance: 86.8km Elevation Gain: 1475ft Elevation Loss: 1099ft Time: 6h29m Reading Material:The Czechs and the Lands of the Bohemian Crown – Hugh Agnew Audio Material: Bullseye; Stuff You Should Know; Diane Rehm’s Friday roundup (domestic & international)
After a small detour leaving Laa (cough) went the wrong way for 5km and had to backtrack (cough) it was smooth and flat sailing to Brno. Starting in Hevlin, I traveled for 10km on the same path I followed to Vienna. But, then hung a left and headed north towards Brno.
Stopped at a “bike” bar just south of the city for refreshments and a hamburger. I met Jacob — a younger Czech with excellent English — and had a good chat + photo op! The rain picked up and I got pretty soaked honing in on my accommodations, a cute B&B on the outskirts of Brno. Though, additional research would have revealed that it is located on top of a big hill which isn’t the most fun way to finish a day. But, should be a nice ride down in two days when I continue onwards.
Passed the 1000km mark and made it to Brno where I just missed R Stevie Moore on tour. Gives me an excuse to make you watch this amazing video (made in a basement in Montclair, NJ in 1986), however, on a theme that can sometimes be appealing while on the road for long stretches.
Start: Slup, Czech Republic End: Poysdorf, Austria Distance: 80.1km Elevation Gain: 2120ft Elevation Loss: 2245ft Time: 8h23m Reading Material:A History of the Jews – Paul Johnson; Attempting Normal – Marc Maron Audio Material: Marketplace; Channel Orange – Frank Ocean; West – Lucinda Williams
I’m getting my sea legs under me. Probably should have trained a bit before starting, but these first 12 days have done the trick. I covered 50km before lunch, aided by flat beautiful asphalt track. Supposedly, these narrow and straight tracks were created by the Soviets as a means to enforce the Czech border zone but someone has been spending time and money keeping them in great shape.
In addition to making it easy to spot humans, the tracks are favorite hangout spots for large bunny rabbits and snails. The bunnies are adept at running away from bicycles, I can’t say the same about the snails.
Transcendental moment zooming along at 35km/hr, listening to Lucinda Williams and turning my head to watch stands of trees covered in yellow leaves blur.
Stopped in Mikuluv for lunch and a quick tour of the local sights. After Prague, Mikuluv was the second largest Jewish community in Czech lands — nearly 50% of the town was Jewish in the 1750s. A few buildings remain along with a giant cemetery with its final burials coming from inhabitants killed in WWII.
Crossed the border into Austria where the crossing (thanks to Schengen) has been dismantled and only a few abandoned buildings and a sad museum remain. European border crossings no longer involve document checks (or electrified fence, for that matter) but now they require SIM card switches and ATM runs. Accomplished both at Poysdorf, a Napa Valley for Lower Austria, before finding a place for the night.
Start: Vranov nad Dyjí, Czech Republic End: Slup, Czech Republic Distance: 49.7km Elevation Gain: 1936ft Elevation Loss: 2340ft Time: 5h44m Reading Material:A History of the Jews – Paul Johnson; Attempting Normal – Marc Maron Audio Material: none, too busy white knuckling
Distance covered isn’t really the best way to gauge the difficulty of a day. Today was spent traversing the Podyjí National Park and while the trails are cycling accessible, it’s much more like biking on a hiking trail for several long stretches. Some real Adventure Cycling. For the first time, I had to get off the saddle and push (uphill on a rocky section where the grade surpassed my gearing and legs; downhill over extremely steep cobbled rocks; and out of caution on a narrow suspension bridge). Many other sections featured singletrack and very careful descents. Fun but exhausting.
At one point the view opens up and you realize you have been traveling on a ridge line about 1000 feet above the river valley below. Definitely don’t want to fall here!
For the night, I followed signs to the Pension ANNA outside of Jaroslavice in Slup where I’m basically staying in the upstairs wing of an older couple’s house along with two tiny dogs. I communicated with the humans in horrible German and the dogs communicated with me in mostly aggressive barks.