1st trip: May 1990 – from Warsaw, Poland to Frankfurt, Germany
2nd trip March 1991 – from Munich, Germany to Warsaw, Poland
Polish Border to Kezmarok 40K
Compared to our earlier attempted visits to Czechoslovakia, the border formalities had recently become a snap. Reported to be beautiful views of the Tatra mountains but we were fogged in. Up and then down to Zdiar. Then a gradual descent to Kezmarok, a nice town with an old town center.
Kezmarok to Ruzomberok 100K
Lots of traffic to Poprad through a river valley. On the main highways. Huge farms after quickly leaving the mountains. Rainy and cold west wind in May. Could not find secondary road so back on the Highway. Traffic, big trucks and buses. Still in pretty valley with pine covered hills but some climbs and descents. At Hybe, 4 lane new highway. Excellent road down a beautiful river valley. Little traffic to Liptovsky-Mikulas. Continue on the excellent road for 30more Ks to Ruzomberok. The last 10Ks with some kids as guides on bikes in the rain on unknown back roads.
Ruzomberek to Zilina 66K
More rain! All our stuff is wet, Yuck! Continue on very good road down to the Hah River Valley. Light traffic (later we find out it was tied up due to a huge accident) to Martin. Still good riding for 40 more Ks to Zilina which has a nice town center. More rain. This is getting old.
Zilina to Valasske Mezirici by train
Valasske Mezirici to Olomouc 74K
Out through the flat valley to Hranice along side the train tracks. Out of Hranice on a narrower road to Lipnik (beautiful baroque cathedral). Then to Olomouc which had the typical gray black apartment high-rises on the outskirts but a beautiful city center.
Olomouc to Parduvice by train
Pardubice to Kutna Hora 47K
Beautiful road. Huge farm fields. Long gradual climb and through old growth trees and small villages. Some are cobblestones. Past a large Nuclear power plant about 15 Ks before Kutna Hora.
Kutna Hora to Prague 66K
Cold. Rolling hills but mostly gradual down into the towns and then climb back out again. Many Ks of urban sprawl going into Prague. Saw a lot of bicycle racers. Met a Czech couple who spoke English on bikes, who offered us a room. Very good fortune. Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe.
Prague to Rakovnik 85K
Out of Prague via the then (1990) new bridge. Lots of urban traffic including big trucks. After the bridge, the traffic thinned and we turned off for Karlstejn. (This route was recommended by our Prague hosts). Now a beautiful ride along a river on big rolling hills that offered great views. 28Ks SW to Karlstejn Castle. Continue on to Krivoklat and another castle. More rain starting. Finally climb up then down to Rakovnik. Good riding off the main roads. Great scenery.
Rakovnik to Karlovy Vary 103K
Still cold. Beautiful ride to Jesenice, 20Ks. Continued on quiet back roads but tried the main road for 6Ks. Too much fast traffic, especially big trucks. So back to the slower quieter, back roads. 33Ks out of Karlovy Vary, we tried the main road again and again got off. Using a good local map (given to us by our cycling hosts in Prague) we took on the hills of the back roads into Karlovy Vary. We climbed to a perch above Karlovy Vary then rode down into the city that’s on a river. (The baths were only open 8A to 3P)
Karlovy Vary to German Border 58K
Out of town on the main road with the trucks. Went into Loket (Castle on the river). Back to the main Highway to Cheb. A long gradual climb to Cheb. Then to the border and into Germany. (Ended the day in Bischofgrun, Germany)
Part of our second trip in March 1991 from Munich, Germany to Warsaw, Poland. Very bad weather. We ended up mostly riding in Germany and Austria.
German Border at Bratislava
Bratislava to Prague by train.
Prague to Warsaw by train
We gave up biking it was so cold and took the train out to Warsaw. The end of this trip was a complete bust.
Czech – A Chance Encounter
We saw this couple walking their bikes near the main square in Prague. We’ld just arrived in Prague. It was our first trip in 1990. We took this 40ish couple to be English so we approached them to lean some local tourist information. Bedecked in the usual European biking garb and riding high quality European bikes with equipment that was new to us, we just assumed they were foreign bike tourists.
To our surprise, they were both from Prague. He was an engineer and she a teacher. They were avid bikers but only within Czechoslovakia. Eastern Europe had just opened up. Moreover, they both spoke very good English. We had hit the mother lode. We had coffee and talked. They took us to a few hotels but there were no rooms available. We were becoming friends. After finding the hotels full, they huddled for a minute and they proposed that we stay with them. We hesitated to impose on them and looked at a few more hotels, which were also full. Then we agreed to spend the night and ended up spending four serendipitous days with them in Prague.
There are many things to like about bike touring but this kind of connection would be almost impossible but for our method of transportation. We’ll never travel any other way.
For What It’s Worth
Per German couple: Hungarian people are friendlier and it’s more advanced and comfortable.
Because of the on going bad weather, we took a few trains to stay on schedule. Eventually we learned how to use them: First, go to baggage and ask if a particular train is ok for bikes. If yes, then buy the tickets and tell them it’s ok for bikes. Then back to baggage and check bikes and pay for shipping them.
In 1991, in Bratislava, there was the biggest beer hall in Europe called “Mamut”. Budvar beer on tap. Music. Great.