September 27 –
During this day, we cycled through the hilly area of the Czech Republic known as “The Middle Mountains.” This was our best day yet of weather, and the ride offered views and perspectives aplenty. Here are one or two final looks at Litomerice as we began our tour.
Our route map for the day, following the blue band of the river northward. Litomerice is at the bottom and our destination, Decin is at the top. Decin is known as the Northern Gate to the Czech Republic; and also as the town with the lowest altitude in the country.
Among the small burghs we pass through was Pistany, one of the oldest communities in NW Bohemia, marking its name since the 1057. The name derives from its geology: sand used to be mined here, resulting in the large Zernoseky Lake. There once was a humble farmer named Bikut who would dutifully cart his tithes to Benedict the Provost of the Litomerice Chapter in 1218. He would load his cart on St. George’s Day (at the time, April 23) and on St. Gallus Day (October 16) and follow the road, still in use today, to the Cathedral overlooking what was yet to become the town of Litomerice. The paper I found near the setting of the next couple of photos said: “It may have been here that, eight centuries ago, farmer Bikut would rest along his journey, letting is draught animals graze. This is the reason this belfry was erected in 2017: for weary pilgrims to have a place to rest for a while and regain strength whether traveling by foot or bicycle. If, while resting, they remember the ancient farmer Bikut, thanks to whom we actually know the early history of Pistany, the humble structure will have fulfilled its purpose.”
Our major stop of the day was to Strekov Castle. Built on the top of a cliff, it has been a ruin for many centuries. But it has had slight renovations, including our lunch stop in the structure, Kovarna, a spot carved out of the volcanic rock under the castle. We had a fun wander through the structure before lunch, where we learned the following: Strekov is one of the best-preserved ruins in the Czech Republic. It was built before the year 1319, by the command of the Czech king John of Bohemia, to protect and control the River Elbe. The castle was built by Pesik from Veitmile, the Prague burgher, at his own cost. Since then, the castle has had several owners. After 1563 it was bought by Vaclav Lobkowicz, and remains in the family’s holdings to this day.
It was a serious chug to get to the top and enjoy the views, but the work was well-rewarded.
We left Strekov and rode a while, passing an impressive suspension bridge along the way.
Decin Castle is where Chopin debuted his Waltz in A-flat major, and we had a lovely rest and walk-around, after another short climb. Our tour was accompanied by a peacock, a beautiful beech tree, and another cat sunning itself.
After settling into our Hotel (Ceska Koruna—not the building we saw from the castle), we were on our own for the evening. A gaggle of us watched the sunset develop while having beers on the Decin town square before heading off to dinner. With a couple of “the boys” Jack and I went across the bridge to a burger joint Hansa had recommended to us. Alas it was closed, but we had an excellent pizza on an outdoor patio raised high above the river. Very nice end to a splendid day.
- Ride time: 3 hours
- Stopped time: 6 hours (I forgot to turn the cyclometer off whie we had our beers)
- Distance: 34 miles
- Average speed: 11.5MPH
- Fastest speed: 28.5MPH
- Ascent: 677 ft.
- Descent: 844 ft.