May 19, 2001
Cejkovice, Czech Republic
Today was castle day.
At breakfast, we met a group of tourists from Minnesota and Wisconsin traveling by bus. Mostly, though, this areas is free from American influence. There are, of course, some Coca-Cola signs, but no ATMs, and no Britney Spears music.
We saw many Czech tourists at our first castle today. It was at Januv hrad, and is in ruins mostly. But just enough of it remains to make it clear that this was a classic Disney Sword-in-the-Stone castle, with turrets, shutters, arched gates and gargoyle rainspouts. All that's missing is the moat. I wish I had more to write about this castle - there were lengthy signs explaining it and guided tours for a small fee, plus a little tourist office in one corner. But all in Czech. Without understanding the history of this castle - not even a date or a dynasty - my imagination ran with tales of knights slaying dragons.
Our second castle was a bit further along, in Lednice. It was still in good shape, although clearly a newer vintage of castle than Januv hrad. Castle Lednice sits on flat ground among meticulously sculpted gardens. In town, Dave changed his money to Koruna and bought half a chicken. I ate a Milky Way sandwich (mmm!).
The afternoon feature two epic climbs. The first, between Lednice and Mikulov, got us caught among the vineyards during a rain shower. The next, between Mikulov and Klentnice, was made more gruesome after spending several minutes circling Mikulov in search of the right road. The days' third castle was in ruins atop a hill in Klentnice. We were tired and kept riding. Another castle-type fortress sat in ruins on a nearby hill.
Many roads here do not have names. Some have numbers, but most are straight, well-paved vectors linking towns. You find you way with directional signs pointing toward the next town over. It's easy to navigate.
We biked past a large lake with several villages around it. We saw a bold rainbow draped low to the ground as we crossed E65, a 4-lane highway.
Tomorrow, a taxi shuttles us over the Slovok border, where we bike through several parks along the Danube river. We leave behind this area of Austria and the Czech Republic that has been our home for two days. Every town here belongs in a snow globe, and every castle in a storybook.
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