Untouched nature, tranquil villages, here a castle, there a castle: Her bike tour through the Bohemian Forest in the south of the Czech Republic felt like a journey into the past for BRIGITTE author Doris Ehrhardt.
All get off! The bike tour starts at the end station
Final destination. Everyone disembarked – we’re just two anyway. Photographer David and I balance the wheels on the platform of Cerny Kríž. The old locomotive is rumbling back east. We still want to buy drinks on the way, then we are ready to go. Where is the kiosk? Where the map of the area? Where is the village? Nothing there, not even a human we could ask. Cerny Križ is mainly a railway station, located in the Bohemian Forest at 745 meters altitude.
For us it starts here: We want to cycle through South Bohemia, one of the 14 Czech regions, from west to northeast, from deep province to the city of Trebon. On the way are Bohemian villages, magnificent castles and world famous places like Cesky Krumlov and Ceské Budejovice.
Singing, whispering, rushing: Birds, birches and the lake give an open-air concert
First we purr completely in the shade, then the dense forest dissolves into loose groups of firs, spruces and birches – which stand there as if they were sticking their heads together. A good way to the left of us, the Vltava winds its way through meadows. It could run so easily, I think, and then it happens: I’m thrown.
Blame is my “stay!” – Reflex. Because suddenly the landscape widens, as Mother Nature spreads her arms. The meadows right and left are bursting with flowers. Wind moves in and makes a yellow La Ola wave of buttercups. There are unimaginable quantities of plump yellow horn clover, wild violets and red clover, as well as lemon butterflies, bees, bumblebees. A picture of a landscape so surreal that it lifted me off the saddle.
The Iron Curtain of yesteryear, nature has the say
We are on the way, where the Czech Republic meets Germany and Austria. Military patrols used to drive on this narrow street, because until the end of the 1980s, the Iron Curtain ran here. The area at the zonal border was restricted area, people and villages had to give way. Nature fell into slumber and has been protected as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve Šumava since 1990. Šumava is the Czech word for Šumava, and it stretches along the border as a 120 kilometer long mountain range.
Man, where have we been so dizzy? Actually already at lunch in Nová Pec and then at the church, which once belonged to the village Glöckelberg, of which nothing remains as a church and cemetery. Most recently on the Schwarzenberg Schwemmkanal, where I simply had to photograph the flowers sloshing over the water. Anyway, it’s 4:30 pm, and the ferry leaves at 5:05 pm. But not from the investor we are standing on. The Lipno is not a puddle, but a 42-kilometer long reservoir into which the Moldau flows in and out again.
After the up and down we take a break: feet cool in the clear water
Done! Take a short breather on board, we’ll start in Frymburk. The little town shines as if oiled in the evening sun and opens its doors: a series of delightful allotments in which women pour vegetable patches; a marketplace, framed by historic houses; Garden bars with lake view. The fact that cyclists and pedestrians share the riverside path harmoniously makes everything here seem completely romantic. Stay? It does not work! Go on, half an hour to Lipno nad Vltavou!
The stage the next morning we could pedal in our sleep: unbelievably simple, always along the shore, on the right the Lipno lake with excursion boats and sailboats in view.
Later, however, in Loucovice, we are up and down. “You have to cross the tracks and left up in the forest!”, A factory worker gives us the crucial tip. “Dĕkuji”, thank you! Now it’s bumpy, on a narrow forest road up and down. Downhill push the saddlebags from behind. A brake force act.
To compensate, the area flows through a very bearable lightness of being: serene sunspots on mossy forest floor, right downstairs murmurs the Vltava. Sounds like “Take a break!” The next branch is ours. Take off your shoes, sit on a boulder and cool your feet. Clear water, brown as roasted Roiboostee – the color comes from the bogs. Close your eyes, ears open. A singing and chirping from all sides. The birds are no louder than anywhere else – their voices are only better to emphasize, because the usual background noise of our civilization fail.
Inside Rococo style ornaments, outside the green of the forest
“Bohemian villages”: This term originated in the Thirty Years’ War, because the Czech language was a mystery to German soldiers. It also started to rain for me, that I do not understand anything and fight with the place names. Well, in the monastery Vyšší Brod I see in it an advantage: less information processing. While the guide certainly tells exciting things, we can look around in peace.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the village-sized Cistercian monastery was a spiritual and economic center. Stunning, I find the library with 70 000 volumes. Designed in the mid-18th century in the most beautiful Rococo style, many shelves are decorated with gold and carvings like altars of knowledge.
After the man made splendor, the greenery is very calming outside, and I am particularly reassured that there is still such a big piece of green as the Bohemian Forest in Central Europe. We have not met anyone since the town of Rožmberk – and that was two hours ago.
We bathe in a sea of green forest: hill waves seem to flow infinitely into the horizon, in the literal sense forests are stacked over forests. A little nervous makes me, however, that there are still some tough gradients ahead of us – and the e-bike battery due to the previous ups and down only 20 percent. That means: less power, more kicking.
Cruising on the banks of the Vltava: with roast, dumplings and beer in the stomach
Seen the next morning, the feeling in my legs fits well with the city in which I wake up: Cesky Krumlov, resurrected from ruins. After the collapse of communism in late 1989, this was a run-down, abandoned place that was rebuilt into a piece of jewelry a little later with the help of the EU and private initiatives. Below the towering castle, the old town even presents itself as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The houses have an average of 400 to 500 years in the entablature, facades with colorful frescoes or bright paint. Partly baroque walls, but in principle a Renaissance city with a touch of Italian – this was one of the Lords of Rosenberg responsible, whose noble family ruled here for about 300 years. Extremely pretty that all. You just have to be careful, that one does not run into the picture of the permanent-filming tourists from Asia.
Between Cesky Krumlov and Ceské Budejovice (Budweis) there is a series of “The Pulls!” – hills. Stupidly, we wanted to strengthen ourselves before the start in a brewery restaurant with a “bite”. But as usual here in many places we got a mountain roast with a sauce that tasted not just by hand and this – if I’m not mistaken – ready dumplings. In České Budějovice we do what all guests do: try a five-course beer. It does not matter that we are a little dodgy for the rest of the day, you can cruise wonderfully on the banks of the Vltava.
Before breakfast, the next day in Hluboká nad Vltavou it drives me to the lake Munický Rybník. Patsch! What’s this? Circles spread out on the water surface. Patsch! Hey, carp jump! I have never seen that! I’m lurking to see at least one leap, and three fish are kind enough to dance in my face.
We let the tires sing and enjoy the flow …
Still enchanted, a little later I feel rather slain by the splendor of the Hluboká castle. On the outside a dream in white, modeled after the Windsor Castle in the Tudor Gothic style, inside everything from the finest, from the black wallpaper made of calfskin to the chandelier made of Bohemian crystal glass. Uff.
For the route to Veselí nad Lužnicí we take the regional train, which brings us first back to Budweis, where we change. The train has certainly been in use since the 1970s. Wonderful that you can open the windows and keep your head in the wind!
And then our grand finale begins on the bike. The air is shimmering in the midday sun. A cornfield glistens blue metallic. When did I last see so many cornflowers? When I was a child? We let the tires sing, enjoy the flow, kick and kick, until I ask myself: when did we last see a yellow sign with our bike path number 1034? Must have been ten kilometers ago. Hm.
The card says: wrong turn, back to Vlkov! There, a mushroom picker in broken German advises us: “Take the red road, which is more touristy.” He could only have meant “more idyllic”. We do not meet humans, but shy gray herons, ducks and geese. There are birds of prey and swarming mosquitoes. We landed in a nature reserve, a forest area dotted with ponds. From Klec the water gets bigger, the paths wider, we are back on the 1034.
The last part of the way on the shore of the huge pond Svet feels like we are rolling over a red carpet into the place. Trebon was a winter residence of the nobility. Because the center of the spa town is manageable, I turn off the bike at the hotel and go for a walk. Across the marketplace, past bourgeois buildings with Renaissance and Baroque gables. Through alleys with ice cream-colored houses and plenty of archways. To the “Dechant Church of the Virgin Mary Queen”. Last through the park of Schloss Trebon. There a peacock sweeps his tail over the ground. And a gardener with a wheelbarrow calls out to a mid-forties that biking in the park is forbidden. She then scolds like a Rohrspatz and drives on. Too fast for me, I would have liked to recommend our route. Since she could let off steam.
Cycling in South Bohemia: Doris’ tips
Mostly it’s about paved roads, but sometimes on gravel or paths – not always flat, but doable.
1st stage: approx. 64 km. Cerný Kríž – Nová Pec – Ježová – Frýdava – by ferry to Frymburk nad Vltavou – Lipno nad Vltavou. Mostly flat, partly on the Vltava Cycle Route (# 7), partly on the “Iron Curtain Trail”.
In Cerný Kríž there is no possibility to buy provisions. The ferry from Frýdava runs every hour in the summer between 9.05 and 18.05 o’clock, in midsummer until 20.05 o’clock, but not on weekends, public holidays – or in strong wind (firstname.lastname@example.org). Alternatively, drive east around the lake to Lipno nad Vltavou.
2nd stage: approx. 45 km. Lipno nad Vltavou – Lucovice – Vyšší Brod – Rožmberk nad Vltavou – Ceský Krumlov. In Loucovice do not drive completely through the village, but after the factory left over the railway tracks, then right, so you left the Vltava.
3rd stage: approx. 38 km. Cesky Krumlov – Zlatá Koruna (Monastery) – Boršov nad Vltavou – Ceské Budejovice (Budweis) – Hluboká nad Vltavou
4th stage: approx. 60 km. Hluboká nad Vltavou-Zámostí – by train back to Ceské Budejovice (Budweis), change to Veselí nad Lužnici – continue by bike to Vlkov nad Lužnici – Klec – Lužnice – Rožmberk pond – Stará Hlína and Leština – Trebon. In Vlkov watch out: either follow the trail or take the bike path 1034; in any case from Klec continue on the 1034th From the Rožmberk pond either on the 1034 directly to Trebon or on 1035 in a large arc through the pond landscape on Stará Hlína and Leština to Trebon.
Cycling maps are issued by the Czech Tourist Board. Depending on the stage we used them: “EuroVelo 13” (1:55 000), “Vltavská cyklistická cesta” (1:75 000), “Cyklistická cesta Lužnice / Nežárka” (1:60 000).
Bicycle rental. We rented our bikes in Prague and booked a transfer (120 Euro each way) to Budweis. Rental fee / day: Trekkingbike 10 Euro, E-Bike 20 Euro (Europe Bike Tours, Prague, Tel. 731 44 74 78, www.europe-bike-tours.eu).
Bike on the train. You have to solve an extra ticket (about 1.50 euros).
First of all, we did not look for luxury; secondly, pragmatic thinking prevails in many places before the political change, when you did not invest but learned to improvise – “That’s alright.” And thirdly, rural tourism is not so abundant for the hosts that they want (and can) invest a lot.
Suites & Apartments U Trí hrušek . Centrally located in a side street. Modern designed rooms in old walls. Good breakfast with fresh croissants. D / F from 80 Euro (Ceské Budejovice, Ceská 236/23, Tel. 386 32 21 41, www.utrihrusek.cz/index.php/en/ ).
Hotel Admiral Lipno. Apartment hotel above the Lipnosees; on the thoroughfare, but quiet at night. The rooms are not fancy, but extensively equipped. On the ground floor bicycle room. Half board possible, large restaurant terrace. DZ / F from 62 Euro (Lipno nad Vltavou, Lipno nad Vltavou 92, Tel. 380 73 61 31, www.hotel-admiral.cz/ ).
Hotel Leonardo II. Directly in the center, the rooms are spread over two 16th century town houses. The furniture is antique, the design true to style – with paintings next to the flat screen TV. Reception after 20 o’clock no longer occupied! DZ / F from 70 Euro (Ceský Krumlov, Soukenická 33, Tel. 380 72 59 11, www.hotely-krumlov.cz ).
Hotel Štekl. Just below Hluboká Castle; spacious, comfortable and designed in a romantic style. Spa. DZ / F from 70 Euro (Hluboká nad Vltavou, Bezrucova 141, Tel. 387 96 74 91, www.hotelstekl.cz ).
Apartments Šupina. Charming apartment hotel and restaurant, right around the corner from the castle. Modern equipment, good kitchen. Breakfast is served from 9am. DZ / F from 78 Euro (Trebon, Valy 56, Tel. 384 72 11 49, www.supina.cz ).
Especially the caterers in the countryside are aimed at guests for whom a good meal is a sumptuous meal. With a lot of meat. As a vegetarian, I also got gravy (from the pack) to the vegetables in the country – and in Trebon I was all the more happy about the selection of fresh and genuine vegetarian dishes.
Lodenice Lipno. Directly at the Lipnosee it is almost a must to order fresh fish, z. Carp in honey sauce for about 10 Euro (Lipno nad Vltavou, Lipno nad Vltavou 1000, www.lodenicelipno.cz ).
Soldiní Šance . Friendly service, you sit nice outside and is guaranteed full, z. With spicy potato pancakes (about 4 euros) or fallow deer steak for about 9 euros (Hluboka nad Vltavou, Nám. Chsl. Armády 2, tel. 387 96 64 40, www.solidnisance.cz ).
Pension & Restaurant Inge. In addition to hearty and Bohemian pastries are on the menu, such as “Liwanzen”, a kind of pancake, with blueberry sauce for about 5.50 €. Great: the large terrace (Vyšší Brod, Míru 379, www.pensioninge.cz ).
Pivovar Eggenberg. Restaurant and beer tavern of the historic brewery Eggenberg. While the lager beer is available in relatively small amounts (0.3 liters), the food portions are huge, z. B. Brewery goulash with bread dumplings for about 6 Euro (Ceský Krumlov, Latrán 27, www.eggenberg.cz ).
Hostinec DEPO. Modern gastronomy concept in a former workshop. A bit away from the hustle and bustle, terrace with garden view and good kitchen, less hearty than usual, z. Baked Šumava trout with vegetables for about 11 Euro (Ceský Krumlov, Latrán 74, Tel. 380 60 24 42, www.depokrumlov.cz ).
Krajinská 27. Mini brewery with guest house. A five-pack to try out consists of five 0.1-liter pitchers; The beers are drunk in the order that their alcohol content rises – from 4.5 to 11.5 percent (Ceské Budejovice, Krajinská 27, www.krajinska27.cz ).
Bohemia Regent. Founded in 1379, the brewery and inn is one of the oldest in the world, offering guided tours and tasting sets. Huge beer garden! (Trebon, Trocnovské námestí 124, www.pivovar-regent.cz )
Bílý jednorožec. Pension and modern bistro-style restaurant with a covered courtyard. Pleasantly finer kitchen, z. B. Tatar from the Šumava trout (about 5 euros) and Třeboň carp (about 9.50 euros). Unusually good vegetarian food! (Trebon, Zizkovo nam, tel. 724 06 57 85, www.bilyjednorozec.cz )
St. John Nepomuk Church . The church on the Iron Curtain Trail (stage 1) is reminiscent of Glöckelberg as a “vanished place”. He lay in the restricted area on the Iron Curtain and fell over the decades. The church was devastated, the cemetery leveled until former residents with the support of the Czech authorities have restored church and cemetery ( www.gloeckelberg.at ).
Vyssi Brod. The Hohenfurt Abbey in Vyšší Brod was founded in 1259; Large and functional like a village at the beginning of the 20th century, the cloister of the Cistercian Order is almost orphaned today. Treasures: the cross Zawisch, the painting of the Madonna of Hohenfurth and the imposing monastery library with 70 000 volumes. The abbey can only be visited as part of a guided tour, at least 8 people have to come together ( www.klastervyssibrod.cz ).
Castle Rožmberk. The complex above the town of the same name is reminiscent of the powerful Bohemian noble family of Páni Rožmberka (lords of Rosenberg) and offers a great view of the Vltava ( www.hrad-rozmberk.eu ).
Cesky Krumlov (Bohemian Krumlov). The medieval cityscape with its Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings and arcades looks enchanting – but the Unesco World Heritage Old Town is overrun by visitors during the day. Highlights: Castle and chateau Cesky Krumlov (the second largest historical building in the Czech Republic with a castle garden and Baroque theater), the three-storey cloak bridge, the church of St. Vitus with Neo-Gothic octagonal tower, the monasteries Ceský Krumlov (www.ckrumlov.cz). A guided city tour is worthwhile, very knowledgeable z. For example, the German-speaking guide Radomir Markovic (Tel. 728 78 60 29, www.krumlov-townwalks.com ).
Photo studio Seidel. Gives an insight into the pioneering days of photography, collects historical images and offers to be dressed up with clothes from 100 years ago and to be photographed stiffly in style. Photo from about 6 Euro ( www.seidel.cz ).
Zlata Koruna. One of the largest and best preserved monastic buildings in the country, founded in the 13th century. On display is a permanent exhibition about the life of the Cistercian monks in the 18th century. Especially pretty: the Guardian Angel Chapel ( www.klaster-zlatakoruna.eu ).
Ceské Budejovice (Budweis). Highlights of the metropolis: the square, decorated with ceramic pavement Premysl Ottokar II Square and there especially the baroque Samson fountain (15 meters in diameter); the Black Tower (view!); the baroque city hall; St. Nicholas Cathedral and the South Bohemian Museum in a Neo-Renaissance building. Hluboká Castle. A gigantic building, bought in 1661 by Johann Adolf I von Schwarzenberg and often rebuilt over time, until the 19th century it resembled the Tudor Gothic style of English Windsor Castle. 140 rooms, 15 to visit, including representative and private rooms with lush wood carvings.
Trebon. The spa town is surrounded by artificial fish ponds. Highlights: the large market square with town houses and town hall (with observation tower); the Gothic Třeboň Madonna in the Dean’s Church of the Virgin Mary Queen and St. Giles; Castle Trebon; Schwarzenberg tomb in the English park on the southeastern shore of the pond Svet ( www.itrebon.cz ).
As calm as it is in the pre and post season, it gets so full in the Bohemian Forest in the High season July / August.
Take it with you
Mosquito and tick protection as well as rain gear, preferably gaiters for the shoes.
The code for the Czech Republic is 00 420. Many of the given numbers are mobile numbers.
Following the example of Windsor Castle Castle Hluboká became a confectionery in 1840 only redesigned – which took 31 years
The crossing from Frýdava to Frymburk takes only minutes, actually a pity.
The Šumava Biosphere Reserve is one of the largest and most species rich in Central Europe
Ice cream-colored town houses cluster around Třebon’s market square