Sunday, 18 May 2008

Cycle trip (Olomouc-Litomyšl)

The first week of my cycling trip has gone quite well. I slept in a 13th century hilltop castle, had coffee with the mayor of Moravská Třebová, was interviewed for the Svitavy daily newspaper and met a 96-year-old man who knew Oscar Schindler personally.

I set off from Olomouc last Sunday about lunchtime. The weather was perfect and the fields of canola were almost glowing in the sunshine. Bouzov castle was my destination for the day and with all the yellow I felt a bit like Dorothy off to see the wizard. I often cycle this way in the summer, especially if I’m feeling a bit homesick for Australia. Once you get over the first couple of hills, all you can see for miles around is open fields and wide blue sky. Just like where I grew up.

There’s nothing like the Stremeničko church or Bouzov castle where I’m from though. I’ve been to Bouzov a few times before, so didn’t feel the need to do a tour, and just poked around on the trails outside the walls. I stayed in a very nice hotel on the square, mostly because I was led to believe, by this website, that it would be 400Kč. It turned out to be 800, but I was too tired by then to look for anywhere else and the hockey was on TV.

The next day I visited Cimburk castle ruins on the way to Moravská Třebová, which is a lovely little town. It has the earliest renaissance architecture in the Czech lands (older than Telč and Litomyšl) and an interesting alchemy museum where you drink an elixir, and see fire made from water and dragons’ claws. There’s also an excellent torture chamber display in the chateau dungeons and a nice climb up the hillside to a small chapel and views over the valley behind.

I stayed there with Gabi and Martin, friends of friends. Gabi introduced me to her friend who is development manager of the city council and he told the mayor about my plans to write a book. Next morning I was sitting under the renaissance arches of the ceremonial hall drinking coffee and chatting about everything from kangaroos to the development of regional tourism. My main impression of this town was that the people were lovely. I couldn’t even find a grumpy waiter.

I rode south from there to Brněnec, which is where Oscar Schindler brought his workers at the end of the war, when they left Krakow. After a bit of half-baked detective work, I found the old factory, which is now abandoned and falling into ruin. I was snooping around looking over fences and going back and forth, when a man called out from a nearby garden “how do you like our factory?” I pounced on the first bit of friendliness (everyone else was watching me suspiciously) and went over to talk to him. He confirmed that the buildings were the ones I was interested in and nodded towards the older couple he was sitting with. “Grandpa’s 96. He remembers Schindler. Used to deliver the bread to the factory”.

I spent the next two nights in an old castle, but I’ll tell you more about that at a later date. The guide there gave me the name of someone to look up when I got to Svitavy, which is Oscar Schindler’s home town. Mr. Fikejz knows as much as anybody about Schindler but unfortunately wasn’t around when I called. Perhaps I’ll need to contact him when it comes time to write about Schindler’s Svitavy properly; I usually don’t fully realize the gaps in my information until I come to write about it for you guys…

After Svitavy, I went to Litomyšl, which has been a favourite place of mine since the day I first visited. I only stayed half a day though, because I had to come back to Olomouc for a few days. My bike is locked up in the luggage room of the Česká Třebová train station and I should be able pick it up on Thursday or Friday and launch back into the trip from there.

Next I plan to visit Vysoké Myto, Chrudím, and Heřmanův Městec before turning north for Pardubice, Hradec Králové and the mountains of North Bohemia. Any tips, suggestions and contacts for that part of the country are more than welcome, especially if they’re like the excellent ones that have been contributed so far.

Questions too. Anything you’ve been wondering about that I might be able to shed some light on? Thinking of moving and can't choose between Hradec Králové and Liberec? Wondering whether to visit Český Raj or Adršpach-Teplice. Aren't there some more bone-chapels up there somewhere?

Schindler Image -

1 comment:

Michael said...

No challenges yet, but a great big heap of envy. Litomysl!