Lucky Choice

Very interesting town of Znojmo, Czechia

Sometimes you just get lucky.  We looked for a town just inside the Czech border with a train station.  This was all based on cycling.  We needed to be close enough to the border to cycle back into Austria and join up our current European bike route with our new Czechia route.  The town of Znojmo had a train line that went south and connected up to our Austrian track.  It also had a train line that went east which was the direction we wanted to continue our longer bike rides.  Since we ride about 40 km at a time, if there are train stations nearby we can ride 40 km one-way instead of riding 20 km in one direction and then turning around to ride back to our starting point. One problem with trying to do a long single bike route around the country is that it means you occasionally have to ride on roads that you wouldn’t have normally chosen to connect up your interesting rides.  The main road from the border into Znojmo was busy, there were no bike paths and the heat and weight of the vehicles had caused the asphalt to buckle and form a ridge at the side of the road.  This meant that we had to ride much further into the busy lane of traffic.  When the roads aren’t busy the Czechs are very good about giving bicycles lots of room.  When there is busy two way traffic and nowhere to go, it is a little more awkward.

We turned out to be very lucky in our choice of camping area.  Znojmo is lovely and quite the tourist town.  The city dates from the 11th century but there were forts built here about 400 BC.  The current historic buildings are “newer” than that.  The impressive town hall tower was rebuilt after a major fire in the mid-1400s.  Many of the buildings are from the 1700s and 1800s.  Even though we spent a week here, we never actually went on any of the tours of these historic places.  It was very hot, which I don’t like.  Although the town wasn’t very busy, with the restricted numbers due to covid, many of the indoor or underground tours were full and I wasn’t waiting outside.  We had a good time biking around the historic centre of the town which turned out to be larger than you would expect.  We also biked into town for local meals a few times.  We quickly learned that a lot of places in Czechia don’t accept credit cards and you need to have cash on you.

Canoeists in campground in Znojmo

Our campground was on a river with a small damn that canoes would go over.  There was a boat touring company that met their customers in our campground so many of them came the night before and slept in tents.  Some of the campers put their canoes in downstream of the dam.  The campground was very busy with many, many tents.  About four of the seven nights we stayed there it poured rain.  Here were Mike and I in our very comfortable “house” while there must have been a hundred people in tents in the downpours and thunder storms.  Our friends in Canada could hear the thunder and rain when we were playing cards one night.  Most of the time we were the only non-Czech vehicle in the campground.  When we left there was one couple from Poland.  There was very little English and somehow we didn’t get into conversation with people like we normally do.  I am hoping this changes a little as we move on. 

Beer and breweries are huge in Czechia but the area we will be in for the next while is a major wine region.  Both the locals and the tourists seem to really like the wine, the wine tours etc.  We haven’t tried any of it yet.

Excalibur City just inside the Czechia border

Just inside the Czechia border with Austria is a very large, somewhat unusual complex.  The two major businesses are the Freeport Fashion Outlet and Excalibur City.  Notice the English names, that was the only English we saw or heard.  They are obviously trying to get Austrians over the border.  Most of the items sold are priced in Euros (Austrian currency) and most of the signs are in German (Austrian language).  My family will be disappointed, but not surprised, to know that we went into the fashion outlet to have a look around and have a coffee but never actually went into any of the stores.  I did look in the windows at the Bohemian crystal.  I would love to have purchased a set of six drinking glasses but we are living in a camper.  There is no room to store what you don’t need and crystal isn’t exactly appropriate for bumpy roads. I am afraid that non-breakable Corel dishware is more appropriate for us.  Excalibur City comprised of a very large bazaar/flea market, some regular shopping, a super market, restaurants, many beauty salons (I finally got my hair cut), an interesting area with amusement park rides for kids and a car repair place – eclectic.  On the same grounds were a couple of museums, including a pinball machine and video game museum.  We didn’t get in there but it would have been interesting to see how it compared to the games that Mike and I used to have.

As seems to be the norm nowadays, I am writing this enroute to our next campground.  We spent seven days in Znojmo and are now heading just an hour down the road to Valtice.  Mike and I had to buy a Czech transponder for this trip for the RV.  For smaller cars you just buy a monthly pass to be able to use the main roads.  These are in place of toll booths with people manning them on the highways and toll roads.  The transponder cost us $300 Cdn.  We don’t know how much of that is for the device and how much of that is prepaid credit. We do know that we can recover any prepaid credit when we leave the Czechia. We also don’t know if we will need to add more prepaid credit  In some countries you own the transponder and in others you can return it at the border.  It is one thing that quite annoys Mike.  You will see large trucks with a row of six transponders on their front windows (we have three).  This technology is new enough that it is something the EU could have easily standardized on even if toll rates were different in each country.

Life is a tight fit in Europe

Getting out of our campground was very difficult today with Mike having to go backwards and forwards, to gain an inch at a time trying to maneuver the RV onto a very small bridge and then off it onto a small, busy road.  Half an hour later we stopped at a gas station for propane and fuel.  It wasn’t on the highway and obviously wasn’t for trucks.  It was extremely awkward trying to get out with all the cars parked in the way.  The main roads aren’t usually a problem for us but the campgrounds aren’t on the main roads and that is the part of the journey that is usually the most difficult.  Actually Mike tells everyone that it is often the final turn into a campground that is the most difficult.  It doesn’t look like Czechia has many major highways so we actually drove yesterday to the area we are going to now.  We looked at two places to camp, and the one we were most interested in was way too small.  We did this when we were in Montenegro as well.  We drove ahead of time to check out the roads and campgrounds before trying with the RV.  The campgrounds in Czechia are even smaller, as they appear to be mainly for tents and set up with electricity for a few campers or caravans.  They really aren’t set up for large European campers, never mind our North American one.  This may be region dependent, we will see.  When people talk about visiting Czechia, in addition to Prague they usually talk about southern Bohemia and Moravia, which is where we are now.  Things may change as we get further east and north.  I will say that I am very glad that my husband is an excellent driver and doesn’t seem too stressed by all this.

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