EVER CYCLED IN SOUTHERN MORAVIA?
A piece of history
Today’s Czech Republic is still a young country. Its political history is quite complex. Some main lines: After the territories belonged to Austria-Hungary until the end of World War I, the Czechs and Slovaks joined together and established the independent republic of Czechoslovakia in 1918. During World War II, large areas were annexed by the Germans and the rest were occupied. After the war, the many Germans were expelled from the area and the country became increasingly part of the Eastern Bloc. In 1948, a communist coup occurred and a communist dictatorship was established. The so-called Velvet Revolution in 1989 ended the Communist Party’s autocratic rule and restored democracy. On Jan. 1, 1993, the Czech Republic seceded from the now dissolved state of Czechoslovakia and joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union on May 1, 2004. The young Czechs, in particular, no longer look backward too much and are working hard to give their country a place in Europe. Lukas, one of those young Czechs and organizer of bicycle tours, showed us part of his country.
Surroundings of Lednice and Valtice
From the airport in Prague, after a long car ride, we end up in the region of Southern Moravia. From Lednice we begin an exploration of an area declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. This qualification has two reasons. On the one hand the landscape aspect and on the other hand the immense buildings in the form of monuments, triumphal arches, sculptures and so on that we find here. The area was owned for many years by the princes of Liechtenstein (the mini-state between Austria and Switzerland) and they left their mark here! Take a look at the castles of Lednice and Valtice, whose construction is mainly based on the structures of Vienna, which is not so far away. Down in the castle of Valtice you can enjoy all the wines grown in the Moravian region. At the entrance you get a glass pressed into your hand and unlimited tastings can be made from the ready uncorked bottles.
At the highest point of the area, on the Czech/Austrian border west of Valtice, stands a huge colonnade: the so-called “Kolonade na Rajstne” modeled after Schönbrunn in Vienna. It’s a steep climb to cycle up but you get value for money. Prince Johan the First had this built between 1810 and 1817 as a tribute to his father and brother. Descending again to Valtice, a bicycle route in the eastern forests takes you past a number of remarkable structures. Johan the First had a triumphal arch built here between 1810 and 1812, now known as “Rendez-Vous” or the Diana temple (goddess of the hunt). The Liechtenstein prince received his hunting companions here. The arch was built after Roman models. It is too much to mention them all, but stop a little further at the “Chrám Tri Gracii” (the three graces). In a few kilometers there is a lot to see! And to top it off, the wine harvest is in full swing. Carts full of grapes come from the vineyards.
Surroundings Pavlov and Mikulov
The signs of bicycle route 5043 (the bicycle signage is exquisite) take us from Lednice via Bulhary to the wine region around the village of Pavlov. To get a magnificent view of the region, you have to climb from the lake! Once at the top, the effort pays off in double. It is a coming and going of cyclists here!
In the village, signs reading “Bursak” call the cyclists to a halt. Bursak is the first wine of the new season. There is hardly any alcohol in it yet, but it fizzes and tastes like champagne. A drink of the gods sold in plastic lemonade and cola bottles of one and a half liters. Occasionally unscrew the cap, or the bottle will pop! Along the lake with the beautiful name of Vodní dílo Nové Mlýny, we rode past villages with names that were unpronounceable for us, Novy Preròv, and via the “Greenway Praha-Wien” (a long-distance bicycle route) to Mikulov. The road surface on the part of the route we were riding was not very good. Incidentally, this is true of all the routes we rode. A mountain bike, gravel bike or something similar is the most obvious means of transportation! Mikulov is a charming place to spend the night. After the departure of the Russians, the center was restored,polished, painted and you name it. Definitely worth a visit!
Podyji National Park
After moving to Znojmo we visit this national park through which, by the way, also runs the “Greenway Praha-Wien”. Near Čížov we cycle along the only preserved part of the former Iron Curtain in the Czech Republic. In short: Impressive. In the park there are magnificent views in the deep valleys and several times we balance “on the edge”. Nice is that suddenly you find yourself in front of a wine stall again where you can enjoy the pleasures of life for a few crowns. It’s crowded with cyclists, so we stop for a moment too! From here we ride parallel to the Austrian border to our final destination, Šatov. After three days of cycling, we have fallen in love with Southern Moravia or Jižní Morava as the Czechs say.
Text and photos: Teus Korporaal