The rain had stopped and it was a bright sunny day. As we wended our way out of Dresden, we had to avoid a big marathon event which was setting off from the city centre. If you live in Dresden, or in any of the towns along its bank, the quite understandable thing to do on a Sunday is to take a stroll or enjoy a bike ride. So the beautiful path was heaving with life and we had to dodge our way around families with push chairs, kids on bicycles and tourists on bike trips. The scenery and the houses along the bank were spectacular and despite the many hazards we made great progress stopping at the scenic town of Pirna for a quick snack.
One of the strange things about the Elbe is that there are practically no bridges across it. Another odd thing (or perhaps money making wheeze) is that occasionally the cycle path will simply come to an end…with a signpost saying that it continues on the other side. Cunningly there are little boat ferries which for 2 euro take bikers across. So we duly made the crossing over and then back as the path jumped from side to side of the river.
Once again we struck lucky with lunch at a stylish (but slow) bio restaurant in Schmilka, just on the German border. We had been looking forward to getting out our passports and being interrogated at the Czech border but in the event it was a massive anti-climax being just an old pole with a sign on it. Strangely, once into Czech the scenery changed instantly. Gone were the pretty houses and villages which had been lining the river for our last 40 miles. Instead, just the natural beauty of the river itself. Gone also were all the other people. The town of Bad Schandau seems to be the point at which all the German tourists turn back and we were suddenly and spookily alone.
The first town we reached after about 10 miles made us feel no better about Czech. Frankly it would make Slough look like a pretty village. The grim and graffitied buildings had the air of a run down Soviet era industrial zone. We couldn’t get out fast enough. We realised we still had many miles to our destination and to pass the time we started learning some Czech words starting with ‘hello’ (debreeden – think Deborah Meaden). We tried this out on every one we met along the way usually getting blank and grumpy looks in return. Toby won the game getting 5 positive acknowledgements to my 2.
On and on we pedalled as the river wound and turned. At about 4.30 with 25 miles still to go we realised that we would have to abandon the river and take a much more direct route (just 11 miles) but one which would go over the mountains (well, very big hills) around which the Elbe wound it’s way. So, at the town of Velke Brezno we left the flat river path for the extraordinarily steep cross country route to Litomerice. The extreme pain of going up and up for what felt like an eternity was only partly relieved by the exhilaration of a high speed descent, peaking at just over 37 miles per hour. At 6.30pm, after 68 tough miles we finally arrived.
The hotel room felt like a film set from the 1960s with a big lamp (that didn’t work), 3 black plastic armchairs, an old fashioned TV and 3 tiny beds. The town is very attractive (a big cobbled square, a huge church and a museum) and we were directed to a fabulous cellar restaurant where we ate a delicious meal of slow cooked lamb.