Day 25: Neusiedl to Mikulov - Grampies Track the Tortes (2019) - CycleBlaze

April 12, 2019

Day 25: Neusiedl to Mikulov

Feeling sick and dizzy through yesterday's cycle in the hills and stiff cold wind, I was thinking what I really need is to lie down for a good long rest. I got my wish at Martinshof, where we stayed last night. There, the farmer - Michael, had created two rooms as an adjunct to his main building. He named them the Romantik room and the Wellness room. We got the Wellness, which was the right thing this time. The name probably was inspired by the fact that the room had a walk in shower and a serious sauna. But for me the best was the degree of fluffiness of the fluffy quilt.  It was just right - I had a very fluffy one, and Dodie a thinner one.  Twelve hours under mine should be able to cure anything.

The cold might not be doing much for our sense of wellness, but it definitely has Michael bent out of shape. The reason is that he has 15 hectares of vines that are susceptible to frost damage. He told me about methods that might be used to ward off the frost - like coating the vines in chalk, or oil, or lighting smudge fires, or blowing the air around with a helicopter.

I "cheered him up" by telling about the dead, frosted vines  we had encountered in the famous Spanish Rioja region May 4, two years ago.

Dead vines in Rioja
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Michael in turn seemed to be babbling about three saints, who have something to do with cold weather. I didn't catch it then, but soon would become more informed by looking at a calendar. That explanation is coming.

We carry some little slips of paper that introduce ourselves and give the link to this blog. They would be "business cards" if we had a business and/or if we were not averse to carrying anything as heavy as a "card".  Still, we hand these out if after having heard the answers to the Usual Questions someone we meet still seems interested. But even though these slips are not handed out willy nilly, it is only one in five hundred recipients that do anything about it - such as leaving a comment on the blog. 

So it was that when we met Gerwin, just beside the main square in Enns, and gave him a slip, we did not really expect to hear from him. But we were pleased and surprised when that evening he sent us a slew of photos from the Wachau, a region  he was eager to have us appreciate, plus shots he took of us in the street. We are the kind of people that will follow up, so when we meet someone of like mind it's a special treat.

Gerwin earned extra respect when, in checking the blog, he found that we were in Neusiedl. His home town, and where his sister lives is in the adjacent hamlet of Dobermannsdorf. We should go see her, said Gerwin.

Remember to change to "Map" in the upper right corner, for more legible place names and a better view of the border line.
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Well, like I said, we do  follow up (especially Dodie), so today we changed our route just enough to pass through Dobermannsdorf. We didn't prepare by putting the address into the GPS, but just wandered into town. Then we asked the first (and only) people we saw  for Brigitte. "Ah yes", they said, "a block down and a block over. You will see her Opel car in front, and we would say she is home because her car is there." Ah, small towns!

At Brigitte's house we rang the bell, but got no response. So we milled around a bit, and made a photo of the door, just to show Gerwin that we had tried. But in that time Brigitte came to the door. She had not heard the bell, but the 80 year old neighbour across the street had noticed the weird cyclists in front and had called her. Ah, small towns!

We did not have a long time to visit, but quite quickly we were able to share many life stories. We learned about the kids, the cat, some stories from Brigitte's career as a pediatric nurse, and the importance of Easter celebrations in this region. This wide ranging conversation even included - those saints and the cold weather - which was Michael's topic!

It is not really so strange that these two people from this region should bring up the saints. Both have vines, and the saints in question are the ones on the calendar for May 12,13, 14, and 15.  This is a critical time for the vines, and the weather on these days is also supposed to be predictive of what is coming for the rest of the Spring.  In the Catholic calendar, each day of the year is actually associated with a particular saint. But the weather controller is Kalte Sophie, and she will have her say on May 15.

You can of course read all about in Wikipedia. Some say the Ice Saints are a myth, but do not tell that to local farmers here!

Learning about the kids from the picture calendar.
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Easter is important in this region.
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The calendar carefully lists the Ice Saints.
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Michel FleuranceFrance 2019
Les Saints de glace du samedi 11 mai au lundi 13 mai.

Les “Saints de glace”correspondent à une période de gelées tardives qui a lieu chaque année entre le 11 et le 13 mai. Le terme “saints” se rapporte ici aux trois saints catholiques Saint Mamert, Saint Pancrace et Saint Servais, dont la fête est justement célébrée au cours de ces trois jours.

I always plant my tomatoes after Ice Saints
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2 months ago
Brigitte and Dodie by the Easter tree. There are eggs on there made by the kids, by Brigitte as a kid, decorated eggs from Czech, and eggs from other family members.
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We headed out through the town and onto the cold and essentially treeless hills. There is a real difference now between the houses we became used to in the German Donau villages, and those we are seeing now. Houses here tend to be a single story, and strung together end to end, like this:

 

Typical houses in this quarter of Austria.
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The level of upkeep of these houses is often very nice, but on average they are shabbier than we have seen. Jumping ahead, we have seen the same sorts of houses in Czech, so they are a larger regional style.

The hills continue to be populated by wind turbines, a sign that someone had noticed the forceful gales, before we ourselves were blown backward and about on our bikes today! 

This should tell us something
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Dodie pedals into the teeth of the wind
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We are reminded about the Iron Curtain. Also, we need to get the Bikeline Iron Curtain cycle guide.
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Of course, no wind or cold can deter us from our chosen goals, and this was our day to enter Czech for the first time.

Made it!
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In Czech, bicycle signage is good and complete.
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At the point where we crossed into Czech there was no visible reminder of the former border. What there was was a hotel and restaurant, that acted as an excellent transition point for us into the new country. Here, we were able to give our batteries an extra buzz, since they were not appreciating the strong headwinds.  And we ourselves warmed up and charged up with some great, and inexpensive, lunches.

The menu cleverly used pictures as well as German translation.
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Our meals were really wonderful. Dodie's had lots of "spargel" - asparagus, which in Europe is commonly white. When spargel season hits in the Spring, it is a big deal.
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Finally, the restaurant had a service of changing money. We had already made ourselves up a little card to translate prices in Kruna (or Korunas? but not Krone - that's from Denmark) to what we understand - Euros. But as for getting any Kruna, we would have to find a bank machine - somewhere. Fortunately, the restaurant swapped Euros for us at what seems to be the common street rate - 1 Euro = 25 Kruna. The international market mid point rate is actually  25.63, which represents a 2 1/2% difference from the street rate. But this is not the same as the ATM rate, which perhaps we will never find out, since now we have lots of Kruna.

We set off from the restaurant, following the Iron Curtain trail (EV 13), which seems here to be the same as EV 9 (Baltic to Adriatic) and in principle the Wien-Prague Greenway, though we have not really seen specific signs for that.  I am a little confused about which trail we have actually selected to take us to Prague (and enshrined in the GPS), but for now, any signed path that leads to the next town we know we want, is fine.

One phenomenon we had not thought about is the quality of the roads here in Czech. For a significant portion of our ride from Valtice we had really broken up rough pavement, that slowed us as much as the wind. We don't know if in Czech roads are just not maintained, or if these were a special case.  Even so, they did in their own way contribute to the ambiance - of open country and no traffic,  which is charming (unless you are trying to get somewhere).

Schaden!
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Although the roads may have been problematic, the countryside was beautiful. We passed through areas with vines, and also many fruit trees - most of which looked like cherry.

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I checked the grape buds, to see how frost sensitive they might be.
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We even saw a flock of Guinea Fowl, running free in the fields.
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Open country, no traffic
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At certain points the road runs just beside the former border.  There is a series of thirteen information panels along there, dealing with people's attempts to cross the border during the Iron Curtain period.  One installation has a number of vertical steel beams set into the ground. Each is inscribed with someone's name. In the wind, the beams sway and react, seeming alive. It's very effective.

Information panels about the former border
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Memorial installation
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Inscribed with people's names.
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The GPS lead us into Mikulov, and we just pedalled through, not having any advance information on what to expect. Certainly, we saw the giant Chateau (which we had been watching as we approached from 10 km away), and the white chapel on the hill (turns out to be Chapel of Saint Sebastian on Holy Hill), but other than that we just absorbed the general appearance of the town centre:

Near the town centre
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Quite a fancy house, downtown
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The tower of the Chateau
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See the white chapel on the hill?
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True to form, Dodie had found a booking right in the downtown. It's called the  Penzion Mikulov and it really is super. The room is large with a fridge, kettle, and micro, and a covered balcony with table and chairs, looking out onto a walled garden and up to Holy Hill. There is also a bathtub, though of European narrowness. Dodie has tried it out, and for a while it looked like the fire department might be needed to get her out. Soon I will take the risk of trying too. There was one already on this trip that was such a puzzle it took really a long time for me to figure out the escape.

This large room with so many amenities is costing 52 euros, but we were given the option of paying by euros cash, by czk cash, or by card. Looking at the receipt, I see quite a few acrobatics at play. The even 52 euros was built up from a base of 43.7409 euros. With addition of various percentage taxes, it came to 52.  By using 1 euro - 25.000 czk, one could also pay 1300 czk. Simple. (There are actually 30 numbers or percentages present in various capacities on the sheet of paper that comprises my invoice!) Clearly Czech schools must have a strong algebra curriculum.

The view from our balcony
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In the Penzion we picked up an English language tourist guide, that list about 30 points of interest in and around the town. There is a whole pile of churches and a synagogue, plus the chateaus, squares, and cellars. (Apparently Mikulov has many mysterious cellars). Then there are the Palava Hills UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, caves, a geopark, etc. etc.  Of course tomorrow we will load the bikes and just leave town. Sad. But hey, there is one landmark, not in the pamphlet, that we have already spotted - a Billa supermarket that opens at 7!

Bonus: More on Manner

The standard  anti-bonk snack for us has long been Knoppers. We have even had German friends bring these for us to use on non-European tours. But in Austria, there are the ubiquitous  Manner - Neopolitan Wafers. These are so pervasive that I had assumed they were all that Manner is about. Not so. There are other flavours. For example, Dodie came up with these:

A "new" Manner flavour
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And today, Brigitte shared with us these Easter eggs:

Wow, what else does Manner have to offer?
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Today's ride: 52 km (32 miles)
Total: 1,330 km (826 miles)

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Scott AndersonMikulov! We stayed in Mikulov almost exactly 20 years ago - May, 1999 on our way from Krakow to Salzburg. We may have stayed int the same place too, although I’m not sure. It’s amazing that there are 30 choices now - back then, there were only. Few inns open as I recall. It poured all night and the next morning, and we had to force ourselves out the door.
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2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonSo far we have been really lucky, high winds but no rain. Let's hope it stays this way.We are
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2 months ago