Day 26: Mikulov to Crazy Border Mall (Chvalovice) - Grampies Track the Tortes (2019) - CycleBlaze

April 13, 2019

Day 26: Mikulov to Crazy Border Mall (Chvalovice)

When we left Germany after Passau, heading east, we slowly became aware of a lessening of the perfect cleanliness,  the careful maintenance of everything, the newness and flash. In Austria, things were still of a high standard, but not quite as high. It was a gradual phenomenon, but noticeable. And when we left Vienna and headed for Czech, again a lessening of standards, of the level of development. At first, we would look at a cracked wall, sagging roof, or chopped up road and sort of ignore or discount it. But now, a little deeper into Czech and a with a couple of days of experience, we see that the country - while very developed and nice - is again one step down. We think that people - Austrians and Germans - see Czech as a place with lower standards and prices, where you can go to buy certain stuff, or enjoy a more economical vacation.

Once we adjusted to this reality, we began to enjoy Czech, for its homely lack of pretension, and for restaurant, hotel, and grocery prices that are much more affordable. So far, warnings about surly locals have not come true, and we have met only nice folks. Drivers are more like in Germany and less like the  aggressive Austrians, and anyway, there are far fewer of them. Speeding is also harder to do, on the battered and narrow roadways.

(Just to keep some perspective - the Czech places we have stayed or dined in are generally nicer than our own home, and make 99% of U.S. motels and restaurants look sick!)

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As usual, dumping back out onto the streets on the morning after in Mikulov gave the chance for a sober second look. Yes, the modest walking zone was truly the city centre, and the modest village style homes just outside the centre portrayed the real character of the town. Up on Holy Hill, the one of many chapels we did not go to see was still there. We will have to come back, with more time.

Looking up to Holy Hill. We picked up a booklet all about what is to be found there, but not this time.
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The schloss on the central hill
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Modest houses just off the central square
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Our starting temperature today was 5 degrees. We are getting a bit tired of freezing every day. For variety, a little rain was thrown in, but fortunately this did not carry on. As threatened we stopped at the Billa supermarket at the edge of town. I stayed outside with the bikes, trying to decipher the Czech language posters in the windows, from the context. Like "big sale on eggs, 40% off, now just 49 korunas (or something) for 15". Fifteen? Yes, that must be a Czech dozen. Dodie bought a pile of stuff, including high quality apple. apricot, and poppyseed Danish.  She had handed the clerk a 1000 koruna note, and just about blew all the fuses.  1000 koruna is 40 euros, and Dodie was spending 14 euros. That seems kind of normal? 

As we set off from Mikulov on the Greenway/Iron Curtain/EV 13  we felt guilty for dissing the Czech roads yesterday. Here was a smooth and wonderful bike path, allowing us to swoop along toward Hevlin, casually appreciating farm land and little villages as we went.

A smooth and beautiful path.
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Vines and fruit trees on the Greenway
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At Novy Prerov, there are some choices to make, but it looks like the signage has it covered!
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More terrific path
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Quaint villages
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Ok, so village houses need some work.
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Quite quickly, well before noon, we rolled into Hevlin. In fact we were in the centre, but might not have recognized it except for the Tourist Information office there. It was open, and we had a nice chat with the woman inside. She spoke a little English, a little German, and a little (less) French, but we cheerfully tried them all out. With the smooth Greenway we were confident that we would reach our short destination for the day of Chvalovice quite handily, so we were looking for a cafe to while away some time in. Our TI lady pointed out not one but two such places in town. She did this not by the usual method of pulling out a map, circling where we are now and putting an X on the cafe locations. Rather she stepped out the front door and pointed to one, slightly left, and the other slightly right. Hevlin is not a very big place!

Our lady ducked into the back and made a quick phone call or consulation with a colleague, and reported that place #1, her recommendation, was open. So we cycled over, parked the bikes, helmets, gloves and walked to the door. Closed. So we saddled up again and pedaled toward the second place. Our TI lady came out of her door and called to us that ok, place #1 would be open in 15 minutes. We waved, but carried on.

Place #2 was a hotel, with bar on one side and restaurant on the other. In the restaurant there were two other customers, making it feel not so lonely. On the table was a sign offering a torte! Ok, that was clearly our choice. But there was also the daily specials. The specials were written in Czech, with German translations. How strange that we should consider the German as our lifeline to making a choice. We wanted to make some choices, because though it was early and though we had lots of stuff from the Billa, the prices were too low to ignore.

Amazingly, the German was not only a lifeline, but we understood each and every bit of what it was trying to tell us. You can obedience train a dog with food, and clearly you can language train a Grampie the same way.

Downtown Hevlin
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The closed restaurant
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Hey, torte on offer!
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The other choices
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The torte looked just like the picture. It turned out to be fairly dry and unexciting.
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Sue PriceToo bad! It's looks good!
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1 week ago
The dishes we chose were solid country favourites, with uniquely flavoured sauces. The red peppers, strangely, were cold (uncooked), and fiery hot.
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We had to abandon the fantasy of a Greenway bicycle superhighway all the way to Prague, for after Hevlin the path deteriorated. It was still exciting, though, passing through tilled fields in a way that made it feel like a bridge in a sea of earth.

Plowed fields all around
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At one point, irrigation had flooded the road, and I went forward to "test the waters". It turned out that a large puddle concealed a large hole with a very rough bottom, so I had to balance well and push boldly forward to avoid a spill. Seeing this, Dodie was able to come through a shallower bit.

No swim today
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Following  Dyjakovice, the track deteriorated a bit more, but it was never really trouble.

Not the greatest, but still ok
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At Jaroslavice there is a large monastery. Before reaching it, we came to a series of fish ponds. Dodie reasoned that the monks might have grown fish to support Friday fish meals, while that was still the custom. As we were talking about the fish, we came across a dead one on the trail. It was a carp type, but I declined to make a photo of it. We sometimes will put road kill in the blog, but not often. How did the fish become road kill - crossing without looking? This was answered a few yards further on, where a live one was flopping on the road. This produced the theory that the fish had been retrieved from the ponds and dropped by birds. "I can make a photo of this live one!", said I.  "No, don't waste time, throw it back in the pond", was Dodie's response. So I lobbed the fish toward a pond. It bounced off a rock before going in. "You killed it!" I prefer to believe that slightly stunned, it nevertheless swam off.

Some of the fish ponds
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In Jaroslavice
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A chapel near the monastery
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The monastery was located on the shore of a fairly large lake. We climbed quite high above the lake, and into a section of vines on one side and fruit trees on the other. It was definitely a pleasant place to be. We descended then to Slup, where the main claim to fame is a large water powered flour mill that has been there since the 1500's. It was possible to visit the inside, but despite the hours posted on the door it was closed.

The water powered mill at Slup is a national historic site.
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We were now ready to zero in on our destination hotel, in Chvalovice. For each hotel that we booked on this trip, we took the latitude and longitude provided by Booking and turned it into a target, visible in the GPS program, Osmand+. Looking now at the target, Dodie said "Oh,oh, it looks like it is not exactly in Chvalovice, it's some kms south, down what looks like a big road. and it's called the hotel ITVV". "Sounds like a motel by the Interstate", I quipped, secure in the knowledge that we were safe from all that, here in quaint, unassuming, rural Czech.

Well highway 5007 was not the Interstate, but it was the biggest road we have been on in Czech. There was no shoulder, but the white line was fairly thick, always a bonus. We booted quickly along, eager to get off.  We came to billboards advertising a Casino, and maybe a  clothing store, and it began to look like that Interstate crack might be accurate.

It was more than accurate, it was bizarre. We came next to some sort of giant globe of the world, statues of mounted knights, and even a sort of parked jet aircraft. Have a look:

Quaint rural Czech?
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Well ok fine, but what about the hotel ITVV? We rode up and down and around this .. thing, but spied no hotel. In desperation we continued to the "Dr. Dolittle Tier Center". Tier are animals, and this place included vet and grooming services, maybe a zoo, maybe a pet shop. People (more than we had seen in the rest of Czech all day) were going in and out with their pets and parcels.

The lady inside stepped out and pointed to a building marked "Nonstop Shopping". "That's your hotel". Uh, ok.

We pedaled over there and through the doors, past various kinds of kitsch and stacks of liquors. At the back was a reception desk. "Passport?" was all the girl said at first. But yes, this was the place. The latitude and longitude had not pegged it quite right, but anyway. If you could not tell it was a hotel, you had only to look at the sign:

Ah yes, the hotel
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Step through to check-in!
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After paying our 42 euros and getting the key, I was directed into an elevator to go to the room. The elevator had only one choice - floor 1 - so finding room 15 should be easy for such a veteran traveller. I got off, and turned left, finding room 1 and 2. Ok, I turned right, and found a Fußpflege (foot care) salon and a frisur (hairdresser) and who knows what else, but no room 15. I showed my key to the foot care lady, but she had no idea what I was going on about. I retreated down the elevator with my bags and exited to have to explain to Dodie that I could not find a room 15.  The girl from reception had to come with me. Yes, yes, just one choice in the elevator. No, only rooms 1 and 2 are that way. We retraced my steps. Past the frisur, the girl said "there", indicating a blank white door. I pushed on it, nothing. "Use your key". Ahh. Through the blank door was room 15. One more turn of the key and I was home!

Now back down the elevator to retrieve Dodie (who had parked the bikes in a store room) and show her the impossible Room 15 puzzle. She went right to it. "See the obvious sign, dummy?"

Here, have a look:

The view from the elevator
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(The room was fine - as I wrote above, nicer than our house, nicer than most U.S. motels by a long shot.)

So what is this all about? The location is right on the Austrian border, and obviously there is a tax or some other advantage to shopping here. The thing with the globe and the airplane and the knights is a "shopping centre". We strolled over there after a while. 

Despite all the glitzy come on outside, the interior was claustrophobic, and the shops lining narrow corridors were carrying junk. So bizarre. Yet the parking lot was full of cars from Austria.

Not an impressive shopping centre inside
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Except for one shop with puppets
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And one with strudel
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And oh yes, torte, the very same one from the restaurant in Hevlin.
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Today's ride: 63 km (39 miles)
Total: 1,393 km (865 miles)

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Comment on this entry Comment 3
Scott AndersonThat’s as strange a hotel experience as we’ve ever had. You two sure know how to have fun!
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6 days ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonIf you think this hotel experience was weird, take a look at tomorrow night...
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6 days ago
Scott AndersonYup, I saw that one first actually, reading backwards. Quite the back to back experiences. I’ll bet you two never prebook your lodgings again after this.
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5 days ago