Day 27: Crazy Mall to Slavonice - Grampies Track the Tortes (2019) - CycleBlaze

April 14, 2019

Day 27: Crazy Mall to Slavonice

By 7:30 a.m. , the bikes and us were already shopping in our Crazy Mall hotel. The bikes seemed most interested in luxury brands, while we naturally focussed on the chocolates and cookies. We spotted ever more varieties of Manner biscuits, and something we would have loved but obviously lacked the space - a one meter long stack of Ritter mini chocolates - each one being a different flavour!

Bicycles prefer Prada
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We have never seen this before. Look good.
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Mozart Kugeln - yum!
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One meter of Ritter Sport for 21.90 euros. Regular Ritter square bars were just .89 euros.
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We wheeled our bikes past the liquor and perfume and through the automatic glass doors, back among the other mall businesses. For what it's worth we later saw that this thing is actually called  Hatě Freeport. We had asked the desk clerk what the big deal is that attracts so many people. The answer was that before Austria and Czech eliminated the border, there would be a price difference, but not so much now. However the facilities remain, such as the Casino, and this is still attractive.

In the grey light of morning, even the most off the wall stuff can start to look old hat. But of course there are certain services we have not tried (and never will).

There was once a Casino in North Dakota we liked, bit only because they had free pop.
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Do they really mean at 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday?
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The relatively short but potentially busy road from Chvalovice-Hatě  (Crazy Mall) to Chvalovice was quite empty this morning, so we made the crossing easily. Soon we were back in our normal mode, looking at peaceful churches.

Back in real Czech
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Just west of Chvalovice we found an area of small wineries. Houses there were a little different, and there were a number of "caves" dug into hillsides. We are still very near Austria, and within the wine district that is so big there.

House were just a little different
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Wine cellars
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Laurie MarczakClearly actually hobbit holes
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4 days ago

Very rapidly we were away from wine stuff. Instead, the Greenway obviously thought we would enjoy an extensive tour through what seems to be one or more national parks. We began a long descent - very long - on a treacherous road with warning signs at curves going downhill. Finally we came out at a suspension bridge over the river responsible for all the downhill fun. Dodie is fine with high bridges but hates swaying ones. Remind me not to take her to Nepal.

Swaying bridge
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On the other side, the path ascended - very, very steeply. There was no question of riding it, so it was a long push. When we finally reached the top, we could look down into the chasm of the river. 

This was of course far further down than it looks
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Sue PriceHow difficult is it to push those bikes up a steep hill?
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3 days ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Sue PriceThe bikes alone are really heavy but add in the battery and luggage and they weigh a ton. Fortunately we have "walk assist" which uses the motor to add a little bit of push when walking the bikes. It is one of the best features of our bikes.
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3 days ago
Sue PriceGood to know!
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2 days ago
National Parks are great for informative signs. This one even had English, but we were too bent out of shape by the long push to pay much attention.
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Except, of course, for this spider!
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Dodie had a look a the GPS and saw that the Greenway was not done with its infatuation for descending and ascending interesting National Park ridges. After the bridge it had also presented us with authentic "green" way:

Thanks, Greenway
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So we used the GPS and scoped out some authentic "black" way, that also gave us a shortcut, to Lukov, I think. This foray off the marked path showed us smooth car free roads that were perfectly lovely. They started us speculating about roaming all over Czech another time.

Our self scoped out Black way
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Featuring nice horses!
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Maybe we can find lots more like this in Czech.
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For energy, I pulled out a Pączki (with apricot). The Montreal kids will recognize this from the Polish bakery. But this is an authentic Czech one.
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All the extreme hill climbing had taken a toll on our batteries, so we knew we had to look for a restaurant, as as place to do some recharging. This could be a challenge on a Sunday, but in Lesna we struck it lucky, finding one that was both beautiful and open, and with outside spots for the bikes near electric plugs.

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The restaurant is in a historic mill.
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With a fireplace. Our day again started at 5 degrees. The owner told us it snowed here this morning.
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And a great menu.
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This dish had lots of chicken, porcini mushrooms, and a hint of tarragon.
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What we thought were going to be some kind of special Czech pancakes turned out to be ordinary but excellent crepes.
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The stop of about an hour gave our batteries a boost of about 1 1/2 bars. Despite the very long planned day, we were confident that would do the trick. Hah. The very next thing we entered was a whole ecosystem created by the Dyje (?) river.  We went down, down, and then along a narrow chasm, lined with vacation houses. This opened out into a broad lake, with tour boats, and many (closed) restaurants on shore.  Finally we got to climb out and to the town of Vranov, from which we could look way up at a large castle. Ok, then we got to climb up to the castle. And then we got to climb high above the castle!

The vacation chasm
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Lake tours, but we will have to climb out of here. Did I mention that it was raining?
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The castle above Vranov
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We climbed right up to it.
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and higher still
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Finally we came out onto a broad plain, with a good traffic free road and fields on all sides. But we had watched bars melt off our newly charged batteries get there.

Up on the high plain, nice road, few cars.
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In doing the bookings, Dodie was trying to get days that would be not too long or too short. But for this day, even after 80 kms, there was no accommodation. So she went for an off route place, in the hamlet of Janov. We looked at our batteries, and were pretty sure we would make it, barring any further giant hills. There were some hills, but we arrived with a little to spare.

For each booking we have used the latitude and longitude supplied and put a marker into the GPS.  So we arrived in Janov, at the marker, and saw some buildings, but nothing that immediately seemed like a hotel. Actually Janov only had about 4 buildings. We swarmed all over them, trying doors, looking in windows, knocking. It was a ghost town. Now what? It was about 6 p.m. and we were deep in rural Czech.

We called the hotel number from the Booking.com listing. After many rings, a lady answered, speaking only Czech. I got nowhere. The word "Booking" had no impact, and she hung up on me.

Trustingly, we called the Booking.com help line. The place had already taken our payment automatically, a few days ago. Maybe we were not looking for it correctly. After a ten minute wait for an agent (at U.S $1.50 a minute on my phone with little battery remaining!). Booking offered to find us another place, in another town. As usual, it was a business that did not understand the reality of standing in the falling dark with only a bike  to whisk you around their 30 km search radius for something else. 

But they did agree to phone the Janov property, claiming to have language experts that could deal with any communications. They called back and said they got no answer. They volunteered to send the property an email. Gee thanks. But they had also spotted a hotel in Slavonice, only 13 km away, though they refused to book it for us.

Suddenly I noticed a man exiting one of the buildings, with two dogs. This was the first life we had seen in the entire "town". I went over to him and asked for help about our "booking".  "No, no, no booking" he asserted. That is all he would say. He went behind a fence, closed the gate, and unleashed the dogs there, so clearly I was not following. Then he got on his cell phone, seemed to listen for a bit, but finally and forever disappeared.

We got on the bikes, having turned off the assist. We figured we would need any remaining power to run lights, as we pushed along the soon t be dark highway. Actually, Dodie found she could cycle the bike on the flat or slightly up. So we could cycle flat and coast on down slopes, but would push up.  (I could actually cycle moderately up, and on the flat could reach as high as 3rd gear. But man, moving a 100 pound loaded bike that has only 7 speeds is quite a chore.)

We were really glad of Dodie's repaired knees, because actually there was a lot of uphill between us and Slavonice. On the way, in Slavetin, we found a quite nice bus shelter, and considered holing up there for the night. I also checked out a concrete bunker, one of thousands of pre WWII defences that line the Czech border. But, it seemed awfully dug in, dank, and dirty.

The abandoned buildings of our supposed hotel in Janov.
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WWII bunker not such a good alternative.
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Finally we crested a ridge and there lay what turned out to be the quite delightful town of Slavonice. After the surly man in Janov, our faith in the Czech people was restored as we asked directions to the hotel, and finally were warmly welcomed by the couple that own it. It is a heritage building, and really nice. They found a room to stash us in in the attic, but it is large and nice. Tomorrow will be breakfast in the vintage dining room.

We made it to Salvonice
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Nice town
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Dodie had 4 whole km left in her bike. What's the problem?
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So,  we somehow landed on our feet, and tonight will again feature a fluffy quilt and hot shower.  After 91 kms with so much uphill, that will be a good idea!

Today's ride: 91 km (57 miles)
Total: 1,484 km (922 miles)

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Sharon PledgerHello Steve and Dodie,

Glad you got to an existing hotel safe and sound, with some light left in the day! Not a pleasant end to a long day on the bike ( with depleted batteries) to find your pre-booked hotel closed up! It has happened to us also while cycle touring twice. Thankfully all ended well for both of us and in our case, we found booking.com to be very helpful, even providing us with a financial credit to make up for the difference in the two hotel prices. Happy to hear Dodie's knees are working well for her, even on those hills. This gives me hope for our future cycle tours!
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6 days ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Sharon PledgerWe found Booking to be rather useless at problem solving. Fortunately it is one of our life skills, so it worked out in the end.
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6 days ago
Scott AndersonOh, my gosh. Scary day. Glad you made it to a safe harbor.
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6 days ago
Scott FenwickSteve and Dodie -- definitely one of those testing touring days. Pat and I have also been to Slavonice as a “planned” stop on our first tour in 2012. We stayed at the Besidka a very quirky hotel organized by artists. Each room decorated and painted in the most unusual ways. If I recall, it was raining so hard we took a taxi to our next destination – Znojmo. Never really hard core but we again returned to the Czech Republic in 2014 while riding to Poland and Slovakia. We loved the country. Yes the towns can be a little rough around the edges but much of the architecture is original as the country was occupied and not bombed during the war. The riding on the greenways is also very good. Your blog is certainly keeping us entertained. Thank you.
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6 days ago
Tricia GrahamThat is my worst nightmare and those bikes are so heavy without assist I bet you had a great sleep
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6 days ago
Scott AndersonWhat a nightmare! Great job finding and getting to a place to stay safely.
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4 days ago
Sue PriceYikes! The scariest of things at the end of a long day! So glad you managed to once again land on your feet!
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3 days ago