Unfortunately throughout our trip Anne had an awful chesty cough and bearing in mind that temperatures were generally below zero with a biting wind and snow cycling was not the joint nor pleasurable enterprise we had intended.
Prague is not the most cycle-friendly city. In fact there are scarcely any cyclists around, certainly not when we were I saw no more than 1 or 2 a day but there was that bitter wind and freezing temperatures. Those few cyclists I saw were part of the fraternity and seemed up for the challenge. It was not for the faint-hearted.
I did, however, enjoy the ride from our hotel 2-3 miles from the city centre, along the bank of the Vltava River mainly on a cycle path, sometimes shared with pedestrians, but as it neared the city centre it petered out and after that, one was competing with cars in narrow lanes and sometimes with trams too. Worst of all were the cobbles, which cover most of the streets in the old town. It is a wonder I have any teeth left.
It was significant that there were no cycle racks to be found even near modern, public buildings with plenty of available space. Despite everything the bike was still a great way to get about from one sight to another and simply as a way of exploring a city.
Our original plan had been to take the train from Bad Schandau to Dresden with the bikes, sightsee in the morning and then ride back he 42 kms on the Elbe Way, admiring the remarkable sandstone formations of Saxon Switzerland on the way.
Instead I set off from Bad Schandau heading north in the direction of Dresden. For the most part the Elbe Way follows the bank of the river with occasional short climbs through the forest. On the way I passed a youth hostel with a splendid modernist mural of jazz players on the wall but also a memorial stone recording the misuse of the hostel for some months in 1933 as a concentration camp following the murder of a nazi general nearby. Incidentally having now visited both Hiroshima and Dresden I think we should let the Germans and Japanese worry about their misdeeds during the war and ponder a bit more about our own.
I made my way north as the river wound its way with the frozen forest on the left bank and then the Konigstein Castle towering above, on the right bank the sandstone pillars emerging from the forest. Finally after about 7 miles I could go no further as the path became impassable because of the snow.
I turned back to Bad Schandau and carried on to the Czech border only 3 or 4 miles away. The same beautiful landscape persisted save that now the forest rose more steeply. Despite cycling quite hard the cold began to creep into the bones and I returned to Bad Schandau. The Elbe Way runs all the way from Hamburg to the Czech Republic, it would make quite a Clarion expedition!
One advantage of having your city flattened by bombs is that you can build nice wide roads with plenty of room for cycle paths and Berlin is very well served in this respect. Moreover the public transport, trams, S-Bahn (overground) and underground all make good provision for bikes and there is also an excellent website which will give a detailed and informative route by bike from any A to any B. Accordingly before leaving the UK I printed out the route from our hotel in Köpenick to the centre – about 11 miles.
On another freezing cold day I started out with the first 20 minutes in light snow on cycle paths not entirely cleared of snow and ice but I was rewarded as I cycled by the delightful Treptow Park and down tree-lined Puschkin Allee as well as past a protest camp sporting the slogan “No person is illegal” none of which would I have seen from the underground. Periodically consulting 2 maps and my set of instructions was, however, tough on the hands.
After my tour of the sights for which the bike was ideal, my return trip took 55 minutes including several stops as I strove to generate some internal heat.