I was in Tabor, in an underground labyrinth of tunnels with 10 stunning ladies (all in high-heels and dressed to nines), when I heard a very loud clunk, followed by an expletive I can’t repeat, a pause and then laughter. If you have ever been under a city, and heard the echoes of 10 women laughing together the sound is deafening, in a good way. After a great first day of cycling, we were on a historic walking tour of Tabor, in the Czech Republic and our guide wanted to finish the tour with a surprise, insisting we put on helmets and go down a staircase, under the main square of the city. She wanted us to see the ancient tunneling system that protected residents in the middle ages from attackers. Sabina, at 5’10 (5’11 in heels) would be the first of the group to bonk her head, but not the last, on our 10 minute subterranean walk. The surprise was that the tunnel we followed lead directly to an exquisite wine bar where our indefatigable guide awaited, with champagne at the ready (a sip of something bubbly is how we like to start our trips everywhere). The laughter continued to dinner and on throughout southern Bohemia and into Austria. Such a wonderful sound, laughter. Especially from 10 women like these.
Years back, we realized that linking the cities of Prague and Vienna would hold enormous appeal for travelers who wanted to see these cities and have the opportunity to cycle through Czech Republic and along the Danube valley of Austria. We initially re-conned a trip following the Czech greenways, but in many places, that route is on gravel tracks when in fact, the quiet paved roads are delightful to ride. So we did lots of research, consulted with our extensive local contacts including a local cycling enthusiast (who became our local Area Manager for self-guided trips) and Czech-Canadian Veronika, who helped create what has become one of our most popular itineraries in Europe. In October 2012, I did our Avid trip with one of our experienced guides, Dominic Albert, who agreed to join me on a self-guided trip . We thoroughly enjoyed the riding but I was keen to return to experience the regular trip, which took advantage of transfers between Prague and Tabor and from Cesky-Kromlov into Austria,which makes the trip more leisurely.
As luck would have it, we had four intrepid souls (we’ll call them women of Whistler) who did our Piedmont self-guided cycling trip in October, 2013 who wished to return this year, invite some others and cycle in Eastern Europe. Some of them had done cycling trips with us in the past: Sabina traveled with us to Morocco, Turkey, Croatia, Piedmont, and Cinque Terre trips; Carol, (a wine sommelier and accomplished chef, in her spare time)- Tuscany, Puglia & Turkey; Mary – Piedmont and Cinque Terre; Karen- Tour de France & Puglia trips), but others were newbies to the idea of cycling for a vacation. Jane in particular wasn’t sure about cycling and vacationbeing used in the same sentence. But after a little cajoling, (thanks Connie), ten amazing women signed up for the adventure. This time, the group decided on a guided trip (we operate these under Great Explorations name); Veronika would be the lead guide, and I would be ‘along for the ride’ (lucky me)! Their cycling abilities ranged from hardcore to ever-smiling Jane, who repeatedly reminded me that she hadn’t cycled much in the past 10 years and didn’t want to hold anyone up. I was enough concerned that I had one of our new bikes shipped to our office in Vancouver so she could test-ride the bike she would be on for the trip. She loved the bike and her tensions were eased.
The group had no problem with any of the distances; in fact, on the Cesky-Krumlov loop to Lake Lipno, the entire group did the long ride (77 km; 1340 m gain) and I for one, was enormously impressed, especially when they appeared for pre-dinner drinks, looking like the successful, cultured, interesting women they were.
On the final night of the trip, we were in Weissenkirchen staying at the historic Rafflesburg Hof Hotel. Carol and Karen and I had just finished an extra loop, climbing up into the hills above the Danube and came down to see Mary arrive back to announce there was a restaurant opening party happening up above town in the vineyards. I quickly biked over and told the owner that I was with a group of very attractive women (who had biked from Tabor); he didn’t hesitate a moment, just blinked and insisted I fetch them (which I did); we enjoyed complimentary drinks and appees while being entertained by a local string quartet. In the evening sun, with vineyards (and every bachelor in Weissenkirchen) all around us, we toasted an amazing week together.
As I bid farewell in Vienna, I knew this group of women would be traveling with us again and, if invited, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Thank you ladies (Sabina, Mary, Connie, Carol, Heather, Brook, Nancy, Jane, Karen, Nancy); you are all amazing!
Robbin McKinney, Owner of Randonnée Tours
Click here for itinerary: Prague to Vienna
Post-script: here are few of the comments received –
“We had an incredible trip from Prague to Vienna. The hotels and meals along the way were fantastic, and the riding was spectacular with different views and sights ever day. We couldn’t have asked for a better trip.” Carol L. – Whistler, BC