DAY 1 : Wine region of Southern Moravia, Czech Republic
Valtice – Lednice – Mikulov
Lesson Learned: Leave the wine tasting for the evening!
Initially, I thought I would be taking the week long bike tour with other riders like myself. It was during the first day that I was informed I would be embarking on the 230 mile journey alone. Although unaware of the circumstances that led to everyone who was originally confirmed for the trip not to come, I didn’t freak out and went on my way. I tried to think positive and thought that at least I would know how to survive a trip like this on my own and could write about it.
During a very detailed orientation offered by Discover France, I was given the navigation and the precise description of the route (such as “after 0.1 mile turn left at the resting place”). These exact directions eased my worries about getting lost while biking alone in the middle of nowhere in a place I had never been before. I was also provided with the bike I would be riding, a cell phone and a “just in case of emergency,” telephone number that would put me in direct contact with the company directing the trip.
I started off in Valtice, a little medieval town in the wine region of Southern Moravia. The starting point was on the hill above town, which was part of the former line of the Iron Curtain. The fields of Austria once considered, the “forbidden area,” no more than 25 years ago, could be seen on the other side of the hill.
The weather at this time of year, end of September, proved perfect for biking as well as resting and enjoying local wine. Be sure to leave the wine tasting for the evening as you’ll need to keep your focus during the day on the road. This wasn’t always easy as I passed a lot of little places with tastings of great regional wine along the way.
From Valtice I biked to Lednice – these two villages and the route between them belong to the UNESCO heritage. As described on its website it is an “exceptional example of Enlightenment landscape design.” In fact, it’s the biggest designed landscape in all of the world. The route led me to the beautiful 17th century Lednice palace and a 77 square mile park, the largest park in the country.
I started late this day and it was already getting dark. I needed to hurry to my destination in Mikulov, about eight miles from Lednice. If I had more time, I would have visited the amazing greenhouse on the castle property, built in the 19th century. Likewise, I had to pass on visiting the minaret, housed in the garden castle, a very unusual architectural element in Central Europe.
By the time I arrived in Mikulov, it was dark and raining. I found my way to Hotel Templ, where the tour company arraigned for me to stay that night, located in the old Jewish quarter of town. Finally, it was time for me to taste the delicious white wines of Southern Moravia. The soil and climate in this region are perfect for growing grapes that make amazing white wines.
I also tried specialties of the local cuisine. I opted for a rabbit paté (rabbit is a very common meat in Czech cuisine) and a moufflon steak (not common at all!). I felt this day was an easy day and altogether I traveled 19 miles of the route provided. Today was an easy day. Altogether 19 miles and part of the guided tour.