Over the hills to country number 20 – Usti to Dresden (65/18,733ks, 700m)

We woke to blues skies in the campground and had a great sunny morning.  It clouded up during the day but sun in the morning meant packing a dry tent – woohoo – makes the senior editor much happier.  We only had 60ish k to ride and our warmshowers hosts in Dresden were not able to meet us until after work, so we had a nice leisurely start and easy ride.

We had a choice of two routes, over the hills on the CZ/German border, or along the bikepath on the Elbe River.  The path was in such rough state near Prague so we decided on taking the hilly route.  We started climb only a few K from camp and climbed over 550 meters in the first 11k.  This included a 15% grade for the last bit.  It was hard but we took it slow and managed.  There was almost no traffic which made it nicer and the views were quite pretty as well.

Not far from camp we passed a hotel named after Napoleon (the Bonaparte) and later at the top of the climb we passed the Hotel Napoleon as well.  There were a bunch of battle memorials and roadside markers but we could not read them as there was no English.  We thought it was odd that Napoleon would be honored here with the hotels named after him but didn’t really know the whole story.  When I got to a computer and looked it up I discovered that this area was where the 1813 battle of Kulm took place.  Allied forces (Austrian, Russian and Prussian) defeated the French here in what was considered a key turning point battle, helping stop the Napoleon’s march across Europe.  This all serves to makes me even more curious why hotels here are named after Napoleon.  More research is required…

Once we crested the hill we had a couple long downhills to the German border.  We stopped at the last town in CZ for morning tea/lunch at a nice looking restaurant/pension called Pension David (we couldn’t resist).  They had German and Czech menus but no English.  The waiter spoke German and Czech but no English either but he was helpful as best he could.  We eventually settled on omelets with onions, mushrooms and something green, which we thought might be green peppers.  We were quite surprised to be served omelets that contained onions, mushrooms and green peas – I am not a green pea fan.  I guess we need to work on our German a bit.

Soon after we crossed the border into Germany, or 20th country.  It was almost a complete non-event.  There were a couple small signs that we just about missed but nothing else official.  In fact, had it not been for the typical border souvenir stands selling near-authentic handicrafts, we might have ridden right past without noticing.  There were a couple up hills but it was generally down all the way to Piran and the Elbe River.  Our phone, with CZ SIM stopped working but we managed to find our way to the bike path along the river.  We had 15k of nice smooth German bike paths all the way into the heart of Dresden, a nice way to finish the ride.

It was still pretty early so we had time to sort out a German SIM and exchange our Czech money before heading to our host’s home.  The phone was harder than it should have been.  Vodapone was way too expensive for a 7 day plan and T-mobile was confused – thinking that I wanted to buy a contract – yes, I do need to work on my German.  Eventually we got this sorted, got the money changed and worked our way to our warmshowers hosts on the other side of the river where we met Ela and Toby.

We spent the rest of night sharing stories and talking about bicycle travels.  Ela and Toby completed a trip from Dresden to NZ a little over a year ago.  In fact, they were in Sydney on their trip only 2 days after we left to start our trip.  They stayed at some warmshowers along the route and having done a long trip like ours, they are perfect hosts.

We are going to spend the weekend here, getting a look around at Dresden and maybe getting some bike maintenance done.  Toby was quite impressed by my hand carved wooded Ortlieb handlebar support but thought that the local shop might have a replacement part for the broken one we’ve had welded so far twice on the trip – we’ll share royalties on the wooden part if Ortlieb makes any sort of financial offer.

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