Toto, I don't think we are in Kansas anymore - the view from a service station near Breclav
I started today by eating a not too great breakfast at my hotel. It consisted of two hot dogs (well, cheap sausages), three bread sticks, one slice of good bread, a little good mustard, a little jam, and a pat of butter. The coffee was weak too! Oh well, it only cost 50 Crowns. My room cost 400, breakfast not included. I thought that was high till I got my room for tonight: 690 Crowns, breakfast not included.
After breakfast I did a walking tour of Mikulov. Then, about 11 AM, I left heading east. Actually it is a bit more complicated than that! I first left heading south, back to Austria. Then I rode back into Mikulov, got some CZ cash, and headed east towards Breclav. I changed my mind about routing several times, but the final turnaround had to do with wind. It was blowing hard from the south. Austria is south, therefore don't go there! Going east also looked to be more promising weather-wise, but the reality was that I rode in light to moderate rain all day. It started before I got out of Mikulov and never fully stopped. As a result, my camera spent most of the day in my rain proof messenger bag.
The center square in Mikulov with monument and vegetable market
Mikulov was getting folks from lots of tour buses as I explored it this morning. It a much busier place than last night with lots of traffic and lots of people on foot and bicycle. I walked up the hill - Mikulov is sited on a big hill - to the Jewish graveyard and the main Synagogue which are located close to the large chateau which dominates Mikulov's impressive skyline. It was beautiful up there and peaceful, except for the gusty winds. On my way back to the hotel, I stopped to buy a comb. That sounds trivial, but it isn't when you don't know how to say "comb" and you don't know what kind of store sells combs. I lucked out, as usual.
An old fortification in the middle of the Chateau complex
The Synagogue, foreground, and Graveyard, at the white building in the background
My indecision about route this morning came from a mix of feelings. I wanted to ride more in CZ, but it is harder riding here and communicating here than in Austria. I didn't want to spend the day riding in the rain, and the forecast I saw for Vienna while in Tulln did not have rain this week. I didn't want to go back to Austria - there are too many Jewish ghosts there. I want to ride to Poland, but there are even more Jewish ghosts there and I'm having a hard enough time dealing with the ones in Austria. I want to ride in Slovakia more than in the Czech Republic for a variety of reasons, but riding there will also be harder than riding in Austria. Etc. Etc. Fortunately the wind decided it for me < grin>.
As I rode east, in the rain and with the gusty cross winds, I still managed to enjoy the riding. The road from Mikulov to Breclav runs through a mix of fields, forests (great since they blocked the wind!), small towns and some hills. The pavement is variable, with potholes being a problem sometimes, but often it was pretty smooth. There was a bit too much traffic on some of it, especially with the wind and the rain making riding harder, but mostly I enjoyed the ride. I wore my Sealskinz socks and my wind vest, and counted on generating enough heat while riding to keep warm. It was about 60 F with a ten to twenty mph cross wind. I could go 15 mph when the road angled away from the wind, and maybe 9 mph when the road angled into the wind. Later in the day, the road mostly angled away from the wind and the wind died down quite a bit, so my average speed was only almost 12 mph. I only rode for five hours today.
My first stop was at a service station before Beclav. I like the Czech system where all of the services available at the service station are clearly posted as standardized icons. I also find the Czech roads to be MUCH better marked than the Austrian roads. At the service station, I got a sort of hoagie, a coke (expensive here) and a Snickers bar. Then I stood out front under the shelter over the pumps and ate my snack.
When I walked to the end of the shelter nearer Breclav, I was stunned to see a magnificent, almost oriental looking, church (cathedral?) visible beyond rows of soviet style housing. When I rode into town I saw a great modern church that interpreted some gothic cathedral element in a quite modern and quite beautiful way. Breclav is a happening place - it felt like it would be an enjoyable place to spend some time. But I just rode on in the wind and the rain .
I left Breclav on E55, a major road running north-east. There was a great shoulder till Petrov, about half way to Kunovice, then it got dicey at times. With the great shoulder, the relatively heavy truck traffic was no problem. Without it, I sometimes had trucks and buses come uncomfortably close. Note that I was not the only bicyclist on the road in the sections without a shoulder. I saw local cyclists - in the wind and the rain - between Mikulov and Breclav and lots of them between Petrov and Kunovice. The riding was really pretty safe: the drivers are accustomed to having bicyclist on the road. However, the thrill of an 18 wheeler or a large bus, passing a foot away when I am riding 6 inches from an irregular road edge, is something I can do without! Czech passing styles are much more aggressive than in the US. Czech auto death rates are very high. I don't know about bicycle fatalities. Note: that I was comfortable 98% of the time, even riding in rush hour traffic on a major road where it didn't have shoulders. I would have been much less comfortable riding in similar conditions in ANY US city.
I stopped for lunch at a non fancy restaurant in Hodonin. It was good. I could not read a word or the menu nor communicate effectively with the waitress - even though she knew some German - but I managed to get an interesting coffee/expresso and a good meal. Of course I had no idea what the meal would be until she brought it, but, heh, lots of things in life are like that! It was also my first experience with a WC where I needed to bring my own toilet paper.
When I left the service station in Breclav, I added my all purpose (dress, rain, wind, etc) shirt to my outfit With that over my riding shirt and my vest over the shirt, I was pretty comfortable riding in the cool rain for hours. I was wet, but I'm always going to be wet when riding in the rain. What mattered was that my body was kept at a comfortable temperature. That temperature varied a bit as the rain and wind changed in intensity and as I rode up and down hills, so I used the zipper on my wind vest to control the amount of airflow over the shirt underneath. It is surprising to me that two or three layers of woven nylon fabric, even when soaked with water, form a pretty good insulating and wind blocking system. When I touched the outside fabric with my hand it felt cold and wet, but inside I was not cold. I have heavier duty rain wear with me, but it would not have worked as well today. My rain cape is not good in the wind, and my gortex parka shell would have simply been too hot.
I stopped at Kunovice because it is my decision point for continuing in CZ or heading to Slovakia. I am now two days - with better weather! - away from either Auschwitz or Hungary. After arriving here I did some calendar calculation and, based on the time I want to be in southern France, I don't have time to ride to Poland. My plan has been to shorten this part of the trip if the weather was bad, so that is what I will do. Tomorrow Slovakia. Weather permitting, day after tomorrow, Hungary.
Two final notes:
The shower in my room tonight is the first one I've seen since I got to Europe that could accomodate the average person from the US. These folks aren't nearly as overweight as we are!
I had real Budweiser Beer tonight. It is much better than the US beer of the same name! It is also much cheaper.