Take a day to escape Prague and cycle 45km through the beautiful Czech countryside on a bike tour to Karlstejn Castle
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Escape the hustle and bustle of Prague’s city centre for a day of cycling through the blissful countryside on a bike tour to Karlstejn Castle, one of the Czech Republic’s finest Gothic fortress. Follow the grand Vltava river southwest of the city and cycle past farmers fields and peaceful villages to arrive at the magnificent castle that was built by King Charles IV back in 1348.
Ready, Set, Go…..
My boney backside hasn’t felt the awkwardness and discomfort of a bicycle seat for over two years, so when I approached the meeting point of where I would be paired with my mode of transport for the next 45km, you’ll understand that I was somewhat apprehensive about the day ahead. Being short in the legs I knew that whatever bike I was given would be either too large or too small and the helmets provided would be far from snug and safe. But in Praha Bikes defense they made overly sure that I was happy with my choice of helmet (having swapped it five times) and that the bike was safe and ready for our adventure to Karlstejn Castle.
Firstly let me start by mentioning, cobbles are not fun to ride over and neither is trying to slalom around tourists that walk at a pace that even a tortoise could beat. I tell you, it takes skill to manoeuvre around the back streets of Prague on a bike while watching out for crossing pedestrians, cars, uneven cobbles while gripping hold of the break, ringing your bike bell and yelling “Pardon” and “Excuse Me” in two languages.
Feeling the smoothness of the tarmac when we reach the bicycle path that follows the Vltava river bank was like gliding on air and I could feel my coccyx breathe a sigh of relief.
A Peaceful Ride…
Once we exited the city, the scenery changed dramatically. No longer were we surrounded by communist housing blocks and the thumping of the passing trams had disappeared. Instead, all I could hear was the hum of my wheels turning, the sound of birds and the sloshing of the water passing over raised rocks on the river bed. It was bliss. No more pedestrians just a whole open bicycle path ahead…
It got tough…and then really tough
I am not the fittest person in the world so when we reached the 30 km mark just before we stopped at our lunch stop my thighs had had enough. Quite often I found myself lagging far behind the group and at one point wondering which way I should have turned because they were no longer in sight. I felt like somewhat of a loser as the 6-month pregnant lady even passed me at high speed (she did have an e-bike to be fair though!).
The route is far from strenuous but if anyone does consider taking the bike tour to Karlstejn Castle you do have to have some degree of fitness to make it up the few bridge ramps and hills. Having suffered all morning from toes cramps and the ability to use completely the wrong gears it was no wonder that by the time we reached our lunch stop I was almost down on my knees kissing the floor. Rock hard and throbbing my legs felt like too heavy rocks as I carefully dismounted my bike. Reenacting scenes from a John Wayne movie I slowly moved over to the picnic bench where I sat down to refuel. It wasn’t far from the castle (only another 5 km!) and luckily for me, I found a second strength after lunch and successfully made it to the castle!
(Disclaimer: Slight confession…the kind pregnant lady lent me her e-bike for the last 5 km of the ride to the castle of which if she ever reads this I am eternally grateful for!)
That’s one fine looking fortress…
I had visited Karlstejn once before in the depths of winter. Although it definitely dons the snowy winter look, it had a whole new vibe to it this time. The town was bustling with tourists and the sweet smell of sweat mixed with the sugar of the tredlnik stalls lingered in the air. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to get off a bike and walk up a steep hill in my life. Oh yes, another point – be reasonable fit if you want to attempt walking up to the castle as well, as its a pretty steep incline all the way up!
It was nice however to be told of its history and hear the stories of its various sieges that had taken place (unsuccessfully) over the years. This was a castle that King Charles IV had built to store all his religious relics. It was also where he spent most of his summers, often bringing important visitors to the castle to show off his wealth. Legend also says that a water tunnel was built underneath the castle to the river and that once the tunnel was completed, the engineers and builders of the tunnel were murdered so the location of the tunnel was kept secret.
You’ll notice that Karlstejn Castle is incredibly hidden. You won’t see it until you’re standing almost at the foot of it. And you’d be correct in thinking this is no coincidence. The position of the castle was strategically thought out in its construction, shielded from the view of passers-by on the river. However, its biggest downfall was that it is positioned in between two hills that stand higher than the castle, which allowed attackers to set up their canons nicely on the hills and aim directly at the castle! Bet they didn’t think of that when they built it! Oops!
Since we were running behind on time (one guess as to who’s fault that was!) I didn’t get a chance to explore the castle’s interior, although the courtyard and the water tower justified the steep walk up. You can get a good sense of the castle’s feel from sitting in the courtyard and you can also get some great views of Karlstejn village and the castle surroundings.
Time flew by and before I knew it the group were heading back down the hill to pick up our bikes. Did we cycle back? Like hell did we…feeling as though I cheated the day we jumped on the next train back to Prague with our bikes in tow!
Disclaimer: While I was a guest of Get Your Guide, all opinions and recommendations are my own and are not influenced in any way.
Special thanks to Greg Snell for taking such great shots of me and my bike! 🙂