One of the great things about Czech Republic is the extensive and inexpensive train system. It allows you to quickly get out of Prague with your bike for a beautiful day-trip in the countryside. Last week, several of us at the shop decided to take advantage of an unusually warm February morning to do a full-day cycle trip along the Elbe river from the town of Melnik to Litomerice, roughly 60-70km.
The Elbe river cycling trail extends all the way from Prague to Dresden following both the A2 and Euro Velo 7 trails. We decided to bike the middle portion of it - taking the train to Melnik in the morning from Prague, cycling to Litomerice and then taking the train back to Prague in the evening.
Using two websites to check the schedule and book the train tickets with bicycle reservations:
1) www.idos.cz to check the timetables and
2) www.cd.cz/en to book the tickets with bicycle reservations
Melnik is a small town of around 20,000 people, about an hour by direct train from Prague. From the historical center of Melnik you can view a panorama from the Castle where you can see the confluence of the Vltava and Elbe Rivers. Modern-day Melnik is known for its agricultural production and busy port on the Elbe River. Interestingly, though the vast majority of wine production occurs in south-eastern Moravia region of Czech Republic - Melnik is one of the few Bohemian regions which produce quality vintages -and is believed to have been doing so since the year 875! You can surely stop in one of the many wine cellars for a tasting!
Every year in September, Melnik also hosts a massive wine festival or “Vinobrani” If you will be here in September you can find more information here!: https://www.czechtourism.com/e/melnik-grape-harvest/
Cycling along the Labe
After arriving in Melnik from Prague around 10am, we chugged some coffee and immediately headed toward the river. Since we planned on stopping to see Terezin we crossed the bridge to cycle along the west side of the river. It was extremely peaceful on a cool Monday winter morning where the river was absolutely still!
Detour - Rowing Arena Racice
Before reaching Roudnice stop off at the Rowing Center Racice - a massive 2km man-made rowing arena fitted with a hotel, restaurant and a paved track. Rowing or Skiffing in particular is popular here with many Czechs competing internationally and at the olympics.
Roudnice nad Labem
After our small detour we cycled another 15km, hungry and thirsty we stopped for lunch in the town of Roudnice nad Labem. It is another charming medieval town which is also an option to stay overnight if biking to Dresden in 3-days. For lunch, we went to to Zamecka Restaurant (Castle Restaurant) right on the main square near the castle which is a very typical Czech restaurant, busy with locals for lunch. You should not expect anything fancy here - I had a tasty garlic soup, beef with potatoes and fresh beer all for 6 EUR :)
After a hearty lunch we were back on
our bikes (which felt a bit heavier for some reason :). As mentioned before if you are interested in seeing Terezin stay on the Roudnice nad Labem side of the river...if you are going directly to Litomerice you can cross the bridge from Roudnice and continue on the opposite side of the river (both are running parallel so hard to get lost :)
Just over the river from Litomerice is the former fortress turned turned concentration camp in World War II. Terezin concentration camp was not an extermination camp however, many of its prisoners died due to malnutrition, disease and terrible living conditions. There’s a large cemetery just outside the fortress to commemorate those losses. If you start your trip early from Melnik, I would suggest to take a tour (either guided or self-guided). Before WWII, Terezin also served as a prison for political prisoners, Gavrilo Princip who assassinated Archduke Ferdinand was imprisoned here, later dying from illness.
From Terezin it is only about a 30 minute ride into the center of Litomerice.
Litomerice is one of the oldest cities in the Czech Republic, founded in the 10th century. The royal town is within the Ústí nad Labem Region sometimes referred to as The Garden of Bohemia due to the mild weather conditions important for growing fruits and grapes. Famous for its wines there are numerous wine cellars and vineyards surrounding Litomerice.
Litoměřice has also been the seat of the bishop since 1655. It is worth visiting the Cathedral of St. Stephen, a bell tower, chapter consistory and bishop’s residence. Opposite the chapel of the Church of the Seventh Day Adventists, you can see the house where the Czech poet Karel Hynek Mácha lived and died. We decided to forgo the wine experience and check out a new micro brewery in honor of the Bishop residence called Biskupsky Pivovar (Bishop’s Brewery). Just behind the ruins of the old castle is the brewery, not much to see from the outside but inside they serve a variety of fresh homebrews and some delicious food!
As we wanted to catch the fast train back to Prague we decided to ride to the next town and take the direct train back from Lovosice (1hr 20 mins). All in all a beautiful day trip on the bike!