Prague to Vienna on Foot: Border Patrol

A series of posts following David and Gail as they walk 480 kilometers from Prague to Vienna in 2014.

September 27, 2014

It is not that we wanted to set a new record for kilometres walked in a day. Walking should be a pleasure and, for Gail and me, that is in the 20-25 kilometre range. Our first day of walking from Znojmo to Mikulov would go well beyond that. Nor was it a particularly engaging section of the Greenway, brought to life only by a fine Renaissance mill in Slup and by the overly straight and no-nonsense paved trails of the last 14 kilometres of our walk, closely paralleling the Austrian border. Historically used by the military to patrol the Iron Curtain, the roads were known as signálka during the Cold War because they used a signaling system to detect any movement across them. The imagination could go wild with Great Escape plots as we traversed endless fields of squash, corn and fewer vineyards than expected.

Wandering into our destination village of Hrabêtice at seven in the evening, barely beating dusk, we realized that a trip that I had early on calculated to be 33 kilometres, then revised to 40 kilometres on closer examination turned out to be a record-busting 46.4 kilometre marathon!

Thankfully, the next day was a more reasonable 23 kilometres, taking us to the wine-centric city of Mikulov. Also following the Cold War roads, this section seemed much friendlier, more treed with wayside tables and interpretive plaques, partly in English. We also managed to find a small wine cellar and sat down for a while with a cycling couple and our gracious hosts to drink a large amount of Burčak. This is a very young fermented grape juice only available for a few short weeks in early fall, a very cloudy brew tasting more of grapefruit or raspberries than wine. But the Czechs love it and will go on at length about how wonderful it is and its health benefits. Admittedly, it is quite refreshing and, at about 6% alcohol, you can afford to drink a fair amount and still walk another 10 kilometres without falling into a ditch.

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