Feels like heaven
Every summer the last few years my wife and I have regularly planned vacations around the Czech Republic and areas we've travelled through have included southern Bohemia, the Moravian wine region in the southeast of the country, and the Czech-Moravian highlands. Each year we take mountain bikes as our main means of transport and combined with the railways the match-up usually works great: many trains offer special cars for bikes now and the system works fairly well, as long as you remember a few important things.
We've seen it happen on some busy routes, made busier these days by ever more happy cyclists; we've seen people stranded in the sticks.
But, recently booking space for our bikes alone hasn't been enough. It happens we learnt the hard way we should also be booking seats for ourselves well in advance. One recent misadventure took place along the "notorious" Tabor route, where trains are often stacked full of young people returning from weekend jaunts. A Sunday or two ago, we almost didn't get on. It would have been funny if the train had left with our bicycles that we'd stored just seconds earlier!
Instead, I spent the ride squeezed at an odd angle, one eye pressed against the glass watching the Czech countryside fly by. I saw... snails racing along in adjacent fields. An 80-year-old lady with a cane who beat us to a nearby town. A lame dog chasing its tail that got further.
At the few stations where we stopped...
...nobody bothered to try and board our car. One look at my smiling face in the window did it. The one time the door did open we overheard a conductor telling disgruntled backpackers not - I repeat - NOT to take the train if they didn't like it. Well, they must have taken his advice, they didn't!
To be honest, I love cycling around the Czech Republic - and I usually, usually don't mind taking the train. But highly recommended are those reservations. Oh, you don't mind standing in a stuffed hallway, beating back "toxic" washroom fumes, staring at ten other dishevelled and furiously-squeezed strangers and are willing to pay for it?
Well, you might just have a point: when you get on your bike after that, it truly feels like heaven.