Biking around the world in Třebon, CZ
Touring the country's fishpond region on two wheels
Located in Southern Bohemia, 144 kilometers and about a two-hour drive from Prague (traffic depending), Třebon has become one of my family's favorite spring time destinations. Home to a 16th century Renaissance chateau complete with a landscaped castle park, two spa-facilities, the local Bohemia Regent brewery and hundreds of regional ponds where the famous Christmas kapr (carp) are annually harvested, Třebon provides a good blend of nature and culture. As a bonus, after years on the waiting list, the Třebon Basin Fishpond Heritage was finally officially designated a UNESCO World Heritage site a few days before our visit.
For centuries, Třeboňsko (the Třebon region) has been a prosperous commercial and recreational area. When you look at a map of the region, there is a disproportionate expanse of blue, marking an extensive network of canals and ponds. Water abounds in this part of Southern Bohemia. Flatter than other regions of the Czech Republic, the Třebon region is ideal for biking and walking in the woods. Since the area isn't as touristy as towns like Český Krumlov, walking through the main town square, stopping to admire the architecture or sitting at an outdoor cafe for a coffee and ice cream can be done without the hassle of crowds.
My mother enjoyed our biking trip to Třebon last spring so much that we decided to come back this year with my father, too. Her only request was that Radek rent a better bicycle for her, so that she could keep up with the kids. Renting bikes in Třebon is possible at the main square on the spot, although booking in advance ensures better quality. We reserved the same apartments near the town center that we’d stayed in the previous year. They were simple but clean and had a garage where we stored our bikes.
Our trip around the world kicked off our first spring biking weekend. As we started off biking along Svět, the children spotted numerous fish hatcheries and one drained hatchery basin that doubled as a “playground” for ducks. At the children's insistence, we stopped for several minutes to watch the ducks parade up, down and across a series of wooden boards. A debate ensued as to whether or not the ducks had been professionally trained. A kilometer or so later, the nearby Schwartzemburg family tomb made another good stopping point. While Anna Lee and my mother climbed the steps to the tomb to admire the neo-Gothic architecture and to buy old-fashioned wooden postcards for family in America, the boys hopped off their bikes and pretended to shoot each other with sticks they found in the woods near the tomb.
Once in the woods near the Rožmberk pond, Oliver spotted a deer as it leaped across the path in front of him. When we biked between ponds, we saw swans and blue herons dive for fish. Along the paths we stopped to read billboards (in both Czech and English) describing the history of the ponds and the wildlife and fauna native to the region. We chose a variety of terrains to keep our children interested, since they preferred roots and uneven paths to asphalt and level ground. Mom, of course, favored the opposite. During a water break, my dad and the children spotted a mother duck with eight ducklings. They raced back to their bikes for leftover bread from lunch and spent a few happy moments breaking bread for the ducks.
On our second day of biking we headed toward the village of Chlum, 20-kilometers from Třebon, on a series of logging trails through the woods. Soon after starting out, we hit patches of thick, black mud. Although no one really wanted to be dirty, we persevered. Several kilometers later we discovered the source of the mud was coming from one of the ponds that was in the process of being drained. By the end of the day, the mud had dried in dark brown splotches on our clothes and our bare legs. When we started to complain about being dirty, Radek reminded us that the peat for spa treatments came from local sources. We had gotten it for free.
Arriving in Chlum, we reached the pond where we had camped and fished the previous summer. We biked an extra 5 kilometers along the edge of the pond so that we could show my parents a popular outdoor fish fry. We ate lunch at picnic tables on a heated patio, sampling bass, trout, pike and the regional specialty, kapří hranolky (carp fries). Since the fish fry didn't offer anything beyond beer, soft drinks and freshly fried fish, we stopped later at another outdoor pub by a picturesque mini-pond guarded by a wooden statue of a rybářská panna (fisherman's virgin). My dad and Radek sampled local beer while the children had lollipops, tiramisu and a traditional Czech rakvička (little coffin) dessert, a hollow puff topped with loads of cream.
In this fashion, we managed to spend two days on our bikes, covering 70 kilometers total, stopping and starting again based on the children's energy levels and needs. My dad commented that it might be the only bike trip that he'd ever taken when he came home having gained weight. His favorite dish from the trip turned out not to be fish, but homemade ovocné knedlíky (blueberry dumplings) at one of the roadside pubs.
At the end of each day, we biked through the Třebon town center, stopping to walk our bikes through the castle grounds or to visit a playground or the jumps park near the Aurora spa. One night upon returning to our accommodations, my father noticed a local soccer game at the field beside us. He, Radek and Sammy stayed to watch the game, rooting for the home team.
Although biking had been the primary impetus for our trip to the Třebon region, by far it wasn't the only thing we enjoyed in Třebon. Sampling different fish dishes, ones we'd likely not eat back home, spending the days outdoors in the fresh air and showing both my parents and our children how much fun traveling out of Prague could be, we'd had a weekend we wouldn't soon forget. When I asked the children how they felt about biking around the world, they replied that it had been great, but that next time they wouldn't have minded if “the world” had been just a little bit bigger.
*********************************************************************Coming Soon: Tips on more great places for family biking in the Czech Republic
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