A History of Many Historie Mnoho
Šumava is a national park located to the south of the Czech Republic. It incorporates the Bohemian Forest (or the Bavarian forest depending on your standpoint?) and borders Austria to the south and Germany to the west.
It became a politically important region after the Second World War when traditional uses of the land were ceased. Much of it became a military zone, closed to the public in order to increase the security by the Austrian/Western border.
Šumava also happens to be where Michael Moureček, Festka Co-Founder, grew up and where he has invited us to spend the weekend exploring the roads where his passion for road cycling was ignited.
Day 1: Acting the Part Jednat na částečný
We are not alone. Guided through the rolling hills of the national park by Michael and his business partner Ondrej we are joined by Festka employees, friends, family and even some locals. Our base is located in the very centre of the National Park and at times resembles a Festka museum rather than a home.
The area around remained closed for 40 years after the war, with various villages left extinct and their inhabitants relocated to other parts of the country. One such place is Horská Kvilda, which also happens to be one of the coldest places in central Europe boasting an average yearly temperature of 4.3 degrees C and as low as -42 during the winter.
We spend much of the first day on a slow ride towards Horská Kvilda while Festka collect images and films for an upcoming project. Rolling hills with far-stretching views succumb to dense forests.
Even though Michael grew up only 25km away from Horská Kvilda, he did not visit the village until he was 10 years old. His father waited even longer, and first went in when he was 30. Before then the village was part of the military zone and hence uninhabited. These days there are plenty residents including the likes of Tinkoff Saxo rider Roman Kreuziger.
It is not unusual for Czech professional cyclists to live in these parts. A combination of mountainous terrain and the isolated feeling after so many years of being closed have resulted in a ‘cyclists paradise’ as Michael likes to call it!
We continue exploring the paradise in the evening with a sunlight-dappled ride aimed at spinning the legs after a stop-start day. Energies were running high as Marvin and Christian from Ride Unicorn/BBurd teased the group into keeping the pace hard as they ‘tested the stiffness’ of some new Festka frames.
Day 2: Time for a dip Čas na koupání
We begin the day more relaxed riding with a visit to CompoTech; the carbon specialists who supply Festka with the tubes for their ONE frame, before heading up towards Prášily where we will stop for coffee. This is the closest we will come, but unfortunately not visit, Černé Jezero.
In 1964 Černé Jezero, a lake to the west of Šumava became the centre of a ‘disinformation’ operation called Neptune. The Czechoslovakian secret service planted Nazi documents in the lake and then proceeded to ‘find’ them again during the making of a documentary film, when they knew the western press would be present. The move was intended to discredit western politicians by revealing Nazi informants, who they were still using in Eastern Europe. However, the agent who led the divers to make the discovery defected to the west and published a book about the plot.
With the heat rising and all the talks of lakes it wasn’t long before we were searching for a place to swim and with the help of Thomas of Festka, found a disused quarry that would suit our needs.
Day 3: The last ride Poslední jízda
There is just enough time before we need to pack the van and leave to squeeze in a short ride and a quick coffee.
Before we head for coffee we decide to visit the baroque chapel that sits on the hill over looking the town. We buzz through the residential streets, attacking each other on the very short, very steep climbs.
Fortress like from afar, the chapel is the perfect place to pause and chat about the weekend with Festka and plan our next journey.