Whose woods are these? The fairy tale settings of the Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria just might have you on the lookout for a trail of long-forgotten bread crumbs leading to a witch’s house. But this pastoral corner of Central Europe is anything but wicked. Its idyllic landscape is colorful and welcoming, dotted with hints of its Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic past, including cobbled villages, historic burgher houses, and stalwart fortresses.
Mighty rivers – the Vltava, Danube, Inn, and Ilz – have shaped tradition, history, and commerce as much as the parade of once-great empires that settled here, from Roman to Habsburg to Soviet. By following the rivers’ currents, you gain the most insight into the world that once was. Early trading vessels shipped local goods like paprika or wine eastward to Black Sea ports, where caravans bound for Asia waited. Riverside settlements became bustling hamlets, while castles and their barons lorded over from hillsides, and soils matured to create some of the world’s finest vintages.
Even with such a rich and complex history around every corner, it’s hard to shake that fairy-tale feeling. Red-roofed villages with narrow lanes – as in Cesky Krumlov or Weissenkirchen – really do call to mind the imagination of your inner child. And it’s ever-tempting to duck into a local tavern, where goulash and schnitzel conjure the cozy comforts of home. Still, better to head outdoors and hit the road, or even the rails, to experience Bavarian forests, Danube shores, and the breathtaking Wachau Valley up close.
Hit the road with VBT on our Czech Republic, Germany & Austria Bicycling Vacation.