Bohemia


Mention Bohemia and many will think of metropolitan areas such as Greenwich Village in New York, Berlin Mitte or Montmartre in Paris. A meeting place for like-minded artists, writers or musicians. Fewer will think of an area in the Czech Republic bordered by Germany and Poland to the west and the north, and Austria in the south. An area that over the years has been annexed by wars, seen parts reclaimed and ultimately divided up into administrative regions.

Today one of those regions is České Švýcarsko, known in English as the Bohemian Switzerland or Böhmische Schweiz in German. Rewind back to the Romantic age of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and together with the neighbouring Sächsische Schweiz, this was the preferred country retreat of composers Dvořák, Chopin and Wagner, as well as painters such as Adrian Ludwig Richter and Caspar David Friedrich.

Which, in all contrariness, is why it seemed a fitting location for the first Rapha Continental Europe ride. Away from the road well-travelled, this was a true adventure into the ‘Hidden Europe’.

Starting in Königstein in the far east of Germany, at one of the largest mountaintop castles in Europe, the route wound and climbed its way through this enchanting and ever-contrasting mix of deserted roads and tourist-filled canyons, brutal switchbacks, sweeping descents, dense woodlands and green meadows. Time and again the journey was accompanied by sightings of the Ještěd mountain, which at 1012m dominates the horizon like a Czech Mont Ventoux.

Since the early 1970s, the Ještěd has been home to a revolving hyperboloid structure comprising of both a telecommunications tower and hotel restaurant. The architect of the tower, Karel Hubáček, was ostracized by the Communist regime at the time due to supposed ‘capitalistic building methods’ and use of ‘Western materials’. Despite being awarded the prestigious Auguste-Perret award, he was considered a persona non-grata and wasn’t permitted to the opening ceremony in 1973. It has since been named the most significant Czech building of the 20th century.