Znojmo is tucked up a ridge above the River Dyje in the Moravian region of Czech Republic.
The Ducal Rotunda of Our lady and St. Catherine located inside the grounds of the 11th century Znojmo Castle, the underground labyrinth which stretches to 30 km under the streets and houses of the town and the Louka Monastery which houses a massive wine cellar and a museum of viniculture, all contribute to the historical aura of the town.
The stone paved winding lanes of the old town centre give a touch of romanticism to the town especially when they are lit up in the evenings. The soft light from the overhanging, old style wrought iron street lamps add to the enchanting ambiance of the summer evening. In summers the square turns into an impromptu stage for amateur musicians and night comes alive with a mix of jazz, blues and even energetic rock and roll.
There are numerous cafes, bars and eateries where the visitors can relax with a glass of their favourite drink and a variety of mouthwatering savouries.
The new addition to the town is like any other mundane city, though one can roam around and feel the stark contrast between old and new architecture.
We stayed in an old castle converted to hotel. The owner has refurbished with modern plumbing and electric fittings. The furniture and the décor of the rooms compliment the architecture of the castle. We were served sumptuous breakfast.
Our main purpose was to hike through the Podyji national park to Sobes vineyard, known to be one of the finest in Europe.
The area around the canyon of Dyje is shared by the Czech Republic and Austria. The Austrian part of the forest reserve is known as the Thayatal National Park. The River Dyje meanders through the park and the forest is a home to many varieties of flora, fauna and birds. The hiking trails are clearly marked on the map according to the difficulty level. On the ground, the trails have a colour coded arrow on a white background, marked on a wooden sign post. The colour code coincides with the legend on the map and visitors have no problem following the trail they have chosen. A word of caution though! There are many forks where two or more trails coincide and it is very important to read the sign carefully before proceeding further. We took wrong turning twice and went astray from our chosen RED TRAIL!!!
Hikers can start from anyone of the small but picturesque villages dotting the outside boundary of the park. Local buses run from Znojmo to these villages throughout day. The bus ride is beautiful…. passing through the hills, vineyards, quaint villages and gushing springs. We took the early morning bus to the village Havraniky. The Red Trail starts from the village and goes up to the Sobes Vineyard. There is a small wine shop in the middle of nowhere, where hikers can taste and buy wine made from the surrounding vineyards. Oh! It was very refreshing to sample a glass of sparkling white wine after a long, uphill, 3 hour walk. Our hike back was very eventful as we got lost twice and were almost desperate for help. Fortunately, we met two young girls from Poland who were hiking down the Blue Trail and going the same way as us. They had a bigger and better map! We were standing at an intersection, from where the two trails were common and heading back to the village.
Another aside here, please buy the map from the Znojmo’s Podyji park tourist office and don’t download from the internet. Their map gives full information.
It is a beautiful area. The trails take hikers from one village to another, some of which are not connected by any public transport. People just walk!! One can even cross the border and go to the Austrian side which is supposed to be more beautiful but higher on difficulty level. Adventure sports lover can cycle through the designated pathways…beware none of them are paved.
Please carry food and water as nothing is available on the trails and each trail takes, at least, half a day depending on the difficulty level. The park is full of lush green vegetation, tall trees, wild flowers, chirping birds and loads of creepy crawlies. It is a Hikers and Bikers paradise!!!