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James Walters: River Trails

James Walters is a professor at 
the University of Kansas. He teaches genetics, genomics, and introductory programming for biologists in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. This year, however, James is on sabbatical from KU, and for nine months he serves as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice. At the university, James conducts research on sex chromosome evolution in monarch butterflies and other related species with his Czech colleague Petr Nguyen. In his free time, he explores South Bohemia by bicycle, on foot, and occasionally in a kayak, together with his wife Meg and their daughter Ayelle. James says that: "As an avid cyclist and whitewater kayaker, there is really a lot to like here!"

One of the really awesome aspects of living in České Budějovice is the extensive set of hiker/biker trails that flank the river(s) that run through town. The main river is, of course, the Vltava. But actually, right in the center of town, is the confluence of the smaller Malše river into the larger Vltava. And there are nice trails that flank the Malše as well.

This map (a photograph of a large public sign along the bike trail) highlights many of the bike trails in the region.

Photo: A typical public sign with marked bike and hike trains in the region, Fall 2022.  

Because the trails are (mostly) paved and so easily accessed, they serve as a very convenient corridor for commuting north-south inside the town. For instance, I routinely use the river trails to travel from our apartment to the University where I work (and this is the same route Ayelle uses to go to school).

Photo: View at the Vltava river, just outside of České Budějovice, Fall 2022. 

Beyond commuting in town, the trails are also a major recreational resource, and many folks use them for walking, running, cycling, and roller-blading. The trails extend far outside of České Budějovice, and connect to other towns villages along the river, so you can go many miles on the trails. On a nice sunny weekend afternoon, there are so many folks on the trail it can be crowed enough that it is awkward to ride a bike because of all the pedestrians and skaters. And beyond the river trails running through České Budějovice, there is a large and established national network of bike trails spanning the country.

Photo: A typical bike trail in South Bohemia, Fall 2022.

From České Budějovice, the most popular stretch of trail runs north to the town of Hluboká, about 10 km away. This ride to Hluboká has become my “standard” outing. It is a nicely paved trail, with woods along the edges, and often running just above wide river banks where folks are often walking their dogs or just lounging by the river.

Photo: One of the many bike trails around Hluboká Castle, view at the Vltava river, Fall 2022. 

The Vltava is obviously a heavily engineered river. Which is to say, even in just the few miles that I’ve explored, I’ve encountered several dams with locks in them. At one of these locks, a channel has been engineered to create a very high-quality whitewater paddling course. (I have yet to paddle there, but it is very high on my “to do” list at the moment. Fortunately, they rent all the gear needed, since I didn’t bring any of my paddling kit to Czechia).

Photo: Locks on the Vltava river, South Bohemia, Fall 2022.

Closer to town, there are several open-air pub/grill places that have “aprés-bike” offerings, where folks stop for beer and food, presumably after they’ve had their excursion. These places were obviously quite popular and well-patronized in late August and early September, when I first arrived in České Budějovice and the weather was summery. However, I only thought to take pictures of them after the weather turned cool and there weren’t as many folks around to visit them. They seem to mostly close up for the fall and winter, understandably.

Photo: A popular chill out spot in České Budějovice, Fall 2022.

In addition to the folks directly using the trails, there are also quite often people fishing in the river. I don’t know what fish they’re aiming to catch, and I’ve yet to see them actually reel one in. But there are sure are plenty of folks fishing. Also, there are several floating docks anchored along the river in various places, which are clearly there to facilitate folks swimming in the river, which I’ve witnessed several times as well.

Photo: Fishers on the Vltava river waiting for their catch, Fall 2022, České Budějovice

But as I said, riding to Hluboká has become my “regular” route. It is about the right distance away for a round trip (for me), but also happens to be the location of one of the most epically awesome castles in all of Czechia. I have yet to visit inside the castle, but it is also high on my “to do” list. Hluboká has clearly capitalized on the appeal of this major tourist attraction, and has built itself into a notable recreational destination, with high quality soccer and baseball fields, a whole “adrenaline center” ropes course, a golf course, and small river marina.

Photo: Hluboká Castle is considered one of the most beautiful historic chateaus in the Czech Republic, Fall 2022. 

And just beyond Hluboká the trails continue into a small forest preserve, again flanking the river. So from my perspective, as an avid cyclist and whitewater kayaker, there is really a lot to like here!

Note: James Walters originally published this text on his private blog "Vltava Views." Fulbright has reprinted the post with the author's permission. 

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