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Poland
 

 
country summary

 

We entered Poland in the middle of June 2005 from the Slovakian side of the High Tatra mountains. We headed North to Krakow, before following the Wisla (Vistula) river East of Warsaw. We then did a detour by the Mazurian lakes before following the Russian border and entering Lithuania. We were in Poland for 3 weeks.

 

 
map

 

 

 
entry & visas

 

As we are both residents of the EU, Poland presents no visa or entry restrictions for a cycle tourist. The border was busy for a Friday night. The Polish border guards were very fastidious with the inspection of the passports - they even had an electronic machine for scanning all passports.

 

Isa is through and into Poland - but will Terry make it past?

 
 
language

Polish is a Slav language and all could be easy if their pronunciation of the words we have learnt was similar to the Czech or Slovak one. Nei,nei, it is not that simple and we struggled to make ourselves understood despite using the correct words. Not many people speak another language than Polish, so it was sometimes a bit hard going, but that was a good way to force us to pick up the local pronunciation and expressions.

 

 
camping

 

As far as Krakow the incidence of camping sites has been zero. The maps show campsites but on arrival at the town none exist, so wild camping has been the only option. In Krakow there is a campsite but it is a long way from the centre. So we chose to stay in the student halls of residence that have become available for the summer holidays (the Tourist Information centre of Krakow was of great help to find somewhere cheap to stay in the city centre).

Sometimes our wild camping is better concealed than others.

In Sandomierz we found a brand new campsite, very friendly people and excellent facilities (including a BBQ for the guests). The Owner's son gave us information on the PFCC federation campsites in Poland. On our route to the Mazurian lakes there was only one suitable for us in a distance of 500km! On reaching the Mazurian lakes there are campsites everywhere, virtually every bar has a campsite.

A special mention goes to the campsite ' Nad Rzeka" in Ukta (not the PTTK one), on the river Krutynia. It is a lovely family run campsite, no cars in the camping area, a little beach area to swim in the crystal clear river, a sauna and a 1 minute walk to the canoe/kayak hire centres.

Wild camping - after the beetle and bat attack

 

 
cycle shops

 

Pretty much the same story as the campsites. We will be in need of some new brake blocks soon and so have been half heartedly looking out for cycle shops. We have been told that there are no cycle shops in Krakow (something we find very hard to believe) by the tourist information. I'm sure something will turn up eventually.

Eventually we found a small bike shop which stocked some V brakes replacement brake blocks, but unfortunately no brake cartridges for our XTR brakes - beggars can't be choosers!

cycle routes and maps

We are still using our bargain michelin map of Poland. We have used it since Praha and it covered most of our trip. We have also bought some local area maps, which can be easily found in any bookshop.

The road surface in Poland is worth a mention. Road mending has been elevated to an art. Some roads resemble a perfect patchwork of different tarmac and gravel. Very pretty but horrendous to drive on. The drivers do not seem to mind though, they don't even slow down for a big pothole. They are very good at warning you with a gentle bip that they are coming your way.

 

 
food & drink

 

As soon as we crossed the border from Slovakia to Poland there was a proliferation of small vendors by the side of the road. They appeared to be selling wood carvings or old baked and varnished bread. Isa decided to take a closer look and came back with a yellow lump of smoked cheese weighing about a kilo. It is known as Oscypek and is a Tatra local speciality, it is delicious but took two weeks to finish - by then the novelty had worn off.

In Krakow we managed to find a small student type canteen called a Cafe Mleikny (Milk Bar where in communist times the workers were served glasses of milk). It was quite a scary place for two people who speak virtually no Polish - so we immediately decided to order the same as the man in front of us - beetroot soup and some sort of meat with pickled cabbage and potatoes - very Polish apparently but certainly tasty.

Water (woda) can be a problem. We were told that there is a shortage of good quality ground water, so most houses have two water sources: the city mains and the local source for showers and toilet. We tried to get water in cafes and petrol stations, but sometimes we had to buy 5 litres in shops before heading for a wild camping spot. We were also severely warned not to drink the tap water by a relentlessly insistent woman who kept repeating "it's bad for your liver".

Shops do not sell tinned tomatoes. There are no bakers, but each Sklep (shop) has a delivery of bread everyday. There is also the same fascination with waffle biscuits as in Slovakia and Czech republics. The biscuits come in a variety of different wafer colours and fillings - certainly in the McCarthy household these were always the last left in the selection box. One can even buy super size waffles - the size of a triangle sandwich - very moreish and completely devoid of all vitamins and healthy nourishment.

Cheese Report: Still nothing to report apart from the strange and long lasting oscypek. There are cows and goats everywhere - what do they do with all that milk (probably sell it to the Cheddar and Brie factories in other countries). The best cheese option has been the cottage cheese, it comes in a big lump and is unsalted, but is much tastier than the baby-sick, runny, lumpy, tasteless rubbish purveyed by the great British Supermarket.

Beer Report: Lager, lager, lager, lager everywhere. Apparently applewine (cider) is for alcoholics. Talking of alcoholics, there is a old French saying "Saoul comme un Polonais" ie "Drunk as a Polish Man" - we can confirm that this saying has a basis in truth. The drunkest men (always men) have been in Poland. They are pushing bikes, sleeping in hedges, weaving down the centre of the road and sitting outside of the local Sklep (shop). A visit to a sklep is an eye opener - amongst the frozen veg and beefburgers are the bottles of Vodka - waiting ice cold for their intended victims.

When the Polish consider that someone drinks too much they say "He drinks like a Russian" - it will be interesting to know where the Russians can go from there.

Cheese is a serious problem!

 

Isa gets her hands on a good Polish sausage

 

 
weather

 

In our first few days we have had generally cool but dry weather, but since Krakow it is starting to heat up and is in the upper twenties celsius.

From Krakow to the Mazurian Lakes the weather was mid twenties celsius with bright sunshine and lovely fluffy white clouds - perfect for cycling. The wind was from the North - not ideal for our route. Generally at night the weather has been quite warm but a couple of nights dipped down to 1 degree Celsius and that's at the end of June - winter must be a pretty harsh affair.

 

 
medical

 

Since Slovakia we have both had an absolutely stinking cold, which has got worse as we've stayed in Krakow. So we have made use of one of the huge number of Apteka (chemist) which can be found on every street. Drugs available are the same as the UK - ie for Terry anything can be cured by one Nurofen, for Isa some local honey and yoga normally does the trick.

 

 
flora & fauna
 

Poland has many national parks and we crossed or came close to a few. Some abound with birds and batraciens (have you heard of the garlic frog?), some with lynxes, wolves and bison. We were quite unlucky in our wild animal spotting, mainly because we usually turn up in the middle of the day when all the animals, not as silly as the cyclists, prefer to stay in their cool retreat.

Our route up from the Slovakian border took us through reasonably well populated areas so the flora and fauna are not particularly different than the Czech and Slovak Republics. One highlight was the first night in Poland camping near to Nowy Targ, Isa thought that the farmer was trying to search us out, but it was a colony of fireflies buzzing around us and getting confused by our headtorches.

The countryside was immediately more open than Slovakia. The larger hills are covered with forest on the upper slopes but elsewhere the most common sight are the huge meadows, kilometres long. Each farmer seems to own a long strip of land which he cuts and uses for hay. All the hay is still dried the traditional way on haystacks - a very labour intensive business. Even the smallest garden adopts the same principle - wooden posts and A frames are mounted everywhere waiting to be covered in hay. Because all the meadow flowers are allowed to flower and reseed themselves each year May and June provide a delicate flowery display - super.

Typical Polish lanscape near Krakow (left) and Mazuria (right)

Central Poland along the Wisla river saw the first real incidents of mosquitoes. One night was so bad we had to don the mosquitos hats for the first time. The mosquito hat takes some getting used to but after a while you forget it's there - which can make eating and drinking entertaining but messy.

 

 
 

As we cycled through central Poland there were a number of strange insects we encountered - the size of a large beatle , they flew in and gathered in huge numbers at dusk to find a place to sleep. This included anybody sat nearby their chosen spot - much to the distress of Isa who had to retreat to the tent after they took a liking for her new hat.

 

 

 

 

 

We did not know that bats could be so big. Sat in a quiet wild camping spot and then a gust of warm, fetid air brushes your face - you turn around and see nothing. Only after 15 minutes or so do you realise that the bats are flying right around your head - obviously attracted by the mosquitoes that are attracted by the warm, smelly cyclists. The bats were flying about one metre from us and had a wingspan of about 30cm (1 foot).

Mention must be given to the two most common animals of Poland: small yappy dogs (all the big really nasty ones are locked up in cages at the back of the garden - thanks god for this!) and storks, storks, storks everywhere.

There also seems to be a huge amount of roadkill (probably due to the poor Polish driving), 6 cats, 2 dogs and 3 snakes (one a metre long)

A cheeky frog making himself comfortable on the tent

 

Roadkill, best zip the tent up at night

 

 
graphs & stats

 

Distance Cycled in Poland - 1123 km

Days Cycling In Poland - 16.5

Average Daily Distance - 67 km

Highest Point - 1150 m (just after the Slovakian Border)

Number of punctures - 1 (Isa)

 

 
Rower Journal
 

17th June - Popradske Pleso to Nowy Targ - 84km (30km in Poland)

We crossed the border from Slovakia eventually after the most fastidious passport check we had yet encountered and aimed towards Bukowina Tratz for a well earned rest and a campsite. At a point called pol Godowka is one of the most impressive views of the Tatras. The whole mountain range is spread out in front of you. After cycling through dense forest the view point is something really special.

We reached Bukowina Tratz and interrupted a road gang planting flowers to ask where we could find the campsite - looks of bemusement and mention of Zakopane (25 km away) told us that the camping no longer existed - wild camping again.

We found a small stream, filtered some water and headed off down the wonderfully rolling landscape of the Gron valley - certainly the most picturesque we have found on the trip to date. Wooden houses everywhere, haystacks, meadows and woodland.

Much to Isa's distress we also discovered that Southern Polish people do not keep their dogs locked in the garden - so we were chased on numerous occasions - always by little, yappy type dogs.

Another trait of the Polish Landscape became clear - the villages go on for kilometre after kilometre with no real centre. New houses and old houses all mixed together.

Wild camping therefore proved more difficult than expected, we eventually found a spot nestled between to outcrops of rock about 20 m above a massive plain used entirely for hay production - and because the weather was sunny all the farmers were out and active until late that night (oh for the enclosed hedges and fields of the English landscape).

 

 

Nice view of the Tatras (before we discovered that campsites do not exist in Poland)

 

 

Haystacks and the Tatras

 
 

Completely wooden church in Rabka Zdroj

 

 

 

18th June - Nowy Targ to Wielickza - 88 km

The day started with heavy rain so we were not very quick to break camp, when we reached Nowy Targ it turned out to be market day - absolutely packed full of people and a little bit of a shock to the system after Slovakia.

After Nowy Targ we followed the main road towards Krakow - there wasn't really any other choice -it was very unpleasant. Polish drivers have the same attitude as German drivers - " I have an accelerator and I will make sure I use it". At every junction the wheels spin and the gravel is sent 50 metres back down the road - and the cyclotourist just cowers at the side of the road.

Despite the Polish drivers and the adverse wind, the side of the road was quite entertaining: grannies with scarves selling oscypek (took us a while to work out what it was), grandpas selling sheep skins,, plastic storks and garden gnomes. A real change from quiet Slovakia indeed!

After the main road we followed lovely rolling hills and valleys with a couple of nasty climbs towards the town of Wieliczka - where apparently a campsite existed. Some faltering discussion with the drunks outside the local Skep showed that the town now had a hotel so the campsite had been shutdown - in the name of progress - wild camping again!

 

 
 

 

19th June - Wieliczka to Krakow - 23 km

The reason for stopping at Wieliczka was to visit the salt mine. It is on the UNESCO world heritage list and is one of the major attractions in Poland. It cost £10 each for the English speaking guide and tour of the mine and museum - money very well spent.

The tour is 100 metres underground and covers 3 km of tunnels and chambers walking on and inside salt. There are over 300 km of tunnels within the complex with salt lakes, salt statues, salt crystal chandeliers, railways and chapels.

 

Ethel the Cow - Chained up next to the main road - with all that lovely hay just out of reach

 
 

The whole complex is supposed to be very healthy due to the lack of bacteria in the high salt atmosphere. Asthmatics come to stay in the mine overnight to improve their health. Unfortunately the health of the tall swede who accompanied the english tour was not improved by the constant banging of his head against the low beams of the mine.

Fact of the Day: The word salary comes from the Latin for salt, because Roman soldiers were paid with salt and so were most of the Polish miners.

From the salt mine we cycled the 20 km into central Krakow. As we approached the centre we noticed a huge queue of people on the side of the road -5 pm on a Sunday. It was a Lody shop - selling homemade ice cream. Our consciences made us try out the chocolate and vanilla flavours - the verdict 5/5, best ice cream of the trip so far.

We found out that the camping was 10 km outside of the town - so the very helpful tourist information set us up in the student hall of residence for 3 nights - £14 a night and 10 minutes walk to the central square.

What was most apparent in Krakow was the pandering to the tourist dollar (Pound and Euro). Everything has been converted to tourist purposes, restaurants (none Polish), bars, McDonalds and internet cafes abound. It is all very convenient and easy but seems a bit false after coming through such unchanged rural areas.

But the tourists, including us, were there for one reason: Krakow is a beautiful, relaxed old city - the perfect place for a rest, a big mac, a pint of Guinness, an all day breakfast and a bit of web surfing.

 

 

 

Typical roadside shrine near Weglowka

 

 
 

Illness forces a trip to the chemist for drugs

Basilica St Mary in the Main Square, Krakow

 

Arrival in Krakow - we just had to join the 70 strong queue for Lody

Isabelle "Two Lody" Michel

 

 
 

20/21 June - Krakow

Here are a few of our impression of Krakow:

The first striking view is the market square - absolutely massive. So massive they managed to fit an enormous covered market in its centre, an immense tower and two churches. And there is still room for thousands of bypassers and horse carriages. Very worth seeing is the basilica St Mary on the square: best church so far according to Terry (and he has high standards!).

There seem to be about 1/3 Students, 1/3 Nuns, 1/3 Tourists in the city. We were impressed by the number of people praying in the churches; catholicism is very alive here, maybe something to do with a certain Jan Pawel II.

Vawel Castle & Cathedral are a must see (it is a bit like Prague castle).

Terry had to wander around to find a camera shop to buy a new camera (very time consuming and very expensive, unplanned expenditure).

 

 

Apparently John Paul II was bishop here

 

 
 

Inside the Basilica St Mary

Fort in Krakow

 

Vawel Castle & cathedral, Krakow

 

 
 

22nd June - Krakow to Koszice - 68 km

From Krakow we followed the Wisla river along a very busy main road and later along smaller back roads. For virtually the whole day the extended villages did not stop. The landscape was agricultural - potatoes, beet, meadows, wheat, barley and other cereals but all grown in the characteristic Polish strips. No fields or boundaries just strip after strip of different crops tended by different people.

As we were about to stop for the evening a thunder storm was threatening to break around us when all of a sudden a massive fork of lightning and a huge explosion sounded - followed by a fizzing of electrical cables. We retreated to a local petrol station to allow our shattered nerves to recover.

 

 

Isa trying and failing to outrun the downpour

 
 

23rd June - Koszice to Galuszowice - 95 km

A similar day to the one before: a lot of fields and villages following one another without a clear ending or beginning. The architecture of Polish villages is peculiar: there seem to be unrestricted housing development. In between the traditional wooden bungalow, there are many bricks or modern houses, most of them half finished. The villages stretch endlessly along the main road.It could all be a bit tedious for cyclists, but thanks god there are loose chicken and the small yappy dogs to put a bit of spice into the day.

There are also a lot of people working in the fields, and we were surprised to see on many occasion that horses are still used for ploughing or transporting the hay.

That evening, we struggled again to find a spot to camp and the only one far away enough from any sign of civilisation was by the Wisla. 1 minute... that was the time that the mosquitos gave us before launching an all out attack on us. We did not expect to use our mosquito hat so early on in the trip, but we had no choice. It made the evening meal rather entertaining - rice is not small enough to fit through a mosquito net!

 

They still do it the old fashioned way in Poland, it's that or send the horses off to Italy to be made into burgers and pasta filling.

 

 
 

Sandomierz centre and cathedral

 

 

24th June - Galuszowice to Sandomierz - 58 km

Landscape wise, not much to report as the day was very similar to the previous two days. Some of the villages seem to be made of many little farms, with again the half finished more modern houses in between (a balcony without a fence seems to be the norm).

We reached Sandomierz at three o'clock and we were surprised to find a camping site - the first one in 200 kilometres and totally unexpected. After a relaxing couple of hours in the town, we decided to call it a day and enjoy the forgotten pleasure of a shower!

Isa prefers to do it lying down.

 

 
 

25th June - Sandomierz

We did not plan on staying at Sandomierz for another day, but hey, the town was nice, the camping owners very friendly and the weather lovely. We visited Sandomierz, which used to be a "city of princes and kings". Clearly it has been a grant place and pretty rich. It looks like a miniature Krakow. The place is tiny and it has five churches in its centre (plus at least four modern churches in its suburb - we counted them and could not believe it!). It is in a lovely location perched on a small hill overlooking the Vistula river.

In the evening, we were invited to a barbecue by Jacob, the son of the campsite owner. We met one of his friends, Zbyszek who speaks perfect French and is a keen cyclist. He was really intrigued by our plans and came to show us his recumbent bike that he built himself. Pretty impressive machine. Isa took a liking to it (it is softer on the bum) after a few falls in the field. And poor Terry was banned from trying because he is too heavy!

 

 

 

Sandomierz defensive tower

 

 
 

Jurassic Park on bicycles

Dinosaur hunting with George

 

26th June - Sandomierz to Baltow - 78 km

We set off late from Sandomierz (there were a lot of goodbyes) and headed North towards the valley around the town of Baltow. We were told it is a really nice valley (meaning nice camping spots for us). But more interesting was the Jurassic park of Baltow, the only one in Poland, which we decided to check out.

We arrived in Baltow and could hardly believe how many people were crowded in this small town. There were thousands of them amongst giant plastic dinosaurs, and beer and music stands. As it happens, it was a free party to celebrate the beginning of the school holidays. Fantastic setup!

This is where we met George. Well, he told us to call him George because his real name was Zdzslaw and we may find it difficult to pronounce (!). George invited us to pitch our tent in his garden, which we accepted rather quickly as it means we had a chance to escape the mosquitos for maybe a few hours.

George lives in a very remote village (a real traditional type, with no half-finished modern house) in the woods. We cycled another 20 kms with him as we chose to go via the scenic way. As we arrived George invited us to shoot with him. We were a bit baffled as George has told us he is a vegetarian, but he told us that he was using air gun with his son, so no danger. Hum, hum... it was not the case for Terry who opted for the heavier gun and split his forehead open (and he missed the target)! George then showed us his collection of knives, the best one being a barbwire cutting knife that used to be part of a kalashnikov from the Russian army. Terry confessed the day after that he was feeling a bit uneasy at this stage...

After our meal we did a massive bonfire in the woods and talked until very late about the benefit of vegetarianism. It was a bit of an eye opener because George believes that by changing people eating habits, you could change the whole society all together. He nearly tempted Isa into giving up bloody pieces of meat, but then.... no, juicy flesh is still too tempting, especially when you are living on porridge and sandwiches every day.

 

 
 

27th June - Baltow to Kazimierz Dolny - 79 km

We got up really early that morning - George had to go at lunch time and he wanted to make sure we made the most of our time with him, so no lazing in bed! He wanted to take us to the local swimming pool in Ostrowiec because there was not enough water in his house for both of us to have a shower. What a fantastic idea, and a fantastic swimming pool. The best we have ever seen! Everything electronic, slides, jacuzzi, 50 meter long swimming lanes. We left George's house feeling very refreshed.

After a few dozen kilometres and more long and endless Polish villages, we were feeling not so fresh anymore. We reached the town of Kazimierz Dolny quite exhausted, set up camp, eat quickly and messily (mosquito hats again) and off to bed!

 

Kazimeirz Dolny castle (destroyed by the Swedes)

 
 

Kazimierz Dolny and the Vistula River

28th June - Kazimierz Dolny

Kazimierz Dolny is a very pretty town by the side of the Visla river. As Sandomierz, the contrast with the surrounding villages is immense and clearly Kazimierz was once very rich thanks to the trade from the river. That was before the mud floods, the first Northern war, the second northern war (the Swedes destroyed the town), the great fire of 1850, the river moving away from the town and the gestapo taking the place over during the war. Some place really don't have much luck... Still, some really pretty buildings, granaries, a castle and churches are still standing and the place is one of the most popular for Polish (and other) tourists.

 

 
 

29th June - Kazimierz Dolny to Garwolin - 102 km

Looking at our maps and asking around for places to visit, it seemed clear to us that their was not much to see in the the next 400 before the Mazurian lakes area. We decided to get North as quickly as we could.

So, as you may guess, there is not much more to report that a very flat landscape and the usual Polish messy village. We had adverse wind for most of the day, which made the ride rather difficult and the views for Isa very tedious (Terry's bum most of the day - ladies don't be jealous, it will be in an even better shape when we will be back!). Cycling behind each other makes the ride a bit easier when it is very windy.

We found a good camping spot by Garwolin between the main road and the local river. The evening was to be more interesting. First we were suddenly surrounded by hundreds of flying beatles which gathered in the trees (and on Isa's new hat) to mate. A couple of hours later they had all disappeared. A real mystery to us, we could not see any left in the trees. Then came big bats flying all around us (good timing by the beatles, ten minutes later and they were the bats evening meal). 30 cm wing spans, the biggest bats we have ever seen.

 

Isa's new mosquito hat

 
 

 

 

30th June - Garwolin to Brog - 115 km

On the road for another long, flat and windy day. The villages are still very ugly and Polish people seem to take a particular liking to very ugly concrete fences rather than the traditional wooden ones.

In Brog, we found another unexpected campsite. Cold shower this time, but shower anyway and less time faffing looking for a good spot to pitch the tent!

 
 

1st July - Brog to Pisz - 135 km

We ask the campsite owner if there was any place worth seeing in the area (we thought we should better double check). But no, apart from a concentration camp, which has been destroyed anyway, there was not much to check out in the area. He did provided enlightenment on the lack of campsites on the ground compared to the map. During the communist era each company would send it's workers on paid holidays to the companies holiday village or campsite - these campsites were many of the one's marked on the now outdated maps. Since the end of the communist era many of the these communal facilities have closed down or fallen into disrepair.

So... on the road again. We thought we could make it to the Mazurian lakes that day. Well, we did, but what a day. It was a pity to cycle too fast through our first hills and the beautiful river valleys. We made it to the Mazurian lakes, but far too late. We stopped at the first camping sign we saw after riding through dense forest for a few hours. And we found out that in Poland, campsite does not always mean that you can use a tent. The owner was adamant that we must rent a bungalow for the night (despite all the nice grass around). Isa wanted to camp wild, Terry was tired and we finally opted for the bungalow option. Still, a bit of comfort was needed and it was nice to rest our tired bones on proper beds!

Typical village scene, wooden bungalow and a Polski Fiat

 

 

Typical old and new mixture in a Polish village

Approaching the Mazurian Lakes

 
 

Stork on a thatched roof

Confusing town hall

 

2nd July - Pisz to Ukta - 28 km

From our so-called campsite we cycled to Ruciane-Nida and started visiting the Mazurian lakes area. We stopped at the tourist information centre and we found out that like in Germany, they can only tell you about their local area, which is about twenty kilometres around the town. Still, we were recommended to kayak the world famous Krutynia river (ever heard about it?) and to stay in a family run campsite in Ukta. This was a fine piece of advice.

The south area of the Mazurian lakes is mainly wooded and very quiet (it is not the case of Ruciane Nida where we struggled to find a spot to picnic by the lake). There are miles and miles of forest without anybody to be seen. The forest roads are straight, but it is difficult to get any speed as they are made of sand or cobbles the size of footballs. Watch out for that skidding!

Hard going on sandy tracks

Sometimes too hard!

 

 
 

3rd July - Ukta - canoeing on the Krutynia river

If you are looking for excitement - forget it! If you are looking for a clean and peaceful river, full of yellow water lilies, dragonflies and butterflies, this is your place! Despite the Sunday tourists, the river felt quiet and we were well rested by the end of the day (particularly Isa as Terry did most of the rowing). A few beers and a dip in the river and the day was complete!

 

 
 
 

 

 

4th July - Ukta to Rydzewo- 58 km

We left Ukta for the town of Mikolajki, which is on lake Sniardwy, the biggest lake of Poland. And what a lake, it is immense, approximately 30 km in diameter! Past Mikoljki, we decided to explore the lake West of Mikolajki which is a UNESCO natural reserve. We got there at lunch time, and as you may guess, birdies, eagles and frogs and newts were nowhere to be seen (very wise of them). Still, the mosquitos found us quickly and we had to retreat from the bird watching point quite promptly.

We then proceed on circling the lake. Mistake again: the route was seriously sandy and we were skidding all over the place. Someone had to fall off their bike and Isa obliged after a very impressive skid!

We found a nice campsite by a lake in Rydzewo. We had a swim in the lake and the most impressive sunset + spawning fish in the lake.

 
 

5th July - Rydzewo to Grabowo - 78 km

The landscape start getting very beautiful now we were out of the forest. There are many little hills and they seem like waves in a sea of fields (excuse the cheap poetry). The sun was hitting us hard, but luckily the roads were now lined with fully mature trees and there was plenty of shadow for us.

We came to the town of Gizycko at lunchtime. It is the main city of the Mazurian area and many cruises on the lakes are organised from there. Terry had the idea to take a boat to the town of Wegorzowo, so we could make the most of the lake while resting or legs and get further North. Unfortunately we missed the only boat by a couple of hours. Never mind we thought, we'll go and see the town castle then. We don't know what happened: we spend an hour looking for it and it never turned up. We simply gave up and headed for Kruklanki in the middle of a forest reserve area. There is a farm of wild bison. Again bad luck was following us: we found a indian village with two lost German tourists and no bison to be seen! So we carried on to the campsite of Cerwony Dwor and there you guessed it: no campsite!

By then all we wanted was to head off the forest because the mosquitos were starting to feel hungry again. We reached the outskirt of Grabowo and find a nice secluded hollow in a field to settle for the night!

 

Some sort of liberation memorial in Goldap

 
 

Another Polish Bungalow - in wood of course

 

 

6th July - Grawolo to Wizajny - 71 km

In the morning, we reached the town of Goldap and we then followed full East (East again!) following the border with Russia.

At lunchtime we found a lake closed to Rogajny and we happily jumped in it. It is nice to take advantage of nature facilities when there are no campsites around. The whole village seems to do the same and there was a relaxed atmosphere to the place.

We then went to check out the railway bridge in Stancziky, as we were advised in Goldap tourist information. What a disappointment! There are two crumbling concrete bridges made by an Italian architect in the 1920's. They are the tallest bridges in Poland, but frankly they are as good as the viaduct in Kidderminster (and it is free to admire its arches)!

The landscape of the area got hillier and hillier, but definitely it is one of the prettiest we crossed in Poland. Just past Wizajny (the coldest town in Poland) we found another nice spot for the night, this time in a wind farm (on the highest point of the region). And we had a fantastic sunset and view on the area we had crossed during the day.

 
 

7th July - Wizajny to Kaunas (Lithuania) - 130km

This was our last day in Poland. We set off for the border crossing at Szispliski crossing a lovely, undulating countryside, dotted with small farms, woodland and lakes. At Szispliski we decided to change our money and get some provisions for the day.

Isa did the shopping while Terry tinkered with the bikes - it was a tinker too far. One of the allen bolts holding the front rack to the forks sheared off - leaving the stud embedded in the fork leg - oh dear. After some mild panic and a few questions to some local workmen Terry was forced to resort to saviour of modern engineering design - the plastic cable tie. 6 plastic cable ties wrapped around the rack and the fork and it was fixed - as good as new! Well it held up for the rest of the day - we will need to find a workshop who can drill out a stainless steel bolt before a more permanent repair can be undertaken.

 

The viaduct in Kidderminster

 

 
 
 
After all the excitement we carried on along the smoothest road in Poland. It was a new EC funded route from Warsaw to Helsinki - the Via Baltica. As there are only two crossing points to Lithuania we had no choice but to follow it and the fleets of HGV's to our next country.........
 

 

     

 
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