A Ride Through Poland

Day 9 – Siemiatycze to Okuninka – 139 kms

The wind robbed me of the opportunity to make it to Chełm today. The westerlies are relentless here – every day the winds blow across those wide open fields from morning until nightfall. Last few days have been south westerlies – much to my grief. 25 kms to 35 kms/hr is a lot of wind to push on a touring bike that is not aerodynamic due to the luggage. Moreover, the winds cost me about 5 kms/hr, so after 8 hours pedalling, I’ve lost 40 kms – just about the distance that I needed today.

I rode out of Siemiatycze on the main route of 19 for a few kilometres and then turned southeast onto a smaller road, 811 to Biała Podlaska – brunch/lunch, whatever there, and back out into the wind again onto 812. By 4:00 p.m. I was pretty tired and decided to stop at a camping place noted on my map – I stocked up with some supplies at Włodawa and dragged the stuff, and my sorry arse, 6 kms to the campground – I hurried too, ’cause I had a couple of cold ones tucked in the bags. Well fool me – this is another holiday resort type place for the Poles – lots of camping and seaside type activities by the shores of a small lake here. Everything is at hand together with swarms of holidaymakers. Oh well for one night it’ll take my mind off that damn headwind. I think that I’m also very close to the either the Belarus or Ukraine border – or both!
I don’t know if Poland’s built on sand, but all the riversides and lakeshores that I have passed and visited have some really nice sand beaches – hence the popularity of these places with the locals.
What is Poland’s GNP (Gross National Product)? Must be farming, I don’t see evidence of much else – little bit of logging, but the forests are quite small – nice refuges from the headwinds though – damn, there I go again, I said I wasn’t going to mention those #$%*^ winds again!
Other than you know what, the weather was quite hot again today – two ice-cream day, could be three soon. Supposed to get really hot for the next two days and then thunderstorms.

Fields and Fields of Wheat!

Fields and Fields of Wheat!

Yep, fields of wheat everywhere, good for bread etc., but do you think you can buy oatmeal here? I can’t find any, but I don’t know the Polish word for it either, so that doesn’t help – come on, some smartass, email me the word!
Anyway, I’ve resorted to some Kasza for breaky until I find the oatmeal – you guys can figure that out for yourselves.

So much for a rest day in Chełm – I think that I’ll nix that and do Zamość tomorrow – which is an old walled city. Should be very interesting – maybe more so than the chalk mines at Chełm.
Boy, I’m tired tonight – they were long miles today, but Zamość is a bit shorter ride tomorrow and will be good place for a rest.

Lots of Lumps and Bumps!

Lots of Lumps and Bumps!

I forgot to mention that the last 20 kms today were on a concrete road – reminded me of the back roads in Manitoba,Canada – anyway, it was kerthump, kerthump, kerthump at every five metre expansion crack, talk about hard on the butt! Even with a sprung saddle my arse was protesting – no more of that I hope!

Churches Everywhere!

Churches Everywhere!

I don’t know if southern Poland is more affluent than the north, but most of the towns and villages that I passed through today on roads 811 and 812 were much nicer than what I’ve witnessed previously. Houses were in better repair as were the streets and sidewalks – still lots of potholes everywhere – but nice signs warning of the potholes!

Water Well, still in use!

Water Well, still in use!

As I continue to travel through Poland, I’m finding quite the variety of buildings and some striking differences between old and new architecture. Some of the older cottages were obviously built to last and many are still in very good repair. Modernisation and change is coming slower to some of the smaller villages, as I’ve witnessed many throwbacks to times gone by – in some places the residents are still hauling water from wells on their property. Nevertheless, it is wonderful to see the diversity and individuality of people and their infrastructure as I travel from place to place.

Anyway, I’ve got to cook and eat – tomorrow’s another ride.

Adam K. & (Come on, stop typing, I’m hungry) Basil.

Day 10 – Okuninka to Zamość – 106 kms

Bloody wind still gave me grief this morning and the potholed roads made my arse even sorer! – Not even saddle-sores, but a definite bruising! I was glad to get off 812 and ride on the smooth shoulder of 17 for the last 35 kms – it was busier, but much nicer on the old rear end.

Quiet Now! But you should have seen it yesterday!

Quiet Now! But you should have seen it yesterday!

Talk about a zoo at that village last night – disco music blaring till all hours and lots of drunken shouting going on – best piece of kit for camping – ear plugs – don’t leave home without ’em! I took a photo of the main street in the morning when it was quiet -imagine wall-to-wall people on this strip last night though.

Quite a few more hills today; yesterday I hit a couple of short 10% grades, today I encountered about three at 10% and quite long grinds too. But I also passed through more forested areas which helped to cut down the wind for me. Naturally, riding through the hills gave me some better scenery than the wide expanses of farmland that I have seen every day, and even though it is harder pedalling, I find the different landscapes vistas very refreshing.
I arrived in Zamość, and of course it’s a major tourist area too – but really spectacular. The old city is in permanent restoration mode I think, but the town square is splendid. Exactly 100 metres square and built on a perfect east, west and north, south axes. Difficult to explain in words, but definitely a taste of old Poland. The town was built in the 16th century, so most of the houses in the walled city are period. The streets through the town are very narrow and (roughly) cobbled – ouch, they were hard on the butt too! – and remind me of the narrow streets of York in the UK. The town has been remodelled somewhat and has a taste of the Renaissance period to my untrained eye. Anyway, I’ve only seen a bit of it and I’ve got all day tomorrow to explore – day off!

Peeking through the Arches

Peeking through the Arches

Of course, expect the hotels inside the walls to be full – I checked my Lonely Planet book – don’t leave home without one of them either – the first place I tried was full. The next was recommended as budget accommodation, but it is clean but not much better than a hostel though and quite cheap for the location – I’ll add that the building is really old and fits in with the scene. I took it, and I’m glad I did – after getting cleaned up, I saw some of the prices at the other places and figured that I did pretty good – I can spend the money I saved on the room for food and beer! However, the best hotels here are still inexpensive by western standards and offer three star digs for about C$60.00!

Beautiful Architecture

Beautiful Architecture

I’m amazed at the history in Poland – I boned up with some reading before I came, but it’s still remarkable to pass through towns that were established many centuries ago. And the artifacts at the few museums that I’ve ducked into are incredible too. With the amount of times that Poland has been invaded and devastated over the centuries, you’d think that there’d be nothing left, but through the tenacity of the people, the historical elements of Poland are alive and well – I’m impressed and on route now to visit some of Poland’s castles and palaces in the next part of this adventure. I was going to spend more time in the mountains, but tomorrow I might play around with my schedule. I’m sure that I can find a nice cafe/bar to mull over some route planning. What with that and sightseeing, sounds like a full day to me…

More later…

Adam K. & (Thank God, a day off from hanging onto that saddle – sore arse or not, at least HE gets to sit down) Basil.

Day 11 – Rest Day – Zamość – 0 kms

What a day! Besides the weather being a scorcher, I’ve wandered around for hours taking in the nooks, crevices and sights of this historic town. There are three museums, a palace and numerous churches, one of which is a cathedral and particularly spectacular. Most of the town’s walls are now either ruins or non-existent, but some of the bastions remain – I went down with a tour group into some of the tunnels underneath one of them, interesting place, the main floor is an indoor market!

Town Bastion

Town Bastion

Narrow Streets

Narrow Streets

Most of the houses around the town centre were built centuries ago and the magnificent architecture is pure eye-candy! The upper floors of many of buildings are apartments with businesses on the main floors and in the cellars – yes cellars, there are restaurants and bars that occupy space underground – a wonderful and cool place for a beer on a hot day like today – not much of a view though! There’s some serious (and well appointed) restoration projects ongoing and I can see that the writing’s on the wall for many of the inhabitants of these buildings – the commercial value will only increase with the advent of tourism to Poland and drive the residents to less costly accommodation – progress?

Cool Walkway

Cool Walkway

The Plaque roughly reads, "Remember the Suffering of the Children of Zamosc during Hitler's Forced Occupation"

The Plaque roughly reads, “Remember the Suffering of the Children of Zamosc during Hitler’s Forced Occupation”

Anyhow, I’m glad that I wasn’t riding today, this was definitely the hottest day since I arrived – I will be back on the road tomorrow though, and the plan is to head south to Jarosław first – after that, I can either go west or southwest. I have to be in Kraków on August 3rd, hence my indecision. Either way will allow me to see some more historic parts of Poland – decisions, decisions!

Guess what, I found some oatmeal today (looks like oatmeal anyway) – at least next time I camp, I’ll have something decent for breaky. There seem to be more towns on my routes now, so finding a grocery store every once in while helps – especially with the lack of second breaky opportunities. Many of the small shops have a large variety of items for a quick snack – “Pączki” – Polish doughnuts are an inviting diversion for a fast sugar fix.

Most disconcerting today – an oriental fellow speaking Polish – talk about a funny accent!

Adam K. & (Do we have to leave?) Basil.

Day 12 – Zamość to Jarosław – 132 kms

Cool Shady Areas!

Cool Shady Areas!

Another scorcher of a day – pesky headwind was still there too. It was in the high thirties and more of the same expected for tomorrow – the only respite today were the many shaded forested areas that I rode through – but the open fields were like riding through a furnace. It was so hot that the tar was melting on the roads – something else to avoid besides the bumps and grinds. At least the old bum feels better today after a day’s strolling around and lounging on soft cafe/bar seats – that was the criteria for garnering my business – soft seats!
I’ve taken the first “Hotelik” that I came across on the outskirts of Jarosław – too hot to fart around with the nightly search for digs – I had to get into the shade, I was getting giddy! A quick shower and a visit to the bar for a cold Żywiec beer soon put me right.

The Old and the New!

The Old and the New!

I would have ridden less today, but that damn Basil missed one turn and cost me 10 kms! Actually, the desk jockey at the hotel in Zamość gave me details on a (scenic!) route to follow, allowing me to miss the major traffic of 17 which connects to Lvov in the Ukraine and is full of transports. Well, scenic it was, quiet it was, and as usual scenic means hilly – it was! But not surprising as I am heading into the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains – more precisely the “Beskid Niski” region. Initially, I was close to a National Park/Forest and then I must have travelled through at least fifteen villages and towns – some very nice ones too – Krasnobród in particular was notable as I snagged a second breaky (drugie śniadanie) there! After that I rode on back roads to Susiec, another pretty town – that’s where the beaver screwed up! Anyway I soon realised I was going in the wrong direction ’cause the wind wasn’t in my face no more – I was flying along and five klicks went fast – the five going back were slower – Grrrr!
Notwithstanding, I was given a good route and saw many wonderful sights – I actually saw a farmer ploughing his field using horses. Lots of kids on the roadsides selling “jagody” (wild blueberries) that they had just plucked from the forests and other sights and sounds from rural Poland – “a Poland to be savoured,” to quote my LP book!
I eventually found the main route of 865 which took me to Jaroslaw. I haven’t seen much of the town yet, but I’ll poke around in the morning – the map shows an old house or ruins – there’s gotta be an old church at the very least!

Still lots of graffiti everywhere – even in the middle of nowhere – what’s with that anyway? Do you decide that you might have an “artistic” moment, load your car up with spray bombs, then off you go in search of a flat surface somewhere? Weird or what? Anyway, I hate to see it, and even more so on historic or memorial structures.

Memorial to the Partisans of WWII

Memorial to the Partisans of WWII

Talking of memorials – on leaving Zamość, I passed the Rotunda, which is now the “Martyrdom Memorial.” 8,000 citizens of the town were systematically executed on that spot during WWII. That’s besides the 12,000 Jews who disappeared from the town – there are virtually no Jews left in Zamość anymore – chilling facts! Also, on my travels today – I discovered that many partisans fought in the forested areas that I rode through today – there are many roadside tributes to those fallen heroes too.

By the way, thanks for the responses to my oatmeal quest. I did end up buying the correct stuff – funny though, it was the only bag of the stuff in the store, amongst bags of muesli, rice and all that other crap – an old Babcia had her eye on it, but I told Basil to give ‘er the evil eye – she backed off, we grabbed the bag, paid our bill and scarpered!

More tomorrow…

Adam K. & (Don’t believe him about the wrong turn, “I” don’t have the map) Basil.

Continued on Page 4…

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