A Ride Through Poland

Day 13 – Jarosław to Krosno – 124 kms

That was one tough 124 kms that I rode today! Literally riding over the Carpathian foothills in today’s scorching heat was close to foolish. I had eight major climbs of between 8% & 12% – all 2-3 kms in length. Every town/village I went through was in a valley with a steep long hill in and out. Yeah sure, the downhills were OK, but I started dreading them because I knew there’d be a long climb out. Added to that there was very little shade today with temperatures in the high thirties again. Talk about keeping hydrated – I think that I stopped at every store and bought something cold to drink, and even with that and several ice-creams I was still dehydrated at the end of the ride. By the way, that 124 kms took me over eight hrs to ride! – unbelievable, but I still had that shitty headwind to contend with too.

Hills, but great scenery!

Hills, but great scenery!

The Camera Dropped Here!

The Camera Dropped Here!

Anyway, the first 30 kms that I rode were on busy highway 4 – I took that route to see the sights in Jarosław,Przeworsk and Lancut. Beautiful church in Przeworsk – there were hymns being sung as I walked by – beautiful. And the castle/palace at Lancut was spectacular. Not long after that, I was taking a photo of a nice old wooden house and dropped my camera – the batteries flew out all over the road and the lens moved out of position, but I pushed the lens back into place and put the batteries back in – it seems OK. Just shows that digital cameras are pretty tough – hopefully the photos I take will work out, they seem OK on the LCD screen though?

Beautiful Palace at Lancut

Beautiful Palace at Lancut

After sightseeing, I turned south onto 835/884 – that’s where the hills started in earnest – I could tell by the relief on my map that some hills were in order – but the heat fooled me – quite simply, I overestimated my capabilities! Anyhow, after almost hitting the wall on the last (steepest) climb, I got into Krosno, found a mini-hotel (thanks LP!) and luckily snagged a room for the night – tomorrow’s another day!

Downtown Core!

Downtown Core!

After showering, I quickly walked into town and found the old “Rynek” (town square) alive with bars/restaurants. The square is smaller than the one in Zamość, but nevertheless impressive with some wonderful old buildings lining all four sides. For a change, I’m dining Italian – pasta is what my body needs to keep fuelled up – maybe some pierogies for desert too – as far as I’m concerned, carb counters don’t ride bikes!
Pain & suffering notwithstanding, the route on the backroads was hilly but thankfully quiet, and the road was a little smoother than some of my previous routes. Also a milestone, over 1,100 kms of Poland’s potholes under the wheels according to my bike computer!

Here’s some observations to ponder…
I’ve seen that a lot of Poles have soup for breakfast!
Poles love anything American – Amerykańskie Chicken, Hot Dogsi, Hamburger, Kalifornijskie wines – and of course not really USA, but Pizza, Kebabs(kis) etc. Must be the influence of American movies that are constantly on TV here.
Poland, behind Germany, has the highest number of Mercedes owners!

I surmise that Poland’s rising from the ashes of a Communist state and joining the EU is coming at a cost – I can already see the influence of automobile ownership – some of the small country stores are closing – people can drive to the larger centres where a larger store has more variety. But unfortunately not everyone can afford a car, so the losers are the villagers who are stuck with no store now – and it’s usually the older folk who fall into that category – sad to see! Also, just as in North America, train lines are closing as more goods are being transported via large trucks. The hidden cost of this “cheaper” transport, is at the expense of roads that were not built for heavy traffic and are ending up as, literally, a pain in the arse for me! Soon they’ll be “twinning” the roads here – we’ve all seen that happen in developed countries – let the taxpayers build better roads next to the old ones – for trucks!
Alright, I’ll get off my soapbox!

My God, I hope the hills are kind tomorrow – if not?

More tomorrow…

Adam K. & (I told ‘im he ain’t 25 no more!) Basil.

Day 14 – Krosno to Nowy Sącz – 99 kms

A little shorter day today and mercifully the sun was hiding behind clouds for most of the day. It was still hot and humid though with sounds of thunder in the distance, so I’m expecting a storm tonight. Western Poland was hit hard two days ago – storms/flash floods caused some small bridges to be taken out in the Poznan region – hope it doesn’t get that bad here!

The Rynek at Nowy Sącz

The Rynek at Nowy Sącz

I arrived in town and found a room with breakfast included for a very reasonable price at the first place I checked out – beer garden overlooking the river helped too- so no hesitation and as a bonus my hotel is in the centre of town just off the main Rynek (Town Square). The Rynek is apparently one of the largest ones in Poland and the town hall was added to the centre later – but takes nothing away from the ambiance of the square. The Rynek once again is surrounded by beautiful old buildings and churches – I continue being impressed as I enter the towns with with a well preserved (or rebuilt) core, these town centres seem to be the lifeblood of the towns and its people.

I’ve moved into the Małopolska region/county now and the area is called the “Beskid Sadecki,” – another mountain range. I stuck to the main road of 28 today and was lucky that there were only a couple of longish hills to contend with. There was a big long downhill at the end of the day going into Nowy Sącz, so seeing as how my destination of Zakopane is in the Tatra Mountains – I think that I may have a tough day tomorrow – better fill up on those pierogies tonight; I’ll need some carb power for sure or Basil’s gonna have to do some pushing tomorrow.

Pizza and Funeral Stop!

Pizza and Funeral Stop!

Today’s route, although on a main road, was relatively quiet – Sundays here see very little truck traffic and once again church bells were sounding in many towns that I passed through. Being a main road, I had easy pickings for a second breaky and even had a pizza for a late lunch in Grzybów. Took forever to get the pizza though – bells started clanging from the nearby church and then a funeral procession went by as I waited – they had already buried the guy and were returning by the time I got my pizza! Was it a quick burial or a slow pizza? Regardless, it was good, pizza that is – C$3.00 for small pizza – I can barely buy a slice for that back home!

Saw a sign for a McDonald’s on the way in – wonder if they have McPierogies? – Inquiring minds need to know!

More tomorrow…

Adam K. & (Push tomorrow! – what’s he think I’ve been doing – that’s the only way the old fart’s been making up them hills so far!) Basil.

Day 15 – Nowy Sącz to Zakopane – 102 kms

I didn’t sleep very well last night, the sounds of thunder, lightning and heavy rain kept waking me up – even with my earplugs in! But after a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, bread etc. I was on the road well before 8:00 a.m. – the skies were overcast and the weather report was calling for more storm action – I certainly hoped not though. My luck held out and throughout the ride, I was only lightly sprinkled with rain once. Actually it was very pleasant, the storm had broken the heat and humidity, so the temperature was very comfortable for riding. All that climbing that I thought I would have to endure didn’t amount to much – mostly long slow grades with one a bit steeper thrown in.

Distant Hills

Distant Hills

Lunch Stop by a Stream

Lunch Stop by a Stream

Today’s route along 969 was the most scenic that I’ve had of this trip – riding first close to the Poprad and then the Dunajec rivers with the low grassy hills of the mountains was very soothing – Slovakia was just over the other side of the hills at one point. Hardly any wind today too, or the hills were doing some blocking for me – either way I was making really good time and stopped for a second breaky/early lunch at Krościenko n Dunajcem. A crowded little town where river rafting is popular through the gorge in that area. From what I saw, many of the rafters tent camp and I saw lots of wet campers drying out their gear after the storm. The restaurant was on the way out of town in a quiet spot and I had a big feed of “krupnik” soup followed by some potato pancakes – I could hardly get up after those, but they did the trick and kept my energy level up. 969 was a bit busy, but when I reached Nowy Targ the increase in traffic was very noticeable – everyone seemed to be heading south on 47 to Zakopane – same as me! Anyhow that was a busy 24 kms with much truck dodging. At about 15 kms out of the town the “rooms for rent” signs started and increased in number exponentially every kilometre. Many people were just standing on the roadside with signs or they’d have their kids out there waving signs – I thought that I was going to get pulled off the bike at one point – I was running a gauntlet of money hungry room renters. Of course some were probably a good deal, but too far away from the town centre for my likes – and I have to admit that some of the hawkers didn’t look my ideal choice of hotelier!

Rather Crowded!

Rather Crowded!

Well, I arrived in this alpine village to total pandemonium – the place is packed with holidaymakers – a total zoo – the streets are flooded with them and I can hardly walk around without being bumped or mowed over by the crowds. Why did I come here? Oh yeah, to see the mountains – well they’re coated in clouds today, so no scenic alpine vistas of the High Tatras today and tomorrow doesn’t look too much better for clear skies – maybe I’ll buy a postcard of what I should be seeing!

More Crowds!

More Crowds!

Nevertheless, the town does have its share of history and I’m getting away from the crowds to check out the National Park museum and some of the quieter streets and quaint buildings. The town is the gateway to Tatrzański National Park and the Tatra mountains which stretch over the polish border to Slovakia – so there are many hikers in the summer and skiers in the winter plying the town streets of Zakopane. Although many people seem to be just here to wander up and down the pedestrian mall of Krupkowski and are content to wander in and out of eating and drinking establishments all day long! For the hikers there are mountain hostels scattered over the expanse of the park – I hope for their sakes that it’s a bit less crowded up there!

Herders Costume

Herders Costume

I was lucky to get a room again – a bit overpriced, but I guess for this touristy place, beggars can’t be choosers. Just as last night, I don’t want to risk camping while there are storms brewing.
With literally scores of eating/drinking establishments to choose from, I don’t think that I’ll starve – but I think I might have to queue for anywhere decent – besides keeping an eye out for beggars, hawkers and suchlike! I’m glad that I didn’t plan on a couple of days here – it would be like spending my time at an amusement park – but at least the ride out here was special.

I’m just about at the most southernmost point of Poland, so tomorrow I turn north towards Kraków.

Adam K. & (“We gotta get out of this place!”) Basil.

Day 16 – Zakopane to Myślenice – 85 kms

Chairlift in Zakopane

Chairlift in Zakopane

I had a good poke around Zakopane yesterday evening and this morning – and once I came to disregard the commercialism and crowds, I had a better outlook on the place. Many of Poland’s artists at one time or other lived in Zakopane and an impressive gallery has been built to show off their fine work. All the older wooden alpine chalets were a treat to see too. On the mountainside there are impressive buildings as far as the eye can see – chairlifts and a funicular allow visitors to obtain mountain views without the work of hiking – just line up for a (long) while!
So I piddled around this morning, figuring on a 60 km ride to Pcim – where both of my maps showed a campground. Well I shouldn’t have been so relaxed, because I knew that I had those foothills to cross again. But I figured on a tailwind as I had turned around and was heading north. Can you believe that days upon days of south westerlies today changed to north easterlies – but at least my path finding skills are still true – point my nose into the wind and sure as hell I’m going the right way! Nevertheless, four or five big climbs today, but not as brutal as the other day, probably because of less heat and mileage.

Really Busy Road!

Really Busy Road!

The road from Zakopane, then Nowy Targ, 47 then 7, was extremely busy and narrow – in fact, the only break from white-knuckled riding was when the road works started… My last downhill was luckily for about 12 kms and that was through the road works – they had just finished paving, so the road was nice and smooth. I had the bike up to 60 kms/hr at one point and that’s with a headwind! At least the trucks stayed behind for a while because of the ess bends.
So I figured on 60 kms – how come I’m at 85 kms? Well, remember my rant about road twinning – they’re building a whole new road from Myślenice to Zakopane – Myślenice to Kraków is already dual-carriageway. So where my campground was supposed to be is all dug up for the new expressway – prime real estate next to the river for many miles expropriated for a new road – next to the old road – next to a railway! Yes, I’m a Luddite in some ways and don’t see the need for this so called “progress!”

Well, I stopped at the grocery store in Pcim, bought some water and asked the lady about any camping opportunities – she said maybe Myślenice, so that’s where I ended up. I’m only about 40 kms from downtown Kraków, so I think most of the major hills are out of the way – I have digs booked in Kraków and tomorrow should be an easy ride – dare I say that?
You know, I wouldn’t have even found this campground without a bit of luck – I saw the nearby park from across the river, and across the road works – people swimming, sunbathing etc., but nobody camping. Then I saw a sign for a paint store, which is where I have to buy my stove alcohol – I stopped there and explained to the lady that I wasn’t going to drink the stuff (that’s why it was difficult to buy in Warsaw!), she laughed and asked if I was going to camp at Zagrzebie, just south of Myślenice. I then said that if she told me the way, that’s where I was going. See, pure luck, as there were no signs on the highway indicating a campground here. I told the owner of the campground that she should advertise, she said, “Why, I’m almost always busy!” Whatever, cold beer and restaurants here, it’ll do me for the night.

This Campground was my Lucky Find!

This Campground was my Lucky Find!

Finally Camped - Bar in Sight!

Finally Camped – Bar in Sight!

The weather’s picked up this afternoon, but my last look at the forecast predicted sunny/cloudy tomorrow and storms on Thursday – I might have to stay an extra day in Kraków – Oh darn!

Adam K. & (My voice is hoarse from shouting, “Truck coming”) Basil.

Continued on Page 5…

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