A Ride Through Poland

Day 26 – Zduńska Wola to Łódź- 58 kms

I got lucky, it didn’t rain last night nor this morning, so I was able to put the tent away without any problem. The skies were still grey this morning though, but the temperature felt a bit warmer – maybe that’s a sign of improving weather – one can only hope!

Church Built in 1335!

Church Built in 1335!

I found a back road from Zduńska Wola to Szadek – the town where my mother was born. And as my relatives informed me a couple of nights ago, there was nothing really there as far as family connections. I explored the village a bit and took some photos. The only church there was built in the 1300’s, and was quite possibly where my mother was baptised. The local priest was not around when I was there and there were other people waiting for him to show up. Too bad, it would have been interesting to see if any pre-WWII records existed to confirm whether her birth was actually documented there. Regardless, it was a nice little village, all the same.

From there I rode on route 710 all the way into Łódź, more of the usual mechanical bull action over filled-in potholes – why they don’t smooth the repair out after they’ve filled in the hole is beyond me! Anyway, riding into big cities is always a challenge. It’s not just dealing with the traffic, it’s tramcar rails, cobbled streets, masses of pedestrians etc., plus the mystery of where I’m actually going to end up. Somehow or other I seem to find my way to the city centres and that’s where my LP book really helps, as it contains downtown maps for many towns – and food and accommodation info too.

Roadside Market in Szadek

Roadside Market in Szadek

I found my way to the youth hostel, expecting them to be full, but I scored a room there; quite central and reasonable too. Next job after cleaning up was to find a phone book – phone books are not as available in Poland as they are in North America. So a trip to the library where copies are sure to be kept was in order – first find the library of course! Got there, got a look at the local area phone books – nothing! What a disappointment, not one person in the book with my family name. I figured for sure there’d be someone, as my paternal grandfather had a roof tile factory here at one time. I even checked the listings of all the roof tile companies – as nearly all had the owners listed – still nothing. I even checked with a couple of government offices downtown – very tight-lipped there, you’d think that I was asking for national secrets or something – no joy!
So a fruitless venue as far as family, but there were some interesting sights all the same…

Piotrkowska St.

Piotrkowska St.

The main drag of Łódź is Piotrkowska St. It’s quite long and more or less a pedestrian only street. Riksze (rickshaws) rule there – lots of home-made contraptions and many plush ones too. Some are basically just a bike, with the front wheel removed, scabbed onto a two seat bench with wheels on the sides – quite the variety of designs to pedal tourists and locals along Poland’s “Hollywood Boulevard.” There are pavers, bricks, stars embellished with names of people associated with Polish films in many areas of the street and its sidewalks (Łódź is home to Poland’s film industry).

Riksze (rickshaws)

Riksze (rickshaws)

Just Like Hollywood!

Just Like Hollywood!

I also noted that many of the buildings in Łódź are not as old as other city’s that I have visited in Poland, but I still saw some very nice art-deco architecture all the same. As an added note, there are reputedly 150 bars along the street – I only tried one – honestly!

McDonald's really are everywhere

McDonald’s really are everywhere

The winds were kind again today, and whilst wandering around this afternoon, the sun was really trying to supply me with some vitamin D – maybe tomorrow I’ll actually get some!!!

By the way, it’s peach season here, so having abandoned the ice-creams until warmer days, I end up stopping at numerous fruit stands. The peaches are wonderful and super cheap too – I’ve just got to watch that I don’t overdo it though – those “Toalety” are sometimes few and far between!

Adam K. & (Remember, I live under the saddle – cut back on the fruit stands already!) Basil.

Day 27 – Łódź to Przysucha – 119 kms

Leaving Łódź

Leaving Łódź

For once, I left this morning in bright sunshine and I could see my shadow as I rode along. That shadow soon changed to a reflection from the wet road – yes, the grey skies arrived again and as I rode along route 713 the rain was quite steady, I could see no break in the clouds – my raingear is certainly getting a good workout on this trip! I stopped at a McDonald’s in Tomaszów Mazowiecki – more to pee than anything else – you can always rely on washrooms being available at a McDonald’s – even if one has to pay! I had a coffee and a snack anyhow and I noticed that their menus here (in Poland) do not include any breakfast sandwiches – I guess that the Poles prefer their own style of breakfast to McMuffins! Good place for coffee here though – coffee is a relatively expensive item here, and drip coffee is a rarity. Tea with a slice of lemon is very common and a popular drink.

Patchwork of a Roadway!

Patchwork of a Roadway!

Anyway, back to the ride… I’m kind of heading southeast to my father’s birthplace and the route is awkward for planning a place to sleep at night – especially when the weather is so fickle too. So after I joined highway 12, I thought of stopping in Opoczno for the night – not a great place and no hotel there anyway, and it was still early in the day. I checked my book and there was a hostel mentioned in Szydłowiec (dorm beds only though) – another 60+ kms – what the hell, off I went. Not long after leaving Opoczno, the clouds cleared and I could see my shadow again – sunshine, yeah! Well, I got to Przysucha and turned off onto 727, after a couple of kilometres I saw a sign for a campground, It was sunny, so I thought that I’d chance a camp night. I took the side road that was indicated and found a small lake with camping, cabins, beer, food and people worshipping the (short) visitation of the sun – life is good! No cabins vacant though – this is a long weekend holiday in Poland – but tent sites are always available.

Camping at Przysucha

Camping at Przysucha

No sooner than I had put up my tent, I felt raindrops and saw the sunny skies reverting back to their usual Polish colour of grey. Crap! – But it was just a glitch and there was some clearing with sun off and on for the rest of the late afternoon. Regardless, the campground was a good find as I still would have had 30 kms to ride to a possible dorm bed – who knows?

Lots more riding through farm country today – I’m constantly amazed at the amount of farms here – no wonder food is so cheap. I’m also amazed at the never ending villages that I ride through everyday – most are not even on the map and some are less than a half kilometre in length – basically, a few farm houses and not much else! Always a few cows and chickens in sight, but sheep are rarely seen. In fact, I’ve only seen one farm with a handful of sheep – the most sheep that I have seen were the mountain variety when I was near Zakopane and I think that they are bred for their skins and coats – there was a lot of sheepskin goods for sale there. But I haven’t seen lamb or mutton on any menus! Not a Polish delicacy I guess?

Tomorrow is another iffy day for digs and weather, but I’m heading for the larger town of Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski – that’s a mouthful – so there’s a good chance of hotels there – we’ll see!

More tomorrow…

Adam K. & (No more rain please – I’m getting fur fungus!) Basil.

Day 28 – Przysucha to Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski – 95 kms

Here’s a tip… Read the advertising posters before entering the campground! Starting at about 7:00 p.m. there was an outdoor rave or something – the thump, thump bass of very loud disco music until about 3:00 a.m. was hard to ignore, even with earplugs. It was advertised as a beach party, but as I mentioned the weather wasn’t the greatest, so the turnout from local communities was much less than expected, thankfully! Anyhow, I still heard lots of yahoos at about 4:00 a.m. this morning, mostly from my neighbours, and then I guess they passed out. I got up at 6:00 a.m. and banged my pots around and made as much noise as possible while cooking breakfast and packing my gear away – you should have seen the looks I got from hung-over faces peering out of tent flaps – Oh, did I disturb you? – Sorry!

A good section of Road at Last!

A good section of Road at Last!

The ride today was quite hilly, so I’m glad that I didn’t ride that extra 30 kms on 727 yesterday. That 30 kms included about 10 kms of the absolutely worst road that I have ridden on to date. I got cheated on almost all my downhills again, avoiding the myriad of repairs and keeping my eye out for anything taking flight off the bike. I had to ride about as slow downhill as I did to gain elevation. Actually, I couldn’t see the original road surface, it was just a blobs of asphalt covering the width and length of that section of roadway. Nevertheless, it was quite scenic throughout the day with many forested sections and very low traffic(that Sunday morning thing again) to worry about. I could actually ride in the middle of the road to avoid the worst repairs that are usually at the sides of the roadways but I just had to keep my ears tuned for BMW’s etc. approaching at warp speed! I did find some good stretches of road too, and the photo above shows one of the nicer sections.
Weather-wise, no rain today and the sun was out and in – mostly in – no need to break the seal on the sunscreen yet!

I stopped in Szydłowiec for a little sightseeing; the Rynek was interesting with an old town hall and church as its main features. Nice town layout with a castle nearby, but a lot of buildings were in poor condition, even in the main square.
From there I stayed on the main routes of 7, 42 and 9 and arrived in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski quite early to look around for digs. About the only place was a small tower block hotel – so I checked it out, the price was reasonable so here I am. I wanted the opportunity to check phone books again and hotels usually have the required ones. I also needed to do some laundry and other stuff, so an early day with good facilities was in order. Well, I checked the phone books, which included listings in a myriad of villages and towns in the area – still no trace of my family name in this locale. But, I’m only 11 kms from my father’s birthplace, so tomorrow a.m. I’ll be able to poke around that town – Ćmielów.

Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski – for such a fancy name you’d think that this was a nice place, but really it is very ordinary, with lots of the usual run down buildings and graffiti. Being Sunday and not a tourist destination, just about everything is closed up – I guess tomorrow will be the same for the holiday.
I’ve noticed that the outskirts of most cities and towns are very grubby with lots of buildings in disrepair – doesn’t matter whether it’s Kraków or Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, they’ve all got a sampling of grubby, unimpressive suburbs. Poland needs about one more generation to catch up with the status of other western nations – it’ll happen, just time and money is all that’s required.

Little known facts…
Tadeusz Kościuszko – one of Poland’s national heroes – fought in the American War of Independence (in fact, he became a Brigadier General) before returning to fight in Poland against the Russians.
The world’s first oil well was drilled in Bóbrka, Poland in 1854. In around 1888, one of the early directors of a mine in Bóbrka, Zenon Suszycki, introduced a CANADIAN method of drilling.
And, wait for it…
The twin city of Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski is Scunthorpe in the UK – I bet you wouldn’t have slept without knowing that gem of wisdom!

Adam K. & (Ooh, a TV with two English language stations!) Basil.

Day 29 – Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski to Kazimierz Dolny – 103 kms

A buffet breakfast was included with the price of my room – there wasn’t much left on the buffet table when I left! It pays to be early!

Quiet Streets

Quiet Streets

The Village of Ćmielów

The Village of Ćmielów

After a short ride to Ćmielów, I did my usual detective work trying to find some links to my family name – nothing at all, so after an hour and a half there I set off for the day’s ride. A bit of a dead end as far as my father, well not really a dead end, I’ve closed the loop and seen the towns that my parents were born in. Ultimately, with so little change in these rural areas, looking out at the vistas in and around the villages, my eyes have shared what my parents must have seen in these same areas – I feel as if I have experienced something very special. And even though I had no luck with one side of the family, the other side was a wonderful find!

Well I was going to wait and write about the lack of wildlife at another time, but circumstances dictate that the time is now…
Apart from Storks and their huge nests, wildlife has been slim to none – the usual array of flat hedgehogs in various stages of decay hardly constitutes an overabundance of wildlife – no deer, no beaver, no elk etc.

Last night this all changed…
As I was falling asleep in the hotel room, I heard the rustle of wings at the window, which I had left open a crack at the top for some ventilation. I thought that it must be a pigeon trying to land on the window sill or something – “wait a minute, pigeons don’t fly in the dark!” I said to myself. So I heard the rustle again and thought that I’d better have a peek. I opened the main curtain and looked through the net curtain – and there’s a bat (a rat with wings!) there in the inner sill area – the only thing stopping it getting in the room was the curtain. So I figured that if I opened the window all the way, I could get rid of the thing. I reach for the window handle using the net curtain as a barrier, and open the window. Then I shake the curtains and hear a wild flap of wings and figured that it flew out into the night. I slammed the window shut – phew!

Basil in the 'Bat' Room!

Basil in the ‘Bat’ Room!

I lay down and I’m just about nodding off again – after thoughts of vampire bats, rabies etc – when I hear something – I wait a while, there it is again – “Basil, we are not alone!” I dive out of bed, turn on the light and sure enough the bat’s hanging on the inside of the curtain – the sucker’s in the room! It must have fallen down and not out when I had the window open. So there I am – what to do? I open the door to the hallway, grab a towel and try to swipe or scare the bat out of the room – I’m only in my underwear by the way. So it’s flying round the room, playing at dive bombers and I’m freaking out! Eventually, I get a hit and the bat falls down into a blanket that was at the bottom of the bed – I quickly bundled it up and went running out the door where I opened up the blanket and watched the thing fly down the hall. I then rushed back into my room, slamming the door behind me. Thank God no one saw me running around the hall half naked waving a blanket around!
Wow, what a night! I still had bad dreams of blood-sucking bats and painful rabies shots! And no, I didn’t get a photo of it! The hallways and stairways were wide open in the hotel, so who knows where the bat ended up? I would have told the desk clerk, but I didn’t know the Polish word for “bat!”

Minor Roads in the Countryside

Minor Roads in the Countryside

Lots of miles today through some picturesque countryside filled with apple orchards – I took some very minor roads that would allow periodic views of the river. I’m following the course of the Wisla (Vistula) river which will eventually take me back to Warszawa.

Adam K. & (He didn’t mention the bat poop on the bed – just missed me!) Basil.

Continued on Page 8…

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