Ride through the stunning Austrian alps.
- Tag Archives Poland2015
Got up early(ish) and had a lovely brekky before anybody else was around. The lovely lady brought me my washed clothes which weren’t quite du yet. Oh well. I spread them out in the roof outside my window while I packed the rest and fit the bike ready.
The roads and views once I got going were absolutely stunning, with hardly any traffic about to spoil things. Soon however I was out of the mountains and into the plains where summer asserted itself with a vengeance. The temperatures climbed well into the mid thirties and the roads got ever more boring.
Things did not really improve once I hit Austria, if anything worse as I encountered several roadworks with long waits in the scorching sun. Eventually however I found mountains again and took advantage by taking several detours along promising looking roads. One of the highlights was the Höllental, only slightly spoiled by a slow bus in front of me which I couldn’t get past.
Eventually I reached my planned stop for the night though, the Wildalpen, which were in even more stunning scenery than any I had driven through so far.
First stop was a restaurant where I had a well deserved beer. They helped me find a bed for the night in a B&B just a few doors down.
While sorting out my room a couple of bikers pulled up at the servo opposite and I got to chatting to one of them. Markus and I ended up having a beer before he had to keep going. I had a great dinner of red deer steak followed by a childhood delight, Kaiserschmarrn.
Then it was trying to sort out the home Internet connection with Dana’s help before heading to bed.
Hot hot hot! Rode to the salt mine and got a ticket. Nice and cool down below.
Pretty impressive underground tour. Did the extra museum tour as well.
Came out of mine to find it had rained heavily. Helmet was soaked, great.. and it had cooled of a lot. Still the roads down to Zakopane were pretty good although heavily trafficked. Zakopane itself I didn’t like to much. Way too commercial and touristy. And every piece of dirt had some dude hovering over it waiting to charge you parking while local cops ensured you didn’t park on the side somewhere.
I saw a bunch of bikers in a cafe and pulled up. They had just come back from a training ride and one suggested I keep going to a town called Smokovec in Slovakia, which I did (after coffee and cake) and glad I did so! Once in Slovakia the roads were perfect and the scenery amazing.
I ended up getting a room in Penzione Koliba with a great view of the Tatras. Dinner was red deer steak, then to bed to plan the ride for tomorrow. I’m sorely tempted of going to try to get to the Hochalpenstraße in Austria after seeing some pics from some friends who rode that road a few days earlier.
Up way too early – woke up at 5 or so due to the guy one bed over felling entire forests. Underwater. Dozed until 6 and then got ready. Luckily breakfast was available much earlier than advertised so I got a quick bite before heading off.
Once on the road the GPS said it was only an hour to Auschwitz instead of the two Google had said last night. Oh well, at least the roads were pretty clear.
Auschwitz did not have as big an impact on me as Buchenwald had a few years earlier. Either I’ve become desensitised or the exhibitions in Buchenwald were more graphic. Auschwitz was mostly just the buildings and pictures, whereas in Buchenwald a lot of the old Nazi equipment was still on show. Terrible regardless.
From there I wanted to see the other camp, Birkenau, only a couple of miles away, but some busybody parking attendant wouldn’t let me park in an unused corner of the staff carpark and told me to park in the commercial car park half a mile away or so despite a security guard having earlier told me it would be finev for me to park in that corner.
So instead I rode around the camp on the bike and then headed to the mountains.
Unfortunately I discovered that the south of Poland is very different to the north, or indeed most places. Instead of having villages consisting of a cluster of houses with a couple of streets they just build the houses along the main street. Cue villages which are tends of miles long and hence a mostly unenjoyable ride as it was all at 50kmh.
I did take a wrong turn at one point and ended up in Slovakia for a few miles. The road just near the border was awesome as it went up into the mountains and there were no houses. Yayy.
Instead of the originally planned route, which was mostly highway, I took the 79 all the way. This meant quite a detour but I had no other plans for the day.
The road was well paved but at times very frustrating. The first 20km or so out of Warsaw was extremely slow moving traffic. Then there were some very long stretches at only 50kmh. But still better than highway.
Later in the day I got to some very nice open stretches with little traffic and even some small hills and corners. Moments like those are worth all the other bits.
For lunch I stopped at a service station in the middle of nowhere which had a nice looking restaurant next to it. They had strawberry-filed peroggi! So I called them lunch with a cup of coffee.
Later in the afternoon thunderstorms abounded. I managed to avoid them all, sometimes by minutes as the last rain fell and the roads were soaked. But about 20km from Krakow I slowly but surely entered a downpour which persisted on and off until I parked next to Wawell castle. Combined with some roadworks the bike now looks like I’ve been plowing fields with it. Need to find some bikini girls to wash it now! Lol.
In Krakow I soon found a Tourist Info, but this time without riding into the main square. Just as well, plenty of cops about. I booked into Momotown Hostel which was easy enough to find. A nice hot shower later and I was ready for dinner. The weather wasn’t.. so I had a good conversation with a chap called Dave until the weather cleared as I hadn’t thought to bring bad weather clothes for walking around.
I had been told about a herring bar so resolved to try and find it. But the spot were it was so posed to be only had a closed up shop next to a Cabaret and a sex shop. Hmm. 2 young guys hit me up for some money for wine (at least they were honest about it!) while I was standing there a little aimlessly, which I refused. Nevertheless they said they knew of another herring bar just around the corner and walked me there. It turned out to be the smallest bar in Krakow (space for about half a dozen people), and a really neat place to boot.
I invited Jacob and Piotr (the aforementioned winos) for a couple of vodkas while I ate (the vodka apparently being essential while eating the herring) and had a great chat with them for the next hour or so. Might catch up with them again tomorrow.
But for now, and somewhat inebriated, I need bed as it’s an early start tomorrow.
Had a quick brekky at the hostel and then rushed off to make the free walking tour of Old Town.
Our guide was called Bartosz, or Bart for short, and gave us an interesting 2 hours guided commentary around the sights, statues, and people who have populated the area for the last 600 years or so. The highlight for me was seeing Marie Curie’s birth house (I never knew she was originally polish) but I also liked the narrowest house (from the front only, to avoid taxes) and the story about Shit Hill.
After the tour I had lunch (a very yummy steak tartare and polish sausage in mustard sauce, washed down by a couple of beers) with Bart and a mate of his Blazej, and later on Blazej’s girlfriend joined us too.
From there I headed to the tallest building in Poland, the “Palace of Culture and Science”. It was presented as a gift to the Polish by the Soviet people, but many consider it to be a sign of Soviet supremacy over their capital city. As such there is some controversy over it. Nevertheless I got a ticket to go up to the 30th floor which has the public viewing gallery. I picked a bad time and had to wait for at least a million school kids to go up on only 2 elevators but finally made it. Nice views from the top but not entirely sure it was with the wait.
Having reached ground level again I walked to Łazienki Park, another 2 or 3 km away. By now my feet were complaining bitterly, as the sandals I had with me on the trip were apparently not very suitable for much walking. So unfortunately I did not enjoy the park and palaces as much as I had been looking forward to, but still had a good slow wander around with a few pauses to take in the sights. I even got some pics of a peacock and red squirrels!
To get back to my hostel I cheated and used a bus.. nice long hot shower and I’m rather contemplating skipping dinner and just going to bed.. Off to Krakow tomorrow!
Oh, btw, the centre of town is quite civilised with plenty of free wifi around.
Had a pretty good sleep but still didn’t get going until 9. I really don’t like mornings! Packed the bike and took a photo of my hosts before heading off.
The roads today were all good to excellent with only a short section fair. All by western standards. In fact, a lot of the roads today beat the British ones hands down!
Poland also seems to be a train spotters paradise. On the first day I saw an electric locomotive from the 50’s pulling a freight train. Last night there was a supermodern high speed express train similar to the shinkansen in Japan crossing the bridge in Malbork, and this afternoon there was an ancient diesel engine pulling freight cars alongside the highway. I really wish I could take photo dumps of my brain!
The first stretch was lovely winding road through mostly rape-seed fields before I turned onto a highway. I had breakfast at a highway services together with the first fuel stop not long after. I was planning to leave the highway in 60km anyway but when it turned into a massive building site and one lane road with lots of traffic I was convinced.
I nearly regretted it as the town I turned off at had cobbled streets but the road out of town was great tarmac with beautiful countryside and forests. Unfortunately it was also mostly straight with only a few corners here and there but overall great.
I ended up detouring through the centre of ??? Instead of bypassing it and it was well worth it although I then got lost for a bit on tiny tracks through the countryside until I found the main road again. The 62 going to Warsaw is straight and we’ll paved but has loads of traffic so I didn’t enjoy it much.
Just before getting into Warsaw prophet I spotted a hardware site while stopped at a red light. A quick bit of lane shuffling got me to the driveway and while they had nothing to fix my saddlebags which were all but falling off by now they happened to be next to a bike mechanics who were awesome. A and b spent an hour helping me adjust the clamps I had bought in Germany a few days earlier, even welding up an open tang. No charge. Really absolutely fantastic guys so if you ever need to get anything motorbike engaged sorted while near Warsaw do look them up!
From there I headed into Warsaw and soon found the old town but no tourist info. A guy on the street told me about a hostel inside the old town itself and said I should just ride in – nobody would mind with such a special bike. And indeed most people gave a thumbs up as I parked in the market place. The hostel was full up abs the adjustment they rented was only available one night so I headed to another hostel which I had gotten from the tourist info place on the marketplace.
They put me up in a 4-bed dorm and even had secure parking for my bike. After logging the luggage up 4 flights I had the first proper hot shower in days! Bliss! Then a quick wander into town to get some food (peroggi, sour dough soup, and a beer. Yum!).
Shouldn’t have had dessert – hit apple cake and a mug of hot fruit compote. Food coma!
In town were hundreds of online skaters getting ready for a night skate. Apparently it happens every 2 weeks or so and is supported by ambulance and police. Fantastic. I also found rental bikes – first 20 mins free then 1zt (20p) for half an hour, and just use your mobile number to register. The Boris Bikes in London have a lot to live up to!
Off to bed now ready for a full day of sight-setting tomorrow. What luxury not to have to pack up at 9 to get going again!
Had a good night’s sleep and up fairly early for brekky. Polish sausage and scrambled eggs. The day started off cloudy and quite cool, hopefully it will get better later on!
Plan for today is to see Gdansk and then on to Malbork and its castle.
Rather a cold start to the ride – glad I kept my thermals on, but was still freezing. It never rained, but it was very overcast and windy. Finally the sun crept out for a bit near Karwia, where I stopped and ate a waffle and had a quick look at the Baltic Sea. I never knew they had white sandy beaches just like back home in Oz!
From there I decided to skip Gdansk and head straight to Malbork so that I could still do the castle today, and then get going to Warsaw tomorrow, putting me back onto my original trip plan. The roads so far had been pretty so-so, no worse than yesterday, but often not much better either (the 213 was especially bumpy), which slows progress down quite a bit. And I’m worried the saddlebag mounts won’t last the distance!
Not long after Puck I got back on the E28, which turned into a motorway after Reda. While I don’t usually like motorways, it was pure heaven to ride on decent straight tarmac for a bit. Unfortunately the E28 rather sneakily turns into the E75 which is a toll highway with no obvious signage (that I could remember seeing) letting you get off it before the first toll gate. Oh well, at least progress was good, shame it didn’t last – the first section of the 22, the main road to Malbork, was very bumpy cobblestones!
Eventually I made it though, and soon found the Tourist Info, where the lovely lady helped me find a selection of hotels to check out. Unfortunately of my top two choices on was fully booked and the other only had a luxury suite left. So I eventually settled for a place run by an elderly couple. Exceedingly basic amenities, but great location directly across the river from the castle. And they even put my bike into an old shed!
By the time I had checked in and gotten going to visit the castle the clouds had rolled in again, the wind had picked up, and I was soon ruing having left in only a tshirt (by the time I got back to my room it was down to 13C!). Malbork castle itself is fantastic, although not all that much of it is original, having been undergoing restoration for 200 years or so, and having been extensively damaged during WW2 before being rebuilt since then. It’s still very impressive and well worth a visit. 2 hours to go through it was definitely a bit rushed! On the other hand being almost the last person through meant there was no queuing anywhere or annoying tourists getting in the way of pictures.
I ended up having dinner in Ye Olde Carvery in the castle bailey, being too cold by now to go looking for the place which the lady from the Tourist Info center had recommended. It was basically food cooked up to appear medieval. During the day they had archery and whatnot there as well, but by the time I rocked up it was a bunch of french pensioners and myself fighting for the last bits out of the pot.
A nice long digestive walk through town and along the river and it confirmed that Poland closes up around 7pm – there was hardly anybody around! While I could understand that of the tiny seafront towns, I had thought Malbork to be a bit of a bigger tourist magnet, and still be going. So nothing for it but to go back to my room, type this up, and then head for a nice long (and hopefully hot! – last night’s was cold..) shower.
Had a coffee with Jürgen and then breakfast with Julia before packing the bike up. A quick photoshoot with Ella and I was on my way.
First stop Hein Gericke, then Louis, Polo, and finally an Army Disposal store to find a bag large enough to fit the tent and chair. 4th time lucky.. From there to the Brandenburger Tor for a couple more photos and then out of Berlin around 2pm – only 4 hours later than planned!
Lovely ride through countryside to the Polish border (unfortunately no opportunity to stop for pics at the border). The roads had gotten progressively worse, especially in the towns coming up to the border. Just over the side was a run-down little town consisting mostly of cheap shopping. Just pastthe border the roads in Poland got a lot better and despite a rain shower I quite enjoyed more countryside and forests. A lot ofthe towns remind me of east Germany with tumbledown houses and factories mixed in with newly renovated or built houses.
Stopped for dinner at a roadside restaurant just on the E28. Borschtsch and Peroggi. And a beer! Still aiming to get to the coast tonight..But nowhere near as far as planned. At least it’s dry, if chilly.
The E28 was a great road. Quite open compared to the windier roads earlier and more traffic but brand new surface. Lots of modern amenities all along it. The dense forests from earlier were replaced by rolling countryside and rapeseed fields.
I finally turned off the E28 onto the 203 to get north to the coast and the roads were wir a mixed bag again from new to little more than a patched up bit of tarmac over a dirt track.
I made it to the town I had put in to the GPS but there was nothing much there so I went on to the next town which was even sign posted. Jarosławiec turned out to be a bit of a holiday town with tons of little shops and cafes, although almost all were closed by the time I got there. I asked in a souvenier shop about a hotel as the tourist info was also closed and the lady rang someone up who runs a hotel on the other side of the street. A short while later the guy, Andy, cane over and offered me a room with breakfast for 120 zloty, or about £22! With seaview. Needless to say I took it.
After a quick cuppa I had a short still through town and down to the beach but not much to see – I’d just missed sunset by half an hour or so.
Bedtime! On to Marlborg tomorrow.