A Travellerspoint blog

Poland

Krakow

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At the time of writing it is now Sunday 26th and it's now my third day in Krakow. It's been a great time so far and that has been largely down to the place that I'm staying in. The 4Friends hostel here in Krakow has to be one of the most relaxed hostels I've ever experienced with exceptionally friendly staff. I've also met a lot of very cool people all with cool stories to tell. But you must be wondering what have I done? Well the truth is not a lot but I'm on holiday aren't I?

Friday was my first full day here and despite saying I wasn't going to go out on my bike the lure of the road was too much to resist. It was great to be out in a city with so many people of so many different ages all riding bikes. I really think this is the way forward, you're out there getting fit and doing zero all damage to the environment, everyone's a winner.

I've been in desperate need of some new socks for some time now and prior to coming to Poland I knew that they had the sports store Decathlon here. It was another gloriously sunny day so I thought I'd pop on down there. As usual when I visit this store there are so many things I want to buy but obviously with my limited space it's not possible. My inner padding of my shorts has taken a battering the last 6 months so I decided to splash out on some new padded Lycra (very fetching) cycling shorts. In addition I bought something I should have done a long time ago for my lovely Brooks saddle that is a rain cover and how of course could I forget the socks; wonderful, cotton, breathable, cushioned socks. It was only when I got back to the hostel later that evening and after taking my second shower of the day, yes I'm spoiling myself I slipped on the socks only to find that they were in fact children's socks and didn't even come over my heel. I know, I should have checked longer at the store and I did but the UK 9-11.5 was clearly stated on the packet. Oh well......new socks will have to wait a little longer and I certainly wasn't going to ride the 25km there and back just to change them. They will simply become my new rag for cleaning my chain!

That evening myself, Ivana, Adam and two Japanese guys Masa and Yoshi prepared a full on barbecue. I say we prepared, Ivana for the most part put the burgers together. I would challenge anybody in the world to make a better burger that these, they were quite simply outstanding and expertly grilled by the combination team of gents in charge of the grill.

The evening passed with stories of travel, ways to improve the world and future destinations. Yoshi is a particularly interesting guy who has been travelling the world on his motorbike for the past two years. I continue to have massive respect for all those people motorbiking their way around the world.

Yesterday (Saturday) I was up early, in fact once again the first in the whole place to awake. I put this down to the fact that when I'm on the road I'm usually up at the crack of dawn what with going to bed so early. Here it's also a combination of the fact that I switched to yet another time zone; okay it's only one hour difference but that still makes a difference.

I decided that I should head into the city centre and take a walk around. As I stated I've been to Krakow before and walking round brought back memories of a road trip with some fellow teachers from back in the days when I taught in the Czech Republic.

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Krakow is another of these stunningly beautiful Eastern European cities and despite the onslaught of rampant tourism it still manages to retain it's old world charm. I wandered around for a good few hours and as it was still fairly early in the morning most of the shops and museums had yet to open so consequently many tourists were still one guesses sleeping or enjoy their breakfasts.

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I made my way back to the hostel in the early afternoon making sure that I passed the football stadium of the 'other' team in Krakow, Cracovia. I knew from looking on the net that they had a game on later that evening and I was keen to go the stadium to see what the deal was with tickets. There didn't appear to be anyone selling tickets just some posters outside of the stadium advertising the game and what seemed to be ludicrously cheap prices.

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Once back at the hostel I enquired about how to buy tickets but was told that in order to watch Polish football one must have a special identification card issued by the club. These aren't difficult to get but the only problem is that the club office that issues them is only open from Monday to Friday, 9 to 5.

My plans to go and watch the football shelved I instead decided to cook up a massive bowl of vegetables and pasta for myself, Masa and Yoshi. I could learn a lot from these two guys in the art of relaxation which both of them seem to have down to a tee. They seem quite content to while away the hours lounging in the living room of the hostel stretched out on the comfy sofa's with little care for time or the need to do anything. Yoshi echoed my thoughts that in travelling by motorbike or as in my case bicycle we're are excused from the normal practices of travellers. He stressed to me the importance of recharging ones batteries and half an hour spent with him had any feelings of guilt at not doing anything complete extinguished.

That's not to say I've not done anything, I did give the bike a top to toe wash which I think she really needed. It's amazing how inseparably linked I am to the bike now. It sounds strange but in some respects we are almost like one. Wherever I go she goes, where I sleep she sleeps and therefore she deserves the pampering I give her from time to time. She's been an absolute rock in getting me this far and of course we've shared highs and lows but this has only made us more steadfast in our determination to keep going forward. That's my sentimental piece out of the way then!

There really isn't that much else to report from here; as I mentioned it's now Sunday and it's been raining on and off for the last two days. I'm leaving tomorrow morning and heading for Ostrava in the Czech Republic where I will meet my old friend Kauli who is coming to ride with me. I'm really looking forward to the prospect of having some company to ride with and especially someone who speaks the language as I remember very little Czech from my days of living in Mlada Boleslav.

The blogs keep coming and once again thanks to all those who give me positive feedback on them. I don't find writing them easy so it's really nice to know that some people enjoy stepping into my world for a few minutes of their day. I hope that my riding and of course the exploits of all the British Olympic cyclists over the summer have meant that some of you have dusted off your old two wheeler and are now riding the streets wherever you may be.

Pedal on my friends and ride safe.

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Posted by Ontheroadagain 09:18 Archived in Poland Comments (1)

Rzescow - Krakow 205km

No more time to Rzest(cow)??????? Time to Krak(ow)on!!!!.......... I know that's bad.

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I had one of those incredibly uncomfortable nights camping last night. I set up the tent a little bit late and thus had little in terms of options as to where to camp. It was also a little bit dark too so I didn't see exactly where I was placing my tent. Unfortunately at some point in the night I must have rolled over and moved my sleeping mat slightly onto some thorns which pierced through my base layer of the tent and into my mat. All of which meant that I awoke in the middle of the night lying at a slight angle on my now deflated sleeping mat. It was really kind of Yuri to give it to me in Kiev and while it's light and compact on the plus side I wondered at the time how robust it would prove to be.

Despite it being a cold evening when I went to sleep I also woke up later in the night boiling hot and quickly had to manoeuvre myself out of the sleeping bag and unzip the top to let some air in. All of these tasks sound simple enough but carried out in darkness and half asleep often prove more difficult in practice.

It wasn't therefore the least bit hard for me get up in the morning. If I hadn't had the prospect of arriving in Krakow later on in the day packing up might have taken a lot longer but it was carried out with it's usual military like precision and I was on the road again in no time.

For the majority of the trip I've really enjoyed wild camping and like I've stated before I find that I usually sleep better when camping than actually in a bed. However when you get it wrong it's not a pleasurable experience. We've all done camping at one point or another and there is nothing worse than having to pack up slightly damp tents and rolling up sleeping bags after a less than satisfactory nights sleep. As you can probably tell I'm very much looking forward to the prospect of a bed in Krakow.

The ride itself was much the same as yesterday. I stopped just outside of Rzsecow at McDonalds once again. It probably seems like I eat there all the time but it's the perfect place to go while on the road as they have WiFi. I needed to get online to send the hostel in Krakow an email telling them that I would be arriving a day earlier and whether they would have a bed for me.

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LPY taking a well earned rest

Two hundred kilometres is a long way and cycling these kind of distances is not something I like to do that often. I now find that I'm most comfortable around the 150/160km mark per day but it's often the case that I'll do a little more. I'm looking forward to taking it down a notch when I meet up with my friends in the Czech Republic. This kind of distance isn't too hard though if you just break it down into little sections, fifty here, fifty there and before you know it you're not so far from your final destination.

From what I've seen so far of Poland it seems to be the most developed of the countries that I've seen so far;certainly it looks more prosperous in terms of the house people live in and the cars they drive. Many of the small villages I passed in my previous countries were a little run down but here the houses look very well maintained, it just feels for want of a better word less 'Soviet'

I stuck to the same E40 road that I rode the previous day but at around 35 kilometres from Krakow there starts a motorway the A4 which I believe takes you directly into Krakow. I didn't really fancy the prospect of riding into the centre of the city and as the hostel I booked is on the outskirts of the city I noticed on the map another couple of roads namely route 75 and 79 which would take me around outskirts of Krakow.

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The second of only two photos today. You can always tell when I ride a long way in one day as there are less snaps.

It proved to be a good choice and while the road wasn't as smooth as earlier in the day it was certainly less congested. It wasn't long before I was in Krakow and it was immediately apparent that this is a city for cyclists. It was great to see designated cycle paths and even better to see so many locals using them.

The easy part for me is always covering the distance to the city but the hard part then comes in locating the specific address of the place you are supposed to be staying. I keep saying it and I know people did it in the past but how on earth did we find places back in the day without the use of GPS and especially when you don't speak the local lingo? This part of the ride I always find to be quite drawn out. On the one hand I'm excited to be in a new city but on the other hand I'm tired and want to find the place as quickly as possible so I can get off the bike.

I knew the address of where I was staying but the battery on my phone (which also doubles as my GPS) was now in the red zone. I was beginning to wonder whether I had the right area as I found myself in a very leafy and what seemed to be quite affluent suburb of the city. Then with my GPS telling me I was 1.6km from the hostel my battery died, I suddenly felt a little bit helpless I would now have to revert to the tried and tested method of simply asking someone for directions. As luck would have it though a car pulled up on the other side of the road and a guy rolled down his window and asked if I needed any help. I told him I was looking for 28 Lipca 1943 street and he said it was nearby and that I should just simply follow him, aren't people so kind? A few minutes later I arrived outside the very nice large house which has been converted into a hostel.
I read some great reviews online about this place and my first impressions have been that I'm really impressed by it. It's outside of the city but only 10 minutes by bus and this was one of the major reasons why I chose to come and stay here. It's modern, clean, has a garden and most importantly it's CHEAP; the name of it is 4Friends hostel.

I checked in and was shown around by the very attentive and friendly member of staff. I also got to meet a few of the people sharing my room; a Norwegian guy named Egger and a couple Adam from the States and Ivana from Slovakia.

I was pretty tired by the time I'd unpacked but was lured out to the back of the hostel by the smell of a burning barbecue. The hostel has this amazing iron grill which you can lower over a fire and Adam and Ivana where grilling up some food out the back. I'd made a couple of sandwiches earlier but they didn't really prove to be adequate and perhaps it was my constant licking of my lips that told them I was also hungry. They had extra food and kindly cooked me up a lovely juicy barbecued hunk of chicken.

It's really nice to be amongst other other people again and it's at times like this that I remember back to the quite often lonely days of riding and camping through places in China and Kazakhstan. When I started out on this trip I thought that solitude was something I'd enjoy and to a certain extent it is but I've really come to realise the human interaction is an integral part of our lives and that is one of the beauties of travel is that you get to hear other people's experiences. People are excited by my own journey but more often that not all I want to do is hear about other people's trips, I feel like I've recounted my numerous stories many times along the way already.

So this will be my base for the next few days. I've been to Krakow before way back many years ago so I'll go and do the tourist thing on one day but for the most part it will once again be all about rest and renewal. Signing off for now..............

Posted by Ontheroadagain 02:28 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

One more day in day in Lviv and ride into Poland (178km)

"Lviving it up"

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I spent my extra day in Lviv doing exactly what I wanted to do namely relax. I'd been around the city the previous day and I'd seen pretty much all of what I wanted to. It's sounds terrible to say but once you've seen one street lined with café’s and a church at the end of it you've kind of seen them all. Not everyone is the same I understand and some people will want to go and visit every museum and find every statue but this just isn't for me. I can, like I did yesterday get a flavour for the city by walking around it but for me a place is much more than that; it's about the people who live there and the people you meet while travelling through.

I spent most of my day mulling around the hostel chatting with people and doing various bits and pieces. I started by doing a little bit of general housekeeping and before I knew it I was into full blown cleaning mode emptying out the entire contents of my panniers whilst taking them out onto the balcony for a good old clean. I think I've done a pretty decent job of keeping everything in order on my trip but it's not easy especially when you spend a lot of time camping out in fields. It's sometimes incredible for me to think my whole life to a certain extent for the last five and a half months has been stuffed into five bags attached to my bike. Part of me snapped today though and I just decided that everything needed cleaning; we all get that from time to time. It felt good but I know in a couple of days it will revert to slightly untidy state.

I did venture out in the afternoon, part out of guilt as it was a bright sunny day but also to pick up some food. I was down to my last 45 Hryvnia (around three pounds fifty) so really didn't want to have to go to the bank and take out more cash as I would be leaving the next day and besides it's amazing what one can buy with that amount of money.

The hostel was empty when I arrived but soon filled up with people from all over the place; Holland, Brazil, Switzerland and even some fellow Brits.
It's been really nice at the hostel to do a little bit of cooking, nothing special you understand but some hearty bowls of pasta with tomato sauce and veggies have gone down a treat.

I resisted the invitation by a few other people to head out to sample Lviv nightlife and instead opted for watching Match of the Day. I had an early start the next day and I wanted to be nice and fresh in the morning for my ride to the border and into Poland.

I set the alarm for five thirty but needn’t have bothered as I woke up at five anyway. This is usually the case when I'm just about to enter into a new country and it was no different here; my excitement had got the better of me. I was determined to get out of Lviv nice and early. Like I mentioned before the cobbled stone streets add a certain charm to the city but make cycling a complete nightmare and an exercise in patience control.

I managed to negotiate my way out of the city with minimal fuss, a few wrong turns and backtracking here and there but it wasn't long before I was heading out of Lviv and back into the countryside towards Poland. It didn't take too long to ride the 80 or so kilometres to the Polish border. I read up on the border crossing the day before and had been told to expect queues especially on the Ukrainian side. This though wasn't the case for foot passengers such as myself, I did however feel sorry for those travelling by car. Myself and other people crossing on foot were able to take an unhurried stroll down the fenced off walkway and within no time at all I was handing my passport over to the customs control. The whole process couldn't have been more straightforward.

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EU!!!!!

There was a mixture of relief and elation as I saw the EU flag and I'm very much now looking forward to the prospect of just cruising across countries just like passing through towns.

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Looking back to the border

Przemysl was my first stop in Poland and I was really pleased to see the German, and more importantly low cost supermarket Lidel as soon as I rolled into town. What with it being close to lunch time I popped in and picked up some supplies to make sandwiches. My next stroke of fortune was to happen upon a bike shop just five minutes further down the road. My front brake cable had snapped earlier in the morning and yes I know what some of you will say 'why didn't you have a spare with you?' but the fact of the matter is I didn't but do now.

I had a brief look around Przemysl as I'd made good time in the morning but I was still intent on making it as I originally planned to Rzeszow before the day was out.

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Poland had previously been described to me as 'one long village' and I didn't at the time know quite what to make of that statement. The road I took however gave a certain amount of credence to this. I know for a fact that there is a more scenic route to Rzescow but I decided to go for the main road as it looked like there was far less scope for getting lost. The road itself was great in terms of surface but pretty narrow. The two Polish guys I met in Lviv had told me that I could expect to find much better roads in Poland as opposed to Ukraine. I have to say I disagree with this but this is only based on the road I took Route 73 then 4 followed by the E40. The road all the way was pretty much single lane on either side. I still had plenty of room on the hard shoulder but the presence of giant trucks powering past is never a great thing.

There seems to be a greater concentration of people in Poland and the whole 'village feel' as it were comes from the fact that there are small villages and towns dotted along the road every 10 kilometres or so. Poland it seems is big on traffic control and reducing the speed of vehicles along this route which is a great thing but it does mean that there are a lot of traffic lights. As a cyclist it's not really a problem for me as I can simply pass all the waiting cars in line on the outside but I have to say this road must be really infuriating if you're a motorist.

The fact that there are more villages on the road meant it was harder to find a place to bed down for the night. I did however eventually come across some trees which backed onto a field well out of sight of the main road. I left myself with about 200 kilometers to ride to Krakow tomorrow and just a little short of the city of Rzescow. I know it seems a long way but I'm hoping to make it so that I can enjoy a nice three days relaxation in the city.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 05:23 Archived in Poland Comments (1)

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