The Polish company

July 17, 2011 (day 60) Poland

Before entering Poland I had made several appointments. Across the homeland I would cycle with some of my friends, with a much slower pace and more relaxing activities.

The route I chose for Poland leads very close to it's eastern border. Planning it, I used the description of Exotic Poland cycling route, inspired in turn by a great guidebook of the same title by Grzegorz Rąkowski. The eastern margin of Poland's territory is considered by many to be the most underdeveloped and traditional part of the country. However accurate this opinion might be, the so-called eastern wall is rich in wild nature and signs of interesting and often very traumatic history. Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Jewish, Tatar and many other nationalities mixed there. Although there are almost only Poles now, the others have left visible traces of their former presence.

Hills of northern Poland

Hills of northern Poland

I entered Poland through a hilly area around Suwałki, which quickly turned to flatlands around Biebrza river. Being a child and teenager, I had spent most of my holidays in north-eastern lands and I knew them very well. After over ten years of break, I was very surprised by the development which happened there. Most of the houses are redecorated, roads covered with new asphalt, and cities display mown lawns and colorful flower beds. Apparently, the influx of EU cash has caused very positive effects. Also, the tourist business thrives. Czarna Hańcza river flows with a stream of countless kayaks, and cars that carry them back and forth are the most common sight on nearby roads.

The Polish company

The Polish company

In two days we formed a company of five people, some of them being on a bike tour for the first time in their life. That meant slowing down to a relaxing 50-60 kilometers per day, and spending more time on social activities, mostly cooking and fixing the bikes.

In the Kruszyniany mosque

In the Kruszyniany mosque

We had approached the border with Belarus and followed it very closely for the next few days. I would be happy to visit that country, but the political tensions make it very troublesome to get the visa. Fortunately, the Polish side is attractive enough. The tiny community of Polish-Tatar Muslims resides there, and in Kruszyniany we had opportunity to visit the oldest of four Polish mosques. Tatars were people of sword and bow, so they contracted local carpenters to build the temple. For that reason it resembles more a church than a typical mosque. Due to the small number of believers, it is used for religious ceremonies only few times during the year, but open to visitors for the most of the time.

The surrounding villages are mostly catholic, with a tiny orthodox minority. After the Second World War the population was sorted between Poland and Belarus according to the belief they had declared, as a village elder told us. The youngsters do not want to live in these rural areas anymore, escaping to bigger towns, and old people spend their last years in remaining settlements, which become more and more deserted and empty. Their small gardens and herds of animals give enough food to live and to make little profit. We used that opportunity to get some fresh eggs and prepare one of the best meals so far.

The so-called underdevelopment of these areas gave chance for the nature to survive in a better shape. The Białowieża Forest is one of the finest examples, being the only place in the world where wisents survived in the wild. Now they are being reintroduced in other forest areas, and we could see some of them in a mini-zoo in Białowieża.

With hand-drawn ferry across Bug

With hand-drawn ferry across Bug

Rivers are another great feature of the landscape there. Most of them are wild, with the only exception of artificial Siemianówka Lake. Being usually quite clean, they give chance to refresh after cycling during a hot day.

These unspoiled areas attract not only us. On the route we met several people from bike touring forum we use, and another meetings are awaiting us. One of our friends, whom we had known from the gathering in May, invited us to Biała Podlaska. There we entered the home of Yoshko and were hosted warmly by him and Ttin, another forum member. Also the Polish company disintegrated there, when three of us had to go home. Being two, we will continue further south. The Ukrainian border comes soon and we expect the unknown parts of our homeland to be as much interesting as those we visited so far.

Comments:

yoshko
yoshko
10 years, 3 months ago
Jestem rad z Waszej wizyty i mam nadzieje, że nie rozleniwiłem zbytnio na dalszą podróż. :)
pigiel
pigiel
10 years, 3 months ago
"z których część na wycieczce rowerowej była po raz pierwszy w życiu" - haha ale nam pojechałeś ;)

pierwszy raz czy nie, było zajebiście i żałuje że tylko 6 dni pedałowaliśmy z Tobą. no ale czasu jeszcze trochę jest, żeby się dołączyć ponownie ;)

niech moc i Lewiatan będzie z Wami!
hose morales
hose morales
10 years, 3 months ago
Żal potem będzie z Polski wyjeżdzać;)

A zdjęcie "klasyka" trafia do ulubionych:>