Up to the mountains

July 27, 2011 (day 70) Poland

Being two, Kasia and me, we could cycle a bit faster now. However, our way through the southeastern Poland has been more about meeting friends and family than about cycling. After having left Biała Podlaska, we headed to Chełm, in order to meet Michał and Ola. They hosted us in a house with beautiful garden and fed with homegrown food. Finishing a 126km ride in the darkness, being completely wet after heavy evening storm, is nothing really unpleasant if such a treat awaits you at the end. It was great to relax in the garden, while our clothes were drying up in the sun. Too bad, we couldn't stay for a full day at their lovely place, as another appointments were coming soon.

Holy cow?

Holy cow?

Having left the border areas for a while, we visited Zamość. It's old city is present on UNESCO World Heritage List, for being a fine example of Polish sixteenth century architecture, somehow not destroyed by subsequent wars.

Zamość by night

Zamość by night

While paying a visit to the central market square, we met a group of other cyclists. A mathematics teacher from Rzeszów was leading a tour of ten young people — his daughter, students and friends — for a northwards journey across the eastern areas of Poland. We were impressed how well these youngsters cooperated to make the travel possible with small budget and little equipment. They even contacted a priest there and we had an opportunity to sleep at a house belonging to the local parish. That evening, spent on talking about travels, passions and future plans with those enthusiastic people, has been one of the highlights of the Polish part of the journey.

After Zamość the way became more and more hilly. Roztocze came with first longer uphills and refreshing downhills, with small rivers and streams, and with heavy rains which have not left us till now. These areas are quite poor, if compared to the Polish average, due to low quality and high fragmentation of arable land. The life goes on with a slower pace there, and many people have time to sit, talk and drink a beer during a day. Something unusual for someone from a big city, where unemployment is minimal.

The end of the sun

The end of the sun

We enjoyed the last flat pieces of land just before entering Przemyśl. My family lives in that city, and we were invited as soon as they learned about my journey. For two days we enjoyed delicious food, soft bed and many other attractions prepared by aunt, uncle and cousin. My parents also used this opportunity to see us during their summer stay in Poland. Being excited with the idea of the journey, my uncle called local media and arranged meetings and a small welcome ceremony at the main city square. You may check out the news archives at the websites of local radio and television: here and here. I felt quite awkward with such hype being made around me, while having completed less than one–fifth of the distance. But the journalist who placed North Cape in Africa should feel even worse.

Nice welcome in Przemyśl

Nice welcome in Przemyśl

Beside meeting the family which I had not seen for years, I visited the city for the second time in my life. Przemyśl is a true gem. It sits upon the river of San, which cuts it in two halves. Having the centre full of old, beautiful houses, spiced with two cathedrals and a castle, it also keeps the ambience which is already gone in the west of the country: a marketplace with fresh, natural vegetables, eggs, milk and cheese, and also small shops, tailor workshops and other sings of tiny enterpreneurship. We also found people there to be friendly and use more kind words than we are used to hear usually. Definitely, a place you should not miss in eastern Poland.

Przemyśl old city

Przemyśl old city

Fresh fruits

Fresh fruits

Fresh dairy

Fresh dairy

With bellies full, bikes serviced, and after long farewells, we headed west. The tiny town of Dynów got an impulse from De-Novo association which makes cultural events there. In a railway station building they organized circus and theatre workshops for children and teenagers. Our friends, Jacek and Kasia, were teaching youngsters how to juggle, walk on stilts, and perform other basic circus tricks. We also refreshed our skills and tried to share them with others, while enjoying concerts, movies and parties there. Being again among enthusiastic people, we spent two great days there.

Young stilt walkers

Young stilt walkers

Time had come to enter the Carpathian Mountains through my favourite part of southern Poland — Bieszczady. We had left Dynów and continued upstream of the San river, to Zagórz. Accompanied by our friends going in a car (and even carrying our baggage for a while), getting completely wet again, we arrived to the ruins of a monastery, placed on a high hill, with a river flowing at it's foot. In such a beautiful scenery we enjoyed a bonfire, and the last moments with Kasia and Jacek, who would leave us the next day.

A camp at ruins

A camp at ruins

Looks like we cannot travel in Poland without a company. Wojtek, a member of our favourite forum, joined us in Zagórz for next few days. Unluckily, he started the trip in one of the heaviest rains I have witnessed so far. This time the weather killed both our mobile phones and revealed few other weaknesses of the equipment. In these harsh conditions, with roads of quality varying from new asphalt to dirt, we climbed over 1400m in one day. Coming close to Ustrzyki Górne, we spotted a cyclist coming the opposite way. Waxmund, another forum member, was staying there after having completed amazing distance of 1008km non–stop race across Poland in two days. Few beers and exchange of impressions from such different cycling experiences finished the day. The next morning we met another cyclists who completed this deadly ultramarathon, all of them being in a good shape. Although the distance and speed seem unimaginable to me, I would be happy to take part in some future edition of that event.

Although we are in high mountains already, we still have not seen them. Everything is cut off by low, dark clouds. Anyway, this is our last planned stop in Poland. The next step leads to Slovakia.

Comments:

Marta
Marta
10 years, 2 months ago
No no, występ w tv zasługuje na wpis w CV :) to się wujek postarał. Fajnie Cię zobaczyć na żywo.

My udajemy się na miesiąc do Szwecji i zbieramy zapasy polskiego jedzenia :)

pozdrawiamy
lopatka
lopatka
10 years, 2 months ago
Hello!

Nie zdążyłam się z Wami pożegnać.
Widzę, że piękną trasę pokonaliście. Trzymam za Was kciuki. Jak będziecie potrzebować jakiegoś wsparcia, możecie o mnie pamiętać ;) Będę starała się pomóc.
Dziękuję za Wasze towarzystwo w Dynowie! Raz jeszcze! Wszystkiego dobrego w podróży ;)

Wasz wieczorny kierowca z Dynowa, Katarzyna Łopata ;)
Andrzej Włodarczyk
Andrzej Włodarczyk
10 years, 2 months ago
Witaj Michał i Kasia.Spotkaliśmy się w Ustrzykach Górnych.Siedzieliśmy pod parasolami a wy przygotowywaliście posiłek.Wielkie słowa uznania za takie wielkie wyzwanie które was czeka w czasie wyprawy.Będę za was trzymał kciuki i kibicował w następnych dniach miesiącach i roku .Szerokiej drogi i powodzenia w realizacji waszych niesamowitych planów dotarcia Michała do RPA.Pozdrowienia.
yoshko
yoshko
10 years, 2 months ago
Widzę, że jestem kiepskim przewodnikiem bo nie trafiliście na lotnisko ;)