I’m not sure who’s actually going to want to read this really long post….but I finally typed up all the notes I took from our bike trip last summer and tried to document each day with photos. I like having the record of how far we went each day. And it’s fun to look back and remember where all we went and what we did. Anyway, this is part two of a post I wrote a few months ago called Euro Bike Trip – Letters From The Road. Enjoy!
Getting Ready to Leave Prague
Get a good night sleep and wake up early finally (after days of jet lag). Shower, pack up at Jan’s house, and say goodbye. Pack stuff onto my bike with goal of biking to place where Aga is staying (on the other end of the city) in under an hour. Sections marked as bike paths really nice. Start off great, but end up battling cobblestone streets, tram lines, construction zones, traffic, and too many tourists walking in the bike lanes. Get stuck behind segway tour group on really narrow road so can’t pass. Panniers either popping off or rubbing on heels (gotta fix that). Arrive two hours later and frazzled. Downpour hits hard, so hide under big bridge under highway. Aga finds me and rescues. I think this is all good practice for the days ahead. I gotta toughen up. We eat at Pakistani place. Take over Aga’s friend Viktor’s house while he’s in Southeast Asia. Make a huge mess of his place packing and repacking and repacking.
Lots of errands and final things to buy (stuff sacks, water bladder, moon cup, lotion, bungee cords, reflective vests, etc.) Find out that white gas (needed for my travel stove) is called “technicky benzin” in Czech and can be found at Tesco. Eat lunch at Loving Hut (SupremeMasterTV veg place). Call families. Try to return the crappy helmet I bought and get one that fits, but shop is closed (so have to postpone trip by one more day). Try to eat at Bosnian restaurant for dinner, but no veg food so decide to test out travel stove and cook pasta at home with a side salad. Stay up until 3am packing and repacking and repacking (like a crazy, OCD person). Find a bunch more stuff I don’t need to take with me. Aga makes a homemade bananagrams game to take on the trip (each piece meticulously cut from a manila folder and then laminated with tape). Aga’s rack breaks while she’s loading everything up to test (no problem because we have to go to bike shop tomorrow anyway).
Somehow I lost a day here. Not sure what happened. Most likely we were just wandering around the city and packing obsessively. We probably also saw a little bit of Prague.
Praha – Krecany/Řež, travel time: 5pm-9pm, distance: 20(ish) km?
More of the same (packing and errands). Go to bike shop (great bike shop on Visheradska) to exchange helmet, fix bike rack, and buy reflective vests and presta-schrader valve converter. Meet Aussie/American cyclist who just finished Europe bike trip with his wife and was looking for bike boxes. Eat more Pakistani food. Rush to clean up the house, drop Viktor’s house key off with friends, and finally get out of town on our loaded bikes! Leave around 5, so don’t get too far before dark. Bike through steep downhill tunnel on bumpy road and try not to wipe out. Then end up on nice bike path along river. See lots of rollerbladers and kayakers. Visit Trojan horse art bar, then keep cycling. Stop at brewery for beer and potato pancakes, then keep cycling. Collect cold spring water and purify along the way. Stop cycling around 9pm. Camp near Krecany/Řež and sleep along river path with train tracks on other side of river. Hear trains all night and have weird dreams.
Krecany/Řež – Račice, travel time: 10am – 19pm, distance: 65km
Wake up around 7am. Dry morning dew off our stuff while we make oatmeal and coffee. Find the path for a few kilometers, then it gets a little sketchy, then it gets really sketchy and we decide we’re lost. End up at rocky trail and big, bouldery uphill. Can’t bike or push bikes with all our stuff, so take turns pushing them and going back to carry our stuff. End up near Dol and meet a girl in front of her house with a dog named Agnes. Several people help us with directions and we end up at a bar, along the bike path again. See tons of bike tourists and cyclists (mostly Germans) along Eurovelo – some families, quite a few elderly people, some people on longer bike tours, others on shorter day trips. Aga’s chain falls off and gets wedged like crazy. We use my metal chopsticks to pry it loose. Pretty path, lots of sunshine. Pick lots of fruits growing along bike path (apples, pears, berries). Take ferry across water and continue on nice path along other side of the river. Find Melnik Sports Center with big fresh water lake and large island in middle. Swim to get all the bike touring gunk off. Pitch tents behind bushes on island. Slightly worried we’ll get kicked out, but noone seems to notice or care. Hang wet clothes on bikes to dry. Trouble with jammed fuel bottle, but eventually get it open and are able to cook food (whew!) Aga finds huge spider in her tent. We’re both exhausted and pass out hard.
Račice – two towns past Ústí nad Labem (Mala Brezno), travel time: 10am-22pm, distance: 68km
Wake up on Sports Camp Island and make coffee, cook oatmeal with fresh pears we picked. Wash faces and wet shirts so they’ll keep us cool while evaporating. Bike to Roudnice, then stop at Litomerce at a cute bar for beers and to make sandwiches. Lots of bike tourists on this stretch. Somehow lose them all on the way to Usti and bike very slowly for 2km on very intense uphill with lots of cars speeding past (felt like torture). Realize we’re lost and bike all the way back downhill, which took about 2 seconds. Swim at nice lake spots, collect cold drinking water from streams. Find bar that caters to bike tourists. Both of us strip down and wash hair/clothes/body in bar bathroom sink. Ask to sleep in little kid’s plastic playhouse in the lawn, but no go with bartender. Drunkenly find campsite in the dark – a big grassy patch near brewery and along river (somewhere in Mala Brezno). Cook lots of couscous with kohlrabi, carrots, radishes. Wake up several times at night to crazy lightening/thunderstorms. So glad I’m cozy and dry. Never want to get out of my sleeping bag.
Mala Brezno – Decin/Hresko, distance: 32km
Get a slow start because everything is wet. Make coffee, oatmeal with nuts, maple syrup, and boiled apples picked from trees. Find somewhere hidden to poop and bury it. Stretch and bike to Decin and buy feast at big grocery store (Kaufland): sundried tomatoes, garlicy fava beans from deli, pesto, bread, tofu, etc. Loiter outside bike shop eating and drying clothes/rain tarps. Bike on pretty path along river. Lots of bike tourists, families with kids pulling trailers and a bunch of stuff. Take ferry across river to Hrensko. Beer stop at bar with outside patio and big rock cliffs all around. Buy awesome wolf crotch shorts and gawk at Vietnamese stores full of weird statues for sale (contemplate buying weirdest one to bring along on bike trip as mascot, but decide against it). Hike to old Castle house supposedly now owned by rich Dutch person. Meet cute Ukranian lady at pension and decide to stay there for the night instead of camp. Aga and her speak Russian/Ukranian. Wash clothes in sink. Cold shower, but cozy bed.
Hrensko (hiking), travel time: 9am-3pm
Kurort – National Park, ride time: 2.15hrs, distance: 24.7km
Hike around big land bridge (Pravicicka Brana), down through forest, and take boat along canals back to pension house. Cute Ukranian lady makes me garlicy veggies (cabbage, paprika, cauliflower). All our stuff is very wet from moisture, so doesn’t dry or pack up neatly. Head out of pension feeling like bag ladies. Cycle into Germany. Hang clothes on bikes and swim in river. No proper bike path, but cycle up narrow hiking path with itchy shrubs and stinging nettles on both sides. Brakes get so caked in mud/grit/sand/grass that I fall into grassy patch in a funny, slow motion kind of way. Cook curried lentils on picnic table and find great camping spot in National Park between huge rock wall and river. Noone can see us from the road and we get a great view of the city/river/trains on other side of river. Take off rain fly so I can see the stars and fall asleep listening to sounds of trains, loud wedding party in nearby town.
Kurort – Dresden, departure: 10am, travel time: 3hrs, distance: 40km, Train to Pockau/Forcheim
So cozy in tent and have a hard time getting up. Cycle to Dresden with full rain gear on. Both grumpy and hungry by the time we get there, but soon made happy again with food and beer. Visit castle in Piltzen, drop stuff off at train station locker and lock bikes on racks outside of train station. Take train to Pokau to meet Anne (CSer I stayed with in Oslo), her family, and her son Fallau. Stay at their beautiful farm house in village called Forcheim. Anne’s mom takes us to top of viewpoint to see view of village, old church, wind turbines, and sunset. Eat delicious dinner with fresh garden veggies, arugula mustard tofu spread, breads. Take warm showers (best shower so far), and sleep in cute loft room.
Eat delicious breakfast with fresh garden veggies, jams, juices, and bread. Walk around farm house, feed sheep, and watch giant slugs and frogs. Play in sandbox with Fallau. Drink champagne and mimosas on porch with family on porch to toast our farewell. Mom gives us amethyst rocks for good luck and big hugs. Anne gives us contact info. of family friends to stay with in Dresden and Dad drives us to train station. Leave all our stuff in lockers and bike around Dresden to see monuments, churches, mosque, classical concerts in parks and people playing bocce ball. Eat at Laden café (veg/fair trade place in city center). Get stuff from locker and spend 1.5 hrs at train station Internet café. Cycle through big garden and find home of Claudia, Andreas, and their family. Have nice dinner with them and chat outside on porch. Mom gives me book to read (The Alchemist). Sleep on mattresses in their guest room.
Dresden – Moessen – Riesa, travel time: 2pm-7:30pm, distance: 63.87km, ride time: 4hr 26 min
Have breakfast with Claudia, Andreas, and their church friend who now lives in Switzerland. Cycle to bio store to stock up on hard-to-find luxury stuff (tofu weiner schnitzel, soy chorizo, arugula mustard pate, etc.). Go to bookstore, find bike route book and take photo of each relevant page for our trip so that we don’t have to buy it. Stop at biergarten along route and prop bike up on table to work on gears. See so many cycle tourists on this route. Also lots of cows, sheep, horses. Pick corn, but not good (maybe because grown only for corn oil or feedstock), but we cook it anyway with lentils and a veg bullion cube. Pick aronia berries and greens. Battle crazy wind, fill up water bottles at boating station, and then find place to camp (creepy woods with lots of moss, spiders and slugs, but well hidden from path and well covered in case of potential storm).
Riesa – Torgau – Worblitz, travel time: 10:30am – 8pm, distance: 87.56km, ride time: 5hr 35 min
Make oatmeal with granola and berries for breakfast. Good start and steady biking all day. Bike to Torgau (much longer than path signs said). Bike against intense, cold headwinds for hours. Stop to pick plums, elderberries, chestnuts, watch ostriches, llamas, and lots of sheep. Lots more cycle tourists. Ignored detour signs and luckily direct road was fine. Stop at restaurant/bar to order beer and potato soup. Go into village to look for secret camping place, but don’t find anything promising. Ask man if he knows of place, but he suggests a pension in next town. We decide to bike to the forest to set up camp, but same man pulls up in car just as we’re walking into the trees with our bikes (his wife took pity and sent him to find us). We decide to stay at pension he suggested rather than backtrack several kilometers to his house. Not thrilled about paying to camp there (5 euros a person), but we had a bathroom and a nice picnic table to cook gourmet dinner on (ginger/garlic/onion/carrot/sesame seed/red pepper/broccoli stir fry with red lentils, veg bullion cube, cumin, mustard seeds, crushed peanuts on top with chili/mango spread and vegan cream cheese mixed in. Thai curry chips and chili/chocolate bar for desert). Pretty sunset and shooting stars.
Greudnitz – Lutherstadt Wittenberg, travel time: 11am – 5pm, distance: 47km, ride time: 3.25hrs
Last day on Elbe/Labe/Vltava. Make breakfast while hanging tents to dry in sun. Organize contents of panniers and find 1 slug at the bottom of each (not sure how long they’ve been there, but probably days). Cute man with bicycle and basket directs us to the trail. Pleasant path less traveled by cycle tourists and pretty day. See long row of old ladies on bikes, cute old couple with folding bikes, men in overalls peddling plants. Ferry across river. Aga starts period, so is pretty miserable. Sit on bench, buy rolls from local bakery, and eat tofu veg sandwiches with olive pesto and vegan cream cheese. Nice street art outside of Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Bike shop helps me adjust my derailleur for free. Find Christian retreat center (cheapest place to stay) and we are the only guests in the huge, creepy building. Funny twitchy/jittery guy checked us into the place and told us about the house rules. Take long, warm showers and wash clothes in shower. Looking more and more like a bag lady with stuff hanging off my bike. Eat pizza for dinner with beer and read myself to sleep.
Lutherstadt Wittenberg – Belzig – between Trebnitz & Bruck, travel time: 1pm-8pm, distance: 62.30km, ride time: 4hr 15 min
Stock up on (too much) food from the bio store in Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Wake up with my period, so pretty miserable, but biking seems to help take my mind off it. Take less traveled path through tall trees and bike through forest for most of the day. Stop in Belzig for some pasta for lunch. Despite rocky uphill paths, getting slightly lost, cold weather, cramps, etc….we ride 60 or so km. Sleep in cute log cabin we find in the woods. Find little walking trails (wanderweg) in Buck near camping place. Dream about wolves/bears in our cabin to eat our food and maybe us too.
Bruck – Potsdam/Teltow RV Park, travel time: noon – 7:30pm, distance: 76.83km, ride time: 5hr 39min
Wake up bleeding on myself and have to wash in river. More hours of forest paths. Small detour because get lost slightly. Stop at bakery for coffee and wash clothes in bathroom sink. See cute people cycling through small towns carrying baskets with bread, flowers, small dogs, etc. Cycle on and on until Potsdam (castle). Picnic in grass by castle while drying clothes in the sun (to the amusement of some people walking by). Cycle along Berliner Mauerweg (trail where the Berlin wall used to be) with goal of making it to Berlin, but don’t quite make it. Camp at RV Park/Biergarten on river. Take long, warm shower and wash more clothes (b/c bled on myself again). Weird campground, but happy because clean and warm and dry and near beer. Cook broccoli/carrot/mango chili lentils.
Outside Berlin/Teltow – Lichtenrade, distance: 41.16, ride time: 3hr 34 min, 30/40km more cycling on Mauerweg
Wake up to annoying, loud campers near us. Find out that we had more fuel than we thought (thought we were out) and use it to make coffee/tea. Link back up with Mauerweg (Berlin Wall Trail) and cycle for hours. Some of trail is on regular neighborhood roads, but a lot of it is through wooded areas with no cars. Aga’s ass hurts, so she takes tram into Berlin. I continue on trail (very roundabout, long path, but interesting with historical signs along the way) until it meets up with the East Side Gallery in Kreuzberg. Get lost a few times. Wish I had a real map, but only have crappy photos on my camera. Cute lady draws Berlin map in the sand, then huffs and puffs on her bike to take me back to the trailhead. Old people help me with directions when I drag bike down crazy stairs to get to other side of river (shocked that I’m from Texas, biking by myself, and speaking no German). Wander across some sort of protest in Alt Ternow, cute old man sees me looking lost, and asks if he can help me find where I’m going (“Can I help you find your weg?”) Finally make it into town. See lots of street art along the way. Derailleur needs adjusted and spoke bent. Glad I didn’t get flat, because Aga had pump (mental note: carry my own pump next time just in case). Meet Aga near gallery and we eat vegetarian African food at Yaam (strange hang out place along river with beach bars and lots of foreigners, travelers, Berliners, African Berliners, etc). Get offer to sleep in bus on Yaam property, but get call back from couchsurfer (Yvonne) and stay with her flatmates (in Kreuzberg flat on very top floor). Happy to see so many bikes parked in apartment courtyard. Happy we get to stay at such a warm, cozy house.
Walk around Kreuzberg. Go to 3 flea markets in one day: 1 at Princessenstrasse (at community garden), 1 at Boxhanger Square, 1 at Mauer Park. Eat at Veg Doner place (seitan on shwarma spit). Overwhelmed by the amount of street art in the city. Can’t possibly photograph it all. Hang out in Mauer Park with tons of people all around from everywhere (Very diverse crowd. So nice.) Watch cute Brazilian girls pushing a coffee cart in park and selling Brazilian music. Wander around Kreuzberg some more and stay up late drinking near the river. Eat good food that our hosts left out for us.
Go to community bike shop, bio store (find nutritional yeast), and eat extra spicy food at Mexican place. Spend some time on the Internet. Hang out with Mai and Phillip (couchsurfers). Chat with hosts a bit and go to sleep early.
Breakfast feast with Yvonne (Hungarian style potatoes, bread, vegan horseradish, mustard, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, Kolrabi, etc.) Bicycle trip to Brenau with Yvonne into forest and to lake. Pick mushrooms and make dinner (rice, stew, mushrooms), peach wine and cookies. Aga and Yvonne find that they have tickets.
Wake up with major back issues (slipped disk? pinched nerve? misaligned ribs again from previous car accident? Not sure, but it hurts bad). Go to huge camping store (Globetrotter) and get distracted by all the options. Brandenberg Tor, Parliament Bldg, bomed out church in West Berlin (but under construction). Tacheles (art commune) and eat delicious fries in curry sauce from trailer across the street. Eat Sushi near the house and then have a beer in bus bar (Kjosk) with Yvonne and friend.
Wake up at 12:30. Buy weird pants and make packages of stuff to send home. Eat eggplant dish at Café V. Checkpoint Charlie. Go to Wild at Heart, then eat at Yellow Sunshine (I had Mexican Burger). Berlinish Gallery at night.
Reclaim lost stuff (phone, shirt, key). Viasko for lunch (Panini). Buy small heating pad, snacks for trip. Find bus bar with campfire outside. Visit some art galleries. Visit Pony bar near Alexander Platz with Aga’s friend. Try to go to Yaam, but expensive for event at night, so no go. Back to Wild at Heart, but costs money to get in and not excited, so no go. Settle for punk bar diagonal from house.
Kreuzberg (Adalbert Strasse) – OBI Grenzallee – Erkner, distance: 46.74, travel time: 1:30pm – 9pm
Pack up and finally leave Berlin. Eat lunch at Yaam. Bio shop for groceries. Realized we bought the wrong gas at GlobeTrotter and it would have turned our stove into a mini Molotov Cocktail (good thing we looked it up). Go to OBI in search of white gas, but no luck. Not sure what to call it in German. Cycle to Erkner on R1 Trail. Stop at bar along water because back still hurts. Get two more for later. Try to set up tents off the trail, but get interrupted by drunk dude and have to relocate. Camp along walking trail in woods off main road (not well hidden). Tons of mosquitos, so hastily pitch tents and hide in them without cooking dinner or drinking beers.
Erkner – Obersdorf, travel time: 10:30am-8pm, distance: 41km, ride time: 3.5hrs
Wake up to millions of mosquitos on rain fly. Put on full rain gear for protection, pack up quick, and head out. Find sunny spot along bike route/hwy and dry stuff, eat breakfast cereal, air out our shoes/socks, etc while cars drive by and wave at us (socially acceptable homeless people bring smiles to passersby). Stop at lake to cook pasta for lunch, sit on pier, swim. Stop at Obersdorf. Funny hay people outside all the houses. Aga buys homemade knit socks from stand outside someone’s house. I buy carrots and tomatoes. Veggie offerings outside houses to celebrate harvest time. Find hay people in sexual positions outside courtyard. Very strange. Continue on path, but get distracted by music in the distance and so backtrack to find it. Wander up on day 2 of a volunteer fire brigade party. Everyone stares us but welcomes us. Do the bobsled dance with a group of people, take shots of vodka with the mayor and the fire chief, meet a dude from Berkely who’s girlfriend is from the town, and met makers of the sexual hay people (who apparently rearranged them the previous night while drunk – during day 1 of fire brigade party). Pouring rain/wind/lightening. Townspeople say we can camp under their big party tent, but more rain and wind and big puddles start to collect there. Everyone leaves and Karen and Rainer adopt us for the night. Load us and our bikes into their van and take us home with them. Karen calls me her “Texas girl” and we speak quite well considering that I don’t speak any German and she speaks very broken English. We all talk and drink more at their kitchen table and Karen seems to want us to stay more days so that she can show us around town.
Obersdorf – btwn Lunow and Stolpe, distance: 77.02km, ride time: 4hr 35min, travel time: 10:30am – 7:30pm
Wake up, walk into the kitchen to see Karen and Rainer, and they seem very unsure of me (almost confused why I’m there). Take a shower, then sit around coffee table with them (slightly awkward because noone is talking). Aga wakes up and it still seems awkward. We decide they were so drunk the night before that they didn’t remember bringing us home until we walked into the kitchen. They share their homemade strawberry jam, bread, and coffee, and things get more comfortable. I heat up heating pad for back. We cycle away while they wave from their driveway. Cycle for 12 or so kilometers, then stop to buy groceries. Cook in parking lot with big building blocking wind. Aga remembers she left her knife and travel bowls at party tent (bummer). We continue along Oder river (pretty path and windy). Cross into Poland on bridge, put up Cragnes sticker, then cross back. Camp in National park on quiet, grassy path blocked by trees and under full moon.
Between Stolpe and Schwedt – Mescherin, travel time: 11:40-7:30, distance: 59.23km, ride time: 3hr 48 min
Wake up at pretty campsite in National Park. Stretch in sunlight and eat granola with nuts, berries, ginger pieces. Cycle through crazy, sandy construction zone along river. Push bikes through mud and sand (clogs my brakes). It’s Miguel’s bday, so I send him a text. Continue along path in Shwedt. Take care of errands: get camping fuel (primus powerfuel) and Aga buys frying pan to use as travel bowl (and double as an extra cooking utensil since we only have one pot), go to pharmacy, research routes and check email at tourist info center, do dishes from day before, do laundry in sink at grocery store, buy coffee and groceries. Make elaborate sandwiches and eat outside of big grocery store (Kaufland) while people walk by and look at us. Cycle along pretty path into Michelin and pass through bird sanctuary. See lots of sheep, fisherman, forests. Run over or just after (not sure) another snake on forest trail, camp at camping platz on river or estuary, shower, wash clothes, cook noodles with thai currry paste and veggies in dark with headlamps. Drink a beer and sit on dock. See either beaver or otter.
First day in Poland
Mescherin – Gryfino – Podjuchy – Szczecin, travel time: 11:30-6:30am, distance: 48.24km, ride time: 3hr 48min
Wake up around dawn. Want to sit at dock to look for animals, but no sunrise anyway, too tired and don’t want to scare cat sitting there. Wake up again around 9. Cook breakfast on clock with new fuel (wasn’t sure it was the right fuel, so glad it didn’t explode). Cycle over border into Poland. Cute lady comes up to us to chat and comments on how dark I am and am not one of them but have pretty teeth. Cycle to Gryfino crooked forest, just south of city. Take some pictures and have a snack. Cycle back into town and along scary car roads to get to Szczecin (gravel, sand, cobblestones, potholes, lots of traffic, big trucks, no bike lanes). Aga falls off bike (luckily onto curb rather than into street). Meet cute lady who gave us shots of homemade liquor, crocheted Christmas ornaments, jars of curried pickles, fruits, etc. Showed us her garden and told us some stories. We try to take train and that doesn’t work at all (weren’t prepared for no platform and having to lift our bikes up so high to get on train). We debate over which is more hassle (busing into the city with bikes and stuff or cycling into city and battling traffic/shitty roads). We end up cycling (not fun, but good intro. to Polish roads). See two German tourists cycling too, so feel better about our choice. Make it to Szczecin and meet Pawel at train station (bike messenger, vegan couchsurfer). We follow him while he bikes really fast through city and back to his house. His friend comes over and we all go walk to buy juice, go to Hormone bar (with crazy dance floor and padded wall that people jump up against). He gives us lots of fun bike/vegan stickers.
Train from Szczecin to Swinojuscie
Bike around Swinojuscie and back to German border, distance: 25.09km, ride time: 2hr 58min
Wake up feeling crappy and hungover (even though I only had 1 beer at bar). Use Pawel’s computer to send emails, couchsurfing requests, backup pics. Finally leave around 11 and give him key. Bike to Zen vegetarian cafe (another supreme master TV veg place). Try to get on fast boat but not running that day because of high winds. Cycle back to train station and get in mad rush to buy train tickets and get bikes up/down stairs, then onto trains. Exhausted and take nap on train. Aga argues with conductors about where our bikes should be. Luckily we don’t have to move them. After 2 hours, we make it. Take ferry into city. Cycle along Baltic coast bike path, see lighthouse, fort, old army barracks, tanks from WW1, pretty beach view, medical/Polish resort town with funny promenade. Cycle around a while to find campsite. Find great clearing in the woods away from traffic and bum hangouts (hopefully). Make more noodles with soymilk, tofu, sage, thai curry paste, corn, kohlrabi, radishes, onions, garlic, etc. Nice secret camping spot in clearing. Big feast in the woods.
Swinojuscie – Dziwnow, travel time: 1:30pm-7:30pm, distance: 54.57km, ride time: 4hr 13min
Wake up around 9 in forest camping place. Act like hobos on the promedade: drying clothes/tents, cooking food on benches. Lots of old people staring at us. Ferry across town to start bike path (R10). Map didn’t show details, so we did what we could with directions. Crazy mountain biking path with gravel, sand pits, bumpy roots, etc. Mosquitoes, Lots of mud and sticks (clogs breaks). Put poor bikes through hell. Stopped for beer and potato pancakes. R10 was fun, but not good for road bikes. R10 didn’t look promising, so took main road and went through Wolin National Park. Scary road with no shoulder, cars going fast, and dark because surrounded by woods. Put on all the flashy lights and clothes we had to make ourselves seen and hope for the best. Made it out around sunset. Stayed at EKO Camp in 15 zloty room with creepy spiders (we kept having to evacuate them to the outside). Celebrate having a room by feasting on big beers, making a Polish chili frito pie, and playing bananagrams on a real table.
Dziwnow – Mrzezyno, travel time: 11:45am – 7pm, distance: 65km, ride time: 4hr 13min
Left little house at 10ish. Went to Internet cafe to research roads and hopefully find a non-scary path to take. Cycled on waterfront promenade, then along main road (scary), took left onto forest path and ran into man walking dog (told us about R10 bike path and how to get there). Poorly marked path, but we found it and it was pretty good actually. Rack breaks after bumpy, shitty road and just as we get into Trzebiatow. Made it to Mrzezyno and slept in guest shed for 15 zl/person. Take showers. Make cheesy pea soup with nutritional yeast, tofu, and veg (didn’t come out at all like we thought, but was really good). Talked to Kasia to plan possible meetup.
Mrzezyno – Lazy, travel time: 11:20am-7pm, distance: 77.62km, ride time: 5hrs on R10/Baltic Bike Path
Leave around 11:30. Bike to Kolobreg. Check tourist info center for map discrepancies (there were some important ones). Get groceries and cycle to beach to eat lunch at picnic table. Lots of vacationers, but pretty ugly beach. Forest path is very nice though (pretties yet in Poland) – especially part where you see ocean on left and lakes on right. Coastal road for some sections, bike path signs = “Bike the Baltic”, crazy issues with sand/grit and bike gears/breaks. Made it sound like poor bike was dying and fork/crank arms were covered in sand, spitting sand all over my legs while riding and spewing dirt all over my back, legs, and into my shoes. Used feather, chopsticks, and rag to pick shit out of everything and try to clean it….but very low clearance with tire and frame make it tough. Continue on into forest paths. Very bumpy (worried because in morning I tied lots of parachute cord to hold my rack up against my bike seat). Seemed to hold well – so far, so good. Just when I said “We haven’t gotten lost yet today!”, we follow a sign to the left into the forest. I’m moving fast and motivated to get to next town so I can clean my bike and myself. Travel is tough with screaming/crunchy bike, we go in a circle and end up in same town we started in maybe 7 km before. Dumb. Arrive in Lazy just as heavy rain starts. Find cute place to stay for 15 zloty. Make broccoli and curry noodle feast, warm shower, clean off stuff, try to dry wet shoes as best I can.
Lazy – Darlovo – Ustka, travel time: 11am – 6:30pm, distance: 79.91, ride time: 4hr 33min (on real roads!)
Lazy morning in Lazy. Wash bikes (so much grit on everything!) Stop at Darlovo bike shop for bike maintenance. Really great dudes: fixed rack, put new bolts on rack, fixed back wheel that was wobbly, adjusted front deraileur as best he could (and was the first person to explain why it couldn’t be done better). Ate at pizza place. Tried to dry my sopping wet shoes with combo of paper towels and bathroom hand dryer. Powered through to next city and the next and the next, but no scenic stops. Took some smaller roads, but mostly main roads (asphalt sometimes is good). Biked 70+km in about 4 hrs. Ended in Ustka around 6:30. Found bulk tea shop and bought lots of teas (some for presents) and probably blew the equivalent of $30 on chocolate covered things. Went to bread museum. Saw pirate ship on beach (pretty sunset). Stopped on beach promenade for mulled, hot beer. Cycled in dark with headlamp to find camping place. Knocked on door to see if we could camp in yard. Lady and her husband answer the door. Put our bikes in their garage, give us a fancy light to hang by our campsite in their yard, let us shower, toilet, internet, invited us in for tea and sweets and to talk. Husband spoke decent English and helped hold a flashlight while we pitched our tents. Lady said she saw us in Darlowo and thought about stopping to invite us to her place, but didn’t (so funny we chose her house anyway out of all the houses). Too tired to cook, so sleep without dinner.
Ustka – Smoldzino (one end of Slowinski National Park),travel time: 4:30pm – 6:30pm, distance: 31.87km, ride time: 1hr 52min (on real roads)
Wake up in cute family’s backyard. Make breakfast and coffee in their kitchen. Husband helps us pack up tents and hang things to dry (very sweet). went out to explore Ustka, hung out on big rocks near pier for a while (relaxing and soaking up the sun). Locked bikes up and walked around. Ustka remnants/history museum. Chleb museum. Went to buy fresh bread after museum. Found cheap store with all kinds of things (Aga bought mohawk, I bought goggles, stocked up on food (shredded coconut, soy chunks, nuts, berries, mustard, tomato paste, garlic, onions, pepper, carrot, radishes, tomatoes). Bought yarn to make us hats. Packed up everything and headed out (fun cycling with ridiculous goggles). Cycled to start of National Park and get weird vibes from tiny town, so go further along road looking for place to sleep. Made delicious food (broccoli, carrot, onion, garlic, bread chunks, and nutritional yeast, veg onion lard spread, zatar = stir fried together tasted like sausage). Also made chinese warming tea and slept in great spot in the middle of a pine tree forest.
Smoldzino – Leba (other end of Slowinski National Park), travel time: 11am – 3pm – National Park, distance: 59 km, ride time: 3hr 35min
Wake up in pine tree forest. Eat and find sunny spot to dry stuff. Haul ass to Leba (bike 50 km before 3). Stop at picnic table for lunch (lots of school children), crazy asphalt/tar covered gravel shit – stuck to my tires and couldn’t move. Rushed around first truck and think it’s over, but get stuck behind another one. Aga yelled at them and stood in front of truck so I could get by before they continued on. Sat on beach for beer, then another beer with french fries. Rode around looking for campsite. Stayed at Intercamp for free (nice guy with german shephard let us stay even though closed for the season). Made curried broccoli with leftover curry pickle juice. Thai curry paste. apricots, onions, pepers, coconut flakes, crackers, nutritional yeast. Lots of mosquitoes, so hide in tents.
Leba – Slowinski National Park (Park Narodowy) – Choczewo, travel time: 4pm – 6:30pm, distance: 49.5km, ride time: 3hr 34 min (+/- 20 km in park to sand dunes and back)
Wake up many times in night to dog barking (guarding us from wild boars). Leave stuff with dude at Intercamp. Bike to sand dunes (really nice! Looks like White Sands in New Mexico). Find good luck rocks. Get stuff and head out. Order grilled veggies and fryti, cabbage salad. Buy brussels sprouts! , avocados, and other rare things from small market stall. Find out route from info center just as it closes. Predict rain just in time and manage to cover up our stuff and ourselves. Bike for a few hrs through rain. Get into Choczewo just as it’s getting dark. Make black current vodka juice, adorable place to stay with cute old man, picnic tables outside each room, table inside with placemats, cooked feast in kitchen with lots of dishes/utensils (soya chunks breaded), bean stew, brussels sprouts, aga made helmet mohawk and I started crocheting hat. Finish book and play bananagrams.
Choczewo – 25zl per night
Stay in Choczewo. Aga does projects (pirate flag on bike, pink mohawk on helmet). Cristen does projects (crochet hats. some freelance work ideas). Big feast of tomato sauce with pasta and soy meatballs. Crazy shopping fest at supermarkets, bought fanny packs, postcards, and viewed all shops in town (one street long).
Choczewo – Weherowo, distance 53km, ride time: 3hr 10min (bike 20km out of way b/c get lost and bike in circle)
Abandon plan to bike to Hel and decide to take train to Sopot. Bike to Wejherowka and then get lost on the way (bad traffic, bumpy, huge potholes, crappy roads, 20 km backtracking). See cool stork nest. Eat outside train station. Take train to Sopot (stressful because our bikes are in the wrong car and there are lots of grumpy people around us). Use Internet for a while, then hang out at bike bar for hours. Play bananagrams and put up sign asking people to adopt us for the night. No luck. Meet weird German bike tourist (kinda arrogant, but also clingy). Seems to want to keep hanging out with us, but have to ditch him eventually. Try to find emergency couchsurfers, but no luck because such short notice. Find paid campsite along main road in opposite direction (but not too far of a detour). Not the best campsite (very developed with bright lights all around and along main road), but safe and dry and with a nice, warm shower. Eat some falafels on the go.
Sopot – Gdansk, distance: 7-10km
Wake up at campsite and spend day in Sopot (quaint resort town). Eat at Greenway. Cute ladies swimming in Baltic Sea and on jet skies. Gelato (lime and spirulina, carrot, beet, hazelnut, chocolate. All vegan). Eat again at Greenway (put leftovers in various tupperware containers for later). Bike to Gdansk, beer on the way at beach. Meet Szymon and Monica at their place. Fun, fast ride across town and all around (great tour of old city, monuments, buildings, etc. at night). Sweet to share their room with us and to show us around. We decide we love them and won’t ever want to leave.
Wake up and do Internet stuff (upload pics, onward plans research). Laundry. Leave house around 12-12:30. Bike to train station, see nice viewpoint, eat at Bioway, delicous risotto meal with family. Beers on viewpoint in forest (crazy fire along beach). Rescue hedgehog.
Grosz organic market, then big veg. market under tents to collect Tex Mex ingredients. Zaspa stop to see paintings on building flats. Solidarnosc exhibit/memorial. Gdansk shipyard. Walk around old town (much more impressive at night, so glad Szymon took us there then). Rush back to make mexican food for hosts (love them). Talked and drank beers. Taught them plastic bag crochet. Aga and Szymon traded bottle caps. Monika takes pics of her food like I do. They are our kind of people. Szymon is in love with Aga’s bike and takes lots of pics of it. So cute.
Train: Gdansk – Gizycko, Bike: Mazury – Strzeke at Jezioro Negocin, travel time: 9am – 7pm, distance: 10-15km, ride time: 1.5hrs?
Wake up early and Szymon and Monika bike with us to train station. Mad rush to opposite end of train, put bikes on train one by one, say goodbye to them. 5 hrs on train to Gizczco, pizza for lunch/dinner. Tourist info center, then bike out of town and camp along lake. Play bananagrams next to lake using sleeping mats as playing boards. Plan to wake up for sunrise (since sleeping so early), hear frogs, geece, other loud birds, and some sort of animal rustling in grass.
Strzelce – Bogaczewo – Paprotki – Milki – Lipinskie – Siedliska – Kruklin – Kozuchy Wlk (blue “bike path”) – Kruklanki, distance: 57.5 km, ride time: 4hr 30min, travel time: 10am – 5pm
Bike around in sand and gravel for hrs in a circle (bike paths are unbikable). Want to take scenic bike path with lakes, but no luck. Get to Kruklanki to drink warm vodka with lemon. Avoid all the drunks and annoying people telling us we’re unsafe to camp anywhere and just want our money to stay at their place. Find campsite along lake, but sketchy setup and rocky. Also in a hole, so bad for rain. Aga scared of thunder (turns out to be airplanes at nearby military base). Me grumpy and sick. We start to cook, then take everything down to relocate. Find lady with lots of cats and pitch tents there. Mom cat and kittens sleep in my tent with me and nurse on my feet. I’m very content.
Wake up to have tea with lady. Talk to babczia, then hang out with kittens in my tent. Slow packing up because kitten in my sleeping bag/tent doesn’t want to leave. Rent kayaks in Kruklanki. Beautiful sunny day, but lots of wind makes kayaking across lake really tough. Felt like we were going backwards for a while, but we made it. Ended at bar for coffee and cognac. Kayak rental dude let us camp in their yard for free. Made gourmet dinner with lots of ingredients and thai curry paste. Feeling grumpy and still a little sick.
Kruklanki – Pozezdrze – Gizycko – Szymonka, distance: 55.21km, travel time: 11:30am – 6pm, 3hr 16min
Leisurely coffee on picnic table, wash dishes in actual sink (guesthouse bathroom). Pack up and head out around 11:30. Bike to scenic area with view of lake. Pump up tires and bike back to Gizcko. Eat at weird restaurant. Both of us feeling ill and crampy. Meeet Ania at train station and bike to Mikolauji. Stop 12 km or so before and camp at campground. Drink vodka in Ania’s huge tent. Take 2 min showers for 3 zl (expensive and barely enough time to do anything). Listen to couple having loud sex on dock, then later arguing in van. Coldest/wettest night yet.
Szymonka – Mikolaki – Kowo Promu, travel time: 11:50am – 4:30pm, distance: 23.73km, ride time: 1hr 49min
Bike to Mikolajki. Buy weird chips, new sunglasses, and vodka (the essentials). Sit on pier and have nice picnic with pumpernickle, dates, halva, veggies, tofu spread and mustard. Bike on sandy path to ferry (but not sure if working). Smoke on pier and walk bikes back to noise. Find camping spot, but not operational because off season. Lots of families there because Sunday, but they pack up and leave. Make great fire and have whole camping place to ourselves. Seems like local secret spot that we only would have found on bikes (and only because we were trying to get to a ferry and it happened to be out of service, so we needed another option). Make blazing fire, great pasta, and drink vodka while sitting on pier looking at sky. Feed ducks by my tent (which is right along the lake and with a great view of the sunset/sunrise).
Kolo Promu – Ruciane – Nida (along back roads and sandy trails), distance: 31.34km, ride time: 2hr 57 min, travel time: 11:45am – 2pm, train to Elk around 6pm
Make coffee/breakfast on pier. Ania packs up big backpack and axe that the people left. Lots of km on dirt/sand paths to Rucienda. Aga feeling sick. Get there really early for train, so stop at restaurant and eat gnocci and veg, salad for cheap with beer and coffee. Go grocery shopping. Then go to bar for more beer, frytki, 3 games of bananagrams. Get carded for beer. Dudes there are impressed with our trip and surprised we’re from TX and biked from Prague. Wait for train and it’s actually not too bad getting on with all our crap. Vodka and apple juice on train to Elk ride around for awhile to look for cheap room to stay in. End up finding camping place, but closed. Camp near it along lake and behind trees/big dumpster storage shed thing to block us from cars.
Elk – Bialystock, wake up at 6am and bike to train station, 7:50 train, then bus to Hajnowka, bike to Bilowieza National Forest and arrive around 4:25pm, distance: 26.60km, ride time: 2hr 2 min
Wake up at 6am and ride to train station. Down coffee from train station vending machine. Drunk dude insists on helping aga carry her bike down the stairs (makes her nervous). Regional trains are much easier to get on and have more room for bikes. 2+ hrs to Bialystok. Aga is ill. Ania goes to Waraw. Buy tacky galoshes from market, help each other push bikes up/down stairs at train station (even more stuff and big shoes makes it extra hard). Buy bus tickets in advance and for luggage so bus driver can’t refuse to take us. Take everything off bikes to amusement of people on bus already and fit everything in a big pile on the bus. Nap on bus and wake up from dream that things were falling. Almost drop my bag. Cute couple at back of bus helps us take all our stuff off bus when we get to our stop. Puts all our bikes and stuff piled up next to them. Stop at bench in shade to eat lunch. Bunch of ladies watching us. Aga wanders off to pee and they stare at me while I wash my hands with my water bottle and start to prep food. Take pity on us and invite us in for tea/coffee/chicken soup/vodka/apples/pears. Lady has family in Tennesee and plans to visit them. Everyone waits outside to watch our stuff and to wait for delivery guy with lady’s visa. Stop at supermarket for green veggies (broccoli, lettuce). Bike for 20km to forest and see pretty leaves changing fall colors. Take road into forest, cool tin house with vines and stork nest on top, orthodox church. Stay at Geobotanical Station (Stacja Geobotaniczna) and take a warm shower, make tea/curry in the kitchen. Excited about an endless supply of water, toilet paper, and a warm bed.
Meet with deep ecology activist/photographer/local. Do laundry and eat sandwiches. Use good map we borrowed to bike into National Park (though not old growth forest because of restrictions). Bike for 40+ km into/out of forest. Hike around, walk until almost dark, then bike back in full dark with headlamps. Could have been creepy if alone, but pleasant. Hard to see patches of sand though, so wipe out a few times. Had to pull over for cars because no back lights. Saw cool mushrooms, moss, lichens, birds, frogs, lots of mosquitos, wild boar, and 4 little pups (thought they might have been wolf puppies, but seemed to be abandoned dogs). Make huge pasta/veg feast with green beans. First day we actually have leftovers.
Eat pizza at great pizzeria. More laundry. Bike to border of Belarus just for fun. Go into old growth forest with guide. Nice, but can only go on main tourist path. Dinner with Cecilia (italian environmental activist girl who speaks Polish) and Janousz Korbel. Great man with good energy and interesting stories. Deep support for forest. Aga is still sick. I make miso soup and shower. Pack up for early wakeup.
Wake up at 4:15 and get to bus stop. Luckily, bus driver was nice and let us put bikes in luggage compartment. Bus ride from 5am to 10pm. Arrive in Warsaw. Stash stuff at train station locker. Buy tights at mall while Aga does Internet stuff. Eat at place called Green. Soya burger with mushroom sauce. Yum. Meet up with Kasia, make a huge mess at her place with all our crap, and nap for 30 min. Bike trip is basically over at this point. Go to celebrate Zbyz’s birthday. Go to bars and dance until 5am. Aga and I go home to pass out.
Kasia, Aga and I whip up a huge breakfast in 20 min (potatoes, mimosas, broccoli,beans, pico, bread). Kasia and I walk around park. Relax at house looking at pics and laughing. Talk to Miguel for an hour (first time in a while). Make curry and chocolate tart, go to sleep early.
Walk around old town with Kasia and Agnes. Eat at Zbyzek’s restaurant. Fancy vegan feast with towers and boats of veggies. Buy vodkas and make shots at home. Sit in Kasia’s bed watching youtube videos, drinking, laughing, telling stories (exactly what we want to be doing).
Wake up late and get really late start (dumb). Eat leftover tomato soup for breakfast, find out about trains and only good one leaves at 2. Rush to Green Peas restaurant to get vegan crepes to go. Get on train and our bikes take up so much room. Another guy puts his bike on too and people can barely walk past. Crepes were forgetable and might have made me sick. Meet up with Ania and friends for her bday. Drop stuff off at Marioka/Kuba’s house, watch Turksih Star wars.
10.11.2011 – 10.15.2011
Stopped documenting at this point, but it involved biking around Krakow, watching weird midnight movies during the Unsound Music Festival, making dinner for our hosts, drinking beers, seeing some sites and going to shows/art galleries, hanging with friends, etc.
Some keywords: pagan mound, rock quarry, Fabrika, Schindler’s factory, Jewish ghetto, Massolit Books, World Press Photo, Monastery Brewery, Kopernia Soli (Salt Mines), Jewish Synagogue.
Ate at: Papuamu, Cafe Mylnek, Momo Bar, Roti Roti
Krakow is a fun place to bike around.