We have noticed that when we go from one country to another we feel a definite a sense of apprehension. In a very short time we have grown accustomed to the country we are in and we feel at ease with most of its nuances. Then when we cross a border or take a ferry somewhere new, it only takes about 24-48 hours before we get used to our new environment and what the new country is about. So far the biggest change (and the most apprehension) has been between Sweden and Poland, but even then we were pretty comfortable with our new surroundings prior to setting out on bikes from Gdansk after only two days there. There will be, of course, more drastic changes in the future, but this is a good sign that we adapt quickly to our environment.
On with the journey…there was thunder, lightning and a lot of rain overnight in Olsztyn, but after our decision to upgrade we were nice and dry in the hotel we’d booked into. We decided that our first stop of the day was to go into the town centre and see if we could find some breakfast. Turns out that the centre of town is really nice and that there was one cafe open and buzzing with a load of locals all doing the same as us, all bar the cycling I guess! ‘What the hell brought you to Olsztyn?’ came a voice across the cafe! We then had a great conversation with a woman who was with her family for breakfast. She gave us a load of tips on where we might want to go, some of which were already on our ‘to do’ list and others that were new to us. Unfortunately many were just too far away and in the wrong direction for us to take in, but there are some that we will be doing.
Well fuelled up with an interesting Polish breakfast we said our goodbyes and cycled south into Poland’s Lake District. Beautiful scenery and along a very smooth EU-funded road. This is not the norm I hasten to add, the roads here are generally in poor condition, even the main roads, but some of the smaller roads have been downright atrocious. The minor road where we wild-camped on the first night out of Gdansk is a case in point, if there was any of the original road left I’d be surprised – it seemed like it was one big pot hole covered in multiple patches. It made for sore riding after 100km+…I’ll never slag off London’s roads again….! The smooth quiet road continued for a while until we turned off to visit one of the lakes. The tarmac quickly disappeared and we were onto a stony/sandy track and off into the forest. As the weather has been so hot 28 degrees+ there were loads of people at the lake cooling off, it was a great place to have lunch and people-watch.
One of us (me!) took a tumble on the really soft sand but no harm or damage done. A bit further south and there were more lakes, this time with a proper road running alongside it, and once again beautiful scenery, which made for really enjoyable riding.
As we were nearing the end of the forest there was a bunch of twenty-something blokes riding bikes in the other direction in two groups. The first group was yelling at the second group and it was only as we were nearing the second group that we realised that they had a problem, one of them had a flat tyre. They flagged us down and asked if we had a pump, which of course we have. Having turfed a load of stuff out of Martina’s bags we found the pump and handed it over. They then pumped up the tyre (with some difficulty), handed it back and were off with hardly a thanks among them! About 50 metres down the road the tyre was flat again, the tyre clearly had a puncture. They carried on with the guy on the bike with the flat tyre seeming not to care now, and to be honest I wasn’t going to volunteer to fix the puncture if that’s the thanks we got!
As it was starting to get a bit late we started to think of end destinations for the day and aimed for Nidzica – yup we had no idea what was there either! First impressions were not great – an industrial town and the main road in wound through a pretty poor area where the road was currently being resurfaced, so that whole place looked like it was being demolished. In the centre of town is a square, not the prettiest, but we sat down to work out what we wanted to do next. Initially we were going to cycle back out of town and final a wild camping spot, but decided to see if there was any accommodation in town first. We almost ended up in the castle, but the mardy arse behind the desk decided he didn’t like to look of me and said they had no rooms – there was too much of a pause between me asking and him answering for him not to have any rooms…obviously smelly, sweaty cyclists aren’t their desireable clientel! But we did find a guesthouse and decided to stay, and we were really glad that we did. After scraping off the road grim (and some sand) in the shower we were off to see the sights. Ended up having pizza in the busiest place in town and had a great time as we were the only outsiders there, so people-watching was top notch! But as full-time travellers there is always something to to do and plan so we also used this time to book accommodation in Plock and Kraków so we have a couple of places to aim for when we are having some time off. We really warmed to Nidzica after the initial impressions and we were glad we stayed; this is is non-touristy ‘normal’ Poland and we like it!
A fairly uneventful get up the next day and off into more blistering heat. We almost had the road to ourselves at 9am on this Sunday morning and we had some lovely cycling west out of Nidzica. We really wanted to find an open cafe, but it was Sunday and not much happens in Poland on Sunday (bring back Sunday in the UK!) apart from mass. We stopped in Dzialdowo, managed to get a cake to eat in the square and listen to some rather bizarre trumpet music play through speakers from the clock tower in the centre of town as it struck midday!
Stopped in Lidzbark to eat our rolls, but lucked in when we found a cafe serving food. Some folk from a tour bus (from Łódź which is on our route in the next while) took an interest in our bikes and we had to explain in sign language, German and any other way we could, about the belt drives etc. We were hungry and the food was great and cheap, so we ate the lot! The rest of the road to Brodnica was fairly pleasant and the centre of the town is really nice as it has a lovely square surrounded by lovely houses.
Once again we had planned to wild-camp, but that doesn’t really give us the chance to look around a place as we’re out of town. So, we booked another hotel. Initially we thought we had a suite, as the when we walked into our room it had 3 sofas in it. Turns out that two of the sofas were our beds, which we had to work out how to open ourselves and to make! The shower was a bit of an event as well as it had a radio, fan, lights, different water jets etc in the cubical to muck around with!
Had a wander around the town, which is as lovely as first impressions and sat in the square blogging over a beer! Not a bad place to visit at all.
A while back we’d decided to go to Plock on the Vistula River as it looked nice from the pictures – nothing cleverer than that (in fact that is how we have chosen many if not all of our destinations…there’s no historical interest and is in fact how I choose a bottle of wine, by going on the picture on the front!). So far it has turned out to be a good ploy! Going to Brodnica had taken us away from our general southerly direction a bit so we had a fairly long day to get to Plock (it isn’t pronounced as it is spelt and I’d love to tell you how it is supposed to be pronounced, but we haven’t got it right yet!). The start of the day was busy and we remembered that actually this was the first working day in Poland that we’d spent on the road (We set out from Gdansk on Thursday which was a bank holiday, people had obviously taken Friday off and then it was the weekend). As we got out into the countryside things calmed down somewhat and we could enjoy the cycling through Rypin to Siepc where we stopped for lunch. I had thought that Siepc would be like the other nice towns around here, but we were disappointed and we ended up buying lunch from a Lidl and eating it in the grounds of the Catholic Church across the road. We’ve certainly had worse lunch venues, but always want the perfect location with a nice view and/or a bit of people-watching. The rest of the ride was unremarkable, very straight roads and not a lot to see apart from reasonably nice countryside with a fair flow of traffic in both directions.
We’d booked a hostel called Hostel City in Plock, which suggests that it is in the city. However, after nearly 100km we turn up at the address which is most definitely not in the centre of Plock and is about 5km to the east. We’ll read the description a bit better from now on! However, we’re here for 2 nights for a bit of a rest, so decided to make the most of it. When people mention a hostel there is the impression of sweaty backpackers in dorms etc, but this is very different. We had our own, well equipped, apartment on the top floor (nightmare with the amount of panniers and other bags we have, but that’s an aside), which is private and very nice.
Stocked up on food for the night and had a chilled night in with a proper homemade dinner food. Next day it was cloudy – this was a bit of a shock to the system to be frank, as it has been sunny since Kristiansand in Norway! We cycled into the centre of the city and had a wander around what is a really nice place, but for a Tuesday morning boy it was so quiet for a large place. This time in the centre of town when the clock struck midday a real bloke came out and played the trumpet from the clock tower whilst two clockwork figures game out and one knighted the other for some reason! We had coffee/tea and local cakes in a cafe…this seems to be a national obsession in Poland along with ice cream, and one that we are more than qualified to join in on!
A bunch of about 25 school kids plus teacher then descended noisily on the cafe for ice cream (they start them young on their obsession obviously!).
There is a park called Tumskie Hill, which is very leafy area around the cathedral and gives great views over the Vistula River.
We spent about an hour wandering through before doing a circuit of the town and then back to another cafe for a late lunch. Very pleasant to sit and watch the few people in the square, but neither of us felt we’d missed out on much by not being in the centre of the city and our apartment is very nice…but we definitely needed the bikes to get into see the town!