The river Vistula and southern Poland

17 June 2018

Our departure from Kraków and navigating out of town was much smoother than our arrival and after about half an hour we were on the outskirts. We were, however, on the road to Auchwitz, which when we’d been in the bus the day before had decided was not the route we should take as it is busy with tour buses etc. We reassessed our path and opted for what looked like a cycle track on the southern side of the Vistula River. It turned out to be a good decision and set us up for what turned out to be a great day of cycling without incident…well almost! And we just happened to come across the Polish National canoe and kayak team being put through their paces on a man-made white water site next to the river.

We wound our way through a few small, quaint villages before ending up on a purpose-built cycle path on top of the river’s flood defence wall. As the flood defence is a grassy mound about 10m high and the surrounding land quite flat we had great views all around. Early summer is here and the wild flowers are out, the birds were twittering, frogs croaking, dragonflies and other winged insects were buzzing, you get the idea….

This ideallic scene carried on throughout the morning until the bike path crossed back over the river at a set of sluice gates. It then took us into a forest where it then climbed steeply over rocks and sand, not the place for heavily loaded touring bikes.

The bike path builders have obviously been to the same school of bike path building as those in Norway (see previous post where we pushed our bikes up 30% hills)! We almost turned back, but persevered and pushed the bikes down a very steep sandy slope to a point where we could get back on – albeit cycling very slowly. Luckily at this point it was back to the normal cycle paths on the top of the defences. We spent very little time on roads for once which was very nice, and the surrounding land is mainly wild with hardly any forest or cultivation.

We stayed on the path up until about the last hour when we left it and started to head for a campsite. Feeling peckish we were stood at the side of a rural road having a choccie bar when we noticed an agri-tourism sign in the garden across the road. As we’d already covered 90km we were not far from stopping for the night anyway, so went to enquire. The accommodation this time was a wooden cabin in the owners garden rather than a room, which turned out to be just the job – so in we went! Once we’d de-robed our bikes we cycled the short distance into the local village for supplies and found a small roadside restaurant which was open until 8pm, giving us plenty of time to cycle back, have a shower and cycle back for dinner.  We had a great meal, which was fantastic value. Back to the cabin to watch Spain vs Portugal in the World Cup.  Despite neither of us being massive football fans we felt it was the thing to do – and it was a very good game! And as we will be cycling through countries (Poland included) that are in it, we feel we should get involved.

Even though our cabin (you can read that as make-shift shed) beds weren’t the most comfortable we both had an excellent night’s sleep. Our get-up was really chilled and we had breakfast outside in the garden under a parasol, which was lovely. We were packedu and away by 9am and the first part of our day was reasonably pleasant through agricultural land. I’d noticed Katowice as a place to probably avoid if we wanted to make reasonable headway, so threading our way south of it was rather delicate and time-consuming. This area is very industrial and we could see factories, chimney stacks and other signs of heavy industry around us. This didn’t detract from the cycling as it is still part of life after all. Surprisingly the residential areas look more affluent than most of what we have seen before in Poland, which may be because of the industry, but we don’t really know.

We stopped in Mikolow, a smallish town, for a coffee and actually managed to find a cafe almost straight away! Mikolow is really nice and had it been at the end of our day we probably would have stayed. However, it was only midday so we continued north west and the landscape changed again – this time to deciduous forest and rolling hills.

Another 90km+ day and we found a roadside hotel. We were allowed to put our bikes in our mahoosive room and there was a wedding going on, so it did feel a bit weird wheeling our bikes past wedding guests!

Seeing the wedding guests should have been a warning to us as it was pretty noisy during the night, but we did manage to get a reasonable night’s sleep. In fact the most annoying thing was that it was very muggy and we couldn’t open the windows for the noise downstairs. High humidity has been a feature for at least the past week and there have been big blue/grey clouds in the afternoons with the threat of downpours, but none of them have materialised thankfully.

We we up at normal time to tuck into the inclusive breakfast and in our usual way cleared a large amount of the buffet, filling up for the day ahead! It was quite amusing to see some of the wedding guests still hammered in the morning at breakfast, having beers to start their day.  I wonder how they felt 8 hours later?! The roads out of town were similar to the previous afternoon with signs of industry dotted around, but there was also some nice cycling through cornfields and forest.

We made it to Opole by early afternoon for a wander round, but for some reason we were both in a bit of a funny mood by this point. Nothing bad, just didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We sat in the central square, which is very nice, listening to a busker and contemplate what we wanted to do and where we might want to stay. We only covered 55km by this point and felt that we needed to do more cycling! Opole is known as the Venice of Poland, so before we left we went down to the river to see why ….and felt thoroughly conned. The Opole Venice area consists of a row of about a dozen brightly coloured houses by the river and a restaurant called Venezia and that was it – make of that what you will!

We looked up agri-tourism and found one about 30km north east of Opole, technically in the wrong direction to Wroclaw where we are aming for, but we would have enough time still to get there by Tuesday when we have an AirBnB booked. Off we went along some busy roads which slowly got quieter. There is a lake north of Opole, which is popular as a tourist destination and most of the cars were full of families on their way there or back. We did find a campsite, but it was bare woodland and hard as Martina put it “our wild camping areas have been better than that” so we decided to push on to our agri-tourist farm and very glad we were too. Another hour down the road, and a false alarm with another agri-tourism place that wouldn’t take us for one night, and we ended up in the middle of nowhere on the edge of Radawie. The owners have a purpose-built block that they use mainly for German fishermen, which is great and we’ve definitely fallen on our feet – great location and facilities for the price of a campsite in Denmark! Yet another 90km+ day and we are still smiling.

We have put in some big(ish) days since our ‘holiday’ in Kraków!

1 comment

  1. Comment by Caroline

    Caroline Reply 18 June 2018 at 10:47 pm

    Sooo lovely to see your smiling faces ❤️ Nigel’s beard is fairly maturing… and Martina, you look fabulously sunkissed or as we’d say at home, weather beaten !! Keep the stories coming..

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