Bicycle trip from Rzeszów to Baltic coast, Pl, … chapter 7, 11th August 2014 – strangers can be really helpful

Early morning I set off towards Święta Góra Grabarka, the holiest sanctuary for all Polish Orthodox Christians. It wasn’t far from Siemiatycze, so I rode slowly through forests, surrounded by wonderful scent. When I reached the church, morning mass has just started. I had no plan to take part in it, but few people who were inside sang so beautifully that I didn’t know when 40 minutes passed with me standing, sitting and above all hearing them. It was very far from average Catholic church singing (not very good) in Poland. There are many pilgrims coming to Grabarka every year. Many of them come here with wooden crosses which they leave there. With crosses they bring thanks and requests and they prey moving slowly on knees around the church. Forest of crosses, packed thickly is famous view of this place, it is original , but as far as I’m concerned seems rather depressing.

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Region of Podlasie is full of Orthodox churches, some of them neighbour with wells, people drink water from them believing in its healing features.

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A stone throw from Polish-Belarus border, in the middle of the forest is located very nice blue Orthodox church in Tokary.

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I rambled with bike further along the border, the suface of the road sometime was like this:

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In Zubacze I found another Orthodox church, this time it was brown.

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Most of churches were closed when I was by them, but sometimes I could see rich interior.

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What I liked the most that day were wooden cottages, some very simple and poor and some more decorative.

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I remember funny talk I had with one of locals in place called Czeremcha. I was standing on the sidewalk looking on a map when he stopped by me and asked if I was looking for something. As I was getting hungry I asked him if I can find any place with something to eat. He said no, but instead asked “wouldn’t you like to wet your backside?”. I have to admit I was totally surprised by this question and he probably saw it as he quickly added “I mean… to swim a bit, there’s a nice lake a few km form here”. As it was really hot day I found his idea quite tempting and really cooled myself in lake in Repczyce. It was great! But my hunger rose stronger and stronger so it wasn’t long before I was on bike again. About 30 km left from Kleszczele to Hajnówka, somewhere halfway through I ate delicious regional “solianka” soup full of vegetables and meat and finished the route of that day – 106 km in total. In Hajnówka I found my next WS hosts – very friendly family of bicycle fans and was treated with more than decent coffee and home wine …

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Bicycle trip from Rzeszów to Baltic coast, Pl, … chapter 6, 10th August 2014 – don’t pay the ferryman

After copious and delicious breakfast my hosts in Biała equipped me (I always thought it was guest who is supposed to give little gifts according to CS etiquette 🙂 with t-shirt and regional cake to eat while riding and I headed north in very good mood.

Of course, I was accompanied by lots of storks everywhere – it’s Podlasie area!

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After about 20 km I made it to Janów Podlaski, little provincial town with famous, eastablished in 1817 stud, where purebred Arabians and Anglo-Arabians are breeded. The vast area is surrounded by lust meadows. Janów itself is tiny but has a charm of its own kind.

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Horses in the stud are beautiful and so is the old stud itself.

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Horses come to you, usually  it’s enough to stretch hand in their direction, probably they count for the carrot you can buy there for them. Every year in Janów’s stud is being held the auction called “Pride of Poland”, the most significant buyer is wife of Rolling Stones drummer – Shirley Watts, this year she left in Janów 575.000 EUR buying a few horses. As my trip was planned to be on budget I haven’t bought one and was forced to continue my way on bicycle.

Just a few km further I reached again Bug river, but this time both sides of the river were Polish.

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The only way to cross the river was a ferry.

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Soon it turned out that ferrymen have their brake between noon and 2 p.pm. and as I got there at 12.15 I had about 2 hours of compulsory lazy time. I used this time for resting on the meadow. An cyclist going the opposite way to mine wasn’t so patient and used a kayak as a supplementary mean of transport.

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At last the break eneded and we could get on board. The ferry here is free, so don’t pay the ferryman. But if you really want to – no problem, he’s got quite a hard work, no engine!

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The further way leads along Bug on it’s northern side to Mielnik, historical spot with picturesque view form the castle hill, with ruins of the castle and Orthodox church.

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I tried regional speciallty – kiszka ziemniaczana – in a restaurant and set off to Siemiatycze, a little town in which I met my next CS host, Janina. She turned out to be very busy woman working about 11 hours a day. Living almost in a village in very eastern Poland where impact of church on people’s mind is very strong, she surprised me with her strong personal views incl. politics which were often quite opposite to those from official church or government stream. So, we immersed in discusion sipping cidder… until it was late enough to say goodnight.

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just a detail of Podlasie area folk architecture

Bicycle trip from Rzeszów to Baltic coast, Pl, … chapter 5, 9th August 2014 – when bicycling in Poland don’t always trust bicycle route signs (unfortunately)

I didn’t want to wait till tent is dry so I packed it with some moist on and headed a bit east to reach again border Bug river near little town of Włodawa. There were red bicycle route signs which I gladly followed as the route were located just along the river. Soon it appeared that the person who called it bicycle route had to possess huge sense of humour as the route was rather proper horse path but for sure not a bicycle one. There were lots of sand, water and mud, which made first kilometers of my day were slow and tiring. I made just a few km and lost 3 hours and much more energy. But, at least I had an opportunity to take a closer look at Bug and Belarus behind it.

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Belarus

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Of course, I took some pictures of Belarus side of the river, on one of which were towers of church in one of Belarus little town or village.

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It was about 2 weeks later, already back at home that I realized it wasn’t Belarus, it was Polish Włodawa’s church and winding river simply fooled me. Eventually I found again the asphalt road and promised myself not to leave it that day to reach my aim – Biała Podlaska – before sunset. Next stops were in Jabłeczna with famous Saint Onuphrius Orthodox Church

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and in Kodeń with its basilica with a painted icon portraying the Spanish statue of Our Lady of Guadelupe, which according to the legend Sapieha, the owner of Kodeń stole from Pope and was subsequently excomunicated.

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Riding the (very) east of Poland many churches are the most common attractions, of course besides nature, e.g. rivers flowing the way they did centuries ago (no concrete banks etc) and starks seen on almost every electric pole or chimney.

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And horses, aren’t they pretty ?

 

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I was in Kodeń that I left the main road north and turned left in direction of Biała Podlaska, where my host Artur awaited me. I called him several kilometres before Biała as we had set it earlier and he told me he’d ride towards me so we could go together to his house. It was very kind of him and saved me some time of finding his place. We rode together last of 90 km of that day. Arthur showed me and told about many landmarks of his town. After reaching his cosy home and taking showers I felt better than 5-star hotel client. The variety of delicious salads, meats and beers with addition to my tiring made me feel like in heaven J Me, Artur and his family spent wonderful summer evening time tasting those delicacys on the veranda in shadow of trees in completely quiet charming place talking about beauty of land and people of Podlasie – region in north-eastern Poland I have just started to ride through.