Bicycle trip from Rzeszów to Baltic coast, Pl, … chapter 16, 20th August 2014 – the last kilometres


Train from Gdańsk to Rzeszów with change in Bydgoszcz was due to leave just after 8 a.m. I traditionally (as for sleep in tent) woke up very early, about 5 a.m. and soon was ready to leave the camping. To my surprise gate was closed and as reception was supposed to open at 8 a.m. I got nervous that I’d miss my train. But luckily very soon next people came to go out and somehow they managed to wake up a guard so Gdańsk was again open for me.

Having apr. 2 hours to kill and being on the border of Sopot – the most famous Polish seaside resort I resolved to ride there for a while.

At the outset I rode through Sopot wooden pier, the longest in Poland (512 m). That early it was nice there without usual crowd and in addition for free.

Next stop – “lopsided” house on “Monciak”, the main promenade in Sopot.


The time came to slowly divert to Gdańsk. For the last time I turned to pay farewell to the sea.


I had opportunity to watch as fishermen just having returned from fishing carried their spoils onshore.


It couldn’t have been the other way, my last kilometers toward railway station in Gdańsk was constant struggle against the wind. But as I had big time reserve I won. I still had enough time to take a picture of a tank T-34, the first who entered nearby Gdynia in March 1945.


And it’s high time to thank my bike for it safely carried me along east and a bit of north Poland, we both reached Gdańsk railway station.


To my surprise my train had no special car for bicycles, it was just average regular one and I had to strain all my force to hoist my bike on. Train form Bydgoszcz to Rzeszów wasn’t any better. I had to leave the bike on the very end of a train aisle.


After 9 p.m. I reached my hometown Rzeszów where my wife awaited me on the platform. It was the nicest surprise of that day as I hadn’t expected her there. We walked together last 3 of 1.617 kilometres of my journey. The loop has been closed.


Bicycle trip from Rzeszów to Baltic coast, Pl, … chapter 15, 19th August 2014 – … and finally I see the Baltic sea and beauty of Gdańsk !!!


The most important day of my journey started with beautiful blue sky. I wandered a bit here and there in the centre of Elbląg strongly surprised how nice the place was. It wasn’t really old town as it was quite destroyed during II WW, but new buildings were constructed the way that gave away the atmosphere of old commercial town which was quite close to Baltic.


Next kilometers were extremely tough. I felt in legs that the sea was closer because wind was getting stronger and stronger. The area was almost tree-less at least along the road, completely flat, with many canals and there was no shelter from the wind. When I answered the phone call I could hardly hear words. It’s Żuławy Wiślane, the lowest part of Poland, reminding a bit the Netherlands.


Seeing a sign “Stegna 5 km” I realized that these are last kilometers before I’d reach the sea with no help of car, train, plane, just using my strong will and muscles. It was really something and it let me conquer the wind and finally I did see Baltic! It was great!


Although it was quite a warm day with temperature about 25 C only very few people were swimming. The apex of courage for majority was to dip their legs up to knees in water. I did the same and was sure why things were that way – water was horribly cold. Baltic unfortunately is not Adratic and although sometimes the water temperature comes up to twenty something there are days when it oscillates between 8-10 degrees only – during summer!


But I told myself I’d swim tomorrow when I had more time, even in that cold water. Now was time to hit the road again towards Gdańsk. The last hurdle on the way (not counting the wind of course) was the Vistula river – as it’s often said “the queen of Polsih rivers”, which I overcame wth little help of a ferry.


I had to admit that when I finally reached old town of Gdańsk I was tired, weary, exhausted, worn-out and sorry but haven’t learned yet more English words to describe my state of that moment. But it wasn’t important because I was in the most fantastic, beautiful old town in whole Poland! Gdańsk is more beautiful than Warsaw, Cracow and Wroclaw combined together, that’s what I’m quite sure of.


You’ve got to admit that in Gdańsk not only old builings are beautiful:


And of course the pictures can’t express it the proper way, but here are some examples of Gdańsk beauty:

The most famous fountain of Naptun, if you haven’t been there you haven’t been to Gadńsk 😉


Żuraw – old granary originated from XV century, another famous symbol of Gdańsk


SS Sołdek was a Polish coal and ore freighter. She was the first ship built in Poland after World War II and the first seagoing ship completed in Poland. Now she is ship museum.


Stone gargoyle – one of many in old cobbled streets


I strolled from street to street  till I thought it’s time to book a train ticket for my return way to Rzeszów. I wanted it for the day after tomorrow so I could finish the journey next day reaching on the bike the most northern point of Poland some 50 km from Gdańsk. You can imagine how furious I became when I learned at PKP (Polish Railways) ticket office that it’s not possible, they have no available tickets and I could only buy ticket for the next day or for 3 days later. The second option was impossible because I had to be back at home earlier, so I was forced to shorten the journey. This meant that my secret plan of riding bicycle from the most southern (which I did in May) to most northern point in Poland will never come true… At least not in 2014.

Almost with tears in eyes I bought the ticket for the next day, there was no other way out.

My not the best mood corresponded well with the sight of ruins on the Island of granarys, the only remnant of WWII damage in old town.


The last thing to do that day was to find somewhere to sleep. As I hadn’t arranged any meeting with WS/CS host I decided I’d look for a camping and I found convenient one on the border of Gdańsk and Sopot.

A bit earlier I took one more glance at the Baltic sea, close to Gdańsk pier.


Bicycle trip from Rzeszów to Baltic coast, Pl, … chapter 14, 18th August 2014 – colourful, almost fairy-tale village


First thing early morning after waking up I felt cold, so warmed myself up with hot shower and left camping. My aim for that evening was Elbląg town. I hadn’t settled accommodation there, so was really pleased answering a phone call as it turned out that very nice CS member Ania was inviting me to her flat. Having an issue of where to sleep off my mind, the rest of the day passed very pleasantly with the exception of weather which was beginning to deteriorate as I was closer to Elbląg and entered the town in gushes of wind and partly wet after couple of showers.

But earlier that day I found myself in a fairy-tale. Almost. Reaching Nowe Kawkowo village I was taken by surprise when I saw the aristically painted signs and other items which made me feel like in other reality.


Soon it turned out there is lavender field in that village too, quite unique for Poland, especially for it’s northern part with climate much more severe than Provence or Croatia.

The next surprise was a bus-stop, the one so cute, with painted qusi windows I’ve never saw similar one in Poland. I told older woman I met there that it’s the most beautiful bus-stop in Poland and she was a bit surprised, but also glad and told that every painting in this village was made by their mayor with the soul of an artist.


I did my best to spend more time in that merry village but eventually I had to go.

First, I reached Morąg town. I stopped by Lidl shop to buy something to eat and noticed a bicycle with a trailer with a lot of stuff in it and the flag of Republic of South Africa.


I was so intrigued by it that of course I managed to meet the owner after he did his shopping. We had nice little chat and I learned that this man was in his third year of great journey (“I’m retired and it’s all my life”) cycling all the way through Africa and Europe. From Poland he was to go back to RSA and I’d hoped he’d go through my town going south, so I invited him, but when he checked his maps with detailed itinerary for future travel it turned out he’d miss my town about 160 km going from Cracov straight south to Zakopane and later Slovakia.

I paid him my deep respect for his incredible challenge, we wished each other all the best and I set off to visit old town of Morąg, including the town hall with original Swedish few hundred years old cannons and remnants of a castle.


Next stop – another medieval brick old town – Pasłęk. I visited it being a bit in a hurry as there were sinister black clouds on the western horizon and I was afraid of imminent massive storm.

About half an hour wasn’t enough to admire all that town had to offer, but enough to take a few picture of old gates and charming but a bit derelict lane leading somewhere down.


Finally I made it to Elbląg where I spent wonderful time in company of Ania and her boyfriend, sipping delicious soup we shared our travelling stories, it was nice to know that we have in common a few  places we like much.

I was really tired that day, and as it emerged some time later, so distracted that I’d forgotten to take from bathroom my cycling clothing after taking shower. Ania sent it back to me by post a few days later and I was very ashamed as I left it dirty and opening the parcel I found it all washed and fragrant.

Bicycle trip from Rzeszów to Baltic coast, Pl, … chapter 13, 17th August 2014 – the least bicycle-friendly stage


Off I went from Mrągowo towards Olsztyn. It’s a nice direction for car drivers as lately rebuilt road nr 16 is a fast and sort of expressway, but creates problems for cyclists, especially not the local ones. Bicycles are not allowed there, of course for the sake of safety. There are also narrow lanes along the main road where one can ride a bike, but the problem is they just vanish sometimes, are severed and you don’t know how to get where you want. Generally, there are no many roadsigns there. It’s a pity because that area has a huge tourist potential for cyclists, but unfortunately someone forgot how to make use of it.

On my way I reached The Dadaj lake which is very important for me for as I heard family stories it was there I spent my first holiday in tent some 40 years ago. After visiting the nearest village I went on discovering my way to Olsztyn.

Where I could I chose local roads. In NE Poland they are often quite twisty and there are rows of old trees along them.

 It is picturesque, but too often driving there ends really badly.


I was glad to reach safely Olsztyn at last. As I have never been to this beautiful medieval town at the outset I headed to tourist information for a map and information where to find camping, my first regular camp during this journey. Outside the entrance there was a line of tourist bikes, the sign that I struck home.


After a few minutes I was ready to visit the old town of Olsztyn.


It was very nice to roam through streets full of people, look at the castle, old churches, the main square.


Finally I got to camping located by one of many nearby lakes. It was in western part ot town suburbs which was convenient to me as it saved me a few kilometers of riding next day.

Bicycle trip from Rzeszów to Baltic coast, Pl, … chapter 12, 16th August 2014 – good timing is essential


For the first time during my trip I was to stay 2 days in the same place for Jędrzej agreed without hesitation for my a bit longer staying. I was in the heart of beautiful Mazury district and it would be a shame just to go through without visiting one or two unique places. With Jędrzej and his friends we were to make a mutual bike trip to Święta Lipka. I woke up early as usual and soon was ready to go but it wasn’t before noon that my new Spanish friends seemed to be at least starting thinking about getting ready for a ride. I phoned Jędrzej who spent night in other house and it turned out that our plans would change. So I resolved it’s high time to ride solo again if I want to see anything special that day.

I headed north and soon was surrounded by forest, lakes and meadows, the wievs were splendid. There was even a peacock on cobblestoned road, but unfortunately I didn’t succeed in persuading him to extend wings.


On one of crossroads I noticed a nice sculpture of a knight.


It was beginning to drizzle when I reached Święta Lipka, historic Marian sanctuary packed with German tourists. I was lucky I got there just before 15.30 because at that time a short organ concert started before wedding mass at 4 p.m. Old instrument has moving parts (angels, windmills, stars etc.) which made quite a show with solemn although sometimes also cheerful music.



When I got back to bicycle I found funny view of a stork ready to go by bike. To leave no doubt – it wasn’t my bike.


Next place I wanted to see was Reszel, old medieval town. Although one can easily see how much money is still needed to make it look neatly and to finish restoring, the old town impressed me with its authenticity. And I just love gothic architecture.


The view from castle wondow is impressing.


On my way back I met a hord of strange looking cows, probably ready for a severe Mazurian winter.


Back in Mrągowo I was  lucky again to be just in time – the Spanish-Polish meal was almost ready and tasted delicious.

I had no other way out but to volunteer for dish washing.


Bicycle trip from Rzeszów to Baltic coast, Pl, … chapter 11, 15th August 2014 – all ways lead to Mrągowo

DSC02776 There is popular Polish country song “Wszystkie dorgi prowadzą do Mrągowa” which means “All ways lead to Mrągowo” as that little town is Polish capital of country music with its country festival hosted every year over the The Czos Lake. That day I couldn’t help singing this song because Mrągowo was that day destination for me. I was singing rather sharp or flat I’m afraid, but it didn’t matter much to me since I was still riding solo. The day started with nutricious breakfast including delicious home-made honey. A few kilometers among fields and I was already in Giżycko, a little town surrounded by lakes. One of the most famous tourist attraction of the place is Boyen Prussian fortress. DSC02800 It originates from the middle of 19 century and one can easily spend there a whole day roaming in vast area and admiring the details of brick military architecture of passed Times (even if it is just a loo as shown below :). DSC02801 I spent there about 3 hours (I mean – not in the loo) although wish I had spent more but quite a long stage awaited me. I moved towards Ryn. There is a castle, it’s not very impressive from outside, but inside you can feel like a knight. DSC02829 After short break I hoisted myself onto metal horse and rode to Mrągowo stopping sometimes when I found the real ones. DSC02818DSC02825 In Mrągowo (after 77 km of the day) a nice surprise awaited me. Jędrzej, my WS host at that time had another guests, a couple from Spain, so he took us all and his Polish friends for a nice 20 km bike route in vicinity of Mrągowo. DSC02853   On one of last kilometers of this trip my derailleur broke and I found how lucky I was with my new WS friends who in no time repaired it so I could continue my riding without paying  visit to bicycle shop. DSC02847

Bicycle trip from Rzeszów to Baltic coast, Pl, … chapter 10, 14th August 2014 – the answer is blowing in the wind 


I didn’t want to leave Augustów the very next day, I wanted to rest there day or two, but I had to go further. I’d settled earlier with my next warmshowers host in Mrągowo, some 200 km westbound (in straight line) that I’d be there on 15th August, so I had only 2 days to make that distance.

When I woke up it wa a bit drizzling, and although packing the wet tent wasn’t a pleasant think to do, at least I haven’t regretted any more leaving the lake beach. The stage to Augustów was my last going almost directly north, from now on I turned west. I’m not sure if it was because of that or because of weather change, but from that moment on I had to fight against very strong opposite wind. It lasted with almost no braeks to the last stage in Gdańsk. I went out from Augustow to the main road leading to Olsztyn. It was a road with quite heavy tracks traffic and I was soon really tired of it. But for some kilometers there were no better choice. Eventually I turned left choosing longer but much quiter road to Borzymy. A side wind was partly blocked by thick forest and I felt safer with no trucks on my way. It wasn’t raining anymore and I felt much better. In Stacze village I passed a little German soldiers cemetery from I WW.


It was a sign to remember intricate history of this area which belonged to Germany (Prusssia) before WW II. That’s why there are so many German tourists in Masuria, it’s the same as many Polish tourists in western Ukraine. Old people make sentimental journeys to land of their or their fathers and mothers youth.

Riding further I found strange situation, vehicles going on good asphalt road have to give way to traffic on major sandy road.


I hope it’s not a permanent situation because the asphalt road is new and has something to do with EU funds. Maybe the sandy one will be the next changing soon into tarmac?

The more westward I rode the more old post-German architecture I found. And I liked it a lot. For example just a normal stable. They have much more charm than indistinct modern ones.


I reached big Selmęt Wielki Lake. I rested a bit on a “village beach Łoje” with 2 kinds of benches, one for people liking their foot dry and the other for wet foot fans.


Halfway through my day stage I found myself in Ełk town. The last few kilometers I rode directly westward and there was no forest to protect me against mad gusts of wind. I barely could ride at 11 km per hour and was happy when I eventually made it to the town centre. I had to make another, this time longer break. I joined German tourists and visited an old water-tower. It was changed into sort of museum stuffed with items from Prussian time, e.g. almost 100 year old slicer.


Ełk is a nice town but I had to go. And again I admired old stables.


At the end of 138 kilometres stage I reached Sidory village near Giżycko town and greeted with my WS host, an retired soldier living now in peace in beautiful area.


He, his wife, family of other guests and me spent an evening in fantastic atmosphere chatting, eating and drinking delicious homemade alcoholic “nalewka”. It was yet another time when I got a prove that meeting awesome people is the greatest thing one can find travelling.