How to meet wonderful world at home

I belong to three internet travellers communities: hospitalityclub (since 2007), couchsurfing and warmshowers (since previous year; this one is for tour bicycle users).

I admit that  I joined the first one because I’d read in press about it and was tempted by opportunity of saving some cost of accommodation while travelling. So I joined and tried and it worked! In 2007 my family travelled to Romania and Bulgaria for summer 3-week holidays. Of all 20 nights we didn’t pay for 4 thanks to our great hospitalityclub hosts. But saving money was only a tiny part of what membership was offering and as it later turned out it was the least important part! The best of it was meeting locals who generally shares with you their local style of life: habits, food, ways of spending time, lots of information about interesting places/events in area (sometimes they tell you about things you won’t be able to find about in tourist guides) etc, etc. And what I do appreciate – while I travel abroad I have eventually opportunity to use English, here in Poland my contact with English is generally confined to reading and watching tv/films (and sometimes writing blog, haha).  The hosts/guests are usually fantastic, open, amiable people, to that extend that in 2 cases my hosts/guests became later my guests/hosts: in England, Slovenia and Poland.

Being a guest is great but of course there is a second side – offering accomadation for other travelers. And it is also superb. Imagine situation like that one – grey, not much interesting March day in Poland, the rest of snow melted long ago, but still no fresh greenery outside the window… You’re a bit bored and check your emails and … wow, a girl from Canada travelling since August 2014 through Asia and since January 2015 by bicycle (!!!) from Instanbul, Turkey to my hometown Rzeszów, Poland (some 2.000 kilometres through the shortest way from Istanbul) and further in Europe is asking if she can stay at your place for 1 night. You of course agree, she arrives to your town and tells you about adventures you wouldn’t hear or watch in travel programmes on tv. It was a big big pleasure to meet Stephanie and talk with her about her brave ride through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine and Poland on bicycle with heavy panniers. And to listen about wonderful unspoiled nature of Canada … Such visits make your day. I wish Stephanie only dry, warm days during her further bicycle travelling, much less trucks on roads and save pedalling, and you – great adventures while travelling and while meeting travelers at your home.

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Third time lucky !

Yeah, I did it and really third time was eventually lucky ! I’m happy again! But, what was it? Interview! This time the chairman of the company proposed me job and I agreed! Maybe it’s nothing special in rich countries like USA or Australia but for me here, in Poland (and far from Warsaw) it’s big big SOMETHING.

A few reasons I think so are:

  1. I was looking for this job 14 months, OK, let’s say that during first half of that period I wasn’t looking very intensely, because after 20 years of hard work I DID wanted to rest a bit, so I travelled, I was polishing my English, I did what I always wanted but never had time to etc etc. But even then I was looking for, and later I was looking really diligently sending every day a few CVs. For almost no response. People say one can’t find job in Poland when one doesn’t have acquaintances. I don’t belong to people who know lots of other people, so I had to find a job on my own. It looked gloomy. And I didn’t want to become millionth Pole looking for a job in UK.
  2. It wasn’t that bad. I had few answers and invitations for interviews. Two. The first interview was very nice, a recruitment specialists was deeply interested in my … hobby – bicycle riding, we did shared this passion, but he didn’t share my passion for getting the job the company offered. Second interview – nice lady offered me job, sure, but it wasn’t normal kind of job contract – I was to get only commissions from company and I was to run my own business. I wouldn’t be emloyed at all! And I didn’t want to run a business, I wanted to get a job!
  3. I won’t tell what exactly is my occupation, but it is in bank branch and kind of job that is not necceserily done in the same town where clients live. So, last few years was a period of moving these positions to bigger towns and the best to Warsaw. So, after that time in my town left few jobs of this position. I felt like fisherman looking for a job in the middle of Sahara desert. And I didn’t want to move to bigger town, let alone to Warsaw. And I didn’t want to leave my family for at least 5 days a week.
  4. I’m 45. I decided maybe time came to change occupation, to do something else. OK, I made 3-month course which broaden my skills of something I partially studied long time ago and started looking in this line. One big failure, I didn’t get a job because I didn’t have 2, 3 or 5 years of experience which are required and no one wanted to take me as an apprentice because I’m too old. Catch 22?

Today a miracle happened. I answered a phone and it turned out that it’s from company where I sent my CV half a year ago. Three hours later I was after nice interview and we shaked hands with the chairman agreeing on conditions of my work! I’m starting tomorrow! I’ll work again in my old occupation. Hooray!

Skiing in wonderful ice-land

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Once again we went skiing to Chyrowa in Beskid Niski, Poland. What we saw off the beaten track was amazingly beatiful.

Every branch of tree and bush was covered with thick coat of ideal transparent ice.

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We couldn’t help taking more and more pictures, here are just a few of them.

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It was like in fairy-tale, Narnia or something.

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It was really hard to come back at evening from this paradise to grey, snow-les and ice-les winter town.

How to start skiing season painfully

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Two weeks of January have passed. We hadn’t ski boots on our feet yet. Last Saturday was to be start of skiing season for us but weather forecast predicted precipitation of … rain. And they were right. Another lost week without skiing. Next Saturday forecast – no rain, although last time it was snowing … so long ago I don’t remember. It isn’t even cold, about +5 C. But what are snowmaking machines for? Fortunately in Polish Beskid Niski Mountains at least at night temperature was slightly below 0 C, so there is some 30 cm of mostly artificial snow on slopes. Decision – we’re going to open ski season at last.

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6 am, Saturday. Normal people are sleeping, but probably we’re not quite normal. We have about 85 km of twisty, partly mountain road to go to get to a ski slope. We must be there by 9 am when ski lift starts, to have our first downhills on ideal immaculate-snowgroomered surface of slope, before it is ploughed by other skiers and what’s worse snowboarders.

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My son Michal, who usually gets up at 10 am or sometimes 12 am on Saturdays makes exceptions for skiing and I’m grateful for that.

7 am, robust portion of scrambled eggs and off we go. Direction – south, no highway unfortunately, in accordance to government plans there will be one from my town to Beskid Niski already in 2040, of course if everything goes well. Last resolution to do – where exactly do we want to start ski season? There are 2 options: Chyrowa (A) and Puławy (B). Both are in reasonable distance of about 85 km from our town to make 1 day ski trip to. (A) has a bit better access, probably a bit better slope (subjective valuation though) and a poma/platter/button skilift, whilst (B) has a double chair skilift. We chose A (no chair, what a fool I proved to be) and it was our, or rather my second mistake.

9.00 am, Chyrowa. Shackle ski boots are already on our feet, 7 hours tickets (third mistake, 4 hours would be really enough ) bought and up we go.

9.05 we reach the top of the hill, 3    2    1   start!!! That is the only moment when I think there is any point in creating winter at all. Sheer pleasure of downhill. Slope is not very long, about 1.000 metres, but we don’t live in the Alpes unfortunately.

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9.08 am, second time going up. And about 40 times more till it was 4 p.m. and our last lift. And last downhill, with my shins sore and painful calfs + thighs on the verge of contraction.

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4.20 pm, we’re back in car, when I drive I feel horrible pain in left thigh every time I press clutch. And as I wrote earlier the road is twisty and I have to change gear often, much too often. Why didn’t I buy automatic gear?? (Stupid question – it is too expensive and driving it is not fun and I didn’t suppose I’d ever drive it with thigh on a verge of contraction).

6.00 pm, we’re back home happy seeing the rest of our family preparing pizza! Great timing, I like it.

6.20 pm, OMG, why does it hurt so awfully when I tried to get up from armchair???

– Michal, are your legs OK, any pain?

-OK, why?

It’s so pleasant to be teenager, I suppose.

Two months earlier, one month earlier, one week earlier, one day earlier – I did no preparing for winter ski season, no squads, no lungets and almost no other exercises. And it was the first mistake I made.

But altogether, despite all the pain I felt after, it was a fantastic day!

The Jews in Dynów

Dynów – a little, sleepy, provincial town in south-eastern Poland, a place where, as we sometimes say, birds are turning back, 40 km south of Rzeszów. But the landscape is really nice, San river, hills, a lot of green every direction you look. But to say the truth – nothing special.

So, you can easily understand how awe-struck surprised* I was seeing in Dynów such a scene as below.

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The Jews in their traditional garb. It wouldn’t be a shock for me if it was some 70 years earlier. Polish towns like Dynów before WWII had essential Jewish minority, in some cases it could be majority as well. But after Holocust and after the war with “help” of ruling communists almost no Jew at all left in Poland, let alone ones practicing their habits.

I searched a bit in internet and found that Hassidic Centre of Polish Jews were built lately in Dynów and that’s why we can meet again guests of original culture, which was so closely tied with Polish before WWII.

* In the first version of this post, before edition which I made today I used word “awe-struck” instead of “surprised”. I admit it was my word-mistake as of course I hadn’t been frightened by these people 🙂 It’s because my English vocabulary is still too limited and sometimes my poor memory plays tricks on me. And it probably will happen again as it’s not such fun to check every second word in a dictionary and blogging should be fun, shouldn’t it?. And I did was awe-struck when I realised what I had published in the first draft 🙂

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 !!!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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 😉

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

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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.

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Stone gargoyle – one of many in old cobbled streets

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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.

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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.

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