Krakovian Nights

By Stephen | June 6, 2013

2786 km so far.

When I woke up this morning my leg felt a little weird. I absent-mindedly gave it a scratch. That’s when something came off my leg and fell into my hand. It looked like a black seed of some kind.

Except it was moving.

Bed bug? Nope (Jane’s note: Thank god for that!).

Tick. Apparently, Polish fields are filled with them. Yesterday I had walked into some tall grass to relieve myself roadside, and one of them latched on to me. According to my research, if in the next two weeks I start feeling all groggy, well, it’s been good knowing ya.

With cloud cover and the promise of rain and thunderstorms, we headed off for Kraków. The ride from Rabka starts with 8 km of uphill, followed by almost 20 km down. At one point I checked my speed and I was flying downhill at 53.5 km/h which was definitely not the fastest we got going during that stretch.

Most of our ride was on the ‘old road’ (which is the one that, if you’re lucky, runs alongside the freeway for bikes, tractors, and horse-drawn carts to use). However, our final 20 km were on the main freeway into Kraków, the 7. It had a wide, clean shoulder so we felt quite safe, but it wasn’t the most pleasant ride. There were large transport trucks flying past, some cars in desperate need of an oil change, and the air was so thick with mist it stuck to our glasses as we rode, making it almost impossible to see.

We were pretty glad to finally get to the street where Natalia, our host for the night, lives. Thanks so much to Natalia for putting us up (and putting up with us), even though we’ve never met and only know each other by accident!

Aren’t Bike Shops Amazing?

I should have listened to the guys at Recikli when we were in Budapest and bought a new cassette to go with my new chain. But I am a newbie to bike touring and thought I could do without for a bit longer, and save a bit of money. Recilki were right and I needed a new cassette. I’ve been waiting to get to Kraków to take care of it.

(Jane’s note: I didn’t get a new cassette either, and my bike is fine, so there’s no definitive right decision here.)

The friend we are staying with, Natalia, called a bike shop for me to check they had the part in stock (as their website said they did), which they did, so I headed over. BikerSport (aka SferaBiker) in Kraków replaced my cassette while I waited. Amazing service. I was in and out in about 20 minutes with a new cassette installed.

However, as soon as I left, I knew not everything was as it should be: my new chain had already stretched to fit my worn out cassette after just 400 km riding. So I went back and they replaced the chain today as well, adding another 10 minutes to my time spent there. A very successful trip to the bike shop, because as Jane pointed out upon my return, all the grit we have accumulated in the past few days of drizzle and mountains is gone from the parts that matter on my bike, while she still needs to clean hers.

Night Time Is The Right Time

We tried to join up with a night ride tonight that is part of the week-long Kraków cycling event Święto Cykliczne Kraków. We got to the right place and hung out near about 20 other cyclists for awhile, excited to explore their city with them by night.

Waiting for the night ride in Krakow.

Waiting for the night ride in Krakow.

Suddenly, the guy organising said something in Polish and everyone went running into part of the ruined fort we were standing next to.

Rushing to get the scavenger hunt directions in Krakow.

Rushing to get the scavenger hunt directions in Krakow.

Turns out, the night ride was a scavenger hunt, which would require us to know Polish and to know the city. So, instead of a big ol’ night ride with a big ol’ group of Poles, we did our own nighttime trek into the old city, which is a mighty impressive, and impressively tourist-filled, area. I had no idea what to expect from Kraków, but I wasn’t anticipating as many tourists as we found.

I guess all our riding through the countryside gets me accustomed to one reality, when the big cities are another.

Speaking of big cities, we have just seen some pictures that Barbi and David posted from Budapest. The Danube has broken it banks there and the flooding has begun, they are preparing for the worst flood ever. Here’s hoping that the predictions are wrong.

Back To My Roots

My parents arrive tomorrow and we are spending the next two weeks with them, so today was the last of the big time cycling for a while. My father’s father is from a small town in the south of Poland, and we will head there after a week in Kraków.

I am very (VERY) excited to be in Poland, and to have the opportunity to learn more about my grandfather’s upbringing, his family, and where he came from. I have only been to Poland once before, and it was to Warsaw for work, for about 24 hours. This chance to spend some time in the homeland, meet relatives I know so little about, and the whole idea of going to the village my grandfather left 87 years ago is quite exhilarating.

Soundtrack: Tricky, Maxinquaye | Wilco, Being There | The National, Trouble Will Find Me | Gorillaz, Demon Days | Jane’s iPod on Shuffle  

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Chris T

    Chris T Reply June 8, 2013 at 7:27 am

    Really enjoy your posts and following your trip.

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