2872 km so far.
And we’re off! Finally back on the road and it feels good. Despite the list of errands to run today, the rain to run from, and the busy road to ride on, today is a good day. It sure is nice to be back on the road, heading north towards Tallinn, where we hope to catch a ferry to Helsinki before catching another to St. Petersburg. There is a
ferry that allows you a 72-hour visit to Russia sans visa, and since it seems our only chance to get to StP (without sitting around in Warsaw for two weeks waiting for visas), we think this will now be our route.
Out Of Time
The day began with my parents’ early departure for the airport. It was a fantastic two weeks we spent with them, walking around Kraków, eating our way through many of its restaurants, visiting some of its cultural and heritage sites, and visiting the birthplace of my grandfather. I am so grateful they were able to come spend this time with us. Adding another two people to the travel mix can be tough going, but for the most part the visit was wonderful. I did discover that they aren’t reading all of our posts, which both Jane and I found surprising, given the amazing wit and wisdom we impart on a daily basis. I’m hoping that our time together the past weeks will ignite their longing to stay connected. Most parents would kill to know what their child was up to on a daily basis… Heading out shortly after my folks, we picked up our passports from the Russian consulate, got a small adjustment done to Jane’s bike by the guys at BikeStudio, and failed to get our HepB booster shots.
The sickly looking people at the contagious diseases centre, combined with the swarm of mosquitos outside, scared us off. Before leaving Kraków we had second breakfast at BagelMama, where we learned that bagels originated in Kraków. And then we were off.
Our first stop of the day was Nowa Huta, an industrial suburb just outside Kraków. The Soviets purpose-built this model of Soviet living, complete with a steel factory, coal-fired power plant, and row upon row of cleanly laid out apartment blocks. The city was built to show Krakowians what a great life they could have under Communism, if only they toed the party line. Sections of the city are divided by grand boulevards all set in straight clean lines radiating out from the main square.
Just behind the first section, with its ornate finishings, is the less opulent housing section. Once clean and simple, now graffiti-covered and run down, communist apartments line the streets housing the many factory workers who live here.
Yes, the steel factory is still running. When we arrived it was shift changing time, and as the whistle blew people piled off the bus and through the gates. Those whose shift was ending got on the buses and headed back to their dreary apartments. All the while huge banners fluttered overhead. Their slogan? Transforming Tomorrow. I guess not much has changed here since Soviet times.
Arial photos of Nowa Huta properly capture the scale, design features, and simplicity of the city. Cycling through it is just depressing. There are only so many featureless grey buildings you can look at before you want to just shut your eyes. From Nowa Huta we began our journey north.
There is roughly 600 km between us and the Polish border, so we have at least another week of riding in Poland. We haven’t planned (as usual) much to do along the way, and are just going to see how far we can get each day before our bodies say:
Enough already. Can we stop now and get dinner?
Get Out Of Cities
One of the nice things about most major cities in Europe is that they are situated on water, which means they tend to be quite flat. Since this is our first day back on the bikes in a while, leaving that behind is exhausting. After riding up and down rolling hill after rolling hill, we finally reached the “enough already” point in the town of Antolka. We were hoping to free-camp tonight but when we did a reconnaissance of a small forest near the town we were swarmed by mosquitos. Swarmed. I walked into the woods, looked down and my shirt was covered.
As quickly as we could, we fled back to the road and biked to the next hotel, which a billboard had told us was only 2 km away. A 1930s hunting lodge vibe (including waitress in traditional tightly drawn vest and long skirt) awaited us and we are now inside, hiding from the rain, and ready to see what tomorrow’s journey brings.♥ [hr]