A Break From Biking

By Jane Mountain | June 7, 2013

2788 km so far.

Today marks our first day of two full weeks pretty much off the bikes. The idea of not riding anywhere for that long is freaking me out a little. It’s also a huge relief, as I’ve been feeling like we need a real rest from the packing and pedalling.

We packed up all our gear from Natalia’s flat (thanks again Natalia!!) and rode about 5 minutes away to Amsterdamer, a bike shop we’d heard about from a guy Stephen got chatting to last night at dinner. It’s a used bike shop where they buy old bikes from the City of Amsterdam, fix them up, and then sell them in Krakow. I’m loving these re-use shops, and will definitely buy a used bike if my Surly LHT ever gives out.

Another Great Bike Shop

Anyway, the reason for our visit was to see if they could figure out where Stephen’s mysterious click is coming from and how to fix it. We’ve tried to get others to find it, but the click seems to disappear as soon as we unload the bike and someone else tries to ride it. Today, one of the guys from the shop hopped on the bike fully loaded and pedalled up the quiet side street. He was several inches shorter than Stephen, and I was worried he’d have trouble with such a heavy bike that was way too big for him.

But he was obviously a pro. A couple of minutes later he came back and said, “I think it’s in the left pedal.” We’d always thought the right side was the source of the click, so this seemed surprising, but we got them to take off Stephen’s left pedal and replace it with mine and… sure enough, no more click. They gave Stephen’s pedal a clean and lube and we popped it back on.

The click is gone for now, so we shall see.

Once again, superlative service from a bike shop, with no benefit to themselves and no charge.

Family Time

After this, it was time to go meet Stephen’s parents at the apartment we’ve AirB’n’B’d for the week. Just as we were pulling up, there they were, all day-packed up and ready to leave. It was lucky we got there when we did, or it would have been a comedy of errors all afternoon. Since the original plan had definitely been for them to wait for us at the apartment, we’re not 100% sure why they were leaving, but never mind, all’s well and all that.

Stephen’s Dad (Hi Malcolm!) is an amazing researcher and organiser – he found the places we’re staying, organised tickets and transport to Auschwitz and The Schindler Museum, and has found lots of great places to eat around the city. He took us to one of them for lunch, and to our surprise it was a vegan/vegetarian place near the main square called Green Way.

We ate cabbage rolls filled with rice and tofu, deep fried (!), and topped with an aromatic Indian tomato sauce. A weird and delicious flavour combo. We then dragged Stephen’s badly jet lagged parents through the masses of tourists in the main square until they could barely stand.

town square in poland

The square is actually square.

Finally, we allowed them to go home for a nap.

Russian Red Tape

I could have done with a nap, too, but today we realised our relatively stationary two weeks are our one big chance to get Russian visas. Of course, information on visas is impossible to find online, so we headed towards the Russian consulate to see if we could speak to someone in person. It being Friday afternoon, of course the consulate was closed when we got there (after 40 minutes of walking) but, lo, there was a sign on the door directing us to the Russian visa services office.


After a little walk and a little wait at the office, we were helped by a very friendly, very smart, very English-speaking woman who gave us all the info we needed. Yes, we can apply here. No, we don’t need original documents. Yes, it will take 10 days. All as we expected, and all good answers. Which means the next step is to somehow figure out what day we will get to Russia. Easier said than done.

Just down from the visa office was a lovely market, so we picked up quinoa and fresh veggies which we’ll cook for dinner tonight. Stephen is looking forward to getting into a clean, fully equipped, real kitchen, and I am looking forward to eating at the table off of non-plastic plates for a change.

A Dose Of Karma

We couldn’t leave this side of the city without stopping by Karma Coffee Rosters, which is apparently the best place to buy beans in Krakow. I’ll let Stephen describe the Karma experience.

I had read about Karma online, and heard they stocked Union beans (a small-batch roaster from London). I prefer to try locally roasted beans, but this seemed like my only option for good whole beans in Kraków. People said nice things about them, and they serve a great selection of food, including vegan and vegetarian options, so we figured we should check it out.

We were served by an incredibly helpful barista who was eager to answer my questions, clearly knew a lot about coffee, and was enthusiastic about what they do at Karma.

It turns out they started roasting their own beans in October so now they don’t stock Union anymore, but do stock Karma! Terrific news. They had two roasts available, so I got a V60 of their Rwandan to try, and promised to be back to try the Ethiopian before deciding which to purchase. Jane had a soya latte which was made with their Columbian espresso roast and we also got a couple of cakes.

v60 coffee being poured

The V60 being poured.

Jane wasn’t too happy with her latte, but the problems seemed to stem more from it being soya than from the coffee itself. The milk wasn’t as hot as she would have liked, but it is hard to not burn soya milk, so they were likely just a tad over-cautious. And the coffee flavours didn’t come through the soya very well, so it lacked the rich coffee punch she was hoping for.

Jane’s note: The cakes were delicious though. We had a piece of chocolate chip banana bread which tasted like home. And also a slice of meringue-topped date and walnut cake, which was crunchy, sweet, spicy, and delish!

My Rwandan was very good, sweet and light as it had been described. The cup has a great medley of flavours, but overall it was not what I prefer in a coffee. I knew this was likely when I ordered it, as the two different roasts had been clearly and correctly described to me. So if you like a lighter, sweeter roast this is an excellent option. It is simply not what I want each morning before pedalling another 60 km.

We will go back in the next day or two to try the Ethiopian, which I think will be more to my liking.

Back to Jane.

After a great family dinner, we did a little yoga to counteract all the walking today. Since we’ll have more free time for a little while, we’ve decided to challenge ourselves to do asana every day until we get back on the bikes.

Now, we’re listening to the thunderstorm outside, watching the windows light up every few minutes with lightning. Every once in a while I’ll anxiously wonder “did we put the bike seat covers on?” and then I remember that the bikes are safe inside, just down the hall.

It’s going to be weird getting around without them for the next few weeks.  

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