Taking Over Krakow With 3500 Cyclists

By Jane Mountain | June 9, 2013

2802 km so far.

This morning we went to visit the Karma Coffee Roasters roastery. It was closed when we got there, but after wandering around the Kazimierz district for a little while, we went back and found it open. Hurrah.

Sadly, by then I was far too hot to order a coffee. I satisfied myself with lounging in their shady garden while Stephen ordered up a cup of their Ethiopian roast. This one was much more to his taste than the Rwandan roast he’d tried the other day, so he bought the beans as well.

We didn’t get to see any roasting in action though, and we also learned that we had missed a cupping this morning. Damn damn damn.

Sweet Swieto Cykliczne

Our big event for the day was the mass ride organised as part of Święto Cykliczne Kraków. We hauled our bikes down the 54 stairs from our apartment and cycled up to the event starting point.

One of the brilliant things we’ve discovered about Krakow since we’ve been here is that the old town wall, when it was torn down in the 19th C, was turned into a park that loops all around the old town. So instead of riding on the cramped streets, we rode the couple of kilometres on a wide bike and pedestrian path in the park. Too bad it was filled with pedestrians getting in our way!

When we got to the square where the event was to start, we were amazed to see hundreds of cyclists already there.

bike festival in krakow

Veg culture is alive and well.

We were about 15 minutes early, and as we waiting, more and more cyclists poured in until the entire square was filled with people and their bikes.

hundreds of bikes in krakow main square

And the square is filling up.

It was pretty exciting to be in the midst of such a mass of cyclists. The start of the ride was a little delayed as various people got up on stage and spoke about we know not what in Polish. By the time they were done, we were all itching to get on our bikes and ride.

Finally, we were off!!

Sadly, funnelling thousands of cyclists out of a square via a single road is not a quick process. We half-rode half-pushed our bikes to the exit and then we really were off. Thousands of us moving through the closed streets, a slow and merry procession of two-wheeled vehicles.

It was damn exhilarating, even if we only got up to about 5 km/hr top speed.

En route through the streets of Krakow.

En route through the streets of Krakow.

We had fun bitching about the beginner cyclists who couldn’t (or didn’t bother to) keep their bikes in a straight course, and the flashy seasoned cyclists who wanted to weave in and out of the bike traffic, cutting everyone off, just like they would in their Audis. We also determined that if a cyclists shoes matched her bike, the likelihood of said cyclist riding into you is greatly increased.

Shoes matching bike is always a danger sign.

Shoes matching bike is always a danger sign.

Riding with thousands of people is fun as a one-off activity, but we wouldn’t want to do it every day.

Party In The Park

Since we’ve been on the road, we’ve gotten used to being able to speak quite freely in a crowd, knowing that most of the people around us will not be able to catch what we say in our foreign tongue, even if they do sort of speak it. But today, we attracted the attention of a couple of other English speakers and had a great time chatting to them about their lives in Krakow.

The American family (from Tennessee) we met had been living here for almost a year, and absolutely love it. They told us that Krakow has great culture, nightlife, an excellent selection of beer, and easy access to outdoor activities of all kinds. They also love the prices here, on everything except electronics and sporting goods.

When they bought their Webber Grill, it was cheaper to order it on Amazon in the US and have it shipped here than it was to just buy it in Poland. Wowzers.

All of us two-wheelers gathered in a huge pack in the park, where there was a picnic and cycling festival. You could get your bike security tagged by the police, or spray painted into lovely pastel colours (not by the police). There were people selling solar panels and making herb gardens for your bike, and a bicycle polo match, which is boring to watch, but might be very fun to play. There were two vegetarian food stalls, plus one selling humus. And everyone warned us there was no veg culture in Eastern Europe!

bikes in the park in poland krakow

Bikes bike everywhere.

Oh, and there was beer, too. So Stephen was happy.

Plus, there was plenty of space to practice handstand.

practicing handstand in krakow

Step 3: Over-rotate.

And a chair for chair pose.

Cool chair made of plastic bags.

Cool chair made of plastic bags.

The final reports estimated 3,500 cyclists had taken part. Sweet! Here is a super cool video of cyclists pouring out of the square.

We forewent the huge line at the veggie food stall and cycled over to their restaurant in the Kazimierz. It’s called Spoldzielnia Organic Resto and I am determined to make it back there before we leave Krakow.

Me enjoying a well earned burger.

Me enjoying a well earned burger.

Then again, there are still several vegetarian restaurants we haven’t tried, so we’ll see.

Stephen’s note: Spoldzielnia also sell small-batch beer, had vegan ice cream, and our main dishes were great, so we’ll definitely go back!

After all that excitement, we came home, practiced some yoga, and crashed.

Today's daily practice shot.

Today’s daily practice shot.

We are almost starting to feel rested.  

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  1. Comment by David

    David June 11, 2013 at 10:00 am

    What a nice day celebrating with the bike community of another country! I like the ‘best costume’, really funny!
    Thanks for this nice post helping us discover how life can be good in Eastern Europe.
    I really enjoy your blog, catched you up right at the start of your journey!
    Keep up the good work, and thanks again!

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane June 12, 2013 at 1:05 am

      Yup, it was amazing. Great to see that cyclists all over the world are coming together to try to improve things – Eastern Europe is way more advance on cycling issues than LA, that’s for sure!

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