Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Franky, Oder?

Back onto German soil today, as I cross the Oder river from the Polish town of SÅ‚ubice. I arrive one day earlier than expected but Tom welcomes me into his WG (shared flat). He's an International Business student who is just back from a cycling adventure for the last 7 weeks and is eager to hear about my time on the road. 
We hang out over the next few days talking about our outlooks on life and meeting his friends. There are many students from former Soviet block countries here in Frankfurt Oder. I learn that the university here offers Bachelor courses through English instead of German and this means that everyone speaks English as the default student language. 
Cycling back to Berlin (approx 100km) takes me less than 5 hours on a bright sunny day. There's a special feeling of doing these trips door-to-door only by bicycle. 

Zielona Gora - jacek time

Time that I paid a visit to that hero I met a few years ago in Zielona Gora, who goes by the unassuming name of Jacek. He's 70 years old and is his adventures of the past few years are truly awe-inspiring. He started his cycling adventures when he "finally had enough time" on retiring at 62. He spent 8 months in the road and cycled to Morocco. He had minimal funds and a very simple old bike. At night he camped or sometimes was invited into people's homes. So what adventures has he accrued in the past few years since my last visit? Or had old age dug its talons into his joints and shaken such thoughts from his skull?

I'm happy to report that this encounter left me as wide-eyed as our previous one. 
He fails to recognise me when he opens the door: a less that auspicious beginning. He spies my bike and scans it without commenting. Our talk turns quickly to past and future plans. He took his bike to Russia and cycled around Baikal lake and then cycled through Mongolia before cycling through some of China. He previously described himself as a "lone wolf" on our last visit, but now invites me on a canoeing trip next year! Ok, a little about the canoe... He built it himself over three months and it is suite simply a work of art. He uses it regularly and is just back from a canoeing adventure in Finland. 
The one thing holding him back from being an eternal hobo? His lovely wife, who abides and acquiesces his forays to far-off lands, but does not participate. 
He searches through his large collection of maps to show me his route through Mongolia and China. The map of Mongolia does not appear to be useful in the slightest, as there are only a few roads shown. China on the other hand is a mass of confusing road lines crisscrossing the paper, with the names in chinese characters adding to the disorienting impression. For this journey, he splurged on a new aluminium bicycle, which he built himself, of course. 
The next day, with my head swimming with new cycling inspiration, Jacek says he will escort me half way to my destination. He assures me that he knows the nicer roads and can show me some of the sights on the way. Putting all my faith in his navigation skills, my GPS takes a rest for a few hours. That is, until Jacek looks confused and needs some GPS assurance after we have been pushing out bikes down a sandy fittest path for a few kilometres. We find our way again and after 40km we take a dip in a nearby lake to refresh ourselves. This 80km round trip for him, is the proverbial walk in the park.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Glogow

A reasonably short ride to Glogow (110km) but taking the major roads can be a little stressful at times. 
Meet up with Natalia who has agreed to host me for two nights. She lives with her two cats and teaches English at home and at a school nearby. 
We make a tour at night of Glogow and climb this tower. Abandoned buildings are the most fun and exciting thing to do in an urban environment.
Glogow has the largest roundabout in all of Poland, don't y'know?

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Wroclaw - pretty, pretty, pretty

Poland is for the most part non-mountainous and bicycles are not prohibited on even major roads. This makes cycling through Poland quicker than Austria or Czech, but has its associated risks. The large trucks roaring down these national roads sometimes create a draft that pushes the bike sideways as they pass by. As a strategy to lessen this death-by-HGV, I find that taking the secondary roads helps somewhat, although it does add distance to every day's journey.
Meet up with Estera in the evening to stay over at her place. She brings me out for the best pizza and ice cream in town and shows me the main sights. 


Sunday, 25 September 2016

Wegry - near Opole

It's time to visit some old friends here in Poland. First on the list, live near Opole. I visited them twice before and am looking forward to spending a few nights there, with home grown and home cooked food. 
But first, there are the major roads with which to contend. Usually there are quite new and in good condition, but cyclists are a rarity on these roads and the drivers can get a bit impatient at times. 
Kasia and Asia welcome me to their home and I feel instantly one of the family once again. 
We visit the city, bake a "mould" cake and visit a local lake for a dip on a sunny day. The stars are brighter here, not just during the night. 

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Paczkow - Polish border

A mountain pass of approx 900m greets me on my way into Poland, but also rain gives way to sunshine. 
On arriving in Paczkow, after a long day climbing mountains, Kasia informs me that there is a group of women performing an equinox Indian cleansing ceremony by a lake. Yet again, pretty random, but sounds like an adventure.  




Next morning we walk about town and eat in a "Bar Mylesko" - a former soviet styled restaurant - which serves basic, but delicious home cooked meals. 





Hradec Kralove - Iron man country

Biking through central Czech is much less of a challenge as at its borders, as the terrain is mostly quite flat. 
Near Hradec Kralove, Stepan and his family await my arrival. He is a four time iron man (5km swim, 180km bike, 42km run) competitor and tells me modestly about his training routine. We barbecue and eat outside his old wooden house, which he and his wife have renovated into a comfortable, modern, carpenter's opus.