Poznan to Warsaw Day 17 May 15th Poznan to Konin

Day 17 May 15th Poznan to Konin


We left the hostel in central Poznan under a leaden sky. It had rained heavily during the night but thankfully it had now stopped. The route out of Poznan was much easier than the way in. After crossing the river we went on beside a large lake and park. People were behaving much as they do in many European cities. There were runners and walkers with two sticks, and some racing canoeists.

It was not long before we were out of town on country roads. The terrain here is flat, we had a following wind and made good time on paved roads. Navigation was difficult but we managed to avoid dirt roads and cobbles.


Just before Slupca we had an interesting diversion. We followed a local cyclist along a short length of dirt road which followed a desire line across a main line rail track and then a busy road. We realised that the inconsiderate road builders had cut a community in half without providing any safe crossing points.


We made it to Slupca, our planned destination for today, by soon after lunch. We decided in view of the fine weather and lack of rain we should make for Konin. We had a hostel booked here but before we started today had not expected to make it.

The navigation to Konin had the potential to be difficult but in practice was easy. The paved road just went on and on. As we approached the hostel, north of the town, we were in an industrial area with two huge aluminium smelting plants belching out smoke. Preconceptions of a place can often be wrong in many respects and were on this occasion.


We had expected a youth hostel located beside a large lake to indicate a lovely area. It may indeed have been once but was now heavily industrialised.


I then expected the hostel to be a doss house for the workers which it was not. It was in a large building and the warden welcomed us and locked our bikes in a garage. She proved to be very helpful and friendly and the hostel similar in standard to a German hostel with the added advantage of a good kitchen.

John was able to use his Polish to talk to the warden while I went shopping for food. One amusing feature of the hostel was that John was issued with all the pots, pans, utensils and plates and a record kept of what we had.


I walked to the small but well stocked supermarket. They soon realised that I was English and allocated a young man to "help" with the shopping. He said it was very unusual for an English person to come here. He obviously wanted to practice his English but it was such a nice gesture.


We managed to cook before a noisy but good natured group of children turned up. Then it was chores and bedtime.


Days 18 and 19 May 16th and 17th Konin to Wloclawek

We breakfasted before the kids were up and John checked the pots and pans back in. We left the hostel still not sure of its origin or even its current purpose.


We passed under large diameter rusty pipes which crossed the village street. We do not know whether they still deliver communal heating to the community but that was once their purpose.


The first part of our journey today was through a whole series of large lakes. Here we saw some of the most affluent houses we have seen so far in Poland. John also pointed out houses like those his Polish relatives had once lived in. Most had now been transformed from smallholdings with outside wells and earth privies to tidy small buildings. Many, Irish style, remained but a large modern house complete with portico had been built on the site.


For the first part of the ride we were able to go along two abreast chatting as we went. Soon we came to a main road. Here we had to decide whether to avoid it by taking a long diversion on country lanes. A combination of dank cold weather and little traffic decided us on the main road. What also helped is that in Poland most lorries are not allowed to travel on Sundays.


Most of the towns and villages we went through were very quiet. The main exception was around the local church. The priest's drivel is amplified and can be heard in the whole area surrounding the church. It reminded me of the Muslim call to prayer. We are fortunate that the UK is not silly enough to be dominated by the church.


The roads hereabouts are straighter than any I remember anywhere else. It makes for boring cycling and for part of the way we also had a strong headwind. A degree of discipline was needed and we stopped about once an hour, usually in one of the many bus shelters.


We arrived at Wloclawek in good time and soon found the four star hotel I had prebooked. The Hotel Mlyn is a modern conversion of an old salt mill. It is very comfortable and not that expensive at about 60GBP bed and breakfast for us both.


We had another insight into Polish life soon after we arrived. A celebration was in progress for a little girl's first communion. There was much music, dancing and feasting going on, an ethnic celebration.


On Monday we woke up to torrential rain and strong winds and soon decided that cycling would be extremely unpleasant. We postponed cycling and looked at all the alternatives for the next four days.


At the midday checkout time it was still raining heavily so we decided not to leave today. Tomorrow we will either go to Plock or, if the weather improves, to Sochaczew. I should still be able to get to Warsaw by Thursday afternoon without having to resort to public transport.


This extra day off enabled a walking exploration of Wloclawek, a town of contrasts. It is a large dirty working class town on one hand and a pretty old town on the edge of the huge River Wisla on the other. It is certainly much more down at heel than a British town but a total transformation must have taken place in the last twenty years.


It was interesting walking past the bus station. There were a very large number of people waiting and lots of buses. Perhaps the car is not quite king yet.


Restaurants seemed to be few and far between but John managed to find an Indian which was nice because it had a good selection of veggie dishes.


Day 20 May 18th Wloclawek to Plock


Having watched the weather dry up yesterday afternoon, when we awoke we were greeted by more heavy rain. All the forecasts indicated that it would clear by lunchtime. We had breakfast and waited and things did improve.


We checked out at noon and left town via a long steel bridge over the river. We then had a short hill which came as something of a shock after such a long time on flat roads.


The weather was still very miserable and it was just trying to drizzle. We cycled on through farm land and stopped at one of the many bus shelters for lunch. John mentioned that even if it rained hard all the rest of the ride it would not matter much. Unfortunately it did rain hard and it was not helped by me having two punctures.


By the time we arrived in Plock we were very wet. We booked into the first hotel we came to which we think was the old state run hotel. It is very old fashioned and a bit down at heel but comfortable. The receptionist was straight out of the Soviet era. None the less she found a good place for the bikes and helped with the luggage.


Going to eat out in the evening we saw a little of the town. Unlike most towns we have seen here it was smart and the old buildings well presented. We hope to see more tomorrow.


My main memory of today is Milliganesque. On a quiet main road in the middle of nowhere, pouring rain, a man was stretched out almost horizontal pushing a wheel barrow full of scrap metal. I wondered why and perhaps he wondered the same about us.


Day 21 May 19th Plock to Sochacrew


What a difference a day makes. I had slept very well, had a very good breakfast and it was not raining. Plock is in a lovely situation, on a river cliff above the River Wisla. The old town is full of majestic Georgian style buildings and there are extensive pedestrian areas.


We cycled slowly around town and then viewed the river from the cliff near to the church. The river here is so wide it could be mistaken for a lake. There are yachts on a jetty but no sign of any commercial traffic. We met a friendly couple, young Poles who currently lived in the USA and had returned to sell their house. We agreed about the boring insular people of the USA and also their lack of a sense of humour. They were still proud of Poland but intended to live in Australia to get a better life style than the USA.


We eventually cycled over the long river bridge and after a few kms clearing the town took to country lanes for the rest of the day. Cycle navigation in Poland is difficult if one wants to stay on tarmac as we did. This time we managed to stay off dirt roads and cobbles all day.

The roads we took joined the tiny villages and farms on the south bank of the river. The remoteness and silence here has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. The highlight for us was to see storks' nests, usually on top of telegraph poles. Not only did we see them close up but also heard their strange call which sounds as if they are banging shut their large bills.


Further on and after the sun had appeared and we had finished our picnic lunch we came across what at first we thought was just another roadside shrine. In Poland these are rather like cycle stands in the UK. They serve no obvious useful purpose but indicate that God, or in the UK a bicycle, may be somewhere in the vicinity.


This time it was not a shrine but a memorial to members of the Polish army who had died defending a river bridge in 1939. The bridge now leads only to the Country Park but then must have been an important crossing point. These kinds of memorials are rare in Poland.


The only hotel we could find in Sochacrew was a four star and was, as one would expect, comfortable. Sochacrew seems a strange town with few shops but a largish population. We explored on foot and enjoyed a coffee in the sun at a cafe in the main square watching the world go by. This was the first time it has been warm enough for us to enjoy a coffee outside in the evening.


Despite an extensive and rather boring search the only restaurant we could find was the one at our hotel but they did serve a nice meal.


Day 22 May 20th Sochacrew to Warsaw


Accessing Poznan, our last big city, by bike had been difficult and we were apprehensive about today's ride. The road out of Sochacrew was quite busy and we made good time despite the random pot holes. At long last we were also favoured by some warm weather and even a little sunshine.


The route was almost continuous ribbon development and it was not very easy to find good places to rest. At one of these stops I noticed some rim damage to my rear tyre and took the opportunity to change it. A combination of one last vicious pothole and the weight of the bag had done for it.


During this tyre change we were also entertained by the police doing radar speed checks and the reaction of the drivers they caught.


For almost all of the last section before we reached the centre of Warsaw we had a pavement cycle lane. It slowed us down a bit being the usual brick surface and switch backing over entrances. It was however much more pleasant than the road which was now busy.


Warsaw city centre around the rail station wins the award for being the least cycle or pedestrian friendly place visited This is surprising in view of the fact that car use in Poland seems less than elsewhere in Europe and many people cycle.


Much of Warsaw has been rebuilt since 1945 and has been completely transformed since the Soviets left. The central wedding cake Russian building which once dominated the skyline is now dwarfed by huge concrete and glass structures. The capital which I once sped through in a taxi, ignoring red lights, is hugely changed. Then the old Polski Fiat taxi was almost the only vehicle on the road, now Warsaw is choked with traffic.


We had stopped just short of the centre in a park for a snack. We then had to brave the traffic to get to the station. This was daunting and it was difficult to stay together or even to find safe road crossings.


Once at the station I checked the platform for the sleeper train. After that I got supplies for the journey and we headed for a bar, able to relax, all the jobs done.


John is staying in Warsaw with a member of his family, Marik. Marik met as at the bar and after a quick pizza we were back at the station packing the bike.


The sleeper train was on time and John helped me on board and saw me off. It was sad to leave without being with him while he completed the last four days of his long journey. On the other hand I am looking forward to the comforts of home.


Days 22 and 23 May 20th and 21st Warsaw to Weymouth The Journey Home.


The sleeper car was more modern than those in the UK. I was allocated a three couchette compartment for my own use by paying a little more. It was very comfortable for one but would be a bit cramped for three. I settled in and once it got dark watched a film on the computer.


The attendant put the bed down for me and it seemed a very short time before the alarm went off at 6am. The breakfast was very meagre but it was nice to have coffee.


Cologne is not a difficult change but has no trolleys so I had to lug the bags. I soon found the Thalys train platform and was there in time to see the 7.44 depart. My booked seat was on the 8.44 which arrived on time.


Unlike the trip out, on the return I had a steerage class ticket where things are much like any other intercity train. It does have wifi but they make you pay so I did without.


The train arrived in Brussels about ten minutes late which was fine as my Eurostar train would not leave for an hour and a half. As usual they insist on a 30 minute check in and all the security one has to put up with on an aeroplane. Compared to travelling anywhere else by train in Europe this is just plain silly. But then they do have a monopoly.


On the good side the train arrived on time and I got the Airnimal assembled for the ride across London. I caught the train from Waterloo and arrived back in Weymouth just 24 hours after leaving Warsaw. It was very nice to see Anne waiting for me at Weymouth for the short ride home.