(24) Castles, lakes and churches
Wednesday 29th August – Friday 31st August
We decided to stay on until the Saturday as we always have so much to catch up on and never get it all done! We spent the days on skype, washing our clothes and doing our blog. Tim also discovered that his BT email account had been suspended as it’s linked to our broadband package that we cancelled 3 months ago. He remembered an email about it a while ago…
After 2 days having not left the campsite – we decided we really should venture over to the castle that was 200 metres away. It was awesome and well worth the journey. As we crossed the draw-bridge into the castle just before lunchtime, our jaws dropped as we couldn’t believe the size of it. Of-course we naturally thought of our stomachs as we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. 3 hours later we appeared at the draw-bridge ravenous!
The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork is the largest castle in the world by surface area and the largest brick building in Europe. It was built-in Prussia by the Teutonic knights and was named Marienburg (Mary’s Castle). The castle was completed in 1406. UNESCO designated the “Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork” and its Museum as a World Heritage site in December 1997. It was truly awesome and we had great fun looking around.
Exploring the hundreds of metres of corridors
Taken just inside the front gates
Malbork castle at dusk
The rest of the time at the campsite was used for sorting out a load of things we needed from home. We’d like to thank both our parents and Natalie and family for all that they have done to help us with this. It has made things a lot easier for us.
Saturday 1st September
During the night, Tim was suddenly woken up by movement under his thermarest. He thought it was a mouse at first and jumped up to see that his thermarest was delaminated forming a half a metre bubble. He couldn’t believe it. All of the air had to be let out before it was comfortable enough to lie on. Annoyed with another piece of equipment failing there was nothing we could do about it until morning.
We woke to a nice day – hoping to head off shortly -but with a few loose ends and now a broken thermarest to sort out it felt like we had a long day ahead. We rang Moorland Rambler in Exeter where we bought it and they very kindly agreed for Sharon’s mum to pick up a new one in advance of her bringing back the broken one from Krakow. We were really grateful for this as it made it an easy solution. That sorted, we spent a bit more time sorting things out and then eventually headed off at 3pm – with the camp site owners giving us ‘are you still here’ looks!
It felt good to be back on the road and we felt so much better for a rest. We did 10 miles before we saw a sign for an Agrofarm ,thinking it was the ecoturist farms we had been told about by other travellers. These are farms that tourists can stay on for a reasonable price. We rode the 2 miles there and arrived at a massive farm and no-one around. Annoyed we had ridden extra miles we headed back and stopped at the side of the road to ask a group of fruit pickers for water. With the bag full, we rode on stopping after 15 miles to ask a man in a field with a horse if we could camp. He said something in Polish and pointed to the field across the road. Using our amazing ability to translate into “of course you can pick anywhere” we headed off to find a spot.
We wheeled our bikes up over a corn field, tricky as the field stubble was pretty long (Tim’s too by now).
At the top of the field just before we found a good camp spot
It took a while to find a good spot but we found a flat piece on the side of an old track next to a copse. We set up camp and after a while could hear a tractor approaching. We thought that the guy we had asked wasn’t the farmer who owned the field we were in as we had headed further than he suggested. We kept the stuff on the bikes in case we were going to be moved on but nothing would stop us cooking our tea!
For about an hour we kept waiting for the tractor to appear and eventually curiosity got the better of us and Tim wondered over the brow of the hill as stealthily as he could. He came back reporting that the tractor was quite a distance away. We relaxed a bit , finished tea and washed up. We decided to take another stroll to see where the tractor was as it had got dark. We headed up to the brow of the hill and the noise of the tractor stopped – we relaxed chattering away. All of a sudden we heard a tractor door shut and saw the headlights come on which shone directly at us. Feeling like rabbits caught in headlights (literally) we froze and walked as quickly as we could to our tent. We expected him to follow us but he obviously turned for home and wasn’t bothered by us camping in his field.
Our camp spot for the night
Sunday 2nd September
We woke up in the field to the same condensation problems. It was a stunning day and with most of our kit still on the bikes it didn’t take too long to pack up. While we were enjoying a cuppa, 2 young deer appeared around the corner and came really close to us but jumped into the woodland when they saw us. We got on the road and headed to Morag. The drivers were behaving themselves which made a nice change. We stopped in the town and had lunch outside of a town hall. On our way there we had noticed lots of people inside a church and all of the grave stones had flowers on them. We asked someone what the occasion was and they told us it was the anniversary of when Germany had first invaded Poland in the 2nd world war.
We headed on to Olsztyn following wood lined roadsthat remained fairly quiet
We felt pretty tired and stopped before the town of Olsztyn when we saw a sign for an agro-tourist site. We ventured down the dirt track as it was marked just 2km to see if we could camp there. It was a fantastic spot but unfortunately we were told no camping – just a hotel which looked way too posh for us! We headed back up the track having got water at the hotel. We found a fantastic spot in the woods surprised as we were so close to the city. Tim put up his hammock for the first time and we cooked dinner feeling grateful to get into bed.
Monday 3rd September
We woke in quiet woodland. We started packing up the inside the tent and heard someone walking outside. We kept really quiet even though it was daylight and they would have been able to see our tent! They passed again about 20 minutes later and it was a man walking his dog. He stopped to chat to us and seemed really interested in what we were doing. He took our photo and email address so he could send us the picture. We packed up and headed into the town of Olsztyn. We looked around the pretty town and picked up some postcards.
We knew we needed to head out on the highway and when we asked directions the guy said he didn’t think bikes were allowed. Not being a couple to be put off too easily (plus the alternative was a really long way round) we headed on. Sure enough there was a sign saying no cyclists but we chose at that point to stop understanding Polish signs and got our heads down. There was a really wide hardshoulder and we saw other local cyclists on it so didn’t feel too bad. It was a great surface (unlike most of the previous roads we’d been on) . With a tail wind we’d soon covered 20 miles when we spotted a BP garage. As the temperature was in the 30’s we decided to stop for a break. We ate crisps and honey on rice cakes in the shade and started to feel better. Sharon spotted a road on the left which was parallel to the highway and suggested we ride along it. We passed 3 walkers with massive packs on their backs. We stopped to ask where they were going and they said the capital of Lithuania! Sharon was so impressed she had a little wobble and wishing them luck rode on. The track soon turned to a dirt road and then ended. Frustrated that we had to ride back passing the 3 walkers we eventually found our way to the highway and got our heads down once more passing the walkers again who had also been forced on to the side of the highway.
We rode on to the town of Biskupiec and stopped to get supplies for lunch. We ate it on a grassy area and were grateful for the shade.
We were really tired and didn’t hold out much hope for finding somewhere to camp on the busy highway. We left the town and headed north. There was little traffic as it was by now about 6ish. Tim spotted a few people sat outside some buildings on a farm and we ventured over to them. A guy walked over to meet us and we asked if he spoke English. He didn’t but fortunately understood our sign language and led us to his front garden. We were surprised as we thought he’d send us out to one of his fields. We pitched the tent and cooked dinner on the lawn next to the washing line then sat and ate our dinner on the swings which was quite amusing. It was getting dark when his wife came outside and beckoned Sharon in. She offered her a cup of tea and a seat indoors. We headed in and spent an hour or so learning Polish and showing photos of home. Their youngest daughter who was 6 years old kept bringing us photo albums to show us and would point to each family member who was in the album. Most of the pictures were baby photos! She disappeared and brought over a bread roll for us to eat! It was the sweetest gesture. As we left the house, they asked what time we would be leaving in the morning and invited us for breakfast.
Having a lovely evening
Tuesday 4th September
We got up at 6.40 when the alarm went off and packed our things and used their garden fence to dry the tent before heading into the house. They had laid on a delicious breakfast which consisted of bread, ham and eggs. It was really nice spending time in their company – meeting people like this is what our journey is all about. We said goodbye and packed the last of our things away.
The highway was quiet and stopped in the town of Ryn for a cuppa and bowl of cereal – old habits die hard – and found a nice bench by a lake. We watched a cat sat next to a fisherman waiting for some fish for breakfast – unfortunately he went home empty pawed.
The cat was waiting for his breakfast
The roads continued to be quiet and drivers were still behaving themselves.
The pretty town of Sterlawki Wielkie
We passed through the pretty town of Sterlawki Wielkie and enjoyed the ride to the town of Gizycko. As we rode into town we went past an internet café and decided to check our emails. There was one from Hilleburg suggesting a compromise on our tent situation. We called them in Sweden using our skype account and came to an amicable solution. We decided to choose a different tent but of-course the next problem was getting it to us. Hilleburg found an outdoor shop in Krakow where we could pick it up. It felt great to get this sorted and we hope that this is the end of our tent nightmares!!
Shaz on the road
We continued into the town and found a Lidl’s to buy lunch and noticed an old water tower that was opposite. Tim headed on up and enjoyed the view from the top with his go-pro camera . He said the view was great but the inside had been spoilt by the design of the interior which wasn’t in keeping with the tower.
We had lunch in a nice park and watched as a 10 year old kid lit up a cigarette…then headed out of town. We followed the river and started riding along undulating tree lined roads. It was a beautiful area and we felt that we were starting to really arrive in the lake district. We passed a small campsite right on a lake and decided to ask how much. It was £4 for both of us so we decided to pitch the tent then popped into town for some beers. We cooked tea while watching a red headed woodpecker building his house and settled down to watch a movie with a meal.
Wednesday 5th September
After a good nights sleep we had a lie in and chatted in our tent about how fortunate we had been with the weather. Within 2 minutes we heard rain drops on the tent and looked at each other and laughted. Luckily it didn’t come to much and it did prolong our lie in…
We had breakfast and a chap that Tim had spoken to the evening before came over to chat to us. He had a boat and Tim had been given a tour the previous evening. With limited Polish/English/German he went off to get a lady who was staying on the campsite who spoke English. We chatted for the next couple of hours about the area and what there was to see. They recommended going to a lake called Jezioro Sniardwy which is the largest in Poland. Also to a town called Mikolajki which was on the way.
With time winning the day we got going stopping at a honey seller to pick up 3 kilos of honey! We arrived in Mikolaiki and turned off the main road to sit by the river and have lunch. A couple who were sat next to us looked in amazement as Tim pulled his big jar of honey out of his bag.
We packed up and looked around then headed out towards the lake. We rode down a sandy track for about 4 miles and watched as the small ferry was just leaving. We noticed that the last ferry was in about an hour so were confident we would be picked up. We spent the next hour looking at the ferry on the other side – the driver had disappeared. Finally its engines started up and it came over to take us the 200 metres to the other side.
We had a nice view while we waited for the ferry
We rode to the lake but couldn’t see much of it for the rushes. It looked like a great spot and we asked if we could camp there. They at first said no and then a nice Polish man spoke with us and said they probably didn’t realise we only had a tent. He went into speak with them and sure enough camping in tents was allowed for £3. They also had a small shop selling beer so we were set for the night. We cooked tea and went to bed only realising that we had pitched our tent next to a bench with a light which attracted a group of late night drinkers which finally retired at 12.30.
Thursday 6th september
With a long day ahead of us we got up early and were soon on the road. We went through the park surrounded by trees and came across a heard of wild horses. We rode tentatively through the middle of them as they were spread across the road.
Riding through a herd of wild horses
We continued to ride through the forest to join the highway which remained quiet. With freshly laid tarmac it made our progress good. We stopped for an iced bun and continued to Szczytno where we had lunch on a green. There was a hairdressers opposite and at first we thought there was a female manakin in the window as it didn’t move. We then noticed that her eyes were looking in a different direction. After realising that it was a real person, it freaked Sharon out so we changed benches so our backs were towards the window!
We packed up and headed on to Nidzica which was another 30 miles but as it was only 1pm we had time. With our iPods in we got our heads down and with a brief stop we arrived at 4.30pm. We went to find a supermarket to get tea and rode up to a castle to have a quick look around. We returned back to the main square to cook tea. With clouds rolling in and it was starting to get dark we were worried about where we were going to camp.
Tim spotted 2 cyclists and went over to ask them if there was anywhere to camp nearby. They suggested a campsite but this meant going north. One of them kindly offered to ride with us. Tim explained that we wanted to free camp as we were on a tight budget and explained about our trip. He thanked them and headed back to help Sharon with the washing up. The 2 cyclists approached us about 5 minutes later and told us that Robert, one of the cyclists was the manager of a hotel and offered us a free room for the night. We couldn’t believe it and asked if he was sure. He said of-course no problem! We spent a lovely evening with Robert using Google translator to help with the language barrier. He belonged to a local club who did mountain bike racing. We clicked immediately and it felt like we were spending the evening with an old friend. We found out that evening that our new tent was being delivered to Krakow the following Monday which was the cherry on the cake!
Tim, Sharon and Robert
Friday 7th September
We woke in our hotel room. It was strange to think we were sat outside the night before wondering where we were going to sleep. We packed our things and went upstairs to say our goodbyes. We loaded our bikes – we had a lot of miles to cover that day to ensure we got to Krakow in time for the 12th. We covered 10 miles and stopped for a brief breakfast stop outside of a church. It was great to get away from the busy road. We continued on and past over the old German/Polish border. We had learned the evening before that an area in northern Poland had belonged to Germany.
Riding into another pretty town
It was hard going with a head wind and heavy rain and a very busy road. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry and returned to their bad driving habits. We managed to cover 58 miles. Feeling tired we spotted some farmers in a field stood by a tractor. We walked over to them and a young boy with them spoke a bit of English. We asked if we could camp in the field and they said no problem. It took a while to find a space that was clear of ‘cow mines’ (as Tim called cow pats). We got tea on the go and asked one of the children where we could get water. One of the young boys who was called Christophe took Sharon into the yard to a well where she could fill the water bag. With tea on the go, the children brought over 2 puppies and a bag of apples (we only ate the apples)!! Tim showed them how to light the stove with the flint which they thoroughly enjoyed.
The kind farmers who let us camp in their field
We spent the rest of evening watching the clouds clear revealing amazing colours in the surrounding fields.
Saturday 8th September
We both slept really well and were up by 7.15. We both had breakfast while the tent dried and their dog barked at us 20 metres away from the time we woke up to the time we left! Two of the children we had met the previous evening came over to see if we wanted water. They ran off with the water bag bringing it back full to the brim, clearly excited that they had been able to help.
We got on the road to Plock which was 20 miles away and arrived by 11am. With time on our side we had a look around the city. We went inside an amazing church.
The church in Plock
Without the aid of a Tourist information office, we decided to follow a tourist train for about 20 minutes excited that we would see the sites for free. We were guided down a steep hill only to find this was the end and everyone got off! We headed back up the steep hill and decided we really needed to push on so we headed on to Gostynin for lunch. We found a green and relaxed in the shade. As we left we chatted briefly to 2 guys sat on a bench next to us and they asked how many kilometres our tyres had done. They were visably shocked when we told them!
We still had a few miles to do so headed off and pushed on to Kutno. With a slight cross wind slowing us down we by-passed the town as we needed to do another 15 miles before the end of the day. As we by-passed the town we changed direction resulting in a tail wind which made all the difference. We arrived in Piatek and picked up fuel and water. We headed off to find a camp spot. With the sun setting we asked a farmer if we could camp in his field and got our first no of the trip. He suggested a hotel! We perservered and spotted another farmer driving his tractor. We waited until he was near and asked if we could camp. He also said no and suggested we go on another 6km to a campsite. We rode on disappointed only to find miles of flat open grassland with patches of woodland. We made sure we were well clear of the village and quickly headed to the back of a field behind a copse with our lights off. It was a great spot with clear skies. We slept really well.
Sunday 9th September
With the sun up and hidden away at the back of the field we had a long breakfast and dried the tent in the sun. We noticed the wind had remained in the same direction giving us a tail wind and quickly rode the 20 miles to the town of Lodz. It was a really big city and was quite hard to find the centre but managed to have a bit of a look around. We stopped for a snack and as we were feeling tired, we decided to continue along the main street heading out of the city. We rode past a big market and decided to have a look around. It was really interesting seeing poeple in their traditional dress and singing.
A group of women singing in traditional costume – we’re not sure if the plane was there before they started singing
We found that poeple were taking pictures of us which felt a bit weird as if we were part of the entertainment! We continued out of the city and stopped at a garage and sat on the green to have lunch. We were next to the highway and it was funny to see the drivers pass by and stare at us.
We got going and with a super smooth highway and tailwind we were flying and it wasn’t long before we crossed our 4000 mile mark. In fact it was our 4010 mile mark because we were making such fast progress we missed the moment.
We decided to stop for a beer to celebrate and find a supermarket to get dinner.
Sharon headed for the escalator to get to the supermarket just as Tim pointed to her through the glass that it was the other way. Two minutes later Sharon reappeared down the other side with Tim laughing his head off. We picked up directions out of the town and saw lots of cyclist coming the other way. A couple of guys stopped to chat. They belonged to a local group and were all out for a 2 day ride. They all looked like they were having fun and reminded us of our great friendly cycle club back home. They told us of loads of woodland ahead of us that was good for camping and before long the tent was up and we were enjoying our tea while the sun set and the colours shone through the trees.
Monday 10th september
During the night Tim woke in a sweat, he had been getting them for the last few weeks on and off. He described it like half of his body was trying to be ill and the other deciding not today thanks. Our alarm went off and Sharon was soon up putting the kettle on and letting Tim lay in for a bit, he finished his first book since the start of our trip. We both find it hard to find the time to sit and relax with so much to do. Tim got up really tired and drained but the sun shining through the forest picked him up and we were soon sat having breakfast together pleased with our choice of campspot.
We rejoined a dirt track back to the highway dreading it would be busy as it was a Monday morning. It was as busy as ever and the wind had changed in the night to a south easterly which made it a strong head wind. We got our heads down but with being slowed by a strong wind it felt like we were cycling backwards.
We finally made it to the pretty village of Kamiensk, found a bakery and bench and sat eaten our iced buns. We managed to pick up a village wifi connection which were normally locked and checked our emails. As we sat there we lost the track of time and found we had been there over an hour.
With miles still to cover we rode onto Romdomsko where we picked up lunch and sat on a small green watching as a little girl walked around the park in a tiara picking up acorns with her mum and reminisced about our own childhood.
We headed on both feeling tired still fighting the headwind feeling like every 10 miles felt like 20. We arrived in a small village called Przyrow and spotted a nice church so deciding to have a look we took in turns to have a look inside. It was incredible it is hard to describe all the decoration and there was even an electonic nativity scene that when you press the button all the figures move to Sharon’s delight .
Inside the church at Przyrow
With it it getting ever later we rode onto Julianka to pick up supplies. A drunk man wanted to buy us a beer each but with the sun starting to set we headed off saying “thank you but we must find a camp” in our best nonexistant Polish.
After half an hour we rode out of the town and soon spotted a flat field to our right that had a wooded area. We ducked off when there were no cars and rode a couple of hundred metres and found a nice space between soom trees. It wasn’t long before the tent was up and we were enjoying ham, eggs and fried cubed potatoes with tinned peaches for dessert. With a clear sky we cleared up and walked out into an opening and cleaned our teeth up an amazing starry sky.
Tuesday 11th september
After a good nights sleep and feeling refreashed Tim got up and made Sharon a cupper as she was feeling tired. We took our time to get ready even though our tent was dry for the first time.
With the sun only just up and the tempertures rising we new it was going to be a hot day so we got on the road. It continued to gradully climb and we rode up our first steep hill since Norway. With the roads rising and falling from 350 -450 metres we could really see the veiws and start enjoying the descents. It wasn’t long before we saw our first castle which acted as a watch tower for the neighbouring castle in its early years in the village of Mirow.
After a look around we rode on to the main castle called ‘The Royal Castle Bobolice’ which was really nice but compared to some of Poland’s other castles it was more of a 2 up 2 down sort of castle! Tim said he could live there with its large dining area, bedrooms and amazing views. It even had a shed for his bikes and a drawbridge – it was perfect.
We continued to ride on along quiet roads over rolling hills which reminded us of a sunny version of our home county of Devon. We arrived in a pretty village of Pilica and found a small shop to get dinner. We went across to the square where everyone was finding any bit of shade they could out of the sun and made our lunch next to a bandstand. After being warmed even more by a cup of tea we rode on and spotted another castle . This one was on the top of a steep hill and was having major work done to it to preserve the existing structure and restore the rest.
The castle under restoration
With time getting on we rode on to get some more miles in and find a campspot. We rode past some farmers in a field picking potatoes so we went over to ask if we could camp. Sharon chatted to the lady on the tractor who was trying to tell us where we could go. After 10 minutes of frustrated comunication we established a spot of grass in between ploughed sections where she was pointing to pitch our tent. With the tent up and tea on the go Tim went back to the farmer and started to help pick potatoes much to their amusement.
A farmer assisting a tractor
It was a really nice evening even though our camp was visable from the road it was great to be able to see the unbroken sky and a great sunset!!
Wednesday 12th september
The day had come where we were going to meet Sharon’s mum (‘Tim’s favourate mother inlaw) and sister Natalie and her family (husband Darren, son Lennon and daughter Ophelia) at the airport. We were were up early with excitement and with everything packed away, we had breakfast and got on the road. It was a cooler a day and was nice to cycle towards the city with only 24 miles to cover it was going to be an easy ride. We stopped to get directions and found that the man we asked also did cycle touring. We chatted about his trips around Poland and he advised us the best way to get to the airport. He also gave us a street map of Krakow which was really kind of him.
We turned off the main road to get to the one that ran parralel with ours which involved a very steep climb and probably the steepest we had been up since the start of our trip. We made it to the top and finally arrived at the correct road. We joined the new highway that the man had told us about – he made it clear we needed to come off at the right junction otherwise we would end up on a motorway. We went past a few signs but none were signposted to where we needed to go and before long we found ourselves on the motorway with no way off. We had to continue feeling nervous but ok as we were on a wide hardshoulder. We followed the signs for the airport and finally came off the motorway after a couple of miles. As we came around the bend, we spotted a police car which was clearly waiting for us. He beckoned us over and Sharon explained that we had not been able to find the right exit. He told us in ‘no uncertain terms’ that we were not allowed on the motorway but could tell we hadn’t done so intentionally. He pointed to the road ahead which lead us to the airport.
We got to the airport in plenty of time only to find that their plane had technical problems and they had not left Bristol yet. With a long delay ahead of them we decided to ride into Krakow and find our appartment. Disappointed with the delay in seeing them, we soon came into the centre and picked up a city map. Riding through Krakow was really nice and probably one the nicest cities we have ridden through. We soon found our apartment and picked up food for the evening and sorted our things out while we awaited for their arrival.
They finally arrived 5 hours late – it was amazing to see them and we knew we had a week ahead of us that would be full of laughter and fun.
Next installment coming soon…….