2013-05-11: 46 km to Międzywodzie
Some borders are more sharply defined than others; the one between Germany and Poland draws a hard line due to its 1945 expulsion of all Germans. After the glitzy development of the German coastline, we were suddenly in a poorer country, with a lot more garbage strewn about. We took a ferry to Swinoujscie and hunted for a bankomat in this edgy port town, becoming the target of a driver’s road rage. There was no language in common, but he made it clear we were too slow to be sharing the road with him.
We looked for the R10 bike route. which is clearly marked in Germany but becomes a hit and miss adventure here. After lunch on a derelict pier which we shared with an elderly fishing couple and a scavenging cat, we headed into the woods to struggle on a loose sandy track and swat mosquitoes. After some time, we came to an anachronistic new luxury spa resort where we were happy to order cold drinks. From there, we followed its main access road, an double track of concrete slabs once laid for tanks, to the small town where we crashed into a tiny zimmer run by a friendly woman.
2013-05-12: 69 km to Kołobrzeg
Less than optimal navigation put us on a busy yellow road. We’d been warned about Polish drivers, so I took the cautious approach of riding right on the edge of the gutter that bordered two narrow lanes of asphalt. I was soon passed so closely by a bus that I opted for a controlled dive into the gutter. Chris was alarmed, but I dusted myself off with all bones intact and titanium screws securely in place, having learned that the technique of “taking the lane” is probably safer on such roads. It takes a while to get the hang of a new environment, and we were on a learning curve.
Shortly after this we bought a far better road map at a gas station where the lad spoke impeccable English. We deposited the map published by International Travel Books and Maps (of Vancouver) in the garbage can where it belonged, as utterly useless for small road navigation. We pulled into the excellent coffee shop the lad had directed us to, so as to regroup. This was a turning point.
Arriving in Kołobrzeg, we sat in a public WiFi zone to plan where to stay. We find easy access to WiFi is a major upside to Eastern Europe, especially after Germany where Internet access is always a huge hassle. After six days’ riding, we flopped into a hotel for two nights and a much needed off-bike day.
Our hotel was a training facility for hospitality students. It was mainly geared to German tourists. German seeking relatively inexpensive seaside holidays are welcomed here –along with their euros.
2013-05-13: Rest in Kołobrzeg
After demolishing the hotel’s buffet breakfast, the first errand was to mail no-longer-needed maps and phrase books to our Paris pied-a-terre, thereby saving carrying 700 grams. The system in the large central post office was quite an experience. We spent a fairly quiet day, but the highlight was dinner with Maciej, a Warmshowers contact who is the local high school English teacher as well as being a keen cyclist and traveller. We had a delicious meal and a delightful evening with him and his wife Ewa, also a high school language teacher. Their children are only 8 and 5, and they’d already spent a year travelling by bike as a family in Western Europe, gaining local celebrity. Unlike most urban professional Poles, they also live car-free locally, and advocate strongly to keep their kids active outdoors and with reduced screen time.
Note by Chris:
While bike infrastructure in Germany is really first class, bike touring in Poland is much easier than in Germany because all the villages have small shops open for long hours. In more prosperous Germany, all the village stores have disappeared… I wonder how old people in German villages get their groceries.
Pictures of the trip are now in a Flickr collection