Perfumed hedges and banks of lilacs have been everywhere we’ve ridden in Poland. They are in full bloom now. As I rode, I thought of the woman who came to work for my family when I was a baby. She was born in this area when it was part of Germany before WW2. I always remembered that she loved lilacs; I think I now know why.
2013/05/20: 65 km to Malbork Hostel in a School
We left Gdansk and headed south across the plain that the Vistula lies in, following a route recommended by a Gdansk Warmshowers contact. In the afternoon, we were forced us to cower in a bus shelter by a heavy rainstorm, and the sheets of heavy rain quickly turned to hail that clattered on the roof.
We arrived in Malbork aware that the famous castle that was the headquarters of the Teutonic Knights would be closed since it was Monday. Unexpectedly, however, we found that there was an abbreviated tour option available, and took that as a less crowded option for seeing this grandiose historic restoration.
Malbork is a tourist centre with an array of boutique hotels where I don’t feel we fit in well. We noticed the standard symbol for youth hostel on the map of the town, rode there, and found simple lodgings in sleeping rooms within a school, and used the kitchen to cook up a filling pierogie supper.
2013/05/21: 100 km to woods east of Mostkovo
This was a day of donning and doffing rain gear, not to mention diving into more bus shelters. Coffee and poppy seed rolls in Dziergon helped lift spirits only a bit. I was feeling sore and tired and had an queasy stomach as we stopped to buy drinks. I was not a happy camper.
An elderly couple pulled into the gas station in a rusting 750cc Fiat, and the woman in the passenger seat who had wild grey hair and must have been near 80 turned toward me, took one look at my loaded bike and grey hair, and flashed me an enthusiastic grin of appreciation.
She made my day. She changed me mood. Everything suddenly seemed OK again.
We moved to much smaller roads and cooked supper on a tree stump. After riding on into evening, we slipped into the woods to camp.
2013/05/22: 101 km to woods east of Babieta
We’re moving from the open farmland of the Vistula to partially forested areas, and the rolling landscape is dotted with lakes. We stopped to air damp camping gear by a small lake, and found coffee in the centre of Olsztyn, a major town — the first place in Poland where we’ve directly encountered begging or panhandling.
Later, we were trying to make mileage before our planned rendez-vous with S&T at Pisz, we pedalled into the evening, and stopped for an excellent supper in a restaurant hung with hunting trophies, where a contented cat sat beside us as we gorged ourselves on hearty Polish fare. This was far better than it would have been to cook at our camp site. In the woods a little further along, we quickly learned just how fast we could throw up the tent and dive inside to evade the voracious mosquitoes.
We watched as the mosquitoes gathered under the tent fly and outside the mesh, and we listened as thunder rolled and rain drummed down.
2013/05/23: 34 km to Pisz
We were left with a fairly short ride into Pisz, where we’d pre-booked a room at a lakeside hotel to meet S&T, who were arriving by bike from Warsaw to join us. We were allowed to check into our room early, and we draped the dripping tent and more from hooks and curtain rods. S&T arrived, and serious route planning for the final days in Poland and for the Baltic country segment began. We’ll be riding from here as a foursome.