Our last view of Krakow
We have had a pretty flat tour so far, with some undulating terrain in Sweden and Finland, but looking south from Krakow things were definitely going to get lumpier. We had been investigating a routes from Krakow to Budapest and had found a website showing a “greenway” through Slovakia, the Amber Trail. http://www.szlakbursztynowy.pl/?lang=en we planned to follow some of the route as it took us through the more beautiful areas.
We headed south towards the Polish Carpathian mountains, the Beskids. It took us a few days to find our climbing legs. The roads were quiet and kept on going up, the temperatures were dropping down to freezing at night. We went pass ski resorts, fortunately with no snow yet, and a 1000 metre col to get our first view of Slovakia. The small road we followed through the forest was getting increasingly bumpy and it was no surprise when we came across a group of Polish workers digging it up. They were replacing a bridge and it didn’t look like there was anyway through but they kindly helped us carry our bikes across.
We were not looking forward to the ride into Poland. We had met other cyclists who told us about busy roads with big lorries, we had read reports of bad driving and bad roads on cycling blogs about Poland. There is a narrow border between Lithuania and Poland only about 100km with Russia and Belarus either side. There are only 2 roads that cross the border, we were heading down the East road. We were amazed , it was quiet. The road had a 7.5 ton limit so no big lorries.
We headed on into Poland to find in general good roads and courteous drivers. The main highways were full of big lorries but the smaller roads were fine. We were travelling through the North East of Poland known as the Green Lungs of Poland as it is mainly primeval forest and lakes. Home to wildlife including lynx and wolves. The main sightings through the forest were of mushroom pickers, emerging with bucketfuls of mushrooms.
We reached the City of Bialystok close to the border with Belarus. This was a very smart city, the centre had been renovated and there was an immense square and renovated palace. From here we decided to catch a train down to Krakow as the weather was turning and we needed to get through the mountains before the snow started.
Main Square Krakow
We had been cycling for 3 months and we felt we needed a break so we rented a flat in Krakow for a week and locked the bikes away. Krakow is a beautiful city with loads of sights, including the Wieliczka Salt Mines, Wavel Castle, the Old Town, the Russian built town and steel mill of Nowa Huta and Auschwitz-Birkenau. It has a great tram service and so was easy to get around, and it is fantastic value. We had some brilliant meals for £10 to £15 for two with drinks! Not to mention the best hot chocolate ever at Wedels.
Wavel Castle and Cathedral
Plac Central Nova Huta
The chapel approx 135 metres underground sculpted by the miners in the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
work makes you free
We took a tour to Auschwitz-Birkenau which is a depressing experience. It is difficult to believe man’s inhumanity to his own species. The sheer size of Berkenau camp which could hold 90,000 people in squalor, and brutal conditions, with it’s huge gas chambers, and the torture that went on in the camps is incomprehensible. Pity we never learn.
The Gates of Death at Birkenau through which hundreds of thousands passed to their death.