To start our tour in Poland we did a ride out from Krakow with Rafal
We stuck to the small back roads to get to the monastery in the village of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, which is one of the most important pilgrim sites in Poland.
“With a vision while viewing the neighboring hills and valleys from the Castle of Lanckorona, on 1 December 1602, Mikołaj Zebrzydowski, the Voivode of Kraków commissioned the construction of a calvary, i.e. Roman Catholic monastery and the trails of the Passion of Christ modeled on the Calvary outside the city walls of Jerusalem.”
We then rode to the nearby hilltop to the artist village of Lanckorona, where there is a great spot for pirogis and cakes.
“Lanckorona is a village located 30 kilometers south-west of Kraków in Lesser Poland. It lies on the Skawinka river, among the hills of the Beskids, 545 m above sea level. It is known for the Lanckorona Castle, today in ruins. In recent years, Lanckorona has become a tourist attraction for the well preserved 19th century wooden houses in its centre. The township of Lanckorona was established by Casimir III the Great in 1336, to protect the road to Kraków.”
We then swooped thru near the city again to visit the university castle for the view and then to climb the Kościuszki Mound for a 360 degree view.
“The Kościuszko Mound, situated near Kraków is 333 meters above sea level on the Blessed Bronisława Hill. On 15th October 1820 the trunk of a tall tree was planted on top of the hill. Around this the people of Kraków placed earth in the shape of a spiral and it became the Mound, the symbolic burial place of Tadeusz Kościuszko (1746-1817, General, Polish and American national hero, freedom fighter and the leader of the Polish Uprising which in later years was to be named after him). The construction of this Mound continued till 1823 and was paid for only by public subscription. The result is a 34,1 meter high mound, the national memorial monument, seen from almost every where in Kraków. Soil from Polish and North American battlefields where Kościuszko fought was placed here. This Mound was of great importance to Poles during the Austrian occupation of this territory (Poland was partitioned between Germany, Austria and Russia for 123 years). The Austrians tried to destroy it but were unsuccessful. They built fortifications around it which can be visited today. Another threat was the II WW, but the Mound survived. The biggest threat was Mother Nature during the floods of the 70ties and the terrible flood in 1997 which inundated large parts of Poland and destroyed a large part of the Mound. A new strengthened and illuminated Mound was given back to the public in 2002. Here you will enjoy one of the best views of the city from the top of the hill”
Then we headed north of the city to zespół parków krajobrazowych województwa or Krakow landscapes valley park. We arrived to the end of the valley ride just at dusk and so too late to visit the castle.
So it was again downtown we did a tour of the market square.
Dorothy for you!
We ended the evening at a Krakow institution. This sausage truck has been here every night…forever!!
The next 2 days it rained and so we had some good down time. We continued to enjoy a Krakow favorite the Mad Dog shooter.
Today we leave Krakow and Rafal decided to ride out with us.
We started going west to Rafal’s home to of Oswiecim (Oh -Svien -chim). The town is best known as being the location of the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II.
“In 1941, German authorities decided to build a large chemical plant of IG Farben, in the eastern outskirts of the town. Polish residents of several districts were forced to abandon their houses, as the Germans wanted to keep the area around Auschwitz concentration camp empty. A buffer zone with the area of some 40 square kilometers was planned around the camp, and expulsions of local Polish residents took place in 1940 and 1941. All the residents of the Zasole district were forced to abandon their homes. More than 90% of all buildings were destroyed and the residents were transported to Gorlice to fend for themselves. Altogether, some 17,000 people in Oświęcim itself and surrounding villages were forced to leave their homes, and eight villages were wiped off the map.”
We only visited the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site. This is a massive site and really shows the scale of what went on here. There are ruined barracks and their chimneys as far as you can see. On the site you can see the main gate thru which the trains arrived, the platform where the sorting of people was carried out, and you can see inside to experience the conditions these people were kept under. There are the ruins of the gas chambers and a memorial wall at the back of the site. This site does not require a timed ticket and as such was easier to access.
The Main Auschwitz site only allows non tour group individuals visits by timed ticket after 3 pm. We did drive by here but it is a much more touristic feel and seems irreverent. It was heavy enough to visit Birkenau with out the much more difficult to see artifacts and displays here.
Then we rode south to Slovakia and thru the Tatra Mountains most of the rest of the day.
“The Tatra Mountains, part of the Carpathian mountain chain in eastern Europe, create a natural border between Slovakia and Poland. Both Slovak and Polish sides are protected as national parkland and are popular destinations for winter and summer sports.”
You can rent these tanks to drive off road.
With our late start and stop at Oswiecim we still had 80 km to go at 630 pm but we made it to the Polana Sosny camp site just across the Polish border in Niedzica before dark. They had some great pirogies at the restaurant here and then poor Rafal had a 2 hour drive back to Krakow in the dark.
We had a great night camped by the river and a sleep in. This meant another late start and a big day planned.
We had hoped to skirt along the border and then cross back to Poland. From here we would try to “do the big loop” into the Bieszczadzki Park Narodowy, but as it was getting late in the day we abandoned this plan at Cisna and headed north east to Przemyśl. Here we found a cheap hotel just out of the city that included dinner and breakfast.
From Przemysl we kept to the secondary road to get to Zamosc.
Zamosc is a nice town with a very pretty market square.
Here we rode east to skirt the Poland-Ukraine border all day on the 816. This is a bit rough at times, but mostly good road thru neat and tidy Polish farm villages.
We found a funky small hotel with “traditional” decor in Wlodawa and elected for non Polish Kebab for dinner. This country so far is very clean and neat, very well organized, and the food is great. The drivers and polite and courteous and follow all the rules of the road. So far the most civilized in Europe!
Again today we skirt the border zone, but this time with Belarus.
The town of Janow Podlaski is know for the very expensive Arabian horses bread here. For me it was the huge box of raspberries for 5 Zloty or about 1.70 CDN$. From here we swooped west as the only direct route north i thru Belarus and we decided the hassle and cost were not with it for us.
We rode north to the tiny town of Grabarka and only knew to come here after Rafel told us about the hilltop covered with crosses.
“The Holy Mount of Grabarka is considered to be the holiest location in Poland for Orthodox Christians. It is the site of the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord and is home to the women’s monastery of Ss. Marta and Maria. Worship of this place and tradition of bringing crosses was born in the 18th century. The famous miracle was recorded in 1710 during the cholera epidemics. Decimated by disease, inhabitants of Podlasie region fled the towns and villages for fear of their lives. At that time an old man experienced a revelation that the only way for salvation was to go to the Mountain of Grabarka with a cross. He went there with some other villagers, brought a cross, bathed his face and drank water from the spring spurting at the foot of the hill and prayed. A miracle happened: all those who followed him were cured and saved. To express their gratitude, the people built a wooden chapel on the top of the hill. It was later extended into the Transfiguration Orthodox Church. Pilgrims have been bringing votive crosses to the hill ever since.”
We took a side trip into Bialowieza, which is famous for the wild European bison, but we only saw the few in captivity.
The day ended with a few km on dirt to the village of Bobrowa and hotel in the middle of nowhere! Great place and really good food.
We had planned to go to the Baltic coast of Poland to the town of Hel. They have kite surfing here, but the forecast there is ok today, but rain for the following few days. So we will ride the planned route west from Bobrowa and recheck the forecast, but we will likely give up this plan and head south where the weather is suppose to be more pleasant. We rode north to the city of Agustow which is the gate way to the Lake land area of Poland for 321 km.
We did bit of a loop thru here past lush farms and dozens of lakes. It is motorcycle touring heaven.
We stopped at a place with a very full parking lot for lunch and had to try out a few local favorites. This included mead and blueberry perogis.
We continued west and to our destination of a nice camping spot on Ukiel lake near Olsztyn. We had a nice row out on the lake to enjoy the sunset and an absolutely quiet night.