On Bikes & Pierogi

Ever since I travelled by bike, I have noticed how much my butt has got used to it just too much. If it wasn’t because of the bike, I would be sleeping everywhere: it gives me the energy I need in the morning. That quick sprint from my flat to my second place (Rajska!), with the thoroughly cold wind hitting my eyes, has become a ritual. That’s the substitution therapy I need now that I’m not anymore going to a new city every day.

Travelling by bike was such a breakthrough. One thing I realised is that, without losing the long reach (keep the mileage in mind!), the bike offered something other means wouldn’t: with a car or train, you would go from A to B, with close to no stops in between. You would reach your sole destination without noticing that, maybe, there was something in your way worth stumbling upon. But the bike forces you to slow down to a speed that your eyes can track, and to stop every once in a while across secluded paradises that nobody has ever even heard of before, let alone seen them.

I have to mention at this point that we did the full trip with neither GPS nor maps, just handmade notes of what was supposed to be our way. The experience was huge in memories. A typical conversation between me and Leon used to be like “Remember when we were there? Yeah, that was ages ago!”, until one would point out: “Well, last week, to be precise”.  The amount of memorable moments was so disproportionately high that sometimes it seemed to be exhausting to register everything.

Getting to learn how to ride the bike in the Teutoburger Wald, and having the first accident (Leon’s!) in the very second day, rendering one of his breaks partially useless. Sauntering over Göttingen’s cemetery at night, the foxes on top of the Brocken, Friedrich der Große and his paprikas, old abandoned buildings and the most beautiful sunsets, the Brandenburg Gate from the Siegessäule, Brandenburg’s flatlands with cobblestone roads and Saxony’s sand paths, Bach and Napoleon in Leipzig, the Elberadweg and the Deluge in Dresden, the ride through an old railway close to the Czech Republic in utter darkness and without any light, the stars travelling with us. Entering the aforementioned country for a tiny while (“Pozor! Státni Hranice”), and singing Bohemian Rhapsody at 60km/h (forgot to mention, my record was 71.1 at the Brocken!). Fall for Görlitz and stay for an extra day just to take another look at some remarkable place we discovered, and call my mother on her birthday from a bridge that crosses the River Neiße: leaving Germany, entering Poland.

Camped in the riverside, and started learning some Tarzan level Polish from the first day. In Zielona Góra we were advised to visit Jesus at Świebodzin, who managed to get us late but offered us a 24h Tesco and a lost forest in the opposite direction. Did 133 km to Poznań, our longest route of all, with the second accident in the trip so far (mine!) and finally hugging my friend from last post as I promised her a year earlier back in Madrid. Party the city, and got a good Polish lesson in Gniezno. Got utterly lost on the way to Bydgoszcz, just to meet wonderful people. To the north, the road went mad around Malbork: departed late, camped in Kwidzyn in a hornet-infested forest, crossed Malbork just in a rush to get to Gdańsk, where rain tormented us for our stay and beyond. After my sacred swim in the Baltic and a stay in Gdynia, Elbląg bid us farewell with exploding tyres. Malbork yet again was finally conquered the following morning after a huge delay, and on our way to Kopernicus’ motherland, we crossed Kwidzyn and Grudziądz once more. Toruń received us warm and dry, with the last-minutest last-minute hosts of all, and the way to Warszawa bestowed us with the “Ul. Obi-Wana Kenobiego”, ailed us with some grumpy noclegi, witnessed my mad endeavour to kill Leon (he forced me to write this!), and got us lost and in darkness, rescued against our will in what was going to be an amazing story. Warszawa was spent with a marvellous host from Toruń and some really nice events, not to forget eating where Chopin once lived for just 8zł or the sunset at the Culture Palace. On our way to Lublin, our far-east point, we camped in a forest close to Wilga and drank tons of Absinthe in Puławy, waving our greets at Plac Litewski. From there on, the route could (should) only move westwards.

But the worst was still yet to come. Lublin-to-Kraków segment was supposed to be done in a straight line: rather, Cyrillic letters were found on our way, we were scrambled by thunderstorms, showered by trucks splashing massive ponds, and got hit by cars. In the end, we took a train – that train… – from Rzeszów to Tarnów (since when Rzeszów is in the way from Lublin to Kraków, you may ask? Well, so did we). Utterly sad, to talk in Polish with the conductor completely woke us up. And then, we had the whole wagon just for us, with wide-opening windows. There, with our heads out, breathing the train’s speed, I finally got aware of how, on earth, did I arrive here.

Tarnów rescued us for an extra night, sleeping in a kid’s playground. And finally, the last day, pushed Leon in a train due to some hefty damage on his bike, courtesy of the aforementioned car, and me, alone, honouring the last ride, in shining sun. Shouting in ecstasy on Kraków’s entrance. Bowing at the Sukiennice, where I reunited with Leon, and at Wawel.

My regards to all the people that made this trip possible, and to all the hundreds of Pierogi we ate.

And to all the people that are making this second trip in a row, my stay in this awesome city. And the hundreds of Pierogies I’m eating now.

Bike trip map to Tarnow
Our gift to our hosts in Tarnów

[Previous post here https://rajskabookworms.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/how-did-i-arrive-here/ ]


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