Day 26 – Gdansk to Wladyslawowo
(Poland)Our bus from Lithuania arrived in the Polish city of Gdansk at 6am. We had not slept much onboard, due mainly to having seats at the back of the bus which did not recline.
We assembled the bikes (we needed to take off the wheels for the journey) in the bus station forecourt and made ourselves breakfast. We set off at 6.30am and, after negotiating the underpass where we were informed that the elevator was not for bicycles (not funny with 4 fully loaded panniers and after only 2 hours sleep), we set off following the well defined bike paths in a North Westerly direction.
What struck us immediately was the abundance of bike routes in Gdansk. We later learned that the same applies to the country as a whole (although the surfaces can vary somewhat).
We meandered our way through the city, stopping briefly to look at a roadside tank. There was very little traffic as it was early on a Sunday morning. Passing through suburban Gdansk, we cycled past a beautiful array of summer flowers and arrived in the neighbouring City of Gdynia shortly before 9am.
Luckily for us, tourist information had opened a little early today. Luckier still, they had terrific free 1:80,000 maps of the area we would be covering over the course of the next 3 days…so we grabbed one each.
New maps in hand, we set off following the bike route North along the coast. All went fine for around 6km but then the bike route marked in the map ran into roadworks. We decided to proceed along the roadworks (it was Sunday and no one was working), rather than the longer road diversion. As soon as the bikes sunk in to the mud we regretted the decision but pressed on.
Having negotiated the roadwork section and cleaned our wheels and shoes, we stopped at a junction to consult the map. We must have looked lost as another cyclist stopped and asked us where we were heading. We mentioned a town approx. 20km North called ‘Puck’. After advising us that it was pronounced “Pooch” in Polish, he mentioned (in limited English) that we should follow him…So we did.
We headed off behind our new guide ‘Tomic’. He led us along a labyrinth of country lanes through villages, forests, marsh and coastland…but always on bike paths with little or no traffic. In truth we struggled to keep up on the bumpier sections, as he seemed to forget we were loaded up…but we had no doubt we would have struggled to locate the paths if we had done it ourselves.
At a small village called Oslonino (about half way to Puck) we indicated to Tomic that we would like to stop for a bite to eat. We sat and ate lunch together, although it was still before midday, and he produced a flask of tea from his small rucksack.
Once fed we set off again towards Puck. We spotted an interesting looking museum building but Tomic had clearly seen it many times before and whizzed past, so we didn’t dare stop (other than for a quick photo), for fear of losing him.
Once in Puck, we were both keen for a rest and would have gladly stopped at the first shop/cafe we saw but our guide suggested we cycle a minute or two more to the seafront where there were heaps to choose from. He was right of course.
At the seafront there was a slight moment of awkwardness, as it appeared he wanted us to continue but in reality was simply directing us where to head next; before we said our goodbyes.
The two of us were pleased to relax a while and agreed that we had covered more than we would have expected when we got off the bus at 6am, due mainly to Tomic’s pacemaking. We agreed on another 10km cycle North along the coast, to a campsite near Swarzewo, shown on Mapsme, where we would stop for the night.
Back on the bikes, we cycled another 45 minutes or so but discovered (after much searching) that the promised campground was merely a field with private fenced areas where people parked the odd caravan…definitely not for tents. We searched briefly for wild camping spots but decided the area was too busy (by that time we were very close to Hel spit…a 30km long peninsula of dunes extending East of the mainland, which is popular with holidaymakers).
We resorted to Plan C, which was another campsite shown on Mapsme, a further 2.5km north, near the town of Wladyslawowo. This would mean we had to backtrack 3km in the morning to find our route.
Fortunately this campsite existed, although the name was different. We then spent, what seemed like forever but was probably no more than 15 minutes, waiting for someone to contact the owner to approve our stay and fix a price (all the other guests were in caravans). We were about to pitch our tent anyway when a young lady turned up and showed us to our spot.
We set up the tent (next to a badminton net) showered, ate and got ready for bed. After 2 young girls had finished their game of badminton, we got busy sleeping. It was only 8pm but felt like midnight.
We had covered over 60km on little sleep so we’re pretty pleased with how our first day of cycling in Poland had panned out.
Day 27 Wladyslasowo to Osetnik
We woke up feeling well rested (especially as we went to sleep at 8pm). Packed up and set off by 9am.
We had to slightly back track on ourselves to get down to the bike path along the ocean front and after briefly rescuing a large snail from sure death, we found the bike path pretty quickly and set about riding the 3km to the turning for the R10 route heading in a Westerly direction. This path was particularly pleasant, as it was sealed and car free for 17.35km from Swarzewo to Krokowa following a regional bike route R10.
We rode side by side through gorgeous countryside passing wind farms, quaint villages and stopping to check out the occasional map of the bike path (all in Polish). Around 5km in, It dawned on us that this bike path, used to be an old railway line, we guessed this, when we spotted a platform sign.
From Krokowa, we decided to take a minor road to avoid a rather unnecessary detour that the R10 bike route would have sent us on. The workmen that sealed this road must have had a terrible day, as the road was as bumpy as a crater, if we had ever ridden on one.
We rejoined the bike path which was dirt road but firm dirt, so fairly easy to ride on. This path seemed to be particularly popular with tourists and passed through several seaside villages, serving an abundance of ice-cream. We set our sights on a town called Bialogora to stop and eat lunch. We promptly found a children’s park, with tables and benches just right for us. We ate, rested and enjoyed the sun for a short while before setting off again.
Unfortunately for us we set off in the wrong direction, but little did we know that this would not be the last for the day. We turned around only after a 1km detour and rode towards what we thought was the R10.
Using mapsme, our very detailed map of the Polnocne region and painted signs of various bike and horse trails, we picked a few paths.
Which some turned out to be ok surface to ride on, while others were sandy and churned up by horses. Taking a horse trail in error further along, to head towards Osieczki, Jon’s bike decided to chuck a paddy and swallow a stick. This stick had got caught in Jon’s wheel and pulled his mud guard away from the frame, detaching the mudguard in two sections from the wheel. We stopped to fix this minor hiccup and were off again. We continued past Osieczki towards Lubiatown for a further 5km, taking the odd wrong turn. This small section of what should have been 8.4km and only 35 minutes, took us around an hour and more like 12km!
Finally reaching Lubiatown, we decided it was about time to we had an ice-cream .
Setting off again, we decided to aim for Osetnik to set up camp for the night. We were a little dubious about taking wrong turns and stopped to ask a couple of locals. They advised us to stick to the black surface, this would lead us to Osetnik. We set about doing as we had been told, which turned out to be good advice and easier to follow than the previous section.
Reaching Ostetnik, we found Stilo camping ⛺️, only 13 zloti each but unfortunately we didn’t have any local currency, the campsite owner advised us to camp first, then she would come and find us to settle the amount hopefully in Euros! (Around €6).
After a refreshing shower (money donated by a rather lovely Polish holiday maker, who took pity on Vanessa) ate dinner then headed into town. Jon had his heart set on walking the 1km to the lighthouse, which armed with a snickers bar, Vanessa agreed to join. Reaching the top, Jon was very impressed with the structure (which was slightly leaning to one side) but a little disappointed that it had closed at 7pm, we had missed it by 45 minutes (Vanessa pointed out that we had no local currency anyway). Heading back to the campground, we were both happy with the days adventures and keen to get some rest.
Day 28 Camping Stilo to Weila Weis (Poland)
Occasionally we all have a day that we would rather just put away in a drawer and forget about. This was one.
We started off full of energy at around 9.30am. We had a plan to follow the sign to the tourist seaside town of Leba, marked as only 11km away, where we would grab ourselves some decent maps of the areas we would be following over the next couple of days, as we were nearly off the map we were using.
We initially followed the cycle sign to Leba on the road near our campsite for no more than 200 meters before the track got sandy.
This persuaded Vanessa to double check the map. It indicated that the track led towards a nearby beach and a seemingly endless maze of other tracks, so we lost faith in the idea and backtracked 200 metres to our start point.
The same junction had another cycle sign (the R10) which went South…not exactly towards Leba,..but the map indicated it would eventually turn West. We took it.
It was ok for approx 4km, which were sealed. Once we turned towards the West we met another junction with 2 dirt roads. We opted for the more direct one even though the less direct one looked better quality, as we had already started to doubt the quality of the surface of most bike trails marked on our map. After a short while it turned sandy and we had to push the bikes.
Very soon we saw another track which led to the other trail, so we took it, only to find that the other track was a dead end and not as marked on the map…so we cycled back to our sandy track, where we pushed our bikes for another km before it got slightly better and turned to soft dirt.
We asked the odd local the way but none had a clue about road surfaces (certainly none had ever tried the tracks with fully loaded panniers) and most didn’t speak a word of English (our Polish is non-existent).
This went on all morning. After a very long 3 hours of constant stopping and starting, we had almost reached Leba when the bumps took their toll on Jon’s front right pannier mount and it detached itself…so we had another 10 minute stop whilst he fixed it.
Arriving in the bustling tourist town of Leba, we had covered the equivalent of only 11km. Tourist info were happy to sell us maps but then proceeded to give us bad news that the cycle routes in a Westerly direction were all worse than those we had just used. Also the longer main road South had roadworks and would not be good for us. To add insult to injury they said there was nowhere near with Wifi where we could grab a drink as it was a public holiday (this explained why the town was so busy). This last bit of advice turned out to be total rubbish, as we found plenty of cafes in the nearby pedestrianised street and several had wifi.
We sat and had lunch…a little dejected having spent so long travelling such a small distance. We tried to come up with a plan to travel Westward (in the vague direction of the German border) but had lost faith in the bike route surfaces. We could only find routes on major roads where the traffic would be heavy. Eventually we opted to head South on the main road out of town and planned to turn West after around 10km.
We reached the roadworks after approx 2km. In order to best explain what happened next, we need to describe how the roadworks operated…The long, straight 2 lane road had been reduced to 1 lane only for stretches of approximately 500m at a time…this single lane was being shared intermittently by traffic from both directions, which was controlled by a person armed with a Stop/Go sign at each end of the roadworks, communicating with each other by walkie/talkie. The other lane had been completely excavated, was filled with sand and was at least a foot lower than the road surface.
Vehicles were being held in a long queue for several minutes as the single line of traffic from the opposite direction filed past. When given the ‘Go’ signal they would set off in their own single file…but only as fast as the slowest vehicle!
We reached the first section of roadworks and were only a few vehicles back from the front of the queue. After a wait of several minutes, we were given the Go signal and set off at fully loaded pannier speed of about 20kmph whilst the very long line of traffic revved their motors behind us. We tried moving to one side of the lane but there was no chance anything could get by us, so we cycled in the centre of the lane as fast as our tired legs would let us.
At the end of the first set of roadworks the (by now very impatient) long line of traffic poured past us and we had to pull off onto the grass verge to let them all by. We then, at least, had clear road for a few minutes whilst traffic from the opposite direction went by.
We soon reached the next set of roadworks. We considered briefly following at the rear of the long line of traffic but realised that as we were so much slower than the vehicles, the Stop/Go operators might not wait for us to reach the far end and we might be crushed by a convoy of 100 oncoming vehicles! So we shuffled our way to the front of our queue of traffic and waited for the controller to give the Go signal again.
At this point, with traffic from the opposite direction filing past, Jon made the mistake of attempting to engage the controller in discourse, by pointing to his map and a side road (approx. 1km away) and asking, by way of thumbs up hand signal, whether it was accessible? The controller gestured for us to hang-fire for a moment whilst he let our line of traffic move off, which he did, whilst simultaneously confirming that the side road was accessible. Unfortunately that 5 second delay meant that the traffic behind us started squeezing past us. We attempted to set off but couldn’t get past the cones on our side of the road and in a moment of brief indecision, when she had to choose between being hit by a (relatively slow-moving) vehicle, hitting a road cone or falling into a ditch, Vanessa parted company with her bike. On the positive side, the traffic stopped for a second or two whilst she picked herself up (shaken but not injured).
We pulled into a lay-by and let cars from both directions file past, whilst Vanessa dusted herself off. This time around we waited for the last car from the opposite direction to file past us and then set off (not waiting for the Go signal, which we couldn’t see anyway as it was now behind us), which at least gave us a head start over the traffic behind us.
Fortunately we found the refuge of the side road soon afterwards. This was comparative bliss as it was traffic free and sealed (although longer). We sailed along for a few km…all was fine with the world again. Until we reached the tiny village of Krakulice; where we picked up a little speed as we rounded a bend down a small hill, when a small but very vocal dog bounded out and started chasing Vanessa’s bike. In a moment of panic she let out a scream and, for reasons unknown, decided not to round the corner but instead take a straighter trajectory over a grass verge towards an oncoming building. Fortunately she managed to miss the building and to stay onboard. The dog backed off, clearly shocked at the effect it had had.
We were both now starting to feel the effects of a hard day but, as we had covered little more than 25km in distance, were determined not to stop. We had a brief respite as Jon stopped to feed his dodgy looking (due to all the bumpy roads) apple to an emu, shetland pony, goat and some sheep in a roadside field.
Soon after we reached the main road again. Thankfully, by now, it was free of roadworks. We headed along it, ignoring the occasional daft overtaking manoeuvre and managed to cover another 15km before pulling off the road at a service station to fill up our bottles with water (with no campsites nearby it would be wild camping for us tonight). Jon found a big table to sit at for a while. We agreed we would cycle a further 5km down a secondary road to the small town of Willa Weis, and find somewhere to pitch our tent there. When we arrived we struggled to find anywhere other than a half-descent spot with a bench, next to a stream but also next to the road.
We ate dinner but decided to wait until the sun began to set (and 2 local children had gone home to bed) before we pitched the tent.
We had covered little more than 50km but it felt like 200…What a day!!
Day 29 – Weila Weis to Slupsk (Poland)
We were awoken pretty early due to the odd heavy vehicle passing by. We ate breakfast and packed up the tent pretty sharpish, as one or two people had gathered at the nearby bus stop and we felt a bit conspicuous.
After yesterday’s dramas we had a sort of plan, which consisted of taking mainly sealed secondary roads, in order to avoid the busy main roads and the lottery of what surface the bike trails presented. The one exception was a 4km section from the village of Damno to the village of Mrowczyro.
The first 45 minutes went fine. We then reached Damno and took the bike route. Initially it was cobbled, which was bumpy but do-able.
After 10 minutes the cobbles ran out and the route turned into a vehicle track. We had 2.6km to go until Mrowczyro. After only 100 metres there was water across the track which forced us to get off and push. After another 100 metres, we were pannier-deep in mud.
We decided to cut our losses and retreat back along the cobbled track to Damno. From there we followed the paved roads along a much longer but drier and much cleaner route. However, not before stopping at a nearby river where we did our best to wash most of the mud off.
Thankfully the rest of the morning’s ride was uneventful, with the exception of the odd agricultural roadblock and tank in someone’s back yard.
We arrived in the city of Slupsk shortly after midday and stopped next to a lake for lunch.
The plan from here was to shop for 3 days worth of food, then continue cycling in the afternoon. Before doing so, we stopped in a cafe for a drink…but, no sooner had we sat down than it began to rain heavily. We agreed to sit it out for a while but soon realised that the rain wasn’t going to let up for the rest of the day. Neither of us fancied cycling in heavy rain, so we decided to call it a day and stay in Slupsk overnight.
We found a nearby hostel, the interestingly named ‘Tanie Spanie’ (the name was the best thing about it!), shopped at Lidl and showered the morning mud away.
We had covered only 35km today, due mainly to the weather but at least could get a decent night’s sleep in a proper bed for a change.
Day 30 – Slupsk to Lazy (Poland)
After a good night’s sleep in the slightly dodgy Tanie Spanie hostel, we set off from the city of Slupsk at the relatively early time of 8.30am.
We had carefully (for us) planned our route, which would be mostly on sealed surface secondary roads (a large proportion of which had dedicated bike paths) but after a couple of less productive days in the saddle, we weren’t ‘counting our chickens’ just yet.
The first noticeable thing was the lack of any wind. The numerous Polish wind turbines stood eerily still but for us a windless day was perfect…Thanks very much!
To be honest, today exceeded expectations. We rode along peaceful country lanes and excellent bike paths, only stopping for the occasional map check. We had covered 35km to the coast in next to no time.
At around 11am the sun came out and we stopped, for a short while, at the beach, which was already teeming with sun worshipping Poles on their summer break. At this point Jon discovered the key for room number 3 of Tanie Spanie hostel in his pocket*…Oops!
We asked some locals and were advised (we think) that the coastal route for the next 15km was ok for bikes, so we crossed our fingers and set off…The alternative being a much longer inland route diverting around lake Kopan.
As luck would have it, the route was pretty good (mostly either sealed road or the bumpy war-time concrete blocks that we were becoming familiar with), with the exception of a small section of about 50 metres in length, where the path was out and we had to push through heavy sand.
We were entertained by a rather overweight guy on a mountain bike, who tried to show off by cycling through the very soft sand, only to grind to a halt after 10 meters or so…for some inexplicable reason, rather than put his feet down when his momentum ran out, he and bike, slowly and ungracefully fell over onto their sides. We were trying not to, but when his girlfriend started laughing, we had to join in.
We stopped for lunch in the touristy costal town of Darlowko, then cycled 2km inland to the sister town of Darlowo, where we planned to visit Tourist Info and pick up some maps of the North West of Poland. We then spent an hour cycling around town trying to find the Tourist Info office, as the location was unclear on our map and nobody we asked seemed sure of its whereabouts. Eventually we found it and soon set off again, with newly acquired maps (rather than bin our, now redundant, North East Poland maps…we gave them to the guy at Tourist Info who seemed confused as no-one had ever given them maps before!).
We whizzed through the next 20km and stopped in the village of Iwiecino at 4pm, hoping to stay at the campsite marked on our map, as we had had enough cycling for one day. Sure enough, the campsite didn’t exist! Darn it!!!
We grabbed a soft drink from the village shop, which gave us the energy boost needed to cycle the extra 10km to the ironically named coastal town of ‘Lazy’, where we knew there were campsites. As it turned out, this last 10km wasn’t too bad, due to a small tail wind starting to pick up in the late afternoon.
We found a lakeside campsite; showered and ate. We had cycled around 100km today (as much as the 2 previous days combined), so a good night’s rest was in order.
*we intend to post it to them before leaving Poland
Day 31 Lazy to Mrzezyno
Woke up thankful that the heavy rain during the night had passed and that our tent was dry (added thumbs up).
The sun was trying to make an appearance and the paved bike path continued, so all was well in the world. Cycling along adjacent to lake ‘Jezioro Bukowo’, we reminisced home, thinking of various gorgeous lakes near us but not as big.
The bike path unfortunately for us ended, we continued for a short while, the traffic was constant but not too heavy.
Looking at the map and Mapsme, we could see the bike path continued along the coastline, with only a couple of unknown perforated lines. We therefore decided to head towards the coastline and turned towards a little town called Chlopy, hoping that the bike path had no sand or mud in fact, as we wanted to make good progress today.
This town overwhelmed us. It was obviously school holidays as there were families everywhere with tons of children but the town had turned itself into an amusement park. Rides, games rooms, candy floss stalls and so many other unnecessary things.
We found the semi paved but uneven path along the coastline easily and initially we enjoyed cycling along and being able to see the beach alongside us, with the occasional huge blow up waterslide, but soon found manoeuvring passed tourists challenging, especially as the path was a little too narrow for a heavy loaded touring bike.
We opted to use the road, which ran parallel to the path for a short while then, rejoined the path further along. This was a good move as the path widened further along and cycling was much more manageable.
Gaski was our next stop for a well earned snack, plus Jon had his eye on the Gaski lighthouse, actually he was a little excited.
There were a few bits of road works to weave past before reaching the lighthouse, the only issue we had, was that we regrettably didn’t take any Zlotys out when passing an ATM earlier. We did briefly stop and think about it, but decided we were too unsure of our bank balances to risk going overdrawn and charged. We did have a small amount and hoped that it wouldn’t cost a great deal to go up the lighthouse.
On arrival, we were impressed with the size of the lighthouse but so were hundreds of other people.
It also had a gaming room and waffle stalls. We decided to sit and eat our snack at the outside cafe and contemplated if we wanted to line up and wait at what seemed like a rather long queue. Vanessa wasn’t too fussed but Jon went to investigate what it would cost. On his return he said that it only cost 5 zlotys but it wasn’t worth the long wait.
We headed off again briefly in the wrong direction, which was quickly rectified by a check of the map. Then continued along the coastline for a further hour before stopping for lunch on a bench along the path (not the most scenic but we were hungry).
Off again the path didn’t fail us, as we cycled through various small towns heaving with people, the surface differed occasionally from expensive paving, to compact dirt, to uneven dirt. We stopped in Kolobrzeg-Bagicz for tea/beer and to utilise wifi, as we had several things such as bank accounts to check and an important message to George (our future host in Dresden Germany) to write.
We were both feeling a little tired and could see that the sky was looking a little ominous, so we set off again. We had only 18km left til we reached Mrzezyno. We stopped briefly to snap a photo with a grassy cyclist and passed a military base, then put our heads down and cycled the last few km with little to report.
On arrival, we headed to the campsite just out of town (which we had pinned on Mapsme). We were both pleased to see that it, for one did exist and secondly that the facilities looked good.
We set up our tent near an undercover eating area just in time as the heavens poured for most of the evening. Ate dinner, shared tea with a local Polish family, then went to the campsite bar. There was Live music (saxophone), interesting pirate themed staff and setting, a gallery of old photos around the inside fencing of the bar and they had unusual green beer .
We stayed for a short while, had a beer and watched a solo guy pull out some interesting dance moves. Then headed to bed, hoping that the music would die down soon.
Day 32 – Mrzezyno to Swietousch (Poland)
The music at our campsite had stopped at 11pm (presumably so did the solo dancer)…It rained heavily overnight but thankfully had stopped before we awoke from a slightly restless nights sleep.
We set off at around 9.30am along a section of the coast road marked merely as ‘other’ on the map…so the surface quality was unknown. As it turned out, we had an assortment of road surfaces today but, as variety is life’s spice, we enjoyed it.
The first road was initially concrete block, then cobbled but had a bike lane for the first few km, which was marginally better quality than the portion of the road that the cars were using. When the bike lane ran out we cycled a bumpy km or two on the now relatively quiet road, until approaching a military vehicle parked across the road which had stopped 2 other bike tourists.
We spoke to the Polish tourists, who advised that the road we were on was poor and passed through a militarised area. They recommended a longer side road which they had themselves cycled and which, they said, was better quality. Dubiously we took the side road…As it happens it was the correct decision. Not only was the dirt compact and perfectly rideable but it meandered through the forest for several km, which protected us from the wind that was in our face today. Additionally, we saw a few Eurovelo 13 stickers so knew we were on the right track :-).
After a couple of hours of enjoyable cycling, we reached the coastal town of Pogorzeilca, which was the first of many tourist-laden towns we had to negotiate today. Although there were bike paths in each town, the risk of hitting one of the many ice cream-eating adults or inflatable-carrying children, outweighed the risk of cycling on the road (where the motorists had to drive at snails pace due to the number of pedestrians on the street). So we favoured the road.
We stopped off for a photo opportunity at yet another of the many impressive lighthouses along the Pomeranian coast (by now even Jon was becoming less excited about them) but this one had the bonus of the adjacent Lego theme park!
After a short lunch break, where the ill wind deprived us of a beautiful avocado-laden cracker, we continued on our merry way. Stopping briefly for a quick look at the beach when the opportunity presented itself.
By early afternoon we had covered a little under 50km and made plans for a campsite some 8km beyond the town of Dziwnow. Approaching the bridge over the river, we noted a tailback of traffic and, as cyclists do, we rode straight past it using the footpath. Crossing the bridge we noted that it had been raised at the opposite end to allow a handful of boats/ships through. We were extremely fortunate to have a close up view of (what appeared to be a replica) wooden pirate ship, complete with partying tourists, sail past us, before the drawbridge was lowered and we could continue on our way.
The day was going very well…too well it turned out…Immediately after the bridge Vanessa stopped for an ultra quick toilet break, then we cycled a further 3km along a busy (with pedestrians) and bumpy cycle path, at which point Vanessa discovered that she did not have her phone with her.
Joking aside; this was, for us, and Vanessa in particular, a very big problem. We knew that she had had the phone at the bridge, as she had taken photos there but potentially it could have been left on the bridge or dropped from her unzipped pocket anywhere along the bumpy 3km of foot/bike path since then.
Whilst Vanessa sat and powerlessly contemplated how difficult life would be without it (un-backed-up photos, lost data,apps, maps, contacts etc.), Jon went into super hero mode, ditched his panniers and cycled back along the footpath (looking for a phone with a green cover amongst the grass verges on both sides…he might add!).
15 minutes and 2.8km later he had had no joy and arrived back at the toilet spot, resigned to having to break the very bad news to Vanessa. To say he was relieved to find it lying there on the ground would be an understatement. It must have fallen from her pocket. The cycle back to Vanessa was now a lot more enjoyable.
With normality returned we stopped for a celebratory ice cream and then cycled the remaining 5km to the Agroturystyka campsite, which surpassed our expectations. Not only was it in a beautiful location next to a lake, it was relatively quiet, had great facilities and, to cap it all, cost only 24z (less than €6), which was the cheapest of all our paid accommodation in Poland!
We ate like relative royalty using our remaining food stocks (including the not-quite cous cous stuff that we had been avoiding for 4 weeks, which actually tasted ok when cooked properly) and tucked ourselves away in our very cosy lakeside spot for an early night before our last day in Poland tomorrow.
Day 33 Swietousch (Poland) to Dresden (Germany)
We got up at an alarmingly early hour of 6am, this was partly due to going to bed at 8pm and wanting to get to the border by lunch time to catch an early ferry/train.
Vanessa hadn’t seen lake Zeziro Koprowo yet, so she decided to head down for a sneaky peek, quickly followed by Jon. It was majestic to say the least, we stopped to take in the beautiful surroundings and to snap a photo or two before heading back to our bikes.
We left Agroturystyka campsite at 8am, feeling strong and fairly excited to have almost completed cycling across Polan, ONLY 30KM TO GO!!!
The first 16km whizzed by. The conditions were great, little to no breeze, smooth undulating road surface and little to no traffic. We passed a couple of small towns before checking ‘Mapsme’ to make sure we took the correct turn off, as it indicated bike paths all the way to the ferry crossing in Swinoujscie.
Just as we turned, we spotted an R10 bike sign and felt happier about taking the coastline route. This turned out to be a great choice. The surface of the path varied from rocky, compacted sand, dirt with the occasional muddy section, but best of all no cars. We stopped only twice. To snap a photo of a small snake and to also have a quick snack.
Reaching the pier at a few minutes to 11, we noticed that cars and passengers were getting off the ⛴ . We thought that it may be leaving soonish, so we rushed over to someone who looked semi official and asked ‘Where do we buy tickets? (indicating across the water to Swinoujscie). The officer pointed onto the ferry and said ‘Germany, this way’. We followed instructions and wheeled our bikes onboard. A few minutes later the ferry set off towards Swinoujscie. A mere two minutes later, we had arrived.
We knew we only had a few kilometres left before arriving in Germany , so we decided to spend our last Zlotys in Lidl (ensuring that lunch was even more delicious than usual!).
Leaving Lidl, we quickly found the cycle path which headed straight to Ahlbeck Grove station. We almost cycled straight past the border crossing and had to double back on ourselves a few metres. We snapped a couple of photos, then headed for the train platform.
At the platform we tried to ask a couple of people where the train was heading, we also tried to decipher the timetable but before we could even take it all in, a train arrived and we jumped on, knowing it was heading in the right direction at least.
Onboard the bike carriage compartment of the train, we wondered how to pay and thought that Zissow was our best option to get off. We ate lunch and settled into the ride. 30 minutes later, a train conductor asked if we had tickets, we said no and then after a confusing English/German conversation with the conductor (note that he had no English and we have no German), we ended up asking if anyone spoke English in our carriage? Luckily for us, the passengers in front volunteered to help, plus they were also going to Berlin. We finally managed to buy two tickets including bikes for the day across the whole of Germany, which was ideal, as we wanted to ultimately get to Dresden via Berlin.
Arriving at Stralsund, we stalked our new found German friends who were also going to Berlin. As we were waiting, an announcement in German seemed to alarm our friends, in broken English, they explained that the Train to Berlin had unfortunately been cancelled because the train lines had been vandalised and that the next train would be in 2 hours. This was terrible news! We all felt hard done by and left the platform and parted ways. Jon and I decided to head to the ticket office, double checking the second hand information. As Jon was queuing, Vanessa over heard several people talking in English about another possible option where we would have to swap trains half way to Berlin. After confirmation from the ticket office we went to our platform to wait for our train .
We got chatting to Christina (German lady), who had also been bike touring for a couple of weeks with her Scottish boyfriend, unfortunately her boyfriend had bike issues and was about 10km behind her. We got to know each other for about 20 minutes, when Vanessa spotted the train opposite, which had Berlin BHF clearly written on the outside, Jon jogged over to see if it was possible to go direct and we followed with our bikes. Christina confirmed this several times with various onboard passengers and we jumped on (feeling super happy that we had met Christina). However due to the same track problem passengers Christina explained that we would need to be bussed 6km from Berlin Bernau (approx. 15km outside Berlin) to a connecting Berlin metro train staion…but as there were so many cyclists onboard, we would have to cycle this distance.
We relaxed into the train ride, chatting to several other bike owners along the way. It dawned on us that the train we were on was infact going through Zussow, which was where we originally wanted to get off but were told by the ticket inspector that no trains left from Zussow to Berlin. Well obviously he was wrong, as we were on a train which stopped in Zussow. This annoyed us a little, as we could have caught a train from Zussow 3 hours earlier instead of heading to Strulund. Never mind!
On arrival in Berlin Bernau, it was like a huge jigsaw puzzle getting 15 bikes out of one carriage. Outside the train station Max (who we’d met earlier and had toured Hungary and several other countries), told us that he knew the area quite well and that we could follow him. He just needed to wait for a few friends. Once all together we rode off, there must have been 15 cyclists convoying along through back country lanes, including a no entry. One cyclist unfortunately fell in some mud. It was exhilarating riding along with a huge group with the same mission. Most people had just come from a music festival (they all seemed pretty cool!)
Arriving at the train station we carried our bikes up to the platform and jumped on the train. 9 stops later we said our goodbyes to our German friends and headed off in search of a train to Dresden, it was already 8.30pm and we had been told that the train to Dresden left at 9.02pm. We dashed around trying to find the platform, the screens indicated that it left from platform 2, but no train. Jon spoke to information and was told that it had been delayed and would leave in 105 minutes. Bummer!! Therefore we had nothing else to do but wait and eat pizza. At 10.45pm our train arrived and we jumped onboard. Hoping our tickets would be valid. The ticket inspector was not happy with our tickets as they were only for regional trains but left us alone and didn’t ask for any more money, so a bit of luck there. At 1am we arrived in Dresden and caught a tram, as we were far to tired to ride the 11km to our friend George’s place. On arrival we chatted for a while and fell into a well deserved deep sleep at 3am.