Tag Archives: Poland


Day 27: Przemyśl, Poland to Lviv, Ukraine

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Start: Przemyśl, Poland
End: Lviv, Ukraine
Distance: 103.0km
Elevation Gain: 2286ft
Elevation Loss: 2067ft
Time: 9h04m
Reading Material: Red Cavalry and Other Stories – Isaac Babel
Audio Material: This American Life (topical, road stories); Nerdist podcast

Epic Day! Crossed a border, slalomed cows, navigated a mud pit, road the highway, met a bike buddy and arrived in Lviv.

I started the day about 12km from the Ukraine border but was warned that crossing could take multiple hours. There was a long line of stopped cars as I approached with drivers and passengers milling around. I bicycled past the cars and was directed by a friendly Polish border control officer to a side building with a separate pedestrian crossing. Passed through both the Polish and Ukraine customs buildings with no wait and only a few bemused looks as my passport was stamped. The Ukrainian officials conducted extensive searches on the babushkas returning home with giant bags but all I got was a flip of the handlebar bag lid and was sent on my way. Guess I’ve discovered a pretty good way to smuggle cigarettes across the border in the future.

I planned to avoid the direct M11 motorway to Lviv and take smaller secondary roads. I made my turn after the border and while the road was unpaved it started in decent shape. Soon, however, I was navigating giant potholes and increasing mud. About 5km in, a driver stopped, got out of his car and using the hand signal for potholes & bumps (big round arms, and that thing kids love to do with their hands when they stick them out of moving car windows), indicating I should turn around. The gps indicated I could cut back to the motorway 10km ahead, so I decided to press on and see what I could discover.

First, I discovered beautiful landscapes. For the first time on the trip, the land opened up and I was riding under a big sky on a wide-open expanse of nature. Technically, the Ukrainian steppe doesn’t begin until farther east, but this was my first taste. Reminded me of the big landscape feeling from places like Alberta Province in Canada or Southeast Alaska. This Polish-Ukrainian border is the first one I’ve crossed where you can tell geography as much as politics created a natural divide.

Next, I got to practice my cow dodging techniques. Two large herds were being driven down the road. While non-confrontational, cows can get moving pretty fast so I had to stay on my toes. Many more cats warily watching me pass and free ranging dogs who were generally ambivalent about the bike. And, then the real mud started. Now I know why the driver tried to dissuade me from this route. Giant puddles and deep mud made it nearly impossible to move even by pushing. I struggled and it took about 2 hours to go 10km.

I cut back to the M11 motorway which really wasn’t that bad for cycling — two lanes and only light-to-medium traffic. Congestion got worse as I approached Lviv. About 10km from the city center, cobblestone began and I was overtaken by a road biker. We biked together and started chatting while avoiding cars and navigating cobbles. Eventually, we stopped to chat and take some pictures. Daniil lives in Lviv and is a bit of cycle gear-head. I showed him some of the more “advanced” features on my bike and he shamed me by asking lots of technical questions about US bike gear that were a bit beyond my skill-level. A few of his friends walked by and I got my first taste of Lviv hospitality. Daniil even escorted me all the way to the apartment I’m renting and watched my bike while I carried up all my gear. Thanks cycle buddy (and thanks Lviv for the friendly welcome to the Ukraine)!

Day 26: Rzeszów, Poland to Przemyśl, Poland

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Start: Rzeszów, Poland
End: Przemyśl, Poland
Distance: 78.8km
Elevation Gain: 2906ft
Elevation Loss: 2957ft
Time: 6h45m
Reading Material: Red Cavalry and Other Stories – Isaac Babel
Audio Material: Stuff You Should Know podcast; Paul Simon: 1964-1993 – Paul Simon

Another day of constant rain. It’s not so bad when riding and generating heat, but quite cold and clammy when stopped. I stay mostly dry in rain gear except the footsies which have to spend the entire day in wet wool.

The terrain is getting hilly and approaching Przemyśl I had to negotiate the steep incline and then rapid, windy descent which marks this border town’s natural defenses. I spent most of the day on beautiful Route 881 (a mostly empty two-lane road with descent pavement) until cutting across a 2km unpaved path towards the town. Unpaved road + rain = mud. I was joined by two roaming dogs on the mud path. They moved faster than me and also seemed to be conducting important daily rounds while I was just transiting.

Przemyśl is the second oldest town in this region to Krakow. It is only 15km from the Ukraine border and you will notice from the map that it is slightly south from the direct path between Krakow and L’viv. However, my intel indicates that this border crossing is the only one where non-motorized pedestrians are allowed to pass. We’ll see how that works tomorrow morning. As befits a border town, Przemyśl was split in half by invading Germans and Russians during WWII. I quickly checked out the main square, ate a full pizza and then promptly took a three hour nap.


Day 25: Tarnów, Poland to Rzeszów, Poland

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Start: Tarnów, Poland
End: Rzeszów, Poland
Distance: 105.0km
Elevation Gain: 2299ft
Elevation Loss: 2283ft
Time: 7h41m
Reading Material: Red Cavalry and Other Stories – Isaac Babel
Audio Material: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me; Diane Rehm Friday news roundups; Love & Radio podcast; Murs for President – Murs; Man on the Moon: End of Day – Kid Cudi

Rain and mud! First day where I faced near constant rain. Gave me a good chance to bring out the rain gear. I made good progress on pavement until I hit some offroad tracks that had turned entirely to mud. Fenders work great in the rain but when you hit mud, the gap between the tire and the fender fills completely with mud and you end up sliding more than rolling. I had to get off and push in the mud for a good kilometer. It was kinda fun but everything got entirely mud caked.

Heading out of Tarnów, I got into a staring match with a driver. Sunday morning and the roads were empty. I was on an extremely wide, two-lane road with plenty of room for motorists to pass. There was a sidewalk but it was a rough surface, so I decided to stick with the road. The car honked at me as he passed and then we both came up to a redlight. I gave him a stare-down through the passenger window as I passed and then slowly rode in front of him looking over my shoulder until making a right-hand turn and heading on my way. In my mind, I won.

For the last 25km into Rzeszów, my route had me doing detours to avoid the E-40 motorway. But, given the offroad conditions, I decided not to risk it and just ride the motorway shoulder. The E-40 runs from Krakow to the Ukrainian border but is one step down from a highway (The A4 highway from Krakow to the border is currently being constructed). The cars gave me plenty of room and while it wasn’t relaxing riding it was safe and direct.

Spending the night in Rzeszów. More industrial than Tarnów but still a nice town square featuring a Sunday afternoon festival with a bouncy-house and a live singer on a stage backed by synths doing some horrible soft pop. A few tasteful monuments to those lost in WWII (Rzeszów was another town with over 30% Jewish population). I promised the front desk I wouldn’t track mud into the room but I’m not sure I’ll be able to comply.


Day 24: Krakow, Poland to Tarnów, Poland

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Start: Krakow, Poland
End: Tarnów, Poland
Distance: 99.4km
Elevation Gain: 1339ft
Elevation Loss: 1391ft
Time: 6h36m
Reading Material: Red Cavalry and Other Stories – Isaac Babel
Audio Material: Elvis Mitchell’s The Treatment (interview with David Benioff and D.B. Weiss); WTF podcast; On The Media

Almost hit 100km on the nose!

My new routing method seems to be working well. Using Google Maps pedestrian directions (while not documented, over long non-urban distances seems to preference small roads and might also try to minimize elevation gain; in practice, finds sideroads which parallel main arteries). I use these as a base, then import them into GPS software and make tweaks and sanity checks. On the bike, I use the resulting route as a guide and improvise as conditions dictate. Today’s ride was mainly on low-volume roads with decent pavement and quite flat. Even with multiple stops, I averaged 15km/hr.

Stopped at a hamburger stand/convenience store for lunch. Tried a Mike Tyson “Black Energy” drink. Tasted like Red Bull but appeared to leave a metallic taste in my mouth the rest of the afternoon. (Only later, do I realize the drink is marketed as “Sex Energy” — not sure you really want to be like Mike in that department). Hamburger was awesome and the woman who owned the place was super friendly. She didn’t speak English, but was able to inform me about a salt mine about 10km down the road in Bochnia. Her daughter (who spoke excellent English) stopped by and helped translate. When I told her I was trying to reach Tarnow today, she told me I should come back and visit them in the future because Bochnia is really nice.

With the hot salt mine tip, I took a small detour to the Bochnia city center. While the salt mine sounded impressive, the tour takes three hours and I decided it was time better spent biking.

Passed an impressive church in Szczepanów which I believe is the birthplace of St. Stanislaus. Had the entire church to myself for a peaceful 10 minutes. Met a granny who was visiting as part of a tour. She told me about her children (one lives in Chicago, one in Ontario) and gave me good wishes for my journey.

Met packs of dogs several times that chased after the bike. I’ve learned that as long as you keep moving they won’t bite but I worry about mistakenly running one over.

Made it to Tarnów in time to explore before the Champions League Final.