Day 8 – 9 Poland Part 2
As I was only halfway through Poland, there was still a lot of riding left to do, here’s what happened the past few days.
After our night in Skowrony, the kids helped us out with packing the bikes by bringing our gear out in a random sequence and then trying it on.
As Timmy had to catch a boat in the evening in Gdansk, we just did ssphalt to get near to the city, and then had some lunch. The pizza there was fantastic and way too big for me. Timmy then decided he didn’t want to risk being late and headed for the boat a few hours earlier.
I said goodbye to him, and was on my own from then on. It was a bit strange, the week we did went by really fast, and riding with two people can have some challenges, there’s also the added security of somebody to pull you out of the sand or mud, or who watches the bikes when you go inside. On the other hand, it’s also nice to be completely free to decide where and how you want to ride, and being able to listen to music as the intercom only does one or the other. I got tired of the music already after 2 days though, not enough songs on my phone.
I then headed for Zarnowiec, the site of what would have been Poland’s first nuclear power plant. the construction was cancelled in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster, after 530 structures surrounding the plant had already been erected.
The plant itself is now just a bunch of flooded concrete ruins, though it is fenced off. Once inside I could tell why; this really isn’t a very safe place, the flooded chambers are pretty dangerous, some you would probably never get out of if you fell in.
There were some tell light towers that i climbed halfway to take some pictures from, I was thinking I’d be pretty visible from up there though. It would have been great to have a radio-controlled drone to do these kinds of pictures…
Sure enough, when I was outside and just about to leave on the little dirt road next to it, a security guard in a tiny car showed up, who only spoke Polish. I made it clear I’d leave, but I wasn’t too worried about him writing my Swedish license plate down. Can’t blame him though, it’s only sane to try and keep the public out of that place…
That day, I’d gotten an email from a guy named Robert, who said he read my blog and would love to meet me or even offer me a place to stay. When I checked the location, it matched up pretty well with my intentions, so I agreed to come to his place. I mainly took asphalt, as I was going to be covering 350km that day, nearly double of the previous average and triple of me and Timmy’s shortest day.
On the way there, the GPS’ mount started to fall off the bike all the time. All the vibrations had gotten to the crappy plastic GPS mount. I kept thinking on the way “I sure hope this Robert has some tools and materials in his garage…”.
Robert turned out to be a really cool guy who lived near Miastko and had his own floor in a house. I thought he’d found me through the Horizons Unlimited Facebook group where I post my blog sometimes, but turns out the link was even already posted on other Polish biker groups. Robert said it was called ” Discomfort Hunters” in Polish, I quite liked that name.
Turned out Robert also had a garage full of tools that he inherited from his father, so we set to work building a new mount. After bouncing some ideas Robert suggested to just build a super strong case from steel that we could bolt the old GPS’ mount to (which is a very good mount).
Two lovely ladies, Robert’s girlfriend Karina and her sister Sara had arrived as well and were very interested in everything we were doing, it was pretty fun, they even wanted to help out. They both understood English pretty well but Robert said they were a bit embarrassed to speak it, so he just translated most of the time.
With the mount done and paint drying I had a great evening at Robert’s place. Really, I had expected to camp in a field with a tent, and now I was invited into somebody’s home and treated to a lot of food and care. We had some wine, talked a lot, even went by to Robert’s brother’s birthday party across the street, who gave me a tour of the house he was building, in German.
The next morning I was treated to another great breakfast (I found out I really like this Polish mountain cheese called ‘oscypek’). After that, the girls even made me a bunch of sandwiches to take along for the day! Thanks a bunch again guys, still can’t believe how nice all of that was! I didn’t think I’d experience this so soon after hosting someone like that myself.
The Frankensteined GPS mount was holding up fine, it didn’t vibrate loose at all.
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I ran into a ton of roadwork in sequence, and after one where the traffic lights didn’t work and cars met head on on a single lane (I just went past the chaos on the gravel part), I decided to just take a little gravel detour.
I was heading for Borne Sulinowo, a place Robert told me about. It used to be a Soviet secret site, hidden from all maps and was only returned to Poland in 1992. Since then a repopulation and repurposing project has been going on there. From the paint splatters I’m assuming not everybody remembers that past very fondly. This place was interesting because the Soviet heritage in Poland is by far not as obvious as in Latvia and Lithuania.
You notice it in small details, like the old pillboxes next to all roads leading into the town. Borne Sulinowo actually has a lot of history behind it; the Nazis had a military base here before the Soviets, called Gross Born back then. They even created an artificial desert there, as training grounds for Rommel’s Afrika Korps.
The town itself has an obvious planned layout, but most building on the main streets are well restored and in use. In some smaller streets up to half of the buildings are still in a state of decay, but I’m sure all of them will be repurposed at some point. Poland is generally much better with cleaning these things up then some of their eastern neighbors.
Heading out of Borne Sulinowo, I ended up on what were probably old patrol and training roads. I guess this is what 28 years of no maintenance do to an asphalt road. It often completely disappeared, and the road was very bumpy. Despite that, there were cars out there, with families picnicking. I don’t know how they even made it there in their Peugeots and Skodas, since I probably bottomed out my suspension a few times on what must have been holes and bumps of half a meter height difference.
It really was a lot of fun out there, though I did spend 30-40 minutes on not even 20km. Ex-military training areas are often the best places for this kind of riding.
I then came by what used to be Poland’s only ghost town, Klomino. I’d read most buildings had been demolished, that turned out correct. It was a strange place, the grid of roads around empty patches, with a just 5 buildings left, 2 or 3 being in use, one bizarrely as a hostel of some kind. I’d seen plenty of these Soviet blocks, called ‘leningrads’ by the Poles, so I didn’t stop or bother.
OI wanted to go to Nadarzycem it seemed like a bombing range with lots of old Soviet MIG fighter planes lying around, but when I got to this sign (after being in front of a closed gate elsewhere) I thought I’d translate it with my phone. Turns out it says “Military Area, No Access”. I ignore signs often, but I don’t really plan on getting arrested by the Polish army, so I turned around, heading back all the way to Borne Sulinowo on the main roads instead.
Robert told me they have one of the biggest military vehicle gatherings in Europe here every year, I saw some evidence of that on my second pass through the town. Then it was just asphalt to Szczecin.
I avoided the motorways, but eventually had to get on one. Just before I road on an interesting road, the DW142 road which is a partially finished stretch of motorway started by the Germans back when this part of Poland belonged to them. It had a few ‘ghost bridges’ over it even, that just start and end in the forest.
Coming into Szczecin I was thinking that the one thing I don’t like about Poland is how busy traffic in cities can be and the drivers; they insist on overtaking all the time (seriously, on some roads you see a chain of swerving cars overtaking) and they are often not very courteous with yielding at all. They all seem to be in a big hurry to get somewhere, no matter what. Then a car in front of me (I left plenty of space), stopped really suddenly for a pedestrian, and a combination of wet roads, strong brakes on my bike and a less ideal tire made me lock the front wheel and drop the bike and slide a bit on the road. I must have just pulled my brakes a tad too hard as there was nothing I could do.
Some pedestrians helped me lift it. The damage is minimal, the bike is kind of made for this anyway, just some scraped plastic and luggage and a small bruise on my elbow.
This sort of thing is why I hate going to cities, half of my friends in Sweden have had accidents in the city with their bikes, so I just prefer to go out to the countryside or the forest.
But the reason i came to the city, is that Maciej, a Polish biker, had offered me use of his appartment for free. Him and his girlfriend stay elsewhere, so I have the place to myself. I must say I’ve had it pretty good during my time in Poland. It really is a modern, developed country with from what I can tell, happy and friendly people. I only have to watch out when driving in traffic!
Another great post. You keep me wondering what you’ll be seeing and doing next.