We had a biketour to Danzig during the spring this year ("1000 km against the Wind") and we enjoyed to cycle at Poland for there are fine roads, few traffic and nice areas. I can convince Heidi to do another tour during the summer - we could visit the former home where Heidi was born during the war, we never have been there until now. At the end of the war, like many others, Heidi's family had to leave and go to the West, but this had lasted about a quarter of a year. We cannot reconstruct the route of those times but today we will find a way though going from west to east this time.
The 40 years of the "cold war" have gone, today it is much easier to go to Poland, you only need a passport instead of a visum and are not forced to change certain amounts of currency since the last year.
So Heidi gets a new bike which costs as much as a usual repair of the automobile. It is a so called citybike, with 5 gears and a comfortable frame. She is so enthusiastic about her new vehicle that she commutes to her shop by bike (10 km one way) each day. But a little accident occurs at our kitchen at home: the stick of a pan with hot oil breaks and the oil splashes on her left foot one week before. The other problem are those small animals called ticks (Zecke) of which they write in the journals. For not to get ill if they bite you one can have a vaccination by the doctors. Three dates are necessary for this, the last one at the day before the start.
And we are somewhat anxious for it is told that Russian deserters roam in the woods. Shall I tell two other tales though I do not know if they are true? I will try:
There once was a family going shopping across the border to Poland. The car is left at the park-area but the chief of the family decides to stay at the car to take care of it. As the rest of the family returns from the shop the car and the chief have disappeared. And three days later they find the car and the driver who is somewhat dazed. The cause: they have removed one of his kidneys (Niere). Believe it or not!
The other story: A grandfather had come from Poland to Germany to visit his grandchilds and unexpectedly died. So what is to do for he should have his grave aside his wife who had died earlier in Poland? They decide to put the corpse into a luggage-box on the roof of their car and bring him back to his home. No problems or inspection at the frontier and with relief they then deposit the car at a park-area for a coffee at a nearby restaurant. And what happened again as they return: the car has gone. Believe it or not!
Those are the dreams made of at the night before we start.
Thursday, Braunschweig - Frankfurt - Sulecin
Early in the morning we ride with rain to the railway station to leave at 6 pm to Berlin. We are glad to sit dry in the train as we peer out to the grey scenery passing by. At Berlin we have to wait two hours for the train to Frankfurt/Oder. At the hall of the main station we can observe the people around: there are two grandmothers clothed in the same way for they seem to be twins. "Peculiar at this age" Heidi says. Some others try to heat themselves from inside by drinking beer or other stuff. The rain stays to pour down outside.
As our time has come we (in fact it's up to me) carry the loaded bikes to the appropriate platform and wait for our train. They announce 15 mins delay, then 30 mins, then 45 and so on. And shall I tell you the result? - it sums up to 75 mins finally. And as the train at last arrives we have to change the platform which means to carry (It's up to me again) the bikes down- and upstairs on the other side. I can prevent my confused wife to enter the locomotive itself and we finally find ourselves in a compartment destinated to disabled persons. We will have more stories of those rail transfers (to be read if you continue to stay with us).
At Frankfurt we have to carry the bikes... (you know about this meanwhile). Now we are glad to find the roads dry but just as we enter the bikes the rain has caught us and we put on the coats. It's during afternoon meanwhile and it was our intention to go by bike some time today.
At the opposite shore we arrive at Slubice which is a big shopping center - as I told you. We have to find a bankhouse to change some money. You get millions of Zlotys for some hundred DM but I have learned about this during the former tour at spring already. And now we start - did I tell you about the rain? - yes I did - for now the rain comes down so heavy that we believe to ride on a lake. But Heidi's hurt foot seems to recover by all those waters. As we have reached the side road towards Kunowice we look for a shelter beneath the trees. But the drops falling down here are not as dense but thicker instead.
At some time everything ends and so does the rain at last. We find a "Sklep" - this is a small shop at a village - to buy something drinkable. The villages are very nice, small farmhouses with goose, chickens and dogs all mixed up and running around in a busy manner. At the side of the road there are many pretty flowers for they let things grow here instead to control everything so thoroughly as we Germans are known for. But until now I do not feel too sure about this tour for there are many question marks.
City Hall of Osno Lubuskie
The first is where to sleep tonight. The road map signs a hotel at Sulecin, and as we arrive we have done 50 km which is not bad for this day. At the market place we ask a taxi driver for the hotel. He gives a sign over his shoulder, that means the hotel is just behind. We would not have recognized this box of a house to be a hotel. But the people there are very friendly and laugh at us: "Free room, ring at finger?" This means they ask if we are married. This is to be seen from the passports as well.
They help us to bring the bikes and the baggage (we have a tent with us for any case) down- and upstairs and state "More baggage than with car". So by now everything is OK and soon we start to look for a restaurant called Restauracia.
Church and Restauracia at Sulecin
Now the kitchen of the Restauracia is closed already. But the waiter is so friendly and signs that he will help us. At the bartable he opens some cans and warms up something. He then proudly presents two soup bowls. We can find out the name of this soup: "Flaki" and it is made of peculiar stripes of meat which look like a brush at one side. Heidi bends her back and looks strange. "I cannot eat this" "But he will try to help us, we cannot disappoint him." So Heidi eats the soup without the meat, I manage to eat it all - two Pivo (beers) help to splash it down.
We then walk around to get an impression of the characteristics and for it's the first day we are very curious. Poland is a poor country and their homes are wretched with the laundry clothes at the balconies. But there is a small garden of the size one to one meter and a fence around. Perhaps they try to create a "fair green". A dog strolls around a trash can and chews on a bone. As we look at him he barks and we turn to another direction.
At the church there is just a worship and we will learn that the Poles are very religious people. Back at the hotel we learn however that we could have had our meal just here. Heidi orders the meal called Bigosz which is OK. At our table there sits an engineer from Germany and he tells us, that the strange soup we got at the restauracia is a national speciality and the meat stems from the stomach of cows. Urrhps!
Our companion tells a lot of the local situation and we learn some more about this. His work at the moment is an assistant of rock production at a quarry (Steinbruch). He tells that every Polish earns so few that he is forced to have some work besides the official one. Fuel is very expensive, to get 1 litre you have to work 1 hour. For we are cyclists now we would wish this to be the same at our home.
Wednesday: Sulecin - Drezdenko (Driesen) 90 km
We have to leave without breakfast otherwise we had to wait until 9 am. So we start short past 8 am and ask a little boy for the right road to Miechow. He is somewhat anxious and says he would better ask his mother. As he returns he cries "Nie, nie" and we don't understand but think he wants to say "We don't know". So we look at the sun for we want to go east. We find the lonesome road to Lubniewice. There are nice views over yellow cornfields and pinewoods to the flats of the river Warthe. The stage today will lead us to the flats of the river Netze. The flats of Warthe and Netze are part of a valley formed during the ice age named Thorn - Eberswalder Urstromtal (I cannot translate).
Lubniewice seems to be a touristic place for there are a couple of lakes around. And indeed we find a health resort where the guests just enjoy their breakfast. Of course we are hungry now after cycling for an hour. But they declare that this is no public restaurant and we have to leave without success. At the village there is a snack bar which will open at 10 am. We have to wait 15 minutes and stroll around as long but there is not much to explore. The friendly woman at the cafe then offers a splendid breakfast and we are filled up now (you probably know that the cyclist gets his energies from food alone...). We are glad about this because there are few restaurants of this kind, you usually can drink alcohol and other stuff everywhere but no coffee or meal in the botany.
Storknest on a Church
We have a fine weather now and a good tailwind, few traffic, a well paved road and we enjoy the countryside. It is harvest time and the folks are busy at the fields and farm sites. By this we reach the town Bledzew, have a coffee there and visit the market.
Market at Bledzew
Now a long section will follow, 150 km along the edge of a single forest named Puszta Notec. We think of the Russian vagabounds probably in there and have no ambitions to cross these woods. So we stay at the northern edge and mostly ride straight ahead. Once we have a rest at a bus stop of a small village and two strange looking individuals approach. They stay at our place, inspect our bikes and watch us. We stop chewing immediately, arrange our stuff and leave at once. Some time later the bus comes along and the two individuals wave from the window - so they only had waited for the bus.
A lonesome Farmhouse
But another incidence occurs. We are just at a very lonesome passage again and a poor looking Lada overtakes us. They stop and the driver turns down the side window. He looks like a gipsy, fortunately a wife sits at the back seat. They talk and gesticulate to us but we do not understand anything. So they fortunately go off and we wonder if they would wait for us at a proper place to rob our belongings? Excuse us to be as anxious - may be you had felt in a similar manner at this situation. But there is nothing of this and we cycle along furtheron. But we are somewhat thoughtful now and have lost our fine mood.
Nests of the Swallows
But soon we reach the town Drezdenko to look for an accomodation. At the market place there is a shabby shield of a city map with the sign of a hotel. As we go there it is nothing, it seems to be a discothek meanwhile. We return to the market place again and meet a friendly man who explains us the way to a private hotel nearby. We end in front of a cemetary. A woman and a boy appear and they speak to us in German. Well, the guest house is at the next corner, they will accompany us and arrange the matter. We are happy! The guest house is called Motel and the only accomodation around here. The hosts are very clean and proper. So everything turns to be the best again and we are grateful to Mrs. Felicia N. which is the name of our helpful lady.
And Mrs. Felicia stays to be very helpful, she comes with us to our room and we do hard to get rid of her and have to agree to a rendesz-vous at the market place some time later to have a walk around. Now another cyclist comes in, an American who did 170 km this day against heavy headwinds. He is exhausted but rejects to pay for a three bed room which costs 30 DM. He prefers to go to the railway station to the next town for a better accomodation. We will never hear about the end of this story...
We have a splendid dinner with fried chicken and Pivo (beer). Now we head to the meeting with Mrs. Felicia. And this really works: just in time we meet her at the market place and start for the walk around. Mrs. Felicia tells this and that and the story of her total life. May be you are not so much interested about this, so I will shorten the biography to the fact, that she had been an office worker at the health department over the years. And now during the walk in front of every larger building she declares: "This once was the health departement!". They must have been very moveable over the years. I could tell you more about her family but resign, may be it is not so interesting to the rest of the world.
We end at a cafe and spend a coffee, change the addresses and try to go back. Of course Mrs. Felicia accompanies us until the fence of our guest house and we say good bye to avoid that she shares our beds with us. We have a last Pivo at the guest room and must leave at about 10 pm, for some biting dogs will then own the courtyard and no one will be able to come in or out.
Thursday Drezdenko - Pila 100 km
The second stage of the 150 km along the woods comes by. We have just put on our cloths as we hear someone knocking at the door of our room. Do you guess who this could be? You are right: it is Mrs. Felicia to say Good Morning. We must promise to come back and to send a parcel at christmas. Next time we return to Drezdenko we should stay at her housing.
As we start with our bikes we go without Mrs. Felicia! But we laugh about the adventures that happened until now. We can promise some more.
The Flats of the Netze
At Filehne there is a small castle and as I start to make a photo a strange looking man comes out of a pavilion. I put my camera away and we better go our way. At a restaurant we look for a coffee but there are too many drinkers around: let us better go ahead. Some time later we find a nice restaurant at a small village, but I leave behind one of the bike gloves there.
A Picturesque Village
Piles of Corn
On the Road
On the road again we watch the old machines used at the harvest, the carts pulled by horses - it looks like 20 years or more ago. You see many nests of the storks and sometimes a house with a roof made by straw. But unfortunately they have mostly replaced the straw by an ugly grey synthetic material.
Roofs of Reed
View to the Valley of the Netze
Churches in Usch
Flowers at the Shore
We enter the hotel RODLO, a building with four storeys and western standards. This is some more expensive but we have the merits (as we always say). A porter helps us with the luggage and when we cross the hands for the bakschisch he says "Oje", may be he has expected DM instead of those unstable Zloties. Under the window of our room there is the busiest place of this town and you can look frome above at the vehicles like toys but for the night we are not so optimistic.
Pila was completely destroyed during the war so there are no old houses or narrow streets. We find a flee market but can't buy something usable. In the evening at the hotel a bus from Bavaria arrives. An elder poor Polish woman with a bunch of flowers tries to welcome the tourists (they come from the twin town, we thought, but this is definitely wrong, for the German twintowns are Cuxhaven and Schwerin as I found out by the internet). But the tourists do not show a friendly behaviour, thay all feel too tired to take note of the woman. We have time to dream up a novel of this event.
Friday Pila - Tuchola 100 km
At the morning our faces are swollen for we had to close the windows during the noisy night. At the neighbour room some persons have rumoured around as Heidi says but I didn't hear anything. The breakfast is nice, no buffet but you can have as much as you want. At the reception we arrange to book by phone a hotel at Tuchola where we want to go today. Another porter helps us again and says that he once was in Africa by bike. We wave farewell and start for today.
We cycle 3 km out of Pila on the national road, then have to cross an 8 km forest and thereafter find a nice route again on alleys. We once buy a bag of cherries and stop at a small lake for a rest. Some youngsters have their housing here in a wooden house and enjoy to sit in the sun, have a swim, use the boat or catch fishes. They curiously look at us, but we don't care and soon they don't care either. After we have spit off the last kernel of the cherries into the paper-bag we leave this nice place (of course we take the paper-bag with us; I have learnt from the slogan many years ago: Scotland is wonderful, don't spoil it with litter...).
At a small village there is a nice half-timbered church. We deposit the bikes at the tower for the bells and have a rest there. A woman comes out of the church and looks at us angrily. The Catholicism is very powerful in Poland, remember the present pope Johannes Paul comes from here. At the door of a church you can read the mass-times and this looks like a timetable at a railway station.
We leave the angry woman and find our way on pretty side roads. At a pile of hay there sits (no, stands) a stork and has control about everything around.
The stork on the Haypile
We are disappointed and tired but now have to look for this mysterious Hotel Olimpia. But then we see a hotel named Michalko. Some minutes later we have checked in and can take our shower bath. We can only stay for one night but this is all we want. There is a nice hotel restaurant where we have our dinner. The waiter has so much energy, that some pieces of peach of a plate fall on my trousers and while grabbing for the lost things he knocks over the beer. So we get a new tablecloth, Heidi new peaches but I get no new beer!
We have a walk around and find some narrow streets and old houses. There is a nice restaurant at the city wall where you can look around and drink your beer. Finally we end at the terrace of the hotel, but as some individuals start to drink a bottle of Vodka we prefer to retire.
Saturday Tuchola - Plochocin 50 km
At 5 am we awake for the driver of a bus outside starts his motor for one hour. As we pack our things it is raining but during breakfast the rain stops. We get our bikes from the cellar and the receptionist says "Räder müssen rollen für den Sieg". This was a German Nazi-slogan and means in English: Wheels must roll for victory and you do not enjoy to hear this today. But he does not look angry at us so we laugh and try to think nothing bad.
This will be the last day of the first part of our tour and we will enjoy to pass the heathland of Tuchola (Tucheler Heide).
The Tucheler Heide
Once we ride some km on a wide road with open areas on the left and right side. We think about this and can only assume that this is a secret military runway for aeroplanes (we saw this in Kaschubien on our tour to Danzig).
At Osie we are hit by a sudden strong thunderstorm but we are just in front of the railway station and can save into a bus stop. An old man sits aside and starts to blabber at us but we do not understand anything. It is 10 am but he seems to be totally drunken. Sometimes we have to push him up before he falls asleep and off the bench. After he has smoked two of our cigarettes he stumbles away not without drooling a stubble bearded kiss to Heidi's hand. Urrgh!
The other event just occurs in front of our bus cabin. There is a military vehicle now used for camping which has decided not to go on any further, perhaps the fuel has gone out. Now in the pouring rain one after another of the passengers - finally about 6 persons - get off and strive away, each into another radial direction. We cannot tell how this story ends for we continue as the rain stops.
It is a great feeling as we read the first sign with a known name: Walubje. This is the place where Heidi's brother Peter went to school. And the road leads down then to Plochocin and this is our destination. As Heidi tells later, the tears tickle at her nose just then. At the right side we see the old estate where Heidis father had his work as administrator and where they all lived. The brothers of Heidi have been here some times ago already but for us it is the first time. The church of Plochocin looks like the portal of a city gate.