Chapter two: Plochocin
We now look for the house of Genja and Janek. Do you know who are Genja and Janek? Genja had been the nurse of Heidi once ago and has invited us to come here. Janek, her husband, was the coachman at those times. We are announced for the 20th but as fast as we are we have the 18th yet. So we have a guilty conscience to burst in so early. We get off the bikes in front of the house and at once they embrace, Genja and Heidi - and the tears are pouring on their cheeks. I feel something wet in the corner of my eyes too. There is someone who does not cry but barks: Kruzcina the dog which is nearly crazy about all this.
We enter the courtyard and have a kawa (coffee) in the kitchen first. They had just had other guests and there is much work yet. I told you some stories that you may think the Polish people are not as friendly but do not believe that. Their hospitality is great as we will see. With the exception of Kruzcina who bites at my trousers for a short moment, but there are no serious consequences. We get the sleeping room for the night while Genja and Janek hang out at the living room.
The "forbidden" Photo
We want to leave soon for a walk to give Genja the occasion to do all her work. We are curiuos about the former estate and the areas around. They tell us to be cautious with photographs, someone might be angry about that. We will see. The agricultural activities of the estate lie down, the farm house is a discothek and a meeting place for the youth nowadays. In front of the house a guy hangs around and we ask him for Papierosy (cigarettes). We buy two packages named "M" and now ask him if he would make a photograph of us two on the stairs of the farm house. And so we manage to get our first "forbidden" photo.
The old Estate
For we are more courageous thereafter we take some more shots of the house and its backside. We then see the flutter of curtains - may be the assistent is watching us? We pass off.
Aside the farm buildigs there is small lake. From the road we reach the shore and find the water to be milky green and cloudy. They have put all the liquid manure of the cattle into the lake and imagine the consequence. So they are so much religious here but do not take care of God's nature around.
We are not so happy about this and another event occurs. At the road a van loaded with guys stops and they cry at us. We cannot understand and shrug our shoulders. Luckily the driver starts again but the guys at the load ramp lift their middle finger at us (you know this sign? we say "Stinkefinger" and it means that you are not in love with someone). As they have gone a car with policemen appears. There is a flash in your mind: people have watched our photographical activities and have phoned for the police? But we are too frightened for the police car rolls on and out of sight.
We return to Genja and Janek and need a coffee now. In the evening we have a nice walk through the fields and hills and wild flowers. At the road there are lots of tiny frogs and we try to save some of them but soon must give up.
We go to bed early for Genja is tired of her work and Janek is tired of the farewell party during the last night.
We sleep well but are not allowed to sleep late for the cock early at daybreak cries beneath our window. Janek has to go to the church while Genja gives some critical comments concerning the priest who - as she says - is the best spy of all, peers for the money of everyone, and has several girl friends and children. "He got two automobiles but I only got a broken bike, that's it"!
The situation of the people living here is not favourable for the agriculture lies down and many are unemployed. The support for the unemployed by the government is paid only one year long, thereafter the local community must worry about them and no one knows from where to get the money.
This morning we want to make a bike tour for a visit of the neighboured estates Bankau and Ruhlau. At Bankau there is a kindergarten and at Ruhlau they hope that work will start again one day. At a farmyard there are lots of tractors unemployed like the people. Back at Plochocin we have a look at the graveyard and Janek declares the grave stones of the earlier administrators or clerks of the estate. At a grave from the year 1945 the top is broken and one can look inside a dark hole and feel somewhat macabre.
Some time later we have lunch with potatoes just digged out from the garden. We have a little nap but then coffee and cake have to be overcome. And then we all start to the daughter of Genja and Janek, who is Lucie and her family and they live in the next village Walubie. We go by bike altogether and are heartily welcome. Genja has to translate this and that but the main conversation is performed by hands and feet. Marian, the husband of Lucie looks for Piwo and Papierosy and then they rumour around to present a large buffet.
We have to consume as much we can and then have a look into the garden with dog, ducks and hens. Then they check our bikes for the Polish products are of less technical standard. Back in the house we must enjoy the television. It needs some time to get a program and it is necessary to prevent a loose cable connection by the weight of a flowerpot. And then we all watch in fascination something stupid like Tom and Jerry.
Marian is unemployed but works somehow on the side. Some years ago they had a winning from the lottery and were able to build their house. Their daughter and her boyfriend grow fruits and sell them at the market places up to Danzig.
In the evening we return to Plochocin and can convince Genja not to offer another dinner. We sit on a bench before the house and watch the dog Kruzcina who is in action all the time. She barks in turn at a redtail bird (Rotschwanz), the mopeds passing by and the ants creeping out of the cracks at the wall.
So this was our day at Plochocin and tomorrow we will depart again.
Monday Plochocin - Graudenz - Allenstein
There is much to be seen at the more eastern parts of Prussia (Ostpreußen) and this is why we go on. Let us by the way discuss the use of names: there is the German name from former times, the Polish name for today, and perhaps an English name, but I don't know one. Heidi is born at Grudziadz (Graudenz) and in her new passport they have written the Polish name. Now Heidi is unable to pronounce the name of the town where she was born! Now let us cycle 20 km to Graudenz at the river Weichsel today. (From now on I use the German names and this is not because of political thoughts but because it is easier to write).
The valley of the Weichsel has its origins during the ice age and therefore the shores are a bit hilly from the moraines. Near Graudenz we see huge blocks and a final sight over the dike offers the big fortress at the opposite shore. Before we cross the bridge we observe tobacco plants and the sticks where the leaves have to dry.
Bridge over the Weichsel
Fortress of Graudenz
The Marketplace of Graudenz
It is very hot now and we use the shadow side of the roads as we walk to the city. One sight into a church (as usual) and then we come to the fortress. There is a nice view above the Weichsel and in former times this was a strategic advantage. If you look up the huge walls from below you cannot imagine that someone would be able to conquer this bastion. Today it is no problem to destroy towns and buildings grown during centuries within minutes as they just do at Yugoslavia. We call this to be progress.
Upstairs we return to the market place and the old town (stare miastro). At a tourist office we do hard to get a city map, easier would be to book a trip to Hansaland, Sierksdorf (this not far of our home and a kind of those amusement parks).
We get tired and enter a cooler cafe. Then we have to change traveller cheques at a bank. We did not need much money during the last week. At the bank you first get a sign with a number and have to wait until your number is called. Meanwhile you can watch the various bankers. If someone finds out something unusual or something unknown he calls several collegues and they all form a busy discussion group. Others meanwhile bang their stamps to any pile of papers and look highly content about this. We enjoy this all and leave the bank with millions of Zloties in our pockets.
We return to the railway station and get back our bikes. We have to use a train to Jablonowo Pomorskie to change there to Allenstein. The train is waiting already and we can enter the huge compartment in a comfortable way (which is seldom for trains). We even can let the panniers at the bikes. So the train then needs about an hour for the 20 km to Jabl. Pom. We have to wait one hour there and see nothing interesting so we sit in the shadow of a park (If you wonder why we do not cycle: it is definitely too hot!).
The train to Allenstein is not as comfortable, we have difficulties to deposit the bikes at a narrow corridor and eventually we arrange the stuff that someone can pass along. And the train is overcrowded so we don't get a seat. There is only one compartment where someone drunken snores but no one is willing to share this place. As we approach Allenstein and see the outline of the town the people press to the doors to get out in time. The train stops and we speedily throw our packets out, behind that the bikes and finally ourselves. The headlight of Heidi's bike clangs down at the platform and as we look up we notice: we are the only ones who have left the train. This is a suburban station of Allenstein.
So I replace the headlight and turn to my own bike, the train starts again and Heidis bike crashes towards the wheels. Heidi falls down on her knees and pulls the bike some few inches away from the train wheels. Uff!! At the next platform someone snores at a bench and doesn't realize anything. We are lucky that no accident has occured by this affair and laugh about our error to have left the train in such a hectic manner. So we have to cycle for half an hour to enter the Hotel Warminski which is of good standard.
At the evening we have a nice walk for the historical center of Allenstein and we admire the buildings that survived the last war.
Tuesday Allenstein - Nikolaiken - Ryn 30 km
We have nearly reached Masuria, the area of the lonesome forests and clear lakes of which we have read so much before. Since some time Heidi murmurs of recreation or vacation at a nice place and not to cycle all the time. So we will do our best to find such a place - and I can tell you: it will last some time but finally will find a good end. At 9 am we enter a train to Nikkolaiken which is the heart of Masuria.
We are curious about the awaiting sensations as we leave the train at Nikolaiken (this time in an ordinary manner). The first is the toilet at the railway station from where Heidi escapes with horror but let us resign to talk more about this affair. Nikolaiken is located between the greatest lake Spirdingsee and the lengthy Taltersee. So this place is very touristical, you find an American Nightclub for example and this is not what we are looking for. We have a coffee which is twice as expensive as usual. We have doubts to find the silence of Masuria at this place. We start to the north along the shore of the Taltersee. At the first village we read Zimmer frei (Free Room) and inspect this occasion. The houses are new built and paved park areas full of cars, one of those from Gifhorn which is 30 km from our home. Some halfnaked and fat gentlemen wearing sunglasses stroll around so we decide to go ahead.
Better to say "I decide..." for Heidi now during the heat of the high noon gets annoyed and she broods over this promising Zimmer Frei. The route is unpaved now, the next locality is far ahead and there is no shadow around. I ask "Shall we go back?" but the answer is "I will not go back now!" and this is the rest of our conversation for now. What a pity for the countryside is nice and lonesome, finally there is a shaded alley and we arrive at Ryn, a larger village with a hotel. At first we sit on a bench and look stupid around. Some curious individuals slowly approach and soon sit aside us at the bench. As usual we jump up and catch our belongings. "My father German, Herman" one of the guys speaks to us and we say "Aha". We ask for the hotel and this is just across. Now German-Father-Herrman, as we call him from now on, signs to wait for money as reward for this information. Well, I spend 200 Zloties and those are Pennies for him, he instead has thought of DeutscheMark. While he looks as us in astonishment we go off and enter the hotel immediately.
Everything is alright here and the girl at the reception speaks German. She explains where we can go for a swim, this is a smaller lake nearby. The great lake is poisoned by industrial pollution. After we have arranged our stuff we go to the small lake which is surrounded by woods. We enjoy the water but watch other guys again who carry some bottles in paper bags and seem to have busy activities all the time. We return refreshed and have a look at the rest of the fortress. Back at the park area of the hotel we watch a guy who has lost both his legs and moves in a wheelchair. He is member of the German-Father Hermann gang and it is easy to find out, that they talk to all tourists to get money from them. And you can see where the money goes: they all get drunken more and more. We argue about the damage of reputation caused by those folks. We will meet extremely friendly Poles later - but wait some time.
We finally sit in the restaurant and have our lunch. Outside at the road a sweaty biker comes up, then another and another and finally a bus accompanying the group. Hanseatic Bus&Bike Tours - that's it and we burst in laughter. We have a last walk and the touch with the German-Father-Herman gang, everyone drunken meanwhile. They stroll behind us and try to get contact. So we soon retire before the darkness comes to the hotel where the Discotheque has started to spread big sounds over the neighbourhood. They want to lure guests but there is no one. We lay in our beds and get great ears. At 11 pm Heidi puts on her clothes, enters the Discotheque and declares us to be inspectors for later planned tourist arrangements. This helps and we fall asleep and dream of German-Father-Herman.
Wednesday Ryn - Lötzen (Gizycko) 42 km
So we did not find our Shangrila at Ryn and we have to pedal again, we start at 7 am, it will be a hot day. I have found a very remote track to the Niegocin See. At first we have a good route on gravel but behind the last farm house the track gets pure sand where we have to push the bikes. May be we have to go the next 8 km this way? It is 9 am but the sun burns down and we sweat a lot. But after 2 km we can relax as we feel ground again. But the countryside is wonderful between Ryn and Szymonka.
Struggle in the Sand
The shops (Sklep) just open and we buy an Orangeade. We must change a 100 000 Zloty note and the lady at the shop gets all the 1000 and few 10 000 Zloty notes out of a mess of a cardbord. With pockets filled with money we leave.
Sometimes you see German cars at this section. But this site is a favourite vacation area for the Poles too but they prefer wooden huts or campgrounds. So we cannot find another Zimmer Frei sign. At the transition of the Jagodne- to the Löwentin-See the waters look green and unappetizing. At Strelce there is a large campground and we have rest at the restaurant to drink a kawa. The heat of the day is now nearly unbearable and we would so much appreciate to have a bath and cannot find a place among all these lakes...
At a Lake
On the road there is some headwind or you can cycle beneath trees to bear the heat. We reach the next place of hope, this is a fine hotel in a wood at the shore of a lake. We see some German busses, of course the Hanseatic Bus&Bike Tours we laughed about yesterday. At the reception we do not laugh as they tell us that ervery room is booked. But we get a note with a private address at Lötzen (Gizycko), some km ahead.
We continue our Odyssee and at next pass the place Wilkasy where many new built houses offer the charm of a shopping center. After some time we reach Lötzen and ask a woman for the direction towards the center. She talks like a waterfall though we don't understand a single word. But the direction is right and we reach Hotel WODNIK. At a car-park there is a city map and we can orientate to find our address. A glance at this town shows that it would be nice here. At the main road is an alley of lime trees, there are a church, benches and shops.
Finally we arrive at our address and with a sigh get off the bikes.