Archive for the ‘Poland’ Category

Stromy podjazd

2 September 2018

Szczecin, Poland to Schwedt, Germany

Leaving Szczecin we were led by Garmin (GPS) on a dodgy trail across a rail bridge, then over several train lines and along rubbish strewn tracks.

Once in the countryside things improved. We rode along the Oder, on bike paths, unsealed roads and sandy tracks. A sign warned us of stromy podjazd – steep road. It was certainly too steep to ride but didn’t last long.

We crossed the border into Germany and, soon after this, saw hundreds of storks, some flying around and calling out and many more congregating in a field. This was an impressive sight.

One of the small villages we passed through, Hohenreinkendorf, was celebrating its 775th anniversary. The town was decorated from one end to the other with bunting and displays of produce at the front of many houses. The action was taking place near the church where there were marquees and stalls selling wurst (yes, we indulged), beer and roast chicken, and entertainment was provided by a band playing brass multiple-bell instruments that we hadn’t seen before – East German schalmei horns. They have what could be called a robust tone and a vigorous dynamic!

After this we were on the Oder-Neisse Radweg (bike path) for much of the remaining distance to Schwedt, an industrial GDR town after being flattened in WW2, now an attractive modern place with colourful apartment buildings surrounding the remnants of the old town centre.

Polish trains

1 September 2018

Gdansk to Poznan then Szczecin by train

Travelling by train in Poland today was a mixed experience. We had bought tickets online for ourselves and two bikes. When the train arrived at Gdansk it was a real scramble to get everything on board as (i) we were not the only people with bikes (ii) there were already several bikes on board and (iii) there is no dedicated space to put bikes! The only option was to stash as many as would fit in the small spaces at the end of the carriages which then made access difficult for people boarding or walking through to the next carriage. Somehow we made it work and the conductor accepted the result – probably happens all the time.

The train was comfortable and quick but there was no information display showing the upcoming stops, nor was there wifi. On the second leg of this trip we had a 6-seat compartment to ourselves and in the next carriage along so did a cellist who was doing some practice. I interrupted him briefly and found out that his name is Robert, he studied cello in Warsaw and now plays professionally in an orchestra in Szczecin. They are about to go on tour to Krasnogorsk. He was practising his part in a Mendelssohn string quartet.

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The day was grey and overcast and the Polish countryside was flat and pretty featureless – a good stretch to do on the rails. We are in Szczecin, proudly the capital of West Pomerania, an interesting city on the River Oder, with trams, churches, a new white Filharmonie and many grand streets with impressive architecture. A sign near the entrance to St Jacob’s Cathedral explains about the Pomeranian Way, the Baltic section of the pilgrim route to Santiago that we travelled along two days ago.

In the supermarket near our accommodation you can buy a whole sunflower head! Can’t do that in Foodland.

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A day in Gdansk

31 August 2018

(I was banned from having G’day in Gdansk as the title for today’s blog. Is that fair? Is that just?)

So, last things first, we had an excellent dinner experience this evening. Rosalie went out on a flaneurism expedition this afternoon while I did lip slurs in our hotel room (don’t worry it’s a trumpet thing). She found an unassuming restaurant called Kresowa on the intersection of two side roads off the main King’s Walk in old Gdansk. One name on an awning and a few linen-clothed tables under a linden tree was all Kresowa had on display but it was a fine un-touristic experience. The salmon blinis with caviar were excellent. We did agree that Rosalie’s Lithuanian Zeppelins (dumplings) were a little stodgy but had it been winter or had we’d ridden 100km we wouldn’t have complained. The world needs more Kresowas.

We spent a grim morning at the Gdansk World War 2 Museum. Having grown up with the Western Allies’ perspective it is interesting to learn from those that lived at the heart of successive disasters.

With a weight of justification, the museum portrays Poland as a main victim of the war and 20th century politics. A close reading reveals a few veiled acknowledgments of local complicity with the Holocaust – a hot political topic in Poland these days. The Catholic Church seems to get off scot free with no mention of its cosy wartime arrangements with Nazi Germany. The unrelenting internal decor of slate grey, cast concrete and subdued lighting combined with the confronting content to make a memorable impact.

After the museum we went on to the Memorial to the Fallen Shipyard Workers of 1970 (remember Lech Wałęsa & Solidarity?). While WW2 finished for us in 1945, in many ways the Solidarity movement marked the next page in Polish history after the German/Russian then Soviet domination of the preceding decades.

An early morning foray onto the desrted and freshly washed, cobbled streets was worth the sacrificed lie-in as the buildings highly ornamented buildings looked fine.

Gdansk is an impressive city that is managing the touristic load pretty well.

On the pilgrim trail

30 August 2018

Yesterday we saw scallop symbols for the Santiago de Compostela pilgrim route fixed to trees along the road. We have seen many more today and this morning passed two walkers with scallop shells on their rucksacks. It’s a long way from here to there!

We had a couple of hills to climb and then descend with good views across the Vistula Lagoon from the top. Today has mostly been spent on quiet country roads through small villages as we crossed the flat farmland along the Baltic coast. Crucifixes and shrines were numerous, tractors were out reaping and ploughing, old blokes were fishing and riding their bikes.

We had a power supply problem to solve as the plug that worked throughout Scandinavia and Russia is not compatible with Polish power points. We found a small shop that had the solution we needed but it was the first place we have come across that didn’t accept credit cards – and of course we had no zlotys. This was also an issue on the ferry across the Vistula, near Gdansk, but fortunately we had just enough Euros in cash and these were acceptable.

Gdansk has an impressive old centre. We are staying directly opposite the Basilica of St Mary, second biggest brick building in the world after Albi Cathedral.