Monday, December 2, 2013

The End

Because some things have to be completed, I have decided to put an end this blog, by finally posting the final, "wrap-up" post.


Where did we last meet? Let's roll back to the day when I had a super late breakfast at the photographer's home in Warsaw. As said in that post, we had a night BBQ, so naturally I slept in. That day, when I finally packed my things and was ready to roll, I left my hosts apartment and was on my way to a near-by city called Wyszkow. I had the last look at the capital city of Poland. I got a bit lost on as I was trying to find the right way out of the city, but then finally I saw a sign that informed me that I have left Warsaw. For most part of the day I went along a highway, there was a special smaller road for bikers, slower cars, local buses, etc. But at times this road was very confusing as it would trail off when ever the highway had a exit. So often I was not very sure of the right way to go. Besides, now I was no longer moving straight East, so following directions based on the sun was a bit trickier, it all depended on the actual time.

As any other day, I passes other cyclers, and other cyclers passes me. But it is important to note this one guy (well man, not guy, I think he was about 50), he had a really cool, personalized bicycle. He also had a radio, the station he had on played good oldies. (Now that I come to think of it, it probably was a music player, not radio that was playing.) He was moving at a very constant pace, not really racing anywhere, and not going real slow either. I could tell by his clothes that he is out for a cycling trip. Because i don't go at same pace, (sometimes I feel like going real fast, just pushing as much as I can, and other times I just want to go slow and relax), we passed each other some times. After having passed each other several times we both finally smiled (laughed) at each other. We confirmed that we don't speak a common language. He knew none English, and I spoke zero Polish. He tried Russian, even German. So we failed miserably at communicating. However, somehow we determined that he goes the same direction as me, so we cycled along side each other. We tried talking several times, as we both were curious about each other stories, but that didn't work out so well. He wanted to stop at McDonalds, so I stopped too and watched his bike when he went in. And he got two colas, one for me. :) It was really sweet of him. As I understood he had gone to Warsaw the previous day, and now he was on his way home. He said that he used to cycle a lot more when he was younger. We continued our journey, but when we got closer to my destination for that day he showed me the right way and turned off to go elsewhere. I was very glad to have met him, otherwise I might have gotten lost a few times. I stopped in some bus stop for a quick snack, and then I completed the last bit of the cycling trip for that day.

Warsaw - Wyszkow distance: 60 km

My host in Wyszkow: this guy had a brand new profile on Couch Surfing, no pictures, no description, no references. You might wonder why I went along with it. Well this guy is a friend of some other guy to whom I sent a couch request. This other guy had a brilliant profile, but he denied my couchrequest because he wasn't in city that day, but he told me that his friend, a really great guy has always wanted to try CS, especially since apparently they don't get many people travelling to their city. And well, my gut said it should be fine, and it was! Since I was this guys first guests via CS, he was extremely nice, he cooked me dinner, we talked about life. It was sad to hear about some bad things that had happened in his life, but I found it brave of him to stay positive.
In the morning he had made some sandwiches for me, and the left over ones he packed for me for the road. :) Great guy.

I departed relatively early because my host had to attend something with his daughter. I was again pleased with the sunny weather (Gosh, it so hard to pin-point to that now, in winter!!!!). I went to a store to buy some more food for the road, and chocolate for my next host, and then I was out of the small city. For half of the way I cycled along the same road as the previous day. There again was a smaller road along the bigger one (the original highway connects Warsaw and Bialystok). I went along this until a city called Ostrow Mazowiecka, right before actually entering this city I turned off the road (actually I turned off a bit too early, but it was still good, I just went through some private home area of the city). And then, again, I was on a smaller road on my way to Lomza. There were only two lines (one each direction), and no place for me really, but luckily the traffic wasn't too crazy for most of the way, so it was not too stressful. Along the way I contacted my host to let him know how far along I am, and so he would know my approximate arrival time. Although the way to Lomza was more or less simple, I was pretty tired when I finally arrived to my hosts place.

Wyszkow - Lomza distance cycled: 90 km

My host was an ERASMUS student in Lomza and was due to leave Poland in a couple of weeks. He was renting a room in some family home in the city. He shared the second floor with another person. It happened to be his birthday (shame on me for not noticing that when I was checking his profile on CS!), but luckily at least he said the chocolate I got for him was his favourite. We walked about the city, there wasn't really too much to see though. We went back to his place and had a small birthday party for him. Stayed up all night talking about travelling, turned out he had been to Riga, and I was glad to hear that he really likes Latvia. The following day, June 18, I decided to rest a whole day, and was lucky that my host was ok with hosting me for one more night. During this day, we went to see more of the city, and I also had a quick look at my bike so it's in a decent condition for the rest of the trip. The next day, Wednesday, I was well rested and ready to roll to my last stop in Poland - Elk.

To be honest, I don't remember much of this day. There is only one picture I have, so I have nothing to go on, and my memory is very shady, as it is hard to remember what happened each day. I do recall that my host walked me to the centre of the city, and pointed the direction where I should go, claiming that that's the way where the bus went when he went to Lithuania. The road went well downhill, so it was relaxing regardless of the busy traffic. The way to Elk was very fragmented, there was no one clear big road, so I just tried to get to the next bigger city, and so all the way to Elk. I recall that there were very poor signs, and it was confusing at times, to turn left, or right. The first half, even more was easier, but once I got closer to my destination, i tried to follow some smaller roads, that had some cycling signs, but they were inconsistent, and missing in some places.

Distance from Lomza to Elk: 90 km

My hosts in Elk were a young couple, who used to play in a band together, but now they had just had a baby born a few month ago. Marta, the mother, was a stay-at-home mum. It was really cool to know that we shared names, she also said to have interest in theatre. They gifted me a CD of their former band. The songs are really nice, though in Polish, but my host said that he wrote the lyrics, and that he doesn't write about love, like everyone else, but about friends and friendships. We went put for a walk, I came to really like the city, it had amazing, big lake, and the city was very green, many parks. It was definitely my favourite city in Poland that I had visited during my trip.

In the morning I was off to cross the next border. I was lucky to find a host not too far from the border in Lithuania in Kalvarija. This was one of those cases where I went to a city only because I found a host. There aren't many big cities in Lithuania, and hence less available hosts. The way to Lithuania was relaxing even though I made an accidental de-tour by turning the wrong way, over calculated how much I need to keep to the left. But the small roads and county side was pretty. I met a few cows on my way (literally). And bought ice cream in some small bus-shop place. I smiled at the people staring at me, probably wonder who I was and where I'm going. I first go to city Suwalki, and then I joined the main road that was going to the border. I was very upset that the road was busy with trucks. Very scary riding at the edge of the road while crazy truck-drivers drive real close by, sometimes horning at me. But I was really glad when I finally reached the border, though afterwards the road was still very busy. Only a small distance was left. When I followed the signs to get off the right exit, i was please to find out that the street I need is right near by. Of course the city was (and still is) small, but still. Then I had a less pleasant surprise when I realized that the houses don't have numbers on them. So I tried asking people, but they didn't understand. Even when I showed the address in writing, they didn't want to help. But then I asked a cute guy, and he knew English, he laughed at my question, because i guess everyone just knows which house is which. But he politely told me which house it the one I'm looking for.

Distance cycled from Elk to Kalvarija: 110 km.

My host was a very interesting man, his flat was extremely minimalist, with literally only the things one most absolutely needs. He cooked food for me, and we talked a lot about pretty much everything. It was very interesting, he had innovative ideas I had not heard before.

The next day I had to get to Kaunas. My host left for work, and told me to just close the door as I leave. So I had a long, lazy morning, not very proud or happy for this, as I had to leave timely because I wanted to be able to see Kaunas a bit. Well, the start of the day was lazy, and so was the rest of the day. It was hard to keep going for a longer time and I fund myself stopping and resting more times then most days. As I got closer to Kaunas, the traffic diluted to less trucks, but actually more cars overall, but the road was wide and most of the way I had enough safe place on the road. I was happy that my hosts place was on the north side of the city. I was tired, and at least I didn't have to go through a busy city centre. My host was a very smart girl (and her boyfriend). Her boyfriend got us pizza and we stayed outside on her roof/terrace enjoyed the night sky and travel talks. She had a very cute and nosy dog, who was full of love! :)

Kalvarija - Kaunas: 80 km.

The next morning I went through the city, took a quick look at what seemed to be some of the important tourist things, including the castle. Then I went across the bridge over to start my way to Panevezys. About two blocks later I was having some bike troubles. I stopped to see what was upsetting my bicycle only to find out that the front tire was flat. This was very bad timing, as I had spent a lot of the day in Kunas, and I had a very long distance to go that day. But so I was determined to find a bike shop where I could get the inner tube changed. After checking some false locations that my phone told me, I asked some locals if they knew any bike shop, and finally I found one. There I gave them the spare tube I had with me, and decided to ask them to change the tire as well (it was very used, and that's why it went flat in the first place). So they changed it all very promptly and soon I was back on the road! :)
It wasn't very easy to get out of the city, to find the best road to get to the main road going to Panevezys, but I managed. I followed the road up until the roundabout, well, something like a roundabout, and then I turned off towards the west side of the city where my host was staying.

Kaunas - Panevezys: 110 km

I stayed in a flat where a bunch of volunteers were staying. There was four of them, girl from Georgia (my host), girl from France, girl from Austria, and a guy from Turkey. They all were in Panevezys through European Volunteer Service volunteering with disabled people. They were actually having a sort of good-bye party as their term was over in a week, and most of them were leaving Lithuania in the upcoming week. It was very nice, relaxing evening, which later turned out to be the last one of this trip.

The following day, June 22nd, a Saturday, I begun my way to the last border of the trip. I followed the main road E67. I had booked a room in a guest house in Latvia for the night of the 22nd. And as I was on my way towards the border I had mixed feeling about my trip. It was about to be over, and I didn't want it to be over, and I was going to go to Rundles Palace (the guest house was near by). Up until just a little in Latvia, I figured that it is smarter to get to Riga that very day. When I crossed the border, I got myself a SIM card for the phone in the first gas station I saw. As I was outside fixing my phone, a random old man came up to me and asked where I was headed, but he didn't really care, I think. He had a bouquet of flowers with him, he took one flower out of it and gave it to me. :) He took the flowers to the lady working in the gas station, they chatted for some time, and when he came out he gave me a chocolate bar and wished me a good ride. I should also note that it was very lovely to be in Latvia, to be able to say Paldies!  I was home!

Panevezys - Bauska: 90 km

Then I decided to make a radical move. I figured that I don't want to arrive at home on the 23rd of June, because, let's face it, in Latvia no one is home on the 23rd of June, not if you live in the city. And I didn't have any house keys.

Ah, it's funny how the the entire month I had no HOME keys, only keys to my lock for the bicycle, that was all I had! And it was an amazing feeling to not be tied to one place.

Anywho, I decided to get to Bauska and then take a bus from Bauska to Riga. And that was it! The end, the best time of my life (so far) was over.


I felt like this needed to be finished, and there it is.
Congrats if you managed to read this long, long post.
Also, thanks to all those who tuned in in summer when I was on the road.


Overall, I really did have an amazing adventure and going on this trip has been the best choice I have ever made. It was a perfect trip, with zero regrets, lovely weather, helpful people, self exploration, challenges, laughter and even some tears, it was one of a kind. 



See you all next summer, when maybe I'll have new adventures to share.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More Lime

Today I will be going to Lithuania.

I shall post about my last couple days later, when I have more time. :P

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Battle

I feel like I make it sound like the trip is all rainbows and butterflies. It is in general an amazing experience, but every day is a battle. Every hill is a challenge, and every kilometre takes effort to complete. It takes a lot of physical and mental strength to keep going every day. Every day I have moments when I feel like it's tough, the sun is burns, traffic gets too dangerous, bag is too heavy, it gets hard to find accommodation for the day, I get lost, I can't decide which way to go, difficulties to communicate to others due to language barrier... The list goes on and on, there are countless challenges that I am forced to face every day. Plus there is always the safety factor - am I safe where I am at, will I be safe at the destination, are my things safe, and will my bike be safe? Constant questions and doubts are going through my mind all the time.
Yes, I am on a holiday, but it is not the relaxing type of holiday. It's action!
Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining, I'm just pointing it out that it is not always as easy as it seems.

Yesterday I had a short trip to Warsaw. On the way I also passed through the city where Chopin was born -  ┼╗elazowa Wola. I stopped there to have an ice cream, that's all. :D
The trip to Warsaw was fairly simple. I went on a road that wasn't too busy most of the time. When I got closer to the destination, I used the cycling paths or the side walks. One funny thing happened though. I was about half way between Sochaczew and Warsaw, and police decided to stop me. They rode at my side and said something in Polish, then stopped. I assumed they wanted me to stop, so I did. The two officers got out of their car and came up to me and one of them (a rather handsome fella :D) started speaking Polish.
-Something in Polish.
-Sorry, I don't speak Polish.
-You don't speak Polish?
-No.
-Do you speak English?
-Yes, I do understand English.
-Where are you from?
-Latvia.
-Latvia?
-Yes.
-Do you have any ID?
-Yes. (Found my passport and gave it to him)
-Rituma Marta. Ok. Where do you live in Poland?
-I don't. I'm just passing by.
-Ahh, OK.
-What seems to be the problem?
-(He then inspects how my bag is placed on the back rack and tells something to the other officer) Hmmm, ok, nothing.

And then I got my ID back and they just let me go. It was a very strange encounter.
I found my host's flat fairly soon. It was early evening when I arrived. He made some pasta. Then he showed me the way to the city. I cycled about quite a bit. Stopped at the Citadel and enjoyed some time swinging on swings. This was great as I hadn't been on swings for a very long time. Felt like a child again.
In the city I met with a person from Couch Surfing. He showed me around a bit, and then we went for a couple of beers. He did a similar journey to mine two years back; cycled from Poland to England.
When I got back to my host's studio apartment he and some of his friends were about to have a midnight BBQ. So I joined them, it turned out to be a very fun night. :D

I got some nice breakfast (at lunch time, haha). And now I shall continue my journey. I have about 60 km to cycle today, so not too far.

Distance: 65 km


Friday, June 14, 2013

Long Story

Where to start?
So on the 10th of June I cycled from Zbaszyn to Poznan. That was roughly 80 km, but I got lost along the way a bit. I departed from the Zb...something city after noon, and was in Poznan fairly late. The route I took was Zbaszyn - Nowy Tomysl - Michorzewo - Buk - Wieckowice - Poznan. Somewhere before Buk I got lost, because originally I did not plan on passing through this city.
That night I stayed at a couch surfing host's dorm. She was a student at an university in Poznan. I was very glad she took me in, as it is exam time, and many other students declined my couch requests due to exams. I liked talking to her as she had interesting stories to tell about her travels.

Distance: 85 km

The following morning my host left to go to university and I left for Konin. It was around 10 in the morning, if I remember correctly. I believe I was about 5km into my journey when my bicycle started to make very scary noises, it was cracking, and it was very difficult to keep pedalling. I decided that there is no way I can cycle like this more than 100 km, distance to Konin. So I tried fixing my bike, but I realized the back wheel was turning with it's screw. I failed to fix it. Then a man, I'll call him Superman, came to rescue me. He helped me to carry the bicycle to a bike-shop that was about 1 km away. The bike-shop worker found out that the back wheel  is not usable, so he had to change the wheel, tire, chain, and back chain disk.
At fist the two men at the shop said that they can get it fixed by tomorrow (the following day). This, of course, was not an option for me, so I asked if there is anyway they could do it today, not just today, but right away. And finally they were kind enough to fix it within two hours. While they were fixing it, Superman took me to his friend's place, who lived near by. There we had some coffee, and the nice woman even gave me delicious lunch. With the help of this woman's son, I was able to tell my Superman that it is too late for me to cycle to Konin, and that I would like to take a train to there. We picked up my bike, and then he cycled with me to the station and helped me to get a ticket. This man was just amazing! I can't believe how lucky I was that he stopped to help me. I got his name and address, so I think I will send him a superman t-shirt when I'm done with my journey.
I arrived in Konin, then found my hosts place. For that night I stayed with a couple who have travelled a lot, it was nice to hear about their adventures, I also learned a lot new about Poland.
Then the following morning I was off to Kutno.


I left Konin early, my bike was good and rolling, and I was well rested. I took the route 92, so it was easy to get to my next stop. No wondering about, or getting lost. The weather still was good, and the road was wide, so I didn't have to worry about all the cars. It was abut 90 km ride. I arrived there earlier than I thought I would. I met up with my host and he took me to his spacious apartment that was very close by. He cooked a lovely dinner. We enjoyed each other's company over couple glasses of wine. It was very interesting to talk to my host as he had very solid ideas and thoughts about life and future, and people. We had some good laughs.

Distance: 90 km


The following morning, Thursday, 13th of June, due to my hosts schedule we departed early. He went to work, and I was off to a city not too far away called Sochacew. Again, I chose the easy 92 route, which then turned into route 2, and it lead me right to the city. It was not far away, and I was cycling fairly fast, so I was good on my way by mid day. I stopped couple of times along the way, enjoyed the weather, and had a good lunch in one bar/restaurant on the way. I found my hosts home easy, and before arriving I got myself a big three-scoop ice cream! Just what I needed in the heat. My host was very hospitable, fed me nice dinner, and we had a short chat about this-and-that.

Distance:  70 km


Today I am going to Warsaw, that's roughly 60 km, but I can't know for sure, since I don't know where my next host lives. :D

PEACE OUT!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Welcome to Poland - Home of Good Food

My journey continues to bring great experience! Yesterday I cycled from Selecin to Zbaszyn. The Polish names still surprise me! How can there be so many consonants in a row. It is very hard to even write things down, not to mention pronouncing them. To be honest, I don't even try! In my head it is Zb...something city. On my way I accidentally took two de-tours, this added about 10 km to my day's trip, so not too bad. The weather started off being very hot! But as I went East, it got a cloudier, still very warm, but it was bearable. I left Sulecin very late, my host's mother made me dinner. When I came to thinking about it, it was my first warm meal in several day time. The food was great! FULL of flavour, loving it. And when I arrived to Zbaszyn my host also gave me warm dinner, and again, the food was very good! My host is a very nice girl, she lives with her husband and two little boys. She is a very nice girl, with a kind heart!
I will be leaving, hopefully soon, since I don't want to arrive to Poznan too late.

The map of Poland that I purchased in Germany is very poor. It has only major roads, which does no good for me, as it is better to travel along the smaller roads. Now I often rely on GPS on my phone.
Good quality roads are great for speed, however, cars use this to go fast as well, so such roads are not very safe. The older, bad roads can be literally a pain in the bum, but at least I know that cars will not go fast, so it feels a lot safer. Poland runs short on cycling routes. They are present in some cities, but between cities, not really. There are some routes that are marked as cycling routes, but here they don't have may signs as to where the paths go.

Anyway. I should get ready for the days trip. ;)

Distance: 85 km



P.S. It takes a long time to upload pictures, that's why there are very few up. Sorry about that. I know I am several days behind, deal with it. :P haha BYE now.