September memories #4 – Lower Silesia or bust

An early start awaited me today and thanks to this, I got to see the sun rising above Silesia. Such an incredible sight, as the lazy, September sunshine awakes this vast, urban landscape – still under a misty blanket – from its slumber. Silesia reminds me of the German Ruhr District – although heavily urbanized, both places are very green and, at places, resemble more of a forest rather than a cityscape.
Yesterday’s evening party reached far into the next day, so I only got very limited rest. Not a good idea before embarking on a 200 km journey to Wroclaw…

Piotrek has to rush to work, I stay behind with the girls and we share a lazy breakfast. Ola was so kind and prepared me some delicious sandwiches for the road, a very welcome treat for a long day’s ride. I can’t figure out any proper way to express my gratitude.

Full and agitated by a healthy dose of caffeine, I gather my clutter and, shortly after 6 am, hit the road. It only takes a couple of crank revelations to feel something is not right. One of my knees hurts quite bad – not a reason for joy as there’s a lot of revelations yet to be done. Optimistically I reach for some anti-inflammatory cream and give my hurting knee a treating.
My route out of Lower Silesia is even better than what I had yesterday, almost immediately I’m cycling in a forest – it will stick around for quite a bit. On my way I pass or briefly join a lot of local cycling trails.

Cycling through such terrain is pure joy; great surface, close to nature and far from traffic – just my thing.

Shortly before leaving Silesia for good, for the first and last time, I loose my trail. It seems, the track that was clearly visible on satellite maps, in reality is a young, dense forest. From riding I go to pushing and finally end up carrying my bike. To make things worse, somewhere along the bumpy road I’ve lost my drybag and now it’s hidden somewhere in thigh-high grass. Suddenly I remember something giving me a good scare  in the bushes not so long ago, when I trace back my route I find the perpetrator… my own bag!
There’s no way I’m loosing more energy in that forest and decide to follow the nearby rail track. It looks as it’s in service and I don’t like the idea – there’s not much of a shoulder on any of the sides. I jump the wooden sleepers as fast as I can, always eying for the nearest “safe point” and looking behind my shoulder just to make sure there’s no train lurking behind my back.
Just into Opolszczyzna, in one of the forests, I again stumble upon reminders of the past. The Meadow of Death, also known as the Silesian Katyn marks a very dark moment in Polish history. It was here, shortly after World War II, that around 200 Polish partisans and members of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa) were executed by members of the new communist regime. I spend some time, walking around, reading memorial plates and experiencing all of this myself… a gruesome place.

Further down the road I reach Lake Turawskie. I had to add some kilometers to the route just to come here but it was totally worth it. Since starting in the morning I didn’t have the smallest break and a sunny beach seemed like the perfect spot to fix that. Wise decision indeed. I was surprised by the almost seaside like ambience of the place, very relaxing.

After resting, I take a stroll along the beach, before finally going back to my designated route. It leads me straight into a forest, along a track I wouldn’t hesitate calling a forest-motorway. Seven kilometers of straight as an arrow hard pack and of course I’m happy to take advantage of it.

The first truly long tarmac section awaits me just past the city of Opole. I take another break, this time at a roadside bar where I have an alcohol free beer, some coke, nuts and, most importantly, Ola’s sandwiches. I was already beginning to feel a bit famished.
It was a pity to be leaving Opolszczyzna, even more so since it boasted the best cycle trails I’ve seen in Poland so far. It was here where I completely stopped paying attention to my GPS and started following signs along local tracks.
The weather’s just perfect, cows feeding on the pasture get their backs heated by the sun, my legs get exactly the same treatment. Dust from each millimeter cycled shimmering in pale yellow rays.

I’m somehow eased by the oncoming and rather long tarmac section ahead. There’s still a long way ahead of me and making progress on tarmac is just so easy.
I spend around 30 km cycling the main road with not much of an excitement in sight – which is not a bad thing in this case. The road is quiet and there’s only the odd truck or car passing me during this time. In the town of Szydlowice, I stock up for the last time before Wroclaw and make a turn into one of the back roads, leading me to Gredzinskie Forests, part of the Natura 2000 network.

Sun’s hanging low now and being under a tree canopy surely doesn’t improve my vision. The forest feels vast and my GPS leads me along overgrown, forgotten tracks. I make a turn for a wider, better track leading seemingly in the right direction. Complete silence, only broken with my breath, humming chain turning the rear wheel and, occasionally, rustling of startled roe-deers. Idillically. It’s getting late though, I better get some blood flowing in those legs and speed things up.

Finally I leave the forest and enter Nowy Dwor, where I join the main road again. It’s getting completely dark now, I take out my hi-vis vest and turn all my lights on. The front light is definitely one of those “be seen” rather than “see yourself” affairs. The road is pitch black and I really don’t know what’s ahead of me. Probably the reason I welcome every single car on the road. Them passing me is the only moment of good visibility.
To my astonishment, I pass a lot of pedestrians and cyclists without any kind of lighting or reflective wear… plain nil. And that was exactly what I saw, that is until they where just next to me. To make things more exciting I get overtaken by a scooter without a functioning rear light. No comment, no imagination, no future. I definitely feel like Christmas tree among my well hidden friends.
Not being a big fan of cycling in the city, I’ve planned ahead and plotted a route along the Odra channel – this would save me heaps of time and allow for the last off-road section of this day. When on the path, I’m no longer sure if that was a good idea. Black, pitch black, still, dead silent. Even scary a bit. I could have been pushing as well, since to save my face from invisible branches, I cycle with incredible 5 km/h. Getting to the river doesn’t really improve my position. Now it also gets chilly. There’s hope though, on the distant horizon I can see the city lights reflecting in the sky.

While cycling through Wroclaw I have difficulties determining weather I’m tired or not. Pedaling along the cityscape feels somehow awkward after spending the last 14 hours  in forests, on fields and quiet roads. Traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, horns, neon lights. Audio-visual cacophony. An odd but welcome change.
I can’t visit empty handed and so visit my favorite beer shop, the 101 Piw (101 Beers) on Legnicka St. Highly recommended. Lost of beers to choose from, special offers and a kind lady behind the counter who knows her thing. I always end up there when I’m in the city. Everyone should. A mekka.
Having stocked up with 3 bottled essentials I head for Kasia’s and Marcin’s place.

Finish line!

We greet, then enjoy some beer and… that’s about everything I can remember. We’ve talked and I don’t know about what. I’ve told stories I can’t remember. We’ve listened and I don’t recall the tunes. Only thing I remember is, I finally knew… I’ve made it… and I’m definitely tired.




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