Friday, 13 May 2016

Day 7 - Leba to Gdansk

Woke up this morning not actually remembering falling asleep last night. Couldn't find my glasses and eventually they turned up down the side of the bed. Worked out i must have gotten into bed and literally fallen asleep instantly. So needless to say I had a good sleep last night :)

A lavish breakfast was served in the elegant dining room with its amazing view out to sea. Huge choice of fruits, yoghurts and pastries so I tried not to go too overboard with my selection.

I was able to get myself a 30 minute massage for later in the morning as i decided to make the best use of the day and the fact that it was only going to cost 100sek. Well the massage turned out to one of those butterfly massages which never really got going, like somebody offering to scratch your back but missing the actual place that needed the scratch. Guess the best thing that came out of the massage was that the massaeur was a keen cyclist and told me the roads out of Leba are as bad as the ones coming in. So if i had followed the route it would have been hard going.

Taxi turned up at 1200 and we loaded the people carrier. The trip took 2.5 hours and we headed roughly the way i would have gone. It became very urban once we got away from the coast and hit the towns and cities built around the railway. Apparently Poland has 2500 railway stations but only 650 are in use, would explain why Leba has a railway but no train service. Looking at the map Poland is a big country. Traffic became very heavy once we got close to Gdansk and the driver joked (or was he hinting) it would be faster if i cycled :)

Got to the ferry terminal only to find it was closed and that PolLines had moved to a new terminal opposite. So the driver took us to the ferry crossing to get over the other side only to find it was closed. Couple of guys sitting next to the ferry (probably the crew) told him that it had been replaced by a tunnel. So off we went looking for the tunnel which we eventually found after having gone the wrong way for about 5km. Once we were the other side it was quite a drive out to the new ferry port.

Taking the taxi waas the best decision i could have made. The ride would have been very stressful and if i had made it to Gdansk in time it would have been a miracle unless i had made a 0600 start and missed breakfast. After the previous day I really didnt want a hard ride and more importantly didnt want to finish my ride stressed and knowing i had cut a corned of Poland off by going directly from Leba to Gdansk. I have made things a bit difficult for myself for next time because i will need to get back to Leba, but at least next time I will have a much healthier respect for the road quality of Poland (and probably all the other baltic states) so I will have a lower expectation of the distance i can cover

Had a couple of hours spare so bought some lunch in a quay side cafe and waited to board. Queued up with about 20 motorcyclists from Sweden, nice to talk to somebody other than hotel receptionists :) Poland doesnt really have English as a second language, its more likely to be German. Becomes obvious when you look at why, every town, village and city I have cycled through ever since crossing the border used to be part of Germany until 1945. Gdansk used to be Danzig, never knew that. I guess the rest of the Baltic will have Russian as a second language.

Once on board I put mu name down on the waiting list for a cabin. As i was one of the first on board I was hopeful, still i found a chair in a corner of the ship that would do in case I didn't get one. Couple of hours later I joined the throng around the reception desk and was allocated a bed in a shared room for 4 people. Suited me fine as i have ear plugs just for this eventuality :) Turned out my companions for the night were a couple of Swedish carpenters from Vallentuna who had decided at the spur of the moment not to stay in Gdansk and fly back but to take the ferry. They were already quite "merry" so i was doubly glad i had my plugs. Treated myself to a meal in the resteraunt before retiring at 2230. My carpenter friends rolled in at 0230 and tried to be as quiet only as drunks can :)

Day 6 - Darlowo to Leba

Little did i know but today was destined to be my last day of cycling though thats not how i had planned it, but i am getting ahead of myself

Breakfast was "late" starting at 0800 but with only 100km or so for the day that didn't phase me. Had by far the best nights sleep as the bed was very comfortable and the room quiet. Breakfast was the normal battle with the German geriatrics who all seem to come at exactly 0800. Maybe their day is all planned out for them and they have no choice. 0800 breakfast, 0900 water aerobics, 1000 water painting class, 1200 lunch etc...

On the road and got a little lost finding the right exit. Turned out to be a dog walkers path along the coast which soon became a really nice paved coastal road. My spirits sawed with the thought that this was what lay ahead for me. Alas it soon shifted to the normal soviet era pre-fab concrete slabs but that at least was a hell of a lot better than what was waiting for me.

Actually the morning and early afternoon were good. Progress had been a little slow in places due to road conditions but it wasnt that bad. At about 1500 i was within 20km or so of finishing for the day so was anticipating a 1630 end to the day. Looking at the maps supplied on big information boards (was going through a national park) the route looked very good as it would hug the coast giving me plenty of chances to enjoy the seaview. They even charge me 6zl for the privalage of entering the park, the lady who sells me the ticket asks do i really want to pay? What a strange question. Of course I think thats what she was asking cause she didnt speak any English. She did sell me 2 bottles of water as I had run out by this stage

Then disaster struck! The bike route (and i swear i didnt miss it) suddenly ended at the base of a massive sand dune. Neatly sign posted it looked the right way and knowing i was so close to finishing i assumed it was just one of those vagaries of the R10. So i pushed my bike up the sand dune and at the top, there was another. Ok, this can't be right, probably just over the next one the path starts? I guess you all can see where this is going. You ever tried pushing a heavily ladden bike through sand up and down dunes? After what seemed an age (but probably only 15 minutes) I see a party of school kids with their teachers coming towards me. I know I will ask them if there is a bike lane ahead. First teacher doesnt speak English, or the second, or the third. However one of the little boys says that he can speak English. Great I think. So he tells me his name is Paul, and i say I am Steve. And thats the limit of his English. Oh well. Of course last teacher doesnt speak Englidsh either. So I leave my bike and just carrying the bags walk to the next dune and the next. And of course all there is to see is dunes and now i relaise that even if there is a way through its going to be sand. So i cut my losses and backtrack. Shattered, shoes full of sand and lost at least an hour or more I eventually make it back to the lady who looks at me with a dead pan expression

So thinking the worst was over for the day I followed the alternative route with high hopes of making up the time. Then the road dead ended so i backtracked looking closely for the turn off only to find it was into a marsh. No kidding i have NEVER cycled on such horrendous surface, even sand would have been preferable as it was almost impossible to make headway. I slipped into stagnant pools and the bike and my wrists took a hammering from the potholes. I was convinced this was a joke road but lo and behold i was following other bike tracks and occassionally an R10 sign

I eventually arrived (after more sand roads) at Leba at 1800 exhausted only to find almost all the hotels closed. Guess people only ever come here if they have to because unless they are in a car its almost bloody impossible. The hotel I found though was a classic. An old castle right on the shore front. Showered, ate some food and literally collapsed into bed and sleep. Not before organising a taxi to Gdansk because today my friends destroyed all my faith in the Polish roads (not that I had much). If they were this bad getting in to Leba what the heck were they like getting out!

Friday, 6 May 2016

Day 5 - Kolobrzeg to Darlowo

This is my 3rd attempt at writing this entry, combination of me pressing wrong buttons and a flaxy Wi-Fi meant that I lost my first 2 attempts

Early breakfast though had to battle with my German geriatric friends to get to the buffet. All very polite and lots of good mornings. Must admit they Germans are coming across as a lot friendlier than the Poles. One good thing about the crowds and the fact it was a buffet meant that I was able to sneak away with a couple of rolls and an apple for later

Decided to skip the massage and get on the road, not a huge day today as I have only 280km left or so and after yesterday I feel like a slower day. Also their is a nice SPA hotel waiting for me at my destination so getting there early would allow me to get the massage there instead

Sunny day so out with the factor 30. Managed to get out of town without getting too lost and found a wonderful bike lane that meandered for miles just behind the dunes. Combination of the weather, the sea, and the fact I was about the only person using the bike lane made for some wonderful cycling

In fact the roads today were a dream compared to yesterday. When they did go offroad and through the forests the sand was mixed with mud or gravel and in places some kind soul had put down wood chips. Made excellent time

The day was mainly coastal roads either right on the sea or slightly inland. Not a huge amount of  resorts and those I came across seemed to be in a state of semi build. The whole of this bike ride in Poland has been through endless building sites and modernisation programs. Money is really being spent here and I can see why with the beaches, the unspoilt nature of the coastline and the sunny weather (though I am sure it can get just as horrible here as anywhere else).

Only time I had to go inland was when I came to a military base (airfields this time) or the spit of land I was on ended in a dead-end

Arrived in Darlowo and was not impressed with what I saw. Industrial town built on a river a few kilometres in-land. So turned left and headed down to the coast where I found a little seaside resort with an excellent hotel. For what you pay for a hostel in Sweden you get a 4* SPA hotel so no hesitation in booking in. Even got myself that massage

Wandered around the resort and had a meal. 120sek for a full Italian meal with spaghetti, wine, bread, salad, desert and coffee. Only disappointment is they didn't know what grappa was, the place was run by local Poles. So I explained and they gave me something local but it was sweet. Oh well it was a nice try :)

Back at the hotel I made the best of the room and chilled. Did some washing so I wouldn't smell like a dead dog tomorrow. Breakfast doesn't start to 0800 so going to make the best of the chance to relax

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Day 4 - Swinoujscie to Kolobrzeg

Today was a mixture of experiences but lets start from the very beginning

Good nights sleep in what was a lovely room. Saw that the hotel had a large area set out for a breakfast buffet so I made no effort to get food the evening before. Got down at 0700 only to find that the breakfast wasn't a buffet but something i had to order. Chose the scrambled eggs which dutifully arrived along with loads of little things like fruit salad, a pastry, a plate of cheese and cold meats and some bread. Made myself a roll and stuck it in my pocket but it wasn't much

Packed and caught the local ferry across to the other side of the city and easily found the bike route. This time i decided to use the route planner on Google maps as my previous attempts of just following the map hadn't been very successful. What a difference it made

The route that Google chose for me at times followed R10 which is a route across the north of Poland. I suspect its part of Eurovelo 10 which is the route around the Baltic. It avoided all the big roads and had me going through endless national parks, woods, country lanes and farm land. A real joy

Only things that spoiled it all was the wind and the roads.

The winds were blowing from the North so every time i had to head that way I almost stopped. At one point I had a 30 minute stretch that seemed to last forever

The roads were something else! I thought the roads in Ireland were bad and don't get me started on some of the forest roads in Northern Sweden. Polish roads are shocking. A mixture of pre-fabricated soviet era military and agricultural were actually some of the best, at least they were consistent with their bumps. Then there were roads that were more potholes and patches than actual road. However I reserve my biggest criticism for the sand covered roads! They were absolutely horrendous!

The countryside was beautiful especially the national parks. They seemed timeless with the trees and the leaves lying on the ground. Occasionally the roads were cobbled and this is in the middle of nowhere. It had me thinking to all the effort it must have taken, even as i cursed them, of all those people who had built them by hand probably a couple of hundred years ago.

Then I would pop out of a park and find myself in a small slightly off season seaside village. Half open, half closed, with a mixture of new construction and derelict buildings. Most strange, looked like ne money flowing in to replace all the old out of style holiday apartments and chalets. It was confusing as you couldn't really understand what is really going on

Then if it wasn't the seaside villages or national parks it was old and new military bases. Large areas were fenced off but you got glimpses of various buildings and vehicles some old, a few new and a lot derelict

Arrived in Kolobrzeg at the end of a long day with a lousy average speed of barely 13kph.

Checked in at the first decent hotel and ate in the restaurant. Was great until 2 coach loads of German geriatrics turned up for the buffet :) Never mind they were all well behaved :)

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Day 3 - Griefswald to Swinoujscie

When you plan these trips you really have no idea what to expect.  I was really expecting a lot out of yesterday's ride around  Rugen and I must admit I was very disappointed probably because I changed the route and went a more direct way when I say the lack of bike lanes and the distance involved

So today was a great surprise and it was by far the best days cycling so far. An early start found me on the road by 0730 and I quickly got into my stride. Didnt get lost leaving the city and was able to follow the signs. However I soon had to make a decision, bike path said 39km, road said 15km. 

Hmm, so I took the road hoping it would be quiet which it was. A fantastic ride through rolling farmland which quickly bought me to the turn of for Peenemunde which wasn't sign posted.

Another great ride out to the old rocket research center that saw the Germans invent the V1 and V2 rockets. The V1 became the but bombs that terrorised London in 1944. The V2 of course also was used in anger but the technology used to invent it was put to much better use when the scientists were bought to America to work on the appollo program

Much of the site is still there either in use, as a museum,  or slowly rotting in the woods. Sad to think they started building it all in 1936 years before the war started knowing that it would be needed if a war came about. Between Prora and Peenemunde I've had enough if sightseeing old war monuments.

The ride from Peenemunde to Poland was INCREDIBLE

It hugged the coast along a series of wooded bike routes that linked all the pretty, clean, and beautiful seaside towns. Was an absolute delight

Only cloud was I dropped my phone so in a panic I had to backtrack to where I last used it scanning the ground trying to see it. With so many people using the bike route the chance of it not being picked up was incredibly slim so when I backtracked and didn't find it I was sure somebody had picked it up 

So with a heavy heart I carried on the ride and then within about 100m of where I had discovered I had dropped it I found it lying on the side of the path buried in leaves! Was planning an upgrade but not this way

Made it safely to Poland and found an excellent hotel just over the border. I have 4 more days to do 400 km so need to rush it

Monday, 2 May 2016

Day 2 - Stralsund to Griefswald via Rugen

Shocking wireless connection so trying the official Blogger app on my phone so I can write today's entry

Slept well though woke early.  Good breakfast and was able to sneak out with a couple of rolls and some fruit. Some places get really antsy if you do this so I have learnt to goto breakfast with big pockets

On the road by 0800 and the route was easy enough at least until I got over the bridge. Followed the official sign posts for the first town of Rambin and ended up in a field and a deadend. Was so upset as the roads had been horrendous, some sort of soviet era prefab road that might have been great for a truck or tractor but where he'll for a bike. Backtracked trying to find where I had gone wrong but could find nothing

Followed the bike path which hugged the road and made good time.  Decided to skip the ferry at Wittow as it looked too far and besides couldn't see any signs for it

Bike path vanished and ended up on a busy road. Really need a map as a smartphone is hard to use in bright sunlight. Found my way to Prora but wasn't easy and bike lanes almost non existent.  roads were really bad in places

Afternoon ride was a lot better though still no bike roads and endless cobbles!  Nightmare.

One special place of note in the afternoon was Putbus. Check it out on wiki as it was quite something

Made it to Griefswald and found a decent hotel. Did my washing and determined to study the route for tomorrow as I'm fed up getting lost!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Day 1 - Rostock to Stralsund

Getting back to Rostock was a lot easier than i thought it would be but boring as hell. A colleague at work suggested an alternative to catching a bus all the way and suggested i catch a bus to Kalmar and then take the train from there as they allow bikes. Was a good idea as it meant 6 hours on the bus instead of 13 and placed me in Trelleborg early enough to get something to eat and catch the earlier ferry

The ferry trip over was uneventful but i didnt get a great sleep as the walls were paper thin and the guy next door really snored! Still i got enough and was up and about by 0430 in time to get a bit of fresh air, explore the ferry a bit (stepping over the sleeping truck drivers in the corridors). Breakfast was at 0530 and we docked at just before 0630 so it was an early start

First problem was trying to get a reliable internet connection. Took me 30 minutes before i finally was registered on my mobile and able to get my maps. After that i found my first road and was able to find my way out of the harbor without getting too lost

Thought i was going to spend the day following a minor road but the bike paths were excellent and took me through woods and seaside villages. Then it followed the coast just behind the dunes before picking up a disused railway line that took me all the way to Barth.

Amazing scenery and weather

The afternoon ride was a little tougher as i was tired both mentally and physically. The bike path wandered through more glorious countryside and when i reached Stralsund i decided enough was enough and called it a day at only 1330.

Found a clean hotel, had a shower and then explored the old town. Had a meal and then headed back to the hotel to chill and grab an early night