Crossing into Poland.

Trip Start Mar 16, 2004
Trip End Jun 13, 2004

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Sunday, May 9, 2004

I was amazed that on Wednesday morning I was fit to cycle. No ill effects from the previous night at all. I was on the road by 11am making for Kutna Hora. The Australian brothers, Matt and Damien had mentioned being there and the "Bone Church" It sounded interesting, was in the right direction and a comfortable distance, so it was an easy decision to make Kutna Hora my destination for the night.

Thanks to Wolf at reception I had an easy route worked out to leave the city. It worked perfectly. The countryside around me was agricultural and the road was in poor condition, narrow and lots of potholes.

I arrived in Kutna Hora and checked into the campsite about 6pm, only 77km today. I splashed out on dinner in a nice restaurant and got dumplings as the side order. They came on a small plate and looked like slices of a pale bread roll. They were very nice, perfect with the fried chicken and veg. Back in the campsite the Czech Rep v USA ice hockey match was on in the bar. The bar was full of local men all seated around tables, they sounded like they were having great craic slagging each other. One guy was going round with a bottle of vodka and a shot glass offering it to everyone, me and a couple of dogs included. Some people knocked one back to his delight. Czech scored twice in the second quarter and each goal was greeted with a huge cheer and waving of arms. I was too tired to watch all the game so I don't actually know how it ended.

Before leaving Kutna Hora next day I visited the famous church. It is a small church built by an order of monks( I,ll have to check which ones) hundreds of years ago. During the plague thousands of victims were buried in the surrounding land. Later some of the graves were dug up to use the land for buildings. The bones were stacked around the church. In 1870 a local wood carver used many of them to decorate the church. There is a bone chandelier, a bone crucifix, a bone coat of arms of a local family, several pyramids of bones. All the designs include numerous skulls. All the unused bones were reburied. I have a short history of the church and when I get home I must post a better summary of it, otherwise it all sounds strange, but its basically meant to show our mortality, closeness to God and the fact that death is not the end. It makes a bit more sense if you visit the church and read the history.

On Thursday another 75km takes me to a really nice campsite about 5km outside Hradec Kralov. Its a large site, but not very busy, in forest and near lakes. After a good day the weather has turned dull and chilly. Once again the campsite bar, real old style, like places in Ireland when I was young, is showing ice hockey. the Czechs seem to be quite big drinkers, the beer is very good anyhow.

I'm looking forward to crossing into Poland when I set off on Friday. The terrain becomes more hilly as I get closer to the border. I am expecting to encounter mountains of 1000m plus. I stop for lunch, banana sandwiches in Nove Mesto. It's a very pretty town in the hills. Within the hour I cross the border at Nachod. As usual I cycled up to the guard post in the car lane, there was no other traffic around anyhow. I got told off by a grumpy Czech border guard and directed to the pedestrian area. Well that's me told off. It was no more exciting than that. I suppose it is from EU country to another. I rounded off the day in Klodzko and booked into a cheap hotel.

The evening news bulletins were all about a Polish reporter and cameraman killed in Iraq. One channel, presumably theirs, sported a black ribbon on the screen and the news reader was solemnly dressed in black.

Saturday 8th May will forever be known by me as the long cycle. I planned my route as normal, deciding on an A (Glubcyce)and a B Prudnik)place to stop. It depends on whether I am making good time or not, how I feel etc, where I stop. It's really something to aim for, not a must get to thing. On Saturday I ended up with plan Z.

When I left Klodzko there was 25km of climbs, the highest went to 660m. No seriously steep gradients though. Then I was back on the plain and cruising at 30km/hr, the stiff breeze was behind me. I passed village after village, arable fields, yellow rape seed and yellowhammers all around. The mountains separating Czeck republic and Poland were in the distance to my right. They looked inviting, but another time.

On the outskirts of one village I saw a traffic cop and police car, cunningly positioned. The cop stood with his back to on coming traffic. Something was wrong, I had to look twice to spot that there was only half a car. Then I realised it was all fake, a painted cutout. It worked well, as I stopped to take a couple of photos, the on coming traffic did slow down as they approached.

I reached Glubczyce about 6pm. The only hotel in town was expensive so on I went. Villages, towns and no other hotel or pension. I was actually now intending to camp out, but flat land, field after arable field revealed no decent spot to erect a tent. There were few trees or bushes near the road. The sun was setting spectacularly behind me and I was really tired now. The road was busy as people headed to the city for a night out, young and fast drivers.

A couple of km out of Raciborz I saw what looked like a forest, great I can sleep there. Well no, it turned out to be a cemetery. Raciborz is quite large and I found signs to several hotels. Luckily Hotel Ragos was reasonable.
As I relaxed before sleeping I watched a voiced over film on the TV. One man did all the voices, including women and children, and you could just hear the English in the background. The film was Citizen Kane, I think. The distance I cycled to get here, 165km. That's a wee bit far for one day.

I had a much shorter run than planned to Oswiecim. the landscape also changed to one of smaller fields, more villages and lots of forest!! That's how it goes.

I arrived at Oswiecim in late afternoon and followed signs for a campsite to the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer. They also operate as a hostel and the garden area doubles as a campsite. It's a very nice place.. The sun was still shining strongly, so I stretched out in front of the tent to rest for a while and let the cycling evaporate from my legs.
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