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

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Where I stayed

Flag of Poland  ,
Saturday, May 22, 2004

I would happily have stayed in Krakow another few days but I do have to keep on the move or I'll never get home. It was a four day, 360km, cycle to Warsaw. I travelled mainly on the smaller roads. The roads in Poland are in a very poor state, cracked, rutted and pot holed. I think the EU will be spending a lot of money on Polish roads, they are possibly worse than those in Ireland 15 to 20 years ago.

The weather was mainly sunny in the morning and dull in the afternoon, but only a couple of hours of rain. I was lucky. On two of the nights I stayed in little hotels and on one night camped in a huge forest near the town of Starachowice.

It was beautiful, mature pine trees with an understorey of oak saplings and the ground covered with a green herb which had little white star shaped flowers. The new oak leaves were still light green. I was woken at about 4am by the dawn chorus and lay there half dozing listen to cuckoos, blackbirds, chaffinches and loads of songs I don't know. Suddenly a loud series of short, gruff barks came from somewhere near the tent. I fairly jumped up. Whatever it was not far away and seemed to be thumping the ground (with its feet?) at the end of each bark. I am used to sleeping in the rain forest and there every noise is scary until you know what it is. I told myself that this must just be a deer. The only animal I would really fear meeting would be a wild boar, but that's pretty unlikely.

The barking faded into the distance and I went back to sleep. I got up at 7am and as I boiled water for tea a hare bounded by about 20m away. It didn't seem to notice me and every few hops stopped for a second before continuing. Naw, it couldn't have been that?

Anyway whatever it was didn't eat me and I've made it to Warsaw safely. This morning I visited the Warsaw History Museum, the main reason being to see the film shown there about Warsaw during the war. Another sad tale of death and destruction. A valiant, but failed, uprising against the German Army in 1944 led to Hitler ordering the destruction of the city. Hundreds of thousands, mostly civilians had died in the street fighting. Building by building, 95% of what had been a beautiful city was blown up and torched, the Soviet army watched both the fighting and the destruction from the other side of the river!

In the hostel when looking at the map of the city, I had commented that the old town was very small. I may have touched a raw nerve, "That's because it was all destroyed in the war and that is all the government could afford to rebuild." the receptionist told me.The citizens meticulously rebuilt quite a large area of the old town and it has been rewarded with a UNESCO listing, so well has it been done.

Last night I went out to watch the UEFA cup Final. After trying a few bars I found one, yes it was an Irish Pub, were the match was on. As a bonus there was live music also, two excellent guitar players who included a few blues songs in their set. They didn't seem to mind that many eyes were focused on the TVs either side of the stage.

I bought a map of the Baltic States today. It is the last map I need to finish the trip. I leave tomorrow (Friday) and hope to be in Vilnius by Monday or Tuesday.

In Warsaw I stayed in the Oki Doki Hostel, being only two months old, its not even in the guide books yet. It is very clean , central and has the highest bunk beds I've ever seen, the top bunk was above my head.

I was able to safely store the bike behind the reception desk, perfect, but it is on the third floor of a fine old building and there is no lift, so I had to carry the bike up. The old town and university district are close by, so sightseeing and cheap food are no problem.
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