From Gdansk to Masuria
Unfortunately, I arrived in Gdansk on a weekend. And in the most beautiful weather. The city, the beaches, and the bike trails were crowded which I didn’t like.
It was a tough decision on a Sunday morning: stay or continue.
In the end I stayed and that was a good decision. There were many sights and museums and I decided to visit the Solidarnosc Museum. It was at the docks, where the first demonstrations happened, and where Lech Walesa started a movement that led to the demise of communism in Europe.
First through the city
I don’t need to add much, it was pretty and everywhere amber was being sold.
The prerequisite Ferris Wheel was there.
The building which was home to the Solidarnosc Museum was fascinating in its own way.
It was made from the same materials as the ships which were built in the docks.
This is where the demonstrations started in 1970. If I had started to travel much earlier, I would have been better in history class, and it would have interested me a lot more.
The history of the strikes, the founding of the labor union Solidarnosc, and the free elections of 1989 were well told through many documentaries and posters.
Poland has had a tough time with its neighbors during the last century.
From the rooftop of the museum there were great views over the area where it all happened.
I had only wanted to visit for a short while but I stayed 2.5 hours.
The museum was probably the quietest place in Gdansk.
At the beach behind the campground it was incredibly crowded.
Some left, others arrived, and I wanted at least to put my feet into the Baltic Sea.
And then back to the peace and quiet of the campground.
The next day I had seen enough and continued. I was mainly on bike trails, especially after the ferry near Swibno.
Great trail through the forest,
To the former concentration camp of Stutthof.
I didn’t just want to cycle past because I had never visited a concentration camp. I was happy that it was quite small.
Afterwards I asked myself, what did I learn? The truth: nothing. I had realized the same with the killing fields in Cambodia and the genocide in Rwanda. As long as people don’t think for themselves but blindly run with the crowd, follow an alpha animal, and can be manipulated, such things will reoccur.
I had many more kilometers to cycle and to mull things over.
The area was crisscrossed by rivers. I cycled in a zigzag between bridges.
These wetlands weren’t suited for stealth camping. In Elblag there was a nice campground right next to the canal.
The “Green Velo” bike trail starts in Elblag.
This trail is a good alternative to the R10 (Baltic Sea Trail), in case one doesn’t want to go to Kaliningrad/Russia (because of visa). The trail leads half way around Poland.
After Elblag the trail followed this bay to the north.
There were a lot of cement tracks but they were good to bike on.
It got more difficult after Rolmicko. I traveled on steep gravel roads, up and down through the forest. There was a bit of logging traffic.
In the middle of the forest there was the first rest place.
With bathrooms and usable bike stands. It was easy to follow Green Velo which was well marked and now there were several other trails as well.
From Frauenburg (Frombork)
I stayed on the road which was also a bike trail. There were no cars and the road was much straighter than the Green Velo. This way I made faster progress and the scenery remained very pretty.
It was rather hilly and there were a lot of ploughed fields which weren’t good for stealth camping. I was surprised to find a small, quiet, and private campground in Pieniezno. Fantastic!
This was the beginning of the Masurian Lake District.
In the beginning I didn’t see much of the lakes. There was still too much forest and fields. I headed for another campground because I was lazy and they were affordable. It no longer existed and flats had been built there instead. I left Kętrzyn and continued.
When I saw the sign for the campground Wolfsschanze I thought this wasn’t a place where I wanted to stay. Hitler and his army had used the dense forest to build bunkers. Between 1941 and 1945 this were Hitler’s headquarters and today one could visit the ruins. I took another hour of history lesson.
In the end I stayed it was quite nice. Today, the bunkers are in the middle of an amazing biotope.
I camped there which had the great advantage that I could visit the area in beautiful morning sunlight at 8:00 am before the busloads of tourists arrived.
This book is a memorial to Graf von Stauffenberg who made an attempt on Hitler’s life at this exact spot.
Most of the buildings were destroyed when Hitler left in 1945 and today one can only visit the ruins.
Vegetation had taken over
Hitler’s bunker was number 13
And was as divided as Germany would be after the war.
Sadly, one couldn’t visit the bunkers.
But I briefly sneaked into several of them.
Unbelievable how cold it was behind these walls which were at least one meter thick.
Nowadays one couldn’t guess how important this place was between 1941 and 1944.
I continued through the forest to Gizycko,
The Lake District now manifested itself through some ponds in the forest.
Right at the start of Gizycko I saw another historical monument
The fortification Boyen had been built by the Germans in the first half of the 19th century. Today, a peaceful bike trail circled around it.
Another attraction blocked my way,
The rotating bridge at the Luczinski Canal. It was open between 12 and 1 pm and I arrived at 12:15. Fortunately there were other bridges nearby.
Once again, I was lucky. In the evening I stayed with my Stan, my first WarmShower host, a little bit outside the city. Usually when I only stay for one night, I offer to pitch my tent, if there’s enough space. Fortunately, the hosts offered me a room, my first night in a house and bed.
I had been watching the dark clouds on the horizon for a while. There was also a terribly cold and strong wind blowing. But everything could get even darker, stronger, and colder. The wind turned into a storm, first it turned to night and then it poured.
My laundry had just started when there was a blackout. I didn’t think I could hang it to air-dry. I was happy to have a roof over my head and later on went to bed.
Next day, electricity had somewhat returned but it took a while longer until the washing machine resumed.
I realized that I probably wouldn’t continue that day and looked forward to a rest day. It was the first day, when my bike didn’t move an inch.
Stan was a beekeeper and already had some jars of his awesome honey in the shed. They needed to have labels attached.
I could make myself useful and labeled 140 jars which was a nice change of pace for me.
I also enjoyed the quietness on Stan’s idyllic farmstead.
My clothes smelled wonderful when I continued my way north on farm roads and small village streets.
I rejoined Green Velo in Banie Mazurkie which was well maintained from here onwards and continued in an almost straight line.
Before Goldap there was a skiing area.
And people claimed this was a flat area.
I spent my last night in Poland at a lake near Goldap.
There was a campground but it was being renovated. I could camp there for next to nothing.
Sadly, the peace and quiet didn’t last. I had already retreated to my tent when the village youth arrived for a party. They were probably drinking, and the shouting continued until the early morning hours. Thanks to my ear plugs, I managed a few hours of sleep before the birds started singing.
When I came out of the tent, I saw the mess. The toilet had been toppled over, there was broken glass and bottles and wooden pallets which wouldn’t catch fire. I’m sure people who came later, weren’t amused.
I had breakfast and covered the last stretch of Poland.
This is the triangle of Poland/Russia (Kaliningrad)/Lithuania.
Russia was fenced in. No one was allowed to enter or leave. The border between Poland and Lithuania was open. It was Europe and there were no controls, I continued on a gravel road in the forest into Lithuania.
I had known that Poland had turned into such a heaven for cyclists. The country was a very pleasant discovery.
Next time, I’ll write about Lithuania.