Cycling Into Poland: Where Things Start to Get Interesting
Updated: Apr 21
I spent almost two weeks in Berlin waiting on a pair of glasses to be sent to me. I socialised and did the usual sightseeing around Berlin. I made use of workaway, socialised with a bunch from couchsurfing, and involved myself in a permaculture garden start up. The owner of the permaculture garden had a hard time mowing, apparently it broke her heart to think of all the bugs being killed. I patiently listened to her explain this heartbreak, then offered to do the mowing, problem solved.
When leaving Berlin I decided I should put more effort into wild camping, as I’d paid for many campsites through Germany and needed to keep costs down. The first night out of Berlin I found a little pine forest by a canal path, it seemed a pretty decent spot.
Until I woke up after scratching at a troublesome bite realising it was a tick, I then progressively pulled six ticks off me throughout the day. When preparing for this trip I had been advised to get the tick-borne encephalitis vaccine, but the price tag put me off. I decided I could just be careful and take other precautions. Those precautions went well, clearly. I have been more cautious since then.
I crossed into Poland, this was yet another uneventful EU border but I do always find it exciting to cycle into another country. There’s always differences to adapt to, the usual grocery purchases aren’t as readily available or bakeries are less frequent.
I was desperately in need of some food and stopped at a little grocery store. I spent a while staring at a horrendously overpriced tin of soup, I had thought Poland was supposed to be cheaper than Germany. 7 Euro for a tin of soup and what’s this weird symbol anyway, I thought. I had a light bulb moment, Poland doesn’t use the Euro oops. Lucky for me I was able to pay with card because I only had euros in my wallet.
It’s hard getting photos of yourself when solo touring.
I kept up the wild camping practice in Poland, which was more or less essential as there was nowhere to stay in the south-west corner of Poland. This area seemed relatively unpopulated and there were plenty of pine forests where I could find a track to disappear along and camp amongst the trees.
I thought I’d found a great spot one evening, got set up, relaxed, cleaned my bike chain, made dinner, and got ready for bed. The sun was setting pretty late at this time of year so I’d often read a little in my sleeping bag before bed. I heard some rustling outside the tent but just assumed it was a deer or something and didn’t think anything of it.
All of a sudden I hear a distinctive deep grunting only a few metres from my tent. There was a bunch of wild boar outside my tent, lots of them. I had an incident with wild pigs on a camping trip in Australia many years ago and I’m not particularly fond of them. I had been texting a friend in London whilst silently panicking, the nonchalent reply I got from her was ‘oooh boar really, how cool?! I’ve never seen wild boar before’, nope, not cool right now.
After a minute or so I regained myself and very bravely said ‘go away pigs, off you go now’, like a grumpy old lady. This worked and I jumped out of my tent and grabbed my cooking
pots to keep beside my sleeping bag so I could bang on them if the pigs came back.
Unfortunately, the pigs continued to visit my tent throughout the night so I got a fairly patchy sleep. As I was packing up my tent the following morning, I heard some grunting nearby so I didn’t stick around and had breakfast down the road. I have a feeling my brilliant campsite was unknowingly close to a boar ‘nest’ and I’d disturbed them.
About a kilometre down the road, there were tell-tale signs that boar were active in the area – electric tape around all the crop fields. Up until this point, I’d had no problems with wildlife, so I needed to be more aware of where I cooked and camped in the future. I was a little unsettled about wild camping the next night, so I decided to find a hostel. It was time for a shower anyhow.
A sure sign there are pigs about.
One of the successful more wild camp sites.
On the way to Glogow my navigation app started showing weakness and I found myself cycling on ‘roads’ that couldn’t possibly have been roads and were more like sandy forestry trails. The sand became so deep I ended up pushing for several hours. Nice quiet routes sure but I’d have to scrutinize the recommended routes in the future.
After a slow and rather frustrating day, I made it to Glogow. Glogow is not in any way on the tourist trail in Poland and I had a bit of trouble finding the hostel, which was on the second floor of a strange shopping complex.
The hostel owner insisted I bring my bike into the reception (always a relief) and that her husband could carry it up the stairs for me. The only way to carry my bike is unloaded or with two people, she ain’t light. But try telling a tough Polish man that something is too heavy.
I rushed to the bike and tried to explain that I’d need to take some bags off first before he could carry it, but he waved me away in a ‘strong Polish man will carry’ kind of way. I watched him bend his knees and, nothing (I think his eyes popped out of his head). He wouldn’t take no for an answer but I managed to get two panniers off before he heaved the bike and the rest of the panniers up the staircase. He flashed his wife an unhappy look, as if to say ‘don’t volunteer me to carry things in future’.
The hostel appeared empty, which I was pretty enthusiastic about. Deciding to have a break from cooking I wandered down the road to grab some takeaway. Later that night I bumped into a man in the hallway who as it turns out had seen me at the takeaway shop. After the usual introductions he says to me incredulously ‘but, what are you doing here, in Poland?’ and I explained I’m cycling and gestured to my bike in the reception. ‘Ohhh we were wondering whose bike that was, because I needed a pump for something’ he says pointing at my bike pump attached to the frame, ‘but…’ gesturing at the security camera in the corner of the room.
Poland certainly has honest thieves, I made a mental note to remove everything from my bike and lock it. No hard feelings though, his English was great and we had an interesting chat about the current state of Poland’s economy and employee rights.
Yes, things were definitely starting to get interesting in this part of Europe.