Return to Krakow - Krakow to Salzburg 1999 - CycleBlaze

August 26, 1999

Return to Krakow

Our plan for the day was to reserve a room at the other Novy Targ hotel for Friday night and then bike to Kroscienko, a village thirty miles east on the Dunajec.  We were going to use one day for hiking in the Pienninys and one on the river raft trip.  At the end we would return to Novy Targ as our departure point for the ride south to Kezmarok, Slovakia.

We failed to find a cafe for breakfast, and after searching fruitlessly for a better option settled on a bread roll sitting on the wall outside the bus station.  Thus nourished we started out for Kroscienko, passing first through the outskirts at the east end of town.  Along the way we paused to explore Novy Targ’s one great claim to fame - its Thursday morning market, billed as the largest of its kind in southern Poland.

Based on our experience, its claim as the largest street market could easily be correct.  It is an immense, bewildering affair, swallowing at least ten city blocks with unending rows of stalls.  Every imaginable type of item is available, including car tires and washing machines.  It was an overwhelming scene, and we eventually gave up and moved on. 

From the map, the 30 km to Kroscienko were representative of the typical roads we would follow for the next five or six days into Northern Hungary.  For no very bright reason, I had envisioned them as lightly traveled peaceful byways that would carry us through an exotic part of Europe.  It was thus very disappointing to say the least to discover that they felt no safer than yesterday’s road into Novy Targ.  

The countryside became progressively more scenic as we followed the Dunajec into the Carpathians.  The High Tatras across the border grew larger on the southern horizon as we biked along.  Unfortunately we were unable to appreciate this though, concentrating intently on steering a straight line with cars speeding past our shoulder with little room to spare.

East of Novy Targ, overlooking Czorsztyn Lake, created by the damming of the Dunajec River. I think. I remember this country along the Dunajec being so beautiful and was sorry to have to turn back. It’s a shame no other photos from then remain but in my mind.
Heart 0 Comment 0

In the face of this discouragement, we stopped to rest in a field by the side of the room and formed a new plan - to bike back to Novy Targ and attempt to catch a train to Vienna, thus abandoning our plan to cycle through Eastern Europe at all.  This experience feels like a defining moment for me - it has drawn a smaller circle around the area in which cycle touring feels safe and rewarding.

Somewhat surprisingly, we had little difficulty ticketing ourselves and our bicycles for Krakow - once we had retraced fifteen busy kilometers back to town and stumbled around until we finally found the station.  We waited only about an hour for the train to arrive and then settled in for a slow, meandering, leisurely ride back to Krakow, arriving at about 5:30.  The ride was interesting, although slow.  We rode with our bikes in the space immediately behind the engine room, so we were an audience for the frequent comings and goings of the crew.  At least four times there were either crew shifts or reversals of direction with control reverting to the other end of the train; so there was frequent activity.

We arrived in Krakow at the wrong train station, about six km south of the center.  We were pleased to find that a train to Vienna did exist, but departed only from the central station.  So, we set off for town, after first buying a new map of the city - annoyingly, I had thrown away the one we arrived with after leaving the city the day before.  Once we turned back and onto the right direction after biking two km away from the city, we were surprised to find again that Krakow itself is a quite easy city to bike in.

Shortly past 6 we had stopped to ponder the best way to the station which stood directly across a major boulevard when we were surprised by an elderly man asking if we needed assistance.  He offered to help us cross the road and also to let us stay in one of his pensions for the night for 100 zlotys.  This was great good fortune for us - I’d been worried about finding a room this late at night, and he also consented to help us in obtaining train information and tickets.

The train experience was memorable (Ed: everything about this part of the tour was memorable!).  After waiting our turn at the international window we learned that bicycles must be ticketed separately in the next building.  There, we found that we needed to pay excess baggage fees for the bikes as far as the Polish/Czech border.  After purchasing our bicycle passes we returned to the international window for our passenger tickets.  I felt thoroughly grateful for having an agent to represent us through all these transactions, imagining the great difficulty we would have had on our own. 

We then left for the six block walk to our benefactor’s rooms, on the ground floor of a gloomy high rise at the edge of the old city center.  Along the way I enjoyed chatting with this man and learning a bit of his past.  He presented himself as a retired mechanical engineer who had worked in Chicago, the Ukraine, and East Germany.  I wondered to myself how far removed his work was from the KGB.

Our rooms were quite comfortable and very quiet.  Surprisingly, we shared the suite with a family from Tacoma.  After unpacking we walked to the Rynek to find one last dinner in Krakow, and rewarded ourselves with an elegant meal at a lovely restaurant in a 15th century building.  Rachael had a whole trout, I had prune-stuffed roast pork, and we shared roasted potatoes and a bottle of Riesling.  It was wonderful to find my appetite fully restored.

Today's ride: 40 km (25 miles)
Total: 130 km (81 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 2
Comment on this entry Comment 0