The part of Krakow that I was most impressed with
Oh my aching back! I'm in Krakow. It is 6 AM and I am in a hostel room on the fifth floor of an old building. My bike is with me in the room. Yesterday, I took the train from Augustow to Krakow, knowing that I might have some problems finding a room for the night. It really didn't turn out to be that hard to find a, somewhat overpriced, room. What was hard was getting my bike to the room.
As I left the train station, I was greeted by a woman touting rooms. since it was 8:15 on Saturday night in Krakow, I was happy to see her. She offered me a room in hostel for 100 Z, not to far from the center of Krakow. She also offered 'free' transportation to the hostel. Then the aching back part started.
First we went back down into the station and her boss called the van that would transport me to the hostel. Then she said "The elevator isn't working, so we have to climb to the parking area on the roof of the train station. This is a big,old, train station and the roof is a long way up! I had to carry my loaded bike up a lot of flights of stairs. I'm glad I'm in good shape and that my bike weighs only 35 kg. because that was a hard climb!
We got the roof and the van - very nice van, there is good money in this room finding business! - showed up a few minutes later. The driver and I loaded my bike in the back and were set to go, but then had to wait for another group of passengers to climb those stairs. They turned out to be from near where I live and headed for Ukraine. There was a man and three college aged kids who were going to Ukraine to set up social service programs for a church. While the van drove to my hostel, we talked about the new visa requirements - none for 90 day visits by US citizens. I'd been hoping to find someone who knew that information.
When we arrived at the hostel door, the van driver said "Reception is on the third floor." Since this is Europe and the building is old, that meant climbing three tall sets of stairs actually it was three and a half - just to get to reception. I barely managed that. Of course my room was a floor higher and they had no other place to store my bike. That last floor was even harder than the first three and a half..
The room is OK, the shower and toilet room aren't too far away and the feel of the hostel is fine. I cleaned up, read for a bit, and went to bed. My right leg was a bit bruised and scratched from the pedal hitting it during some of that climbing, and my upper body was tired from all that carrying, but but otherwise, I felt OK. A couple of hours later, I work up with a very sore back. I took some ibuprofen and went back to bed. That helped for four hours or so. Now I've taken some nanoproxen which should last twice as long. I ate what remained in my food supply - 70 g of cheese - and I will pack up and get out of this room -which the sun is shining into and making rather hot - get back down all those stairs, and explore Krakow.
My personal interest in Krakow is in the Jewish section, Kasimierz, so that is where I headed this morning. It is south of the old town - it was its own town originally -- and bordered by a bend in the Wisla river. I was out at about 7 AM on a Sunday, so riding was peaceful, but food was hard to find. I rode in Kazimierz looking both for Jewish stuff and for breakfast. At 8 I was able to get some breakfast in a hostel with a restaurant in Kasimierz, and then I went back through the Jewish stuff with more discrimination. Mostly, there were synagogues that were now museums. Not my thing at all. There is one actual synagogue in Kasimierz and what looked like five 'museum' synagogues. Of course there are very few places in central and eastern Europe where there are any synagogues left at all. The real treat , for me, was the Jewish cemetery. Like the synagogues, almost all the cemeteries were destroyed during WWII. I had never been in an old, but still active, European Jewish Cemetery. It was a powerful experience to see all those graves and, to see many family names that I know in the US.
I rode from Kasimierz north past the Castle and through the old city. It is pretty and there is lots to see and do at the castle and in the old city, stopping to take a few pictures and watch the tourists ;-}. I decided that, rather than take the train to Debica, my next destination, that I would ride. I was hurting and riding helped. I didn't want to deal with the train, nor did I want to just sit for any length of time. My back problem was not serious - just sore muscles, and the best thing for it was riding.
I planned to ride out from neat the old town on the street that goes through Nowa Hutta, a Soviet era 'new' town with a huge steel mill. that road, and all of the roads near it, was blocked by a massive construction project. I had to detour quite q ways north and then find my way back to that road. That took about half an hour. Then, when I was on the right road, I made the mistake of following the signs to where I wanted to go. Of course, they head for the autoroute south of town and I wanted to go east on a smaller road. I realized my mistake when my compass showed me I was heading southwest. I back tracked and, eventually, got on 79, the road I wanted.
79 started out and ended up good, but went through a lot of variations in between, including pavement so bad that I had to remove my camera from the handlebar and remount my rear pannier! All this was with heavy traffic, so I was forced to ride on the, sometimes unrideable, edge of the road. I even rode on the dirt alongside the road for part of the way because it was much smoother than the pavement.
I turned south on 75, heading for 4, which is the main east-west highway that goes through Krakow. 75 was better than 79 with less traffic and more consistent pavement. I stopped for lunch at a restaurant on 75 and then headed on down to 4. I'd ridden 4 before, on my last trip to Debica, so I expected it to be pretty good riding.
I had forgotten two things: it is hilly between Krakow and Brezko and summer is construction season. It was hard riding on that first 22 km of 4 because of the hills, and the construction lasted for over 50 km. With moderate to heavy traffic and lots of construction zones, it could have been unpleasant riding, but it really wasn't that bad. Drivers were considerate and the road surface, even where they had prepared it for repaving, was never as bad a s the bad parts of 79.
I stopped for a second meal about 4 PM and made it to Debica by 5 My total riding for the day was 90 miles with 2000 feet of climbing in seven hours and 45 minutes, but part of that was riding in Krakow and Debica. I