This is part of the fifth section of our around
the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Belarus
24/6/99 It continued raining for the 200 km to Warsaw only to stop for us to pitch the tent.
25/6/99 The Ukraine embassy recommended an agency for an invitation voucher and with just a two day hotel booking ($US 42.00) gave us a ten day voucher, with that we asked the embassy for a one month visa and will receive 20 days next Friday ($US 100.00 same day, $US 50.00 one week, each). An efficient process for a reportedly difficult country.
26/6/99 Chilling out after the 300 km ride to Krakow where for the first time ever a camp ground has FREE washing machines which we utilized all afternoon. The traffic in Poland, fast and heavy on average roads, made more so after the almost empty roads in Belarus. The locals ignoring speed limits, overtaking with oncoming vehicles and totally blind to any motorcycles.
27/6/99 Krakow is a magnificent city with its enormous square fully utilized with sidewalk cafe's. But just 60 km away is the worlds largest cemetery (1.5 to 2 million people) and the scene of the largest genocide attempt in the history of mankind at Auschwitz. People from 27 nations were murdered here, the vast majority Jewish, but Russian POW's were used in gas experiments, Gypsies were used in medical and sterilization experiments, attempted escapees were placed in starvation cells to their death and more minor offenders were made to stand with three others in a yard by yard (90 cm x 90 cm) brick box overnight, then work during the day for at least three days. If there is little left of the people but ashes their suit cases, glasses, clothes, shoes and even hair displayed by thousands is a graphic reminder along with corridors of photos, that these aren't just numbers but were someone's neighbours, friends and relatives. Hundreds of people strolled the grounds and buildings, many in tears that one group of people could do this to another group. If we had no discernible groups, religious, political, national, ethnic or social we would have no one to band together with and no target to attack.
28/6/99 A salt mine on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list seems a bit odd but this one has carved figures. Started in the eleventh century and worked continuously for over 600 years the miners who were wealthy by comparison carved, mainly religious, statues and temples in some of the old excavated chambers. The largest underground chapel in the world was decorated this way for over 30 years by just three workers in their spare time, even the chandeliers are of salt. Some of the old timber supports have now turned to petrified wood/stone after absorbing the mineral laden humid air.
29/6/99 Our last day in Krakow and a walk around "Schindler's List". This is where the movie was shot and more importantly where the "true Story" or events took place. The ghetto where 70,000 Jews lived, the factory where some worked and the prison camp were all around this section of the city.
30/6/99 The four hour wait for the cable car to the top of the Tatra mountains bordering Slovakia shows this as a prime holiday spot for Poles. You could buy the place of a queue minder and move within an hour of the ticket window or as we decided, just walk the many trails through the lower forests and meadows with wild flowers everywhere. Zakopane tonight in a zimmer.
1/7/99 The Polish/Slovakia border is separated by a river just 12 meters wide at the Dunajec gorge through which for over 150 years, the Poles have been running rafting trips. Originally two dug out logs strapped together now five planked logs strapped together where twelve people at a time can be poled along the 15 km's by two traditionally dressed rafters. This national park of cliffs and tall pines is shared by Slovakia and the two hour trip witnesses Slovakian holiday makers also enjoying their leisure. Riding back the 60 km to Zakopane every farmer seemed to be "making hay while the sun shines", from sickles to slashers, hand rakes, horse rakes to tractors turning the drying grass, to hand stacking on poles dotting the paddocks like prehistoric stones, then carted to the hay sheds by horse drawn hay wagons. All generations in the fields helping.
2/7/99 Lake Morskie Oko can be reached by a nine km walk or a two horse wagon with 20 passengers clip clopping along gradually up hill through pine forests to the tree line. We chose the horses as the lake was just the first, and another, hanging lake, from a previous glacier was further up the mountains. Four of us now, for we were joined by a nationalist Scotsman riding his motorcycle around Eastern and Western Europe which meant after a hard days walking we enjoyed a hard evening drinking, without complaint. We had decided to stay yet another night extending the original two to four as the cool mountain air and scenery won the vote over the hot cities of the plains.
3/7/99 Finally got to ride the cable car to the mountain top, almost from our back door at 7.30 am before the crowds arrived. Patches of sun through the morning fog temptingly revealed small lakes, patches of snow, a couple of chamois just waking and Polish/Slovakian border markers where we stood one foot in each country. Rested again in the cool mountain air by the river reading about the next countries to be visited.
4/7/99 Down to Krakow past small villages where the locals wandered on enmass to and from church, Poland being one of the major Catholic strongholds. Warsaw tonight, back to the heat, 35 degrees. The small Fiat 650 cc cars, motor half the size of our motorcycle, fully to overloaded with four Polish people out for a Sunday afternoon drive considerably slowing traffic even on dual highways. This car seems to be the real peoples car of Poland, superseding the VW's of the Germans past.
5/7/99 We were planning to meet some friends in Berlin who at the last minute couldn't make it, so enjoying the great mix of Poland's facilities at reasonable prices we headed off to the Great Masurian Lakes instead. But before leaving Warsaw we stopped into the H-D dealer to buy each other a 25th wedding anniversary present. Being the silver anniversary we thought chrome appropriate and seeing the motorcycle has been the conjunctive point of our life for the last five years and we were travelling at the time even more appropriate.
6/7/99 Kay gave me my chrome "oil filter" and I gave her hers. No made in Taiwan this time but the genuine USA model, no expense spared. Even comes package wrapped in black and gold and the box lid is a great card to write all the sentimentality built up over 25 years. To be used, washed, engraved and placed on the mantle piece, something for the bike you can keep at home. A cruise around the lake and a flash dinner (flash as can be had in Mikolajki) and a great day.
7/7/99 These interconnected glacial lakes stretching kilometres in all directions are the home to thousands of summer boaties, drawn up to the warm waters to explore the reeds, cafe's and pubs along the shore. We hired a 6 meter sailing boat and meandered in light winds out onto the lake and connecting waterways. This was Charlie's last day with us before he heads towards Morocco, Africa.
8/7/99 Bye, Bye, Charlie, Ten weeks of easy though eventful travel where you feel meshed in with each others ways. We hope to ride together again in 2004 across Russia, the "istan" countries and China, but it's a few years away. We are meeting more motorcycle travellers in Eastern Europe now summer is here like the two Brits riding "RAT" bikes. John and Graham are heading into Russia, the bikes made up from front end crashed units, repaired mechanically but modified to look ratty. Petrol tank expanded with a rough weld extension, everything painted black, boxes and extra frames welded on the back and a few personalized extras like the frying pan, wok, windshield. Made to look unattractive to avoid theft as much as a statement motorcycle.
9/7/99 Time to leave Poland, 400 km towards the Czech border, again caught up in slow moving farm traffic, trucks and small Fiats on truck tyre grooved roads.
10/7/99 500 km out of Poland and into the South West
corner of Germany just to buy Blei-Ersatz, the additive that is
supposed to turn unleaded petrol into super, sort of. We found while in
Germany last that
the H-D likes unleaded best with the additive rather than leaded fuel.
we restocked our dwindled supply, enough for 50,000 km, can't buy it
they sell leaded petrol of course.
Move with us to Czech
Republic (via Germany) or go to our next visit
Story and photos copyright ©
Peter and Kay Forwood,