Tuesday 16th May – Kazimierz Dolny, Poland
Not a great looking day to begin with but in no time at all, the sun peeked through the heavy cloud cover and remained there for the rest of the day.
The 100 km trip was relatively easy with only a short part of it hair raising for the driver. Seems that roadworks happen in the tightest of situations and when you are driving a bus (almost), can prove to be very difficult.
We travelled again through acres and acres of orchards, not sure what kind the trees were but expect they were predominantly Apple. It was very sad to see so many old people in some very poor looking farming areas of the country.
We arrived at the old historic town of Kazimierz Dolny and soon found our camp for the night. Strange my dad’s name was Kazimierz and so far we have found a couple of towns with that name. Will check with my niece Barbara in a couple of days as I can’t find a translation for it.
Lovely little camp spot run by a husband and wife team (Grzegorz Pielak) who do not speak anything but Polish but we didn’t take long to settle in. It is right across the road from the river with a great bike track running forever along the riverfront. It only took about 15 minutes to get to the centre of town but again the town square was alive with tourists and bus loads of school kids – shouldn’t they be in school?
Again lots of dust collectors on sale – souvenirs I mean! Restaurants everywhere. Seems like every place that has an “old town” takes advantage of this and sets up mega restaurants everywhere.
Being on a river is an added attraction as there are several passenger carrying vessels (including one that could be in included in a “pirate movie”) sitting on the docks.
The village included an old castle and church and so many old but renovated buildings from the 14th century.
Back in our little bus, we settled down under the fruit trees and enjoyed the remainder of a warm spring day.
A tip – be sure to check the price of your campsite when you arrive (and pay when you arrive). We took the rate in our “NKC Parkings” book to be gospel but found on checkout – a different story. Couldn’t argue with the folks as they didn’t speak any English so left feeling a little unhappy at the cost.
Wednesday 17 May – Serniki, Poland
We travelled again through farms and orchards. So beautiful here, so lush and green. Canola was growing everywhere – there were fields of yellow canola flowers mixed with fields of green – looked like a patchwork quilt.
We travelled over some very rough roads again, and reached our destination only to find the gates locked. We are getting a little annoyed now because this has happened several times.
Our proposed destination was a resort in the middle of nowhere which was supposed to be open from 1 May but we found out from a local, they decided to delay their opening to 1 June – ….!!…ugh!!! – signage would have been good as we drove a long way over very rough roads and then had to turn around and go back out the same way.
We travelled another 20-30 Klms to the next destination along some woeful roads. Everything shook, rattled and rolled but we were happy to find Ranczo Arka open and again we were the only ones there.
A ranch turned zoo of some kind which has some very interesting and exotic animals and is open to the public at a small cost. Only takes 4 motor homes. They have emus, peacocks, ostrich, moose, kangaroos, naserbar, birds and of course the regular types of farm animals. They also have a small lake which is the home to some beaver and swans.
It is quite busy during the day but very peaceful at night. Little animals run around at dusk including families of rabbits everywhere – very cute to watch.
Facilities not much to speak of but we didn’t need these anyhow. No wi-fi.
Thursday 17th – Sunday 20th May – Biala Podlaska, Poland
We arrived back at Biala late Thursday evening and spent an enjoyable evening with my niece Barbara.
Friday we ventured back to Town Hall to collect my PESEL card (Polish ID Card). With this card I can now travel freely within the Schengen Zone as a Polish Citizen, without having to leave every 90 days and have full rights as a European Union Citizen.
By law, Australian citizens can only stay three months in the Schengen Zone and then have to exit for three months before being able to return. Rob as my spouse can travel with me and remain in the Schengen Zone under the same terms and conditions (we believe – yet to be confirmed).
We then filed my application for a passport which should be ready for collection within 2-4 weeks). We have now decided to continue our travels in the interim and then collect my passport at a later date.
This whole process has taken over 12 months beginning in Australia and then with the help of Barbara and Kornelia in Poland – another five weeks – after filing many documents in Poland, I have dual citizenship with my passport only a few weeks away. This would not have been possible without Barbara and I can never thank her enough. This also now makes it easier for either of my girls to get Polish Citizenship in the future, should they so desire – we believe having European Citizenship could be handy for Renee and Shannon in the future as it would allow them access to currently around 30 European countries and who knows how the geo-political situation may change in the future.
The next two days were spent celebrating and once again seeing some more local attractions including Stadnina Koni, an Arabian horse farm only 30 Klms from Biala. These horses are magnificent and the auctions held in mid August draw buyers from all over the world.
We topped off the day with a coffee at Zaborek a really special place in the countryside next door to the horse stud.
This was followed by a thank you dinner for Barbara and Piotr and after many many vodkas and Black Russians, came home and laughed and talked until the wee hours (with the help of Mr Google, who has been our translator over the last few weeks).
Sadly we left on Monday morning, but we will be back again in the next few months,
Monday 22nd May – Bialowieza Bison Forest, Poland
With the help of Piotr and Barbara and their local knowledge, we set off on Monday morning and headed for Bialowieza Forest. This forest is one of Poland’s most special primeval forests and has some of the largest and most beautiful trees in Europe.
On Monday afternoon, we were lucky enough to be able to take a 4 hour tour with an English Speaking Guide, Jerome from Portugal leading the way and a Dutch couple. It is very difficult to get on to a tour on the same day and sometimes you have to wait a couple of days before you can book one. Very wise to book this on line before you come. Normally the tour accommodates 12 in the group but as we agreed to share the total costs between just the four of us, we headed off as scheduled at 2pm.
The forest extends from Poland to Belarus with the majority of the forest in Belarus. We were so close to Belarus that my Iphone beeped a message which said “Welcome to Belarus”.
We were lucky enough to go through some very restricted parts of the forest. Just an amazing place, so beautiful, so quiet, so green and lots of singing birds. Mosquitos were rampant but with the help of our mossie cream we were left relatively untouched.
We discovered a field of “bear garlic”or “wild garlic” – really pretty white flowers. This herb is used locally in salads and cooking. We tasted by eating the whole plant, stalk and flowers which tasted a little like horseradish with garlic. We will definitely look at growing this when we get home.
There are about 3500 different species of mushrooms growing wild and our guide told us they can all be eaten – except about 3470 species can only be eaten once!!!
Tired after a really special and long day, we stayed in the Forest’s car park for the night with another couple who were waiting for a phone call the next day confirming if they could get on a tour.
At dusk, we went for a walk around the lake where fishermen were trying to catch fish and then watched people head off on twilight tours with night binoculars.
This area is “Polish Bison” country and many of the tours include 4-6 day safaris to try to find them. Sadly we didn’t see any on our tour but we have seen many man made statues of these everywhere in this area.
About 140,000 people visited this Park last year whereas over 2,5000,000 people visited Auschwitz – so what does that say about us???
Tuesday 23rd May – Suwalki, Poland
Woke up after a great night’s sleep only to find that when my feet hit the ground Ouch! We did walk for 4 hours plus the walk around the lake yesterday didn’t we? We might take it a little easier today.
Quite a long drive to Suwalki today and found a great camp site called Eurocamping Osir. Highly recommended close to town and a great camp spot. Cost was only 40zl which is around $14. Beautiful everything. Level large grassed spots with hedges between each spot, each with water and power (at extra cost if you want it). The amenities block are just beautifully new and clean. Security lights everywhere and high fences surround the camping area. Gates are locked at 10pm. Wi-fi is excellent.
We set off to explore the town (by foot) and found a bikeway starting at the front gates which went for miles and miles – around a beautiful man made lake and right through town. There is also a fantastic Aqua park here but for us a little too cold yet to consider.
Forget to mention that in the last 5-6 days – Spring has sprung- and we are now wearing those most missed shorts and short sleeve shirts we have brought with us. Still cool at night though.
Hope the weather holds tomorrow as we are planning a long bike ride in the morning before we head off.