Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Wompin Bike Ride to Poland

This bike riding adventure started near were I finished my last bike ride on the Czech border. For this ride, I had an almost singular goad: head across Bohemian Switzerland in the Czech Republic and bike to Poland. I have got to go to Poland!
Since Dave and Lisa went on the ride, I picked up a rental bike the night before. A kind-of hybrid city/mountain bike that seems to do well on the kind of trails that we would encounter. A new bike, a sketchy route at best, and a bag of food. It was time to go.
We left Dresden for the Czech border around 9 in the morning. It was a cool day with partly cloudy skies. The forecast called for a mostly sunny day, but I still loaded my panniers with a parka. Ya just never know. We boarded the train at Neustadt and by the time we hit the main station, the train was packed with Dresdeners heading for the mountains.
The ride took about an hour with people getting off once we hit the mountains. On the second to the last stop we disembarked and headed up stream to the ferry crossing. We didn't really plan on getting off at the second to the last stop, but somehow we did. Oh well, only another couple of kilometers to add to the trip - a nice warm up.


The ferry crossing starts in Germany and deposits you into the Czech Republic at the town of Hřensko. Hřensko is a classic border town with tons of stalls selling all kinds of nick-knacks. The funny thing is that the vendors aren't even Czech. Heck, the merchandise isn't even Czech. We purchase some water and start the long climb up into České Švýcarsko National Park. This park shares a border with Germany and there are all kinds of trails criss-crossing both sides of the border. Route finding can be quite a chore as the trail marking aren't always what you expect. We had quite a few route finding issues and instead of taking the nice easy trail we end up doing a huge climb up to this small natural arch that looks out over the Czech country side. Poland is looking further away.

On Top of The Stone Arch

A Fall Here Would Really Suck

From the arch it was a major down hill to a muddy intersection somewhere in the park. After a long climb we topped a ridge and saw a small sign pointing to a pension or cabin or something. We didn't really know. It was right in the middle of the woods. So we had to check it out. I guess we could just bail on this whole Poland idea.

Lunch Stop

It turns out it was a little pension with music and food. So we stopped or lunch and ordered a sports drink and goulash.
It was time to figure out were to go next since we were so far off of our original trail. But after about half a sport drink a funny thing happened. We decided that we might be able to make it to Poland after all.
After eating our fill and with our mission firmly in mind, we started following one of the numbered bike trails that led us all over the Czech Republic. Like most bike trails it was a mixture of paved roads, dirt roads, single tracks and some hiking. The scenery was outstanding. It was amazing to glimpse into the back yards of the Bohemian houses in this small corner of the Czech Republic.


After the small town of Chřibská we started another big climb until we were high over the country side.

Pilgrimage Site near Jiřetín pod Jedlovou

After that we had a screaming, rocky down hill that deposited us at the base of one of the pilgrimage sites. A little exploring and then it was a fast downhill of cobblestone, single track and bike trails until we crossed back into Germany.
You immediately notice when you cross the border. Everything is neater and more organized. Ironically, the signage was worse, so our route finding became more difficult.
We continued to wind through different towns until we had about an hour to go before our 7:19pm train out of Zittau. We had to make this train, because the next train was almost two hours later. You don't want to hang out in Zittau until 9pm.
But still I had a goal, and that goal was to make it to Poland! So we pushed on and eventually found our way to the border where Germany, The Czech Republic and Poland all meet.

Almost in Poland

As I rode my bike up to the field, I could see flags for both Poland and The Czech Republic (the Germans flag was down for some reason). Almost there. Damn it! Just on the other side of the grass was a river. No playing twister on the border (unless I had a snorkel). So after a quick photo we were off, downstream to find a crossing. Luckily, we found one in a couple of km and crossed over into Poland. I made it.

Final tally: Distance - 68km; Climbed - 2100m; 3 Countries; No flats; 1 Beer.

Finally Made It!

Well, I made it to Poland, but we still had a train to catch in Zittau. It was time to head back to the train station and pick up the 7:19 pm train back to Dresden. We made the train, but one causality was dinner and another sports drink. We would have to make do with our snacks until we got back to Dresden.
Almost 7 hrs of riding (probably half of it was looking at maps) and 65 km and a ton of climbing left us tired out. Time for dinner and a big snooze.

Schona - Czech - Poland - Zittau

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