Darren Alff’s Bicycle Touring Adventure From Poznan to Gdansk, Poland

By Darren Alff

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Leaving Poznan, Poland wasn’t easy. I was only there for two short weeks, but I had made a lot of friends and the city was growing on me. But the time eventually came for me to leave, so I packed up my bicycle, cleaned the studio apartment I had rented near the center of town, and then quickly made my way out of the city.

Before I even left Poznan, however, I received a message from Ariadna (of Help, I Have Nothing To Wear) saying that she was at her family home in Gniezno, Poland and that if I was headed that way, we should meet up. As it turned out, I was headed to Gniezno, so I cycled quickly and didn’t stop until I reached her family’s flower farm on the northern side of the city. Google maps said it would take me 3 hours to cycle from Poznan to Gniezno. It had taken me five-and-a-half.

When I arrived at Ariadna’s I was quickly given a tour of the family farm and introduced to her mother, father and younger brother, Radek. Ariadna’s mother drove us out to a nearby strawberry patch where the family grows their own strawberries to sell. This is where I met Radek for the first time.

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Then Ariadna’s mom took us into town and I got to see where the family sells their strawberries at local booths scattered across the city.

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Back at Ariadna’s house, we ate food that Ariadna prepared herself, I took a shower, and then I eventually pitched my tent out in the yard – near the home of three newborn kittens.

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In the morning I was again treated to some delicious cooking by Ariadna and spent a great deal of the day just walking and talking with Ariadna and her family. Around 4 PM, however, the time came for me to say goodbye. Here I am with Ariadna’s younger brother, Radek.

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And here I am with Ariadna. Her back is turned because I think she’s a bit of a perfectionist and doesn’t want her face to be in the image unless it looks perfect. Visit her blog at: http://helpihavenothingtowear.blogspot.it/ to see what she looks like.

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Riding away from Ariadna’s wasn’t easy because I felt like I had made a really good friend… and because I knew that it would be a very long time before I was with any of my friends again. For the next month or more I would be completely on my own.

Because I didn’t leave Ariadna’s house until 4 PM and got a very late start to the day, I didn’t plan on covering a whole lot of ground. I cycled for about 3.5 hours and then made my camp in a small pocket for trees.

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My first night of camping was pretty nice. I slept well and woke up feeling pretty refreshed. The bad part about my first night of camping, however, was that I discovered I had a hole in my sleeping pad. I have seriously had the worst luck with sleeping pads. I can’t seem to find a sleeping pad that doesn’t break after just a short period of time. Ugh!

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The next day of riding was hot and sunny. I cycled through a lot of farmland and I definitely got a small sun tan. Sometimes I was cycling on paved bicycle paths. Other times the paths were made of brick and were a bit bumpier. And sometimes I had to ride along the shoulder of a busy highway with cars and trucks passing just inches from my side. Overall, however, the ride was nice and the drivers in Poland seems quite considerate.

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Eventually I reached the city of Torun, Poland. I cycled across a large bridge and then entered the walled city from the south side.

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Just outside the gates to the city I sat down on the edge of the river to simply enjoy the view, when all of a sudden my peace and quiet was interupted by a strange, long-haired man with an American accent who appeared to be shooting some kind of foot-fettish film with his video camera. He was having the girls take off their shoes while he shot close-up video of their toes and at the same time had them talking about where they were from, what they likes to do, etc. It was very strange. And the fact that they decided to do this about 5 feet away from me was even stranger. I quickly got up and went away to explore the city.

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Torun was a nice-size city with a busy city center. There were people walking about in every direction and plenty of young people standing in the middle of the street trying to sell you something or usher you into a nearby restaurant.

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After a short walk around the city center, I cycled north out of Torun before stoping to get some food and water for the night. Then I cycled north a bit more before turning left off the bike path and cycling about 1km down a dirt road and then pushing my loaded bicycle back through a thick set of trees. I made camp here (see below). It looks nice… and it was at first. But after about 2 minutes of being in this area, I was attacked by both ants and mosquitoes. So many ants… and so many mosquitoes! I jumped inside my tent and I didn’t come out until the following morning.

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I didn’t sleep well that night. Not only because of the buzz of mosquitoes near my head all night, but because of the sounds of a wild boar rustling about just outside my tent.

I had seen a sign at the entrance to the forest saying that there were wild boar in the forest and that they were dangerous… and I had seen parts of the ground that were all torn up by the boar as they were looking for ants and other insects to eat… and I had seen the ants climbing all over my tent, so I know that the possibilities of an encounter with a wild boar were quite real. This is why I knew there was a wild boar outside my tent when I was awoken at 2 AM by load rustling noises and gunshots in the distance.

In the morning I found that an empty cheese container I had left under the rain-fly of my tent had indeed been dragged away from my camp area and ripped to pieces by a wild boar. I didn’t see it happen, but a wild boat had stuck his nose under the rain-fly of my tent, grabbed the cheese container, and took off with it. I was that close to a wild boar!

After quickly breaking camp that morning, I got back on the road and pedalled quickly, trying to cover as much ground as possible. However, I did make a quick pit-stop at this small pond. While here, I dipped my sleeping pad underwater in an attempt to find the puncture. I was able to find the puncture, but I wasn’t able to successfully patch it. Air keeps coming out of the pad and I wake up each morning laying on the cold, hard ground. Ugh.

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That evening I made it to a large forest. This was a forested region of Poland that I had been looking at on Google Maps for quite some time and was looking forward to traveling through. Unfortunately, there was a 10 km stretch of road that was really, really bad for bicycle touring. See below. On one side of the road was a bumpy mess of cobblestones (so bumpy that I could not ride over them for any length of time). And on the other side of the road was a soft layer of sand (so soft that I could not ride my bicycle through it, but had to push the bicycle through it instead). Needless to say, getting through this section of road took a bit longer that I expected it to, but the scenery along the way was more than enjoyable.

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Around 7 PM I decided to make camp. I was deep in the forest now and so I had no problem finding a place to pitch my tent. I settled on a small hill, about half a kilometer from the road, where no one would be able to see me.

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As you can see from the photos below, this was quite the campsite! Maybe one of my best campsites ever! And unlike the night before, there were no mosquitoes or wild boar in this forest. I was able to sit outside the tent and make my dinner (vegetable sandwiches) while the sun set through the trees.

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Below is the Voltaic Fuse 6 Watt solar panel I am using the charge my smartphone on this bicycle tour. I’m still testing it out, but I will say this. It works great, but my smartphone demands are pretty high (as I’m using the phone for navigation, entertainment, and work). Even though this 6 watt solar panel is larger than the 4 watt panel I used on my last bicycle tour, my smartphone is also larger and requires more energy to get me through my days out here on the road.

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The following day I cycled all day long without taking so much as a photo. I went through a lot of forests and my pace was slow… but I enjoyed the ride. I could have easily cycled all the way into Gdansk, but I would have arrived late at night and have been forced to find a place to sleep after dark. I didn’t want to do that… and I wanted to save myself some money as well, so I pitched my tent in the woods again, about 30 kilometers south of the city, with plans of cycling into the city center the following day.

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When I woke up the next morning it was raining… and it didn’t really stop until I reached the center of Gdansk. It was a cold, wet and (did I mention) very cold day.

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Once I got about 10 kms from the city center, I was able to ride on a brick bicycle path all the way into the city center. This was such a nice way to be welcomed into the city. No need to fight traffic or worry about bad drivers not seeing me.

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Sometime around 2 PM I found myself in the center of Gdansk, Poland… and it was beautiful. I spent about an hour walking my bicycle around the city center while taking photos and watching the people.

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I even set up my tripod in the center of one of the most crowded and photogenic streets so I could get a picture of myself riding my bicycle through the streets of Gdansk, Poland.

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After buying a vegetable baguette in the city center, I cycled west along the shore (again on a wonderful city bike path) toward the nearby city of Sopot. There was a campground here that I was planning to stay at.

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Before reaching the campground, however, I stopped to take a few photos (one in front of the Grand Hotel… and another on the edge of the Baltic Sea).

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When I reached the campground I was planning to stay at, they told me that they were closed and wouldn’t be opening until the following day. I was one day too early!

Luckily, there was another campground in Sopot, just a few kilometers down the road, so I made my way to that campground just before it got dark and checked myself in. The campground had showers, electricity and Internet access that worked in my tent. I loved the place!

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I decided to stay in Sopot for two nights, so I used my rest day in the city to do some computer work, and then go on a short bike ride around the area to see the sights. Because I was in Sopot on a sunny Sunday, there were thousands of people all along the beach – walking, riding bikes, rollerblading, etc.

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I took my book, The Bicycle Touring Blueprint, to the beach with me and snapped a photo of it sitting in the sands of the Baltic Sea.

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Then I cycled back to my Sopot campground, while stopping along the way to take a few pictures of the people out enjoying their Sunday.

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At a nearby pier I met another bicycle traveler named Heinz who only spoke German and a few words of English. I think he said that he had ridden his bicycle from Stuttgard, Germany to Gdansk, Poland and now that he was in Gdansk his bicycle tour was over. He’d be going home soon.

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While Heinz’s bicycle touring adventure was now over, this had been only the very beginning of my bicycle tour. From Gdansk I will be cycling to Lithuania and north from there through Latvia, Estonia and Finland before also traveling through Ireland, the United Kingdom and Taiwan.

Stay tuned for more of my updates from the road… and be sure to follow the adventure (live – as it happens) on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.

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17 Comments

  1. Ariadna

    June 16, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Thank you for great time ๐Ÿ™‚ Very nice photos!

  2. Shane

    June 17, 2014 at 7:44 am

    How did you know the pretty girl?

  3. Joseph

    June 17, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Dude! You are my hero! How do you fund this lifestyle! I’m very envious. I rode a bike through Ireland and Great Britain and had the time of my life.

    Have fun!

    Joseph in VA

  4. Rick

    June 17, 2014 at 10:21 am

    What’s this? Has our little Darren found himself a romance? You two are so cute at this age. Well done, lad. Well done!

  5. Wojtek

    June 17, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Great!

    Soon I will cycle from Gda?sk through S?upsk, through Bydgoszcz and Toru? to Olsztyn – overall well over 700 kilometres. The only difference is, I do ike small creature comforts after a whole day of exhausting cycling, as well as a cold beer and something to nibble, so I opted for small hotels, hostels, guesthouses etc. But it’s going to be fun (I hope). Good luck on the road!

    PS – And Ariadna IS really a VEEEEERY pretty girl… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Denny Francisco

    June 17, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    OMG, Ariadna is a true beauty! Stop biking for a bit, and spend some quality time with her! We can wait for your next installment! Really!

  7. Monte Niemandt

    June 18, 2014 at 12:12 am

    Enjoy ! Following your journey with avid interest. Tell us , little tidbits of history and facts of the area you are travelling,people and landmarks worth mentioning.
    Happy cycling!
    Best wishes
    Monte

  8. selim

    June 18, 2014 at 7:49 am

    This is great. you are great storyteller and i love your stories. I’ll be waiting for more stories.
    go for it !

  9. Henk Engbers

    July 6, 2014 at 3:06 am

    Gdansk is a beautiful city. And Poland seems to be perfect for camping in the wild. I think I know where I will cycle next year. Thank you.

  10. Tina

    August 25, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    That was a great adventure.. I can ride a bike, but for 5 1/2 hours that was awesome. btw Ariadna is beautiful..

  11. Szymon

    March 3, 2015 at 7:45 am

    Darren, that’s great to read nice words about my city – Gda?sk! I am your suscriber, I read about most of your trips, but I haven’t known until now you were here in Gda?sk.

    Ride safe! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Atle

    March 6, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Hi! Darren, nice story, and good luck with your girlfriend. Now i understand why you love Polen so much. I was touring in Norway, Denmark, and Germany in 2013, and in Norway in 2014. This was in june-juli, and the heat was almost killing me in Germany.

    This year i’m planning a trip to Gemany Holland and Belgia, but i’m looking at Bromton p6r for summertouring. Do you have any experience with Bromton as a touring bike?

    Thanks, and keep shering your adventures with us. I really appreciate it.

  13. Derek Cullen

    September 6, 2015 at 12:49 am

    Hey Darren, Came across the photo of Heinz while looking for images a few monites ago – I am almost 100% certain I met him in the middle of France on my way home from Africa last year…crazy!!!

  14. Pingback: First Person to Ride a Bicycle in Space - Darren Alff

  15. Viajes a Marruecos

    October 20, 2016 at 2:13 am

    Amazing pictures! It is hard to find words to describe the beauty of this place ^_^

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