Our first trip in May 1990 started in Warsaw and finished in Frankfurt, Germany. The weather was marginal. Our second trip, we started in Munich, Germany and ended in Warsaw. On this trip, in March of 1991, we were too early and the weather delayed us so much we ended up mostly on trains. Ultimately, even if we had descent weather, we felt that the other Eastern European countries, especially Hungary, offered more for bicycle tourists.
How We Rate This Trip
The road quality was adequate. The back roads were mostly in reasonable shape. The main highways had wide shoulders to ride on.
The main highways carried only moderate traffic while the back roads were quiet.
In May on our first trip it was often overcast and cool. Temperatures in the 50’s and some rain. On our second trip we were too early in the year (March) and encountered miserable rain wind and cold.
In May, the winds were light but in March, the winds wee strong with rain and cold. March was too early to bike here.
Around Warsaw, the scenery was dull. Further, south and around Krakow it was pretty. Pine forests and some vistas. The southern mountains were pine covered and not dramatic.
We tried to get information from a Bicycle Touring Federation in Warsaw but we never found it open. The tourist offices were of no help; not even for basic tourist information. We simply tried different roads as we went.
Road Safety: 7
The back roads were tranquil and the main roads generally had a shoulder to ride. It was very safe.
General Safety: 8
The cities were safe. The old police state had controlled crime with a heavy hand and it had not yet changed.
Food, even good restaurant meals, was cheap. Accommodations varied greatly in price but the quality was generally poor. The private rooms were cheap but cramped, cold and dirty. The hotels were expensive, overpriced for poor quality. Private rooms had a Polish price and a foreigner price, which was twice as high
Voda mineral, bottled water, was cheap and readily available. Tea and Coffee were available at the cafes. The adequate tasting beer was 25 cents per glass at the beer halls.
The socialist system was still in place. There was lackluster service in restaurants and lines to get into the grocery stores. We generally had good meals at the restaurants. The ice cream was good.
Either a cheap private family room that was dirty or expensive hotels which were slightly less dirty and dingy.
They seemed dispirited. They were not especially helpful. The service everywhere was indifferent and dour. They are big and hearty and often drink too much
The socialist system seemed to have robbed them of the spirited art forms. We saw little music, dance or art. In Krakow, we did enjoy some spirited gypsy music one night.
Warsaw was destroyed in 1945 but rebuilt as it was. Still it seems to have little character. Krakow and the south in general offered well preserved city centers.
TOTAL SCORE 66
Route Descriptions and Maps
Warsaw to Pulawy 125K
Out of town heading south. Mostly flat and straight through pine forests. Usually in a river valley. Moderate traffic. Rain and cool, not much of interest.
Pulawy to Tarnobrzeg 117K
Far more interesting. Small hills and bluffs. At times, we rode on a plateau above the river. More interesting towns with some original wood houses. Strong winds, intermittent rain and cool. In Annopol, we took a minor road south east on a plateau to a passenger ferry which took bikes. Brilliant ferry which had no motor but used the river current against a rudder that drove the ferry across either way on a cable. Very quiet roads. After Gorzyce to the main road to Tarnobrzeg. Moderate traffic.
Tarnobrzeg to Brzesko 130K
Clear and cold day. Flat and quiet to Baranow Sand where there is a castle. Then continue on to Mielec. Now some rain. Mild rolling hills to Tarnow which is a big city. Out on E22 toward Krakow. E22 had a good shoulder to ride on since there was more traffic.
Brzesko to Krakow 85K
South off the main road to Muchowka (Lipnica) then west on quiet back roads. Sunny but cool. Over hills with good views. We could see the foothills of the southern mountains through beautiful farmland with old wood houses. Finally, on the main highway into Krakow.
Krakow to Zakopane 110K
Out of the city to E7 then to T7. A gradual climb then a long downhill. Then climb up again to NowyTarg. Down again out of Nowy Targ. Finally, it was a gradual rise to Zakopane along the railroad tracks.
Zakopane to Czechoslovakian border 21K
Climb up to the border at Polana, going east. At the time, Czechoslovakia was doing away with visas so the border crossing was very easy by Eastern European standards.
Becoming a Millionaire in Poland
It was so easy to become a millionaire in Poland. Upon arrival, I went to the airport exchange window, determined that the exchange rate was proper and handed over $200 U.S. In return, I was paid in $10,000 Polish notes. Over 100 of them. With bulging pockets, I found Sally at the tourist information office and announced, “You’re looking at a Polish millionaire.”