Monday 03 July 2017: Bielsko-Biała to Cieszyn
It’s 6:45am. A hoarse cockerel is a-cock-a-hackle-a-phlegming. The Sun is shining. We’re super well fed – Teresa and Andrzej’s hospitality, once again, outstanding: home from home – and it’s time to hit the road again. Hooray!
But first, to decide in which direction to leave Poland and enter Czechia. Our original plan was, and maybe still is, to head for Wisła – the source of Poland’s great river – via Szczyrk, at around the 50km-mark, which makes for a pleasant day’s distance and will take us through some beautiful places, but – there is a ‘but’.
From our location South-East of Bielsko-Biała we have a 16km ride to Szczyrk. However, the entire way is a constant climb, and while none of it looks particularly steep, over an hour’s riding, carrying 30-35kg, in Poland’s Summer heat, non-stop, uphill, could be pretty demoralising, depending on how our green bodies and minds react. From there, the climbing continues until about 10km from Wisła – making 26-odd kilometres. So about three hours of constant climbing, ascending about 700 metres from our current position. We would then be rewarded by a rapid and constant descent into Wisła, which would be gratefully received for the last part of our journey, so … Option A.
Option B is the more typical route – similarly beautiful and scenic: we are already in the mountains and this is a beautiful region. This way to Cieszyn is much more undulating, so respite from the climbing, but there are some fierce gradients, which could make for some hairy and harsh riding; being the more popular route to the border may mean we’ll be trying to share the road with many more of the petrol-driven monsters that rule our lives, and fearing the intention of every vehicle that approaches. Coaches in particular seem to resent the bicycle and do their darnedest to squeeze them and fear them from the tarmac veins they must feel is their birthright.
Have just received a reply from some potential Warmshowers’ hosts, who are gracefully able to offer us accommodation; only for Tuesday evening, as they will be away for their own tour Wednesday morning, so, in order to realistically be able to reach there at a reasonable time for us and for them, Option B wins the day.
At 10:29am, with 101.27km and 7 hours 50 minutes riding on the clock, and a temperature of 21.3º on the thermometer, away we go! making our way towards Cieszyn, with a final destination of Vojkovice – in Czechia!!! At some point today, we’ll be crossing the border. To have cycled into another country: exciting 😃
It’s now 12:09, and we stopped in Skoczów about 30 minutes ago, after just over an hour of beautiful riding; maybe the most enjoyable section of riding so far. Clear sunny skies, with a cooling breeze, and much undulation (trending generally downwards). We’ve encountered courteous car-drivers – on a Monday! – and a group of cyclists coming in the opposite direction as we entered Skoczów, where we exchanged friendly greetings that really warmed my heart and raised spirits even higher; though I must remember to be careful about exchanging greetings approaching a roundabout on a fully-laden bike, as the brief but significant front-wheel wobble urgently warned me 🤭
After doing my stretching in the charming Rynek in Skoczów while Agnieszka does a coffee and food run, I realise again how quickly things can change. I’m here in a strange town, alone (for the moment), in a Rynek, going through my stretching routine as if at home, without giving a shit about what the numbers of people passing by may think 😊
Skoczów: really lovely. Really.
And on we go, with 18 extra kilometres on the clock, so 119.47km, and almost nine hours of bike moving. We’ve, for sure, got more up than down into and through Cieszyn, but hey – whatever, whatever 😁
At exactly 2pm, after practically ten hours of riding, three and a half days, and 134km, we stand half-way across a short bridge spanning the River Osle on the edge of Cieszyn … and at the beginning of a new country – Czechia!!! Despite the fact that it’s just another human-made boundary – actually, it’s a river, so quite a natural one, but you know what I mean – it’s a great feeling nonetheless. Wow!!! We remain Poland-side as we have paused for the obligatory – are they obligatory? – photos and selfies.
Then, with a simple little push, we symbolically and politically 😱 enter a new world.
Great stuff. So excited!