There is something to do and see in Krakow at any time of the year and it is one of the few places in Poland, where the tourist traffic never stops. Well, until recently. Seemingly high season, there are still a lot of tourists on the streets, but significantly less than it used to be – and it just change for better to me.
It would seem that there is no easier thing, than leaving Krakow, because the main bicycle artery – including the Vistula route – leads along the boulevards just above the Vistula River. It's a good and popular place to cycle, smooth path, but after a few kilometers due to the renovation of the vistula embankments things get a little complicated. Well, trzeba być czujnym 🙂
First I get on the stairs. Famous steps with a gutter for bicycles in Dąbiu – descent from the Avenue of Peace to the path. There is indeed a detour, but everybody pushes this way, and bringing a bike with panniers down is not that bad yet, so I took advantage of it. If I were going the other way, I would choose a different solution.
After overcoming the stairs it gets better, the bicycle path leads along the embankment, and although it is still Krakow, the surroundings are less "royal" – On the one hand, I am accompanied by the industrial landscape - the chimneys of the combined heat and power plant on the horizon, and on the other, meadows and arable fields surrounding the Vistula. I pasące się konie 🙂
It goes quite well to the Wanda Bridge, which you have to cross and then again - because here, too, over a distance of several kilometers, the Vistula embankments are being renovated – take a detour (do ok. 10 km) by local roads to Podgrabie. No problem, these are quiet roads.
I am aiding myself all the time information and a map from Velo Małopolska.
There, the WTR “jumps” on the Vistula embankments and leads them almost continuously through over 100 kilometers to Szczucin.
– You, Look at all these cyclists passing by! Somebody came up with the idea , and maybe a year ago this path was created. a passer-by started the conversation, when, after a slightly complicated exit from Krakow, I welcomed a brand new section of WTR marked with orange placards just behind the bridge over Podłężanka and started to take pics. From now on, the signage is great, every turn, no need to reach for a map or GPS.
– and you, are you using it?
At the sign "Szczucin 109 km ”I took a selfie photo and I did not even have time to accelerate well and here – Coffee! We invite you for a free coffee! Some movement, some confusion on the route, smiling girls, coffee trays, near the deckchair and a toilet...
– Today is the Vistula Bicycle Marathon 1200, which we support – on this occasion, the coffee is free - the girls are encouraging to stop. Roadside food court Zwał as Zwał welcomes teh cyclist - coffee, drinks, ice cream, a bite to eat. Toi-toi toilet nearby. They have been operating since last season.
Well well! – some local initiatives are emerging, which the presence of the Vistula cycling route initiated. And that's it, route users will be grateful for the next ones, because the trail is then a bit distant from the towns. I had a good coffee, I exchanged two words with the bike-traveller, which was cycling in the opposite direction, it is shame that, I did not have the opportunity to cheer on the participants of the rally – at this time, they were still far away.
On a beautiful sunny Saturday, the traffic on the path was really heavy – lots of cyclists flashed, both cyclists on road cyclists and families with children. The sun was warming more and more, my stomach was starting to rumble, and supplies had to be done as later it can be difficult to get them. I was next to Niepołomice, the royal castle and the Niepołomice Forest closeby - I've never been here, shade and bike paths in the forest were tempting too. Although the fun of cycling the route has just begun, I decided to leave it.
Niepolomice – castle and Niepołomice Forest
Not far from the center of Niepołomice. Now it's a small place, but historically important. In the center of the town, a Renaissance block on a square plan - this is the castle of Niepołomice, paint the arcaded courtyard of which resembles Wawel. Actually, it was the second royal seat after Wawel. It was built on the site of a royal hunting residence - the Niepołomice Forest, located nearby, was a favorite hunting place of Polish kings and their court already in the 14th century. For art lovers, indoor painting exhibitions, for food lovers - Bona restaurant, they say they cook well. I chose blueberry dumplings in one of the pubs by the market square. I have to say, that when I'm on the road I eat too many dumplings ...
On the way to the forest trails, I saw the signpost "Jewish Cemetery". Its historic fragment with matzevot from the 1920s and 1930s has been preserved, there is also the tomb of the first rabbi of Niepołomice.
Varsovians have Kampinos forest, and the Cracovians the Niepołomice Forest. Both are lucky, that there are so many forests near a big city. Needless to say it's so popular, that the car parks near Niepołomice were full, and the paths are full of people. On a clear summer day, weekend I would also look for a place, where you can take a break from the city - by bike, on foot, be on roller skates.. Exactly, roller skates! As I was born near the Kampinos Forest so in a different forest, I also expected dirt roads, and here I was surprised by the paved alleys. Do not worry, for fans of off-road routes there is something too..
The forest was once called "unforgettable" or "inaccessible" ... Accessibility nowadays is really good - you can go by car or train with a bike to one of the suburban stations located nearby and make a nice trip using the Vistula route and partly bicycle routes running through the forest. On the so-called. the Royal Way, which crosses this area latitudinally, there are several bicycle routes - there are sections of Eurovelo routes here – Velo Metropolis (Eurovelo 4) - The Greenways Amber Trail, Velo Natura.. it's quite wide, paved street with car traffic allowed.
Again, I am forced to compare it with the Kampinos Forest - it's different here, the paths are straight, as if trimmed along the ruler, they most often intersect at right angles, you can cycle for kilometers and don't encounter a turn, some disturbance in the straight line. The area also looks wetter. And it's flat, in Kampinos we even have "mountains".
Apparently there are bisons here. I mean, do not expect them to be wandering around, but hidden behind the fence in the Breeding Center. With a little - or a lot of luck, you can see them. In fact, I dream of meeting a bison living in the wild, and such miracles only in Białowieża.
The Niepołomicka Forest has much more to offer, rest areas, reserves.. smaller or larger attractions – abandoned cemeteries from the First World War, shrines, commemorative plaques, you can cycle to Czarny Staw - the largest water reservoir in the area.. but.
– These mosquitoes were not there a few days ago - I heard from passing cyclists.
Unfortunately. It was hard for me to fully appreciate the values of the forest, and it was almost impossible to take a nice photo, because it was impossible to stand for a while, let alone sit down, for an angry buzzing swarm to appear. I found this time.. probably at another time of the year it may be completely different. Anyway, I took a break from the noise and the sun scorching in the middle of the day. You didn't want to leave there.
… Where you can sleep really well and healthily and dream colorful dreams? The answer is simple ...
– 250 meters underground in the Bochnia Salt Mine!.."
I quoted the password from the mine's website. For me to sleep well and dream colorful dreams, all you need is a tent in nature, but I won't say, I would consider the possibility of sleeping in salt chambers. Now that's the next highlight, which is not possible due to pandemic restrictions. However, the mine is operational and has made all the numerous sightseeing routes available to visitors.
– Bochnia is different ... you know without pomposity, more familiar answered my friend, when I thought about it before, or visit the local salt mine, and I was in Wieliczka before. After all, both are the oldest in Poland. Both are part of the oldest enterprise in Poland, which was the Żupy Krakowskie, existing since the 13th century, and both are on the UNESCO heritage list, which is always an indicator of the uniqueness of the place.
– There are thematic routes in Bochnia, various attractions - boating, underground train ride, it's fun.. she added.
I was so close to Bochnia.. Just a phone call to the mine (Nice lady in the reception) how are things going now? (all routes open!), checking the last ticket for the 15th for standard sightseeing, which continues anyway 3 hours.
Exactly – is it worth visiting the mine in Bochnia?, how was it in Wieliczka?
Well, the mine in Bochnia is actually different. The approach to sightseeing is quite unconventional - the guide tells about the history of the place and various interesting facts, but the main attraction are (they have to be) multimedia and animations (for example,. the light goes out and we see before us a visualization of the figure - the king, monk, merchants ... , who tell something or talk to each other). An interesting idea, I don't think I've ever encountered anything like this before, it can be fun, but for me it is more targeted at a young audience - older children and teenagers will probably be delighted.
It was interesting, but if there is a place, which somehow did not convince me completely, it was the salt mine in Bochnia.
I learned a lot - about the importance of the discovery and mining of rock salt in the development of the region - including Krakow (the salt trade provided 1/3 state treasury income in the 15th century), about the methods of extraction and trade, even about it, that Bochnia as a city was located before Krakow, but I also had a lot of "buts"…
Prepare yourself for long walks on pavements underground. Too long for me. And in the counting group 20 people were families with young children (3-4 years) and foreigners who do not understand a word of Polish.. - WTF? I was also puzzled, how is it, that during, when the same pandemic law applies, in the Museum of John Paul II in Wadowice, it was impossible to lead tours, and here it is. And I also found a guide like this without enthusiasm, and that much depends on the guide. Perhaps other routes provide different experiences, but there are still quite a few shortcomings here. It is worth going though, because everyone has their own preferences and feelings (which I could find out by reading the opinions of both mines on Google maps).
The mine is the main monument in Bochnia, however, I would like to devote more hours to the city - especially to see the butterfly museum Arthropoda, which I was recommended (the largest collections of butterflies in Poland) and generally see and feel the atmosphere. I had a look at the market earlier, but it's under construction, excavated. After leaving the mine, however, it got quite late and I had to pedal quite well, to make a hastily organized overnight stay in agritourism in Drwinia before dark.
The place owner, Mrs. Jadwiga is a real encyclopedia of knowledge about the area. Have you been here ? And there? she interrogates me. Why is it, only for 1 night? looks reproachfully There is so much to see here! There are so many different birds living here, Ornithologists have been coming to me for years.. Wooden jetties and an observation tower are nearby, they recently built .. ponds with a fishery for anglers. And the bicycle route along the Vistula River..
When I revealed, that basically I am taking the Vistula bicycle route, I only make such side jumps, he says - Mrs, the road is fun, but there should still be boards every now and then, some content, information, whatever - about nature, faunie, flora, neighborhood, because when families with children go, it could do with something, to show the children from time to time.
I promised, that if there is a chance, I will make such a request. And I really recommend agritourism in Drwinia, it's a good starting point.
Uście Solne - Szczucin (and a lot, lots of meadows in between)
The most convenient way to return to the WTR is the connecting route "Sal de Bochegna" (green trail) - to the historic salt warehouse in Uście Solny – leads along local roads along the Raba river or cross the river on the footbridge in Mikluszowice and cycle along the western side of the river along the Velo Raba section of the embankment. The WTRki and Velo Raba routes intersect in Uście Solny.
Uście Solne was once a town of great importance – transhipment port, from which the salt flowed further north to Gdańsk. Currently quite a sleepy place. Besides a really big four-sided square, where a few more wooden buildings have survived, he probably remembers the times of better prosperity in the city.
I returned to the Vistula route. Perfect asphalt, zero car traffic, nice scenery. Fields, by, cultivation. You can see the Vistula often, though not all the time. So much is happening, how much should happen, that is, apparently nothing is happening. Storks trace paths across fields of freshly mown grass - they like this area for a reason. My beloved pulpwood has just ripened on the apple trees, the first apples of each season. The grain is maturing, farmers look after the crops, harvest time is coming.
Exactly – Storks like this area - in the village of Niedzieliska, located a few kilometers from the embankment, where a lot of white storks came, it became a stork village. Every year, on the first day of spring, there is supposedly a "stork greeting" and in August tourists come here, to watch them gathering before departure for the winter.
I really like storks, looking for curiosities, I turned to this area. There were a lot of storks everywhere, in Niedzieliska itself as if less than I expected.
There are many chapels painted by the field roads ripening with grain. At the crossroads, sometimes in someone's backyard.. It's nothing fancy, that in Poland there are chapels by the road, but there are plenty of them and they are extraordinary. And each other. Different from those from Mazovia or Podhale, sculptures in the Małopolska chapel, small works of art, with a human hand, carefully carved centuries ago, now you can see the fresh colors, renovated.
Somewhere in the center of the area closed from the north by the Vistula and from the east by the Dunajec I found another curiosity – Manor house in the village of Dołęga, branch of the museum in Tarnów. It presents itself as if straight out of the novel and film "Noce i dnie" - nothing, just look for Barbara and Bogumił Niechcic. Place - it's a museum after all – looks well-groomed, inside there are preserved exhibits from a typical bourgeois mansion from 1800 century, The manor house is a typical example of a Polish noble country residence from the 19th century. You can visit the salon at the exhibition, in which there are period furniture, as well as photos, images (m.in. Stanisław Wyspiański) and souvenirs of the inhabitants.. but the sightseeing hours are short.
Sometimes Murphe's law doesn't work and you find something, what you need at the right moment.. Tadam! There is a campsite opposite the museum! And free of charge! And although I could continue for an hour more, I decided to stay. The keys to the field are at the museum's curator, who came, he opened, He assured me that it was safe and wanted to offer fuel to the fire… There is a pavilion inside – toilets and showers - unfortunately still not connected to electricity so no hot water, but what is enough.
Practically: Unfortunately, it is not very easy to stay overnight in this area. Another option in this area is the agritourism "Kogutowo" in Miechowice Wielkie 3 km from the Vistula and Velo Dunajec route. A place at the end of the village, idyllic and quiet, It was built in an old wooden cottage and it is still quite austere, was only established this year and is still undergoing changes, but most importantly - a bed, water, cool place for a tent, peace and quiet and the owner is very friendly to cyclists.
Ever since I left Niepołomice and Bochnia, between Vistula route and Tarnów in Powiśle Dąbrowskie area, south of the Vistula, I was driving through the villages, I've never heard of. Szczurowa. Zabno. Uście Solne and Ujście Jezuickie. I wandered around the world so much and still discover blank spots on the map of my country.
In this area I am not going back to the cycling path, something for something, I know, that it leads almost all the time along the embankment to Demblin. Certainly, being there, I would drive to the headland formed in the place where the Dunajec flows into the Vistula - the color of the water from both rivers differs, although it is probably best seen from above. Following the advice of local residents, I decided to see this place from the river, from the ferry in Opatowiec.
It started raining on the ferry on the Dunajec River in Wietrzychowice and it did not look like it, that it will end soon. These ferries remembering the times of the Polish People's Republic are also such a local attraction. The course takes a few minutes and looks exactly the same, as in the case of other ferries on the Vistula, which I had the opportunity to use. A few kilometers to Ujście Jezuickie leads along a local road, but there is almost no traffic here.
There I decided to wait out the rain in MOR - cyclist service point "Ujście Jezuickie". This one is probably my favorite MOR – located close to the route but off the beaten track, next to it is a playground, shop, draw shreds, water intake .. And so I waited and waited, And since the rain was coming back and the place was cool, it took a few hours. I don't like driving in the rain unless I have to. I adapted MOR to a small office, clouds with driving rain kept coming back. I passed that day suddenly 20 km, my plans were completely different, but it also happens – I put up my tent and stayed overnight. The next day the sun greeted me.
– 35 I haven't been to Warsaw for years, has it changed, waht do you say? A local passenger on the ferry in Opatowiec was talking, when we started a conversation with the locals “about life”. Not bad. Being on the move almost all the time, I didn't realize how many people like him there are, who stay in place all their lives and have no need to do so.
– And there was another lady here last week, she was driving herself too, but the luggage was bigger! The ferry attendant added.
Impossible.. I find it hard to believe, that someone has more luggage than me. It's cool though, that there was no criticism. I have the luggage I have, I need it and that's it.
In Opatowiec, I found an ATM that I needed to be happy, I bought excellent fresh bread in the bakery and swam again to Ujście Jezuickie continue the route - the longest section of the WTRka embankment is here, to ok. 30 km.
A friend recommended going to the other side of the Vistula, to watch the interesting Nowy Korczyn (bridge under construction, you have to take a ferry), but because of yesterday's stoppage, I let go, because time is not made of rubber, especially, that I will go the other way, to visit one of the most anticipated places on the Vistula route – Painted flowers The village - Zalipie.
– The Japanese used coaches here! The hostess she encountered was emotional, which invited people to see the interior (it is appropriate to leave a small amount). And this year without comparison, almost empty.
It was not empty, There were some tourists around the village - I definitely prefer such atmosphere than coaches full of people.
– I have reservations until the end of the season Maria added, which arranged agritourism in one of the painted houses. I think there are more tourists this year, she added. Unfortunately, I couldn't see the interior, because the guests lived, but with the consent of the owner, I entered the yard, to see these wonders, the authentic house of the agritourism owner grandparents
– go to see the parish church madam, is not far away! Maria mentioned when I was leaving. Church, draw shreds, primary school.. flowery motifs everywhere.. though not every house is painted.
Zalipie is unique, because not an open-air museum, but a normal village. Painting floral patterns not only on homes, but within them, bypassing the door, objects is a living and cultivated tradition. I have never met a similar place anywhere in the world. This tradition is said to originate from painting over dirty spots on home hearths, was spread by a village resident, Felicja Curyłowa at the beginning of the 20th century. It was she who organized the "Painted Cottage" competition, which is held in Zalipie every year on the weekend after Corpus Christi. Probably this note of competition makes, that the tradition of painting floral patterns is doing so well in Zalipie.
The former farm of Felicja Curyłowa is now a branch of the regional museum in Tarnów. There is also a new pandemic order - I will always remember this trip by J – You enter at full hours and the interiors are not accessible, but you can look through the window.
There is also Dom Malarek - the local community center, tourist information connection, gift shop, workshop, where you can see the art of painting and even try it yourself.
From Zalipie I return to the Vistula Cycling Route and without jumping to the side I reach Szczucin. The beautiful path along the embankment ends quite brutally at the bridge, which leads a very busy voivodeship road. If I was going to go north along the Vistula, it wouldn't be that easy. However, I really wanted to see Tarnów, because it's the next blank spot on my tourist map of Poland.
In Szczucin one more glance - unfortunately only over the fence at the Road Museum, in which there are all souvenirs related to road construction and although I am not particularly interested in it, the place looks interesting – children and young people in particular would have something to do. Again, I am not able to make time for the opening hours (only until 3pm!).
Practically: You can spend the night in Szczucin, The hotel-restaruant Sovrana even has affordable prices, but there are usually weddings on Fridays and Saturdays and no seats.
Apparently, Tarnów is the Polish heat pole. I had before my eyes the Renaissance buildings of the market square and the shape of the town hall. It is very characteristic - Renaissance, as evidenced by the top with attics, but gothic elements are preserved.
Unfortunately, most of Tarnow's museums are closed, but somewhere I was lucky - it was Sunday, and that's it on Sunday, and at the hour 12.00 there are free guided walks around the main monuments of the city. It's well spent 1,5 hours. The bicycle can be brought into the building, where the tourist information is located and leave it safely.
Practically: When traveling, I always try to visit the local tourist information, review printed materials, find out, sometimes there will be some interesting maps. Free walks – sightseeing tours are increasingly organized.
Accommodations: The accommodation base in Tarnów is well developed, but more expensive options prevail. There is a good campsite “Under the Apple trees”, I opted for a slightly more expensive option – room in the VLC Training Center (50 PLN ) – no fireworks, but clean, quiet and there is a kitchen.
I was probably most interested in the Jewish trail in Tarnów. There were many followers of Judaism in the entire region, and there are still plenty of signs and symbols in the streets, which testify to this, how important part of the local community they were. They were not the only ones engaged in trade, but they belonged to the city's cultural and intellectual elite. Jewish ritual bathhouse - mikvah, erected in 1904 r. in a very unusual style – Moorish, it is now the seat of the restaurant (after the revolutions by Magda Gessler) and offices, unfortunately it is quite a neglected building. It's such a pity, is really unique. This place also played a role in the sad period – the second world wars. It's here 13 June 1940 r. The Germans closed down 753 prisoners from the Tarnów prison, who were transported to the KL Auschwitz camp the next day, in which he participated, among others. artist Marian Kołodziej, whose exhibition in Harmęże near Oświęcim it made such a big impression on me. These events are commemorated by a monument standing in front of the bathhouse and the current name of the square: KL Auschwitz prisoners.
Bima is also symbolic, that is, an increase, from which the Torah in the synagogue is read. It is the only preserved fragment of the oldest one, which was destroyed by the Germans, seventeenth, Tarnów synagogue.
Well, in Tarnów I finished my tour of the region, the skeleton of which was determined by the Vistula Bicycle Route. I had the impression, that I just slipped through this beautiful city. I had plans, to go Velo Dunajec and get to know the area of Ciężkowice, but I had to go back .. that, what is delaying..
Is it worth going along the Vistula Bicycle Route in Małopolska?? And how is the comparison with South Korea??
surely, it's worth it. So far, it is the longest fragment of the bicycle route in Poland, I know, whose infrastructure only serves bicycles. fragments, which lead along the Vistula embankments have a European standard, it is not inferior to South Korea's paths and infrastructure. It is perfect for both cyclists, and families, and bicycle travelers. However, it is best to adapt parts of it for shorter trips.
Of course, the route along the Vistula embankments has its pros and cons. Isolation from car traffic and safety is a huge advantage. The route is easy, undemanding – it's flat.
Disadvantages? You have to pay attention to the weather – wind direction (western dominance in Poland, that one. north or south, rarely from the east), midday sun can also be harmful, there may be nowhere to shelter from the rain.
Diversions. Renovation works on the river embankments are still in progress, and in the vicinity of Krakow it is sometimes bad with the marking.
Parts of the route run along local roads. Honestly, this is not a problem for me, even variety, roads are generally really calm, but for families with children this can be important information.
And the main disadvantage – well 200 kilometres of the Vistula Cycling Route is still not enough! 🙂
Zaplecze turystyczne – zwłaszcza na wschód od Krakowa jest słabe. Nie ma za dużo miejsc noclegowych, pubs, shops. Ponownie – mi to aż tak bardzo nie przeszkadza, mam namiot dużo miejsca w sakwach na zapasy, but there probably are people, które chcą mieć wszystko zaplanowane i nie wozić ze sobą za dużo.
Some will say too, that it can be boring in the long run, nothing happens, there are no descents or climbs. Who likes what. Nothing stands in the way, to adapt the route as the backbone of smaller tours, make loops, or ride a zigzag like me. Watch landscapes and little-known monuments – especially from the east – a fragment of Lesser Poland. I also know a lot of flat riding fans.
A na zakończenie – mały filmik z trasy https://youtu.be/sbaaJBlJQqw