'99 Poland - Sinai (Egypt) - Poland Trip 

First Leg: Europe part 1

Poland, part 1
Czech Republic/Austria (Jacek) and Germany/Switzerland (Greg) (transit)

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Poland, part 1


Greg: Saturday—Tuesday, June 19—July 6, 99: Poland


G.: I left for Poland on June 19, 99, Saturday. In London I changed planes. There I met an intoxicated Pole with whom I chatted and who offered me a drink of whiskey. It was my first time flying with PLL LOT (Polish Airlines) and first time at the Okecie Airport in Warsaw, small but very pleasant station.

I haven’t done any backpacking for a very long time so I decided to try it again. Next two weeks I spent traveling by train and visiting my friends and family. 

Drinking Polish beer

Since my family lives all over southern Poland I had a chance to take many trains and buses. The public transport was very reliable and extremely cheap. It was also pretty easy to meet people on trains and even make friends (well, it was easy for me, I speak Polish). 

Lysica, Poland

Anybody I met worth mentioning? Yes. A Polish biker with whom I corresponded by email. He did some serious traveling, too. (Visit his site: go to Links and click Travel to Kenya or Travel to Tunisia).

I also met a Polish/Australian fellow on the train to Torun (he was reading a Lonely Planet book so I interrupted him and …). 

Main train station in Torun with Literat from Australia

When we arrived in Torun I invited him downtown for a beer. We chose the famous leaning tower of Torun as our place of conversation.     


Jacek: Thursday, July 1, 99—Tuesday, July 6, 99: Toronto—Torun, Poland  



J.: No more getting early to go to work! Vacation time!!!

I arrived in Poland on Friday. The flight was boring, so won't talk about it. My brother’s friend, Krzychu Bromka, picked me up at the airport and drove to Torun, my hometown. He, as most of Polish drivers nowadays, didn’t bother respecting speed limit: 200 km/h in 90 km/h zone. My parents and my brother welcomed me warmly.

Greg's and my bikes were supposed to come on Friday, July 2. They didn’t. When travelling, always be prepared to be late...  In the meantime I enjoyed my family and my old friends from high school. Czesc, chlopaki i dziewczyny z IVB. Pozdrawiam - Jacek.


Wednesday, July 7, 99: Still Torun


J.: I changed my image. Cut my long hair! 

Finally something was going on. Three days late, the bikes arrived on Tuesday. Greg showed up on Tuesday night.

Wednesday’s events were quite interesting. First of all, we experienced post-communist bureaucracy. We waited 3,5 hours to see a Polish customs official. After a 2-minute conversation, he granted us permission to use our motorbikes as tourist vehicles (he was a biker, too). At the end of our visit there, another official suggested that it would be nice if we brought something to drink for the office. Well, let me tell you. He didn't mean mineral water. In order to avoid any upcoming problems we did as he hinted. I asked: "How many 'drinks'?" "Well... there are two motorcycles..." By the way, (and this has nothing to do with the incident I just described), a ½ liter bottle of vodka costs about US$ 5. Not bad, eh?

We got to the warehouse to unpack and put our vehicles together. 

Warehouse in Lipno, Poland

There weren't any problems except that we had to pay extra for storage (1 day) even though the bikes were late. According to what we were told in Toronto (from where we shipped the bikes), this charge was supposed to be around 5-10 bucks. It was 50 each! The company with whom we shipped the bikes (EuroCan Cargo Services) advertises itself as the most trustful and honest. I have a different conception of honesty.

G.: Here I have to thank Jacek’s father for driving us everywhere and Jacek’s mom for delicious meals and sawing my sleeping bag. 

J.: Yes, thanks, mom and dad. Nevertheless, we had our bikes, and would be leaving my beloved hometown soon: Thursday or Friday.


Thursday, July 8 ’99: 


J.: Torun

J.: Greg left on Thursday in order to visit his aunt in Wroclaw and then his sister in Switzerland. We were supposed to meet in Chioggia, Italy, on Monday. I decided to leave on Friday morning in order to visit my brother in Italy (on vacation).  



G.: Torun-Wroclaw.

G.: It was a long and wet ride (Torun-Wroclaw). Only 350 kms but it took me 6 hours to make it. It rained all the time, many cars, slow trucks. Passing was the only way to go. Police attempted to stop me on two occasions (speeding) but I decided it was too dangerous to stop. It was a difficult and exhausting ride.


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Czech Republic/Austria and Germany/Switzerland


Friday, July 9, 99


G. in Wroclaw.

Wroclaw, Poland, Greg's home town

A day of final preparations, checking every part on my GPZ and making sure it all works.  



J.: Torun—Bobrava 

I set off on Friday around noon, rode through Poland and stopped in a motel in Bobrava, Czech Republic, for the night. The clerk in the reception suggested that I should keep my motorbike inside the room to avoid theft. I’m sure my bike appreciated this gesture. 

My bike in the motel room

The disco was cheap, beer too. Czech girls beautiful and fun, as always.


Saturday, July 10, 99


G.: Wroclaw-Au by Zurich.  

The longest ride of my life and also the best time I ever made. I rode 1150 km in 11 hours maintaining a cruising speed at 140-160 km/h. I crossed 4 borders, gassed up 3 times, ate 2 times, met some German bikers and truly enjoyed the ride. Beautiful mountains, great weather (15-20 C, dry), fantastic highways (Germany). I arrived in the evening and was very happy to see my sister. She had some more guests who stepped by on their way from Italy to Poland. So on Sunday we all had a wonderful time eating, drinking (Italian wine), talking and walking by the Zurig lake.  

Zurig Lake, Switzerland


J.: Bobrava—Venice

The drive was interesting and picturesque. Unfortunately, it was raining all day so I wasn’t able to admire all the views. 

In the rain gear at a gas station in Czech Republic

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Sunday-Monday, July 11-12, 99  



J.: Venice, Padova

I stayed with my brother and his family in Chioggia near Venice for two days. Czesc Wojtek, Iwona, Maciek i Jedrek! On Sunday we paid a short visit to Padova.  

On Monday I went to see Venice by myself. Beautiful place!

Greg joined me in the late evening on Monday. He was coming from Switzerland.


G.: Au- Chioggia by Venice

One of the most picturesque rides. The Swiss Alps are simply breathtaking. The rigid and towering yet very inviting mountains always overwhelm me (naturally it was not my first time). Riding through a tunnel may sound like fun and it is if the tunnel is short. St. Gotthard was 18 kms long and after a while it was hard to breathe. When I left the tunnel I was very pleased with the sudden change of temperature. It was definitely over 25C (at least 10 degrees more than before the tunnel). Now I felt my vacation truly started. It is surely more fun riding in warm weather.

A quick ride through Northern Italy and that evening I joined Jacek and his brother in Chioggia.  

Resort near Chioggia, Italy


Tuesday, July 13, 99: Chioggia—Brindisi  


G.: From now on we rode together. I had to slow down a bit to ride with Jacek modestly at approximately 130/h. It’s OK, at this speed my GPZ was taking only 4.5L/100kms, major savings considering the European gas prices, 1$US per litre.

J.: Come on, I got a dual-purpose! And there is no reason to hurry. I prefer to save time by getting a bit early and by spending less time preparing breakfast and in the john ;-)

The weather now began to look more Mediterranean. No more rain! We took the expensive Italian highway. It paid off because we got to Brindisi around 9:30 p.m. and were able to board the 10:00 p.m. ferry for Igoumenitza, Greece. 

Buying ferry tickets in Brindisi

While still on the highway, I lost the toll ticket. Somehow I got away paying the same amount as Greg (US$ 30), not the expected fine which would have been around $US 100. On the ferry there was plenty of room and certainly a cabin was not necessary. We found a cozy place in the lounge: soft benches and a table—truly a perfect place to crash. The trip took about 10 hours.


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