How I got back home and lost my mind… (extra pictures and a videoclip)

fot. Ewa Maria Kaczmarek
Hi guys! I’m sincerely sorry that I hesitated for so long with this article. Believe me, being a good housewife while looking for a job, combined with hanging out with my nearest and dearest, plus working on remarks to my thesis is more than a full-time job. I know it’s late and you probably forgot about my bike challenge… but maybe it’s high time to remind you about it. I’m going to tell you how I did my 987km and what I experienced on my way back home.
I don’t know how many of you have been to Warsaw but I know some of you have. I also know that you feel positive about the city. I’m curious, and I will eagerly ask each of you for details concerning the Polish capital when I see you. The thing is, for me Warsaw is too harsh, especially after Vilnius, especially after cycling through the Eastern Poland. If I was asked how I imagine New York, I would say I imagine is exactly like the Polish capital. On the surface Warsaw is a perfectly working city, convenient, nice and good looking. But no matter how I tried, I couldn’t fall in love with this city. I simply don’t understand Warsaw; I don’t have the right key. Before I came to Warsaw I had kept my expectations very high and couldn’t wait to see the Polish capital for the first time.
I made a few mistakes in regards to Warsaw. First, I went to the Polish capital without any plan. I thought that I would let myself wander through the city and somehow I would see interesting places and people. I ended up wandering pointlessly, saying every day that today will be different from the previous one. The tendency was the opposite – the first day was nice, the second tolerable and the last was horrible. 
People in Warsaw like to take any opportunity where they can teach you the rules. They always tell you when you did something wrong. Principles are indisputable, even if they don’t make sense, e.g. we entered the Palace of Culture and Science walking under the wrong arch and we approached a ticket controller. He asked us to go back and go under the central arch just for the matter of principle.


I forgot how it is to be a tourist. After staying for at least half a year in Moscow, Irkutsk and Vilnius, I’m used to LIVING in different cities - I don’t know how to go SIGHTSEEING in them. I need a lot of time to explore new places, day by day, month by month. I didn’t know what to do in Warsaw because I had only three days there. The time limit made me constantly stressed that I would not manage to get to know the city and it happened, I didn’t manage. I don’t know which of us is inapproachable, me or Warsaw. We have no choice but to keep distance or come close enough to understand each other better.


Had it not been for my nice host Magda, I would have been panicked and fully lost in Warsaw. In Magda’s place I felt at home. I could verbalize my thoughts, relax under the shower and feel like a human being...


I wanted the last day in Warsaw to be a turning point for me. I made a plan how to make it a good day. I decided I will visit places which help open my minds, buy it came out that both places I wanted to visit - the Copernicus Science Centre and The Museum of the Warsaw uprising- were… closed on Tuesdays. I was so frustrated that I ended up in a “restaurant” I hate, in McDonald’s. Only there I did feel normal. I started analyzing the characteristics of Warsaw, writing them down on a piece of paper, when all of the sudden I realized that a dear friend of mine lives in… Warsaw. I immediately called him and the meeting was a turning point for me. He brought me a breath of normality and helped me relax. My best time in Warsaw was when we sat down on the scene and I discovered how similar our views on Polish capital are. I felt that I’m not alone in my doubts and misunderstandings towards Warsaw. 


Love or hate...

Warsaw is a classic of the kind “you can’t be neutral” - love it, or hate it. I’m still undecided, but I can say that Warsaw is very convenient for cyclists. Bike lanes are everywhere. There are also stands on intersections so as you can lean your leg against them when waiting for the green light. They say on them “Thank you that you’ve chosen a bicycle”. Those stands always made me smile. It feels nice when a stand approves your choices ;) 

What is the recipe for a good brand?

Can someone explain to me what is the point of buying brand products, other than showing that we can afford for them? Of course gadgets make us feel better. I know that having an apple sign on electronic devices shows credibility of one company or the position of a person in the society. I know that many brand products are of good quality, but the prices on brand products are for both, quality and the brand. I’m thinking about O-bags. Do you get why women are crazy about buying rubber bags, I’m sorry, bags made out of EVA material? Those bags aren’t made out of good leather or silk, nor wicker or cotton, they are almost plastic, like disposable plastic bags from shops. How does it work that well-off people are flaunting O-bags and it make them items of desire for the less well-off part of society? O-bags are extremely popular in Warsaw. When I visited to the O-bag website I was struck by the statement I read there, “O-bag factory full sport was set by a group of creative people who wanted to design NEW EXTRAVAGANT ITEMS OF DESIRE”. Really? What’s wrong with me if I don’t feel like I’d like to buy such a bag? 

There is an old urban legend about Warsaw which applies to people who move to the Polish capital in the search for a better life. Those people are called “jars”. The name is given to them as they often go home for weekends and bring food in jars as they don’t have money to buy food in Warsaw. On the other extreme we have people who live in Warsaw and have money to burn. If you look at them from the side, you can have an impression that their lives evolve around spending. Russians say about the West that western people are “fed up” (зажрались) which means that they can afford for almost anything they want. Russians note that as it has gotten more and more money, western civilization has lost creativity and the ability to appreciate small things. Such a lifestyle is in the Warsaw air. Isn’t it sad that in the western world people make others happy giving goods and gadgets, and they think it works? Does it? Isn’t it a vicious circle? The more “normal” people can afford for luxurious goods, the more even more expensive products are designed, produced and wanted. Let’s all buy O-bags because I’m curious what will be designed after those super nice EVA bags become common among “normal” people… To sum up about Warsaw, okay, I admit I exaggerated a little it with my doubts concerning Warsaw. I strongly recommend you all visit the Polish capital and make your own assessments. But remember that you should not assume Warsaw is Poland. I feel like Warsaw is going in the same direction as Moscow, which is known for “not being Russia”.

The sixth day (after 3-day stopover in Warsaw)


When I was leaving Warsaw I decided that the last stage of my trip will be 175km. It was a little too much. I made this decision because at the beginning I simply wanted to visit my friends in Włocławek, and even though they couldn’t host me, I didn’t verify my plans (I don’t know why!) and used couchsurfing to find a place to stay in Włocławek (oh man, I had so many possibilities to shorten the distance…). I got two acceptances on couchsurfing, so I left Warsaw (too late!) and headed to Włocławek. That day was full of… meetings. I met a woman working on the field about 30 km before Żelazowa Wola (the place where Fryderyk Chopin was born). She had NO IDEA how to get to Żelazowa Wola (a famous tourist destination?) and suggested that I ask drivers as “they travel” and she doesn’t…  


When I made stops on that day, people voluntary stopped next to me or got out of their houses in order to help me or offer compote. They themselves wanted to show me directions. They gave me words of approval like: “we like such way of spending vacation”. They were all suggesting that I go on the road along the Vistula river. I kept asking them if the road is paved and they assured me it is. When I got there it came out that I need to cycle… in spinney. I appreciate that the views were pretty but I was a little afraid about completing the distance. I got to Płock at 8 p.m. I was resigned. I still had 46km to the final point. I was trying to find a place to stay in Płock but without any result. That was one of those moments when I resulted to call my mum. Mirella is a brave woman. She asked whether it’s raining or not. When I said it’s sunny she decisively insisted that I continue cycling. I had no choice. I completed the distance. I want to say big thank to my nice host Elżbieta who was waiting for me till 10.30 p.m. I came to her place tired but very, very happy.



The seventh day In the morning my host Elżbieta took me to the Cathedral in Włocławek. I’ve seen a few churches in my life but that one was stunning. I don’t want to tell you more about it, instead I strongly recommend that you come and see it!


The seventh day was more relaxing than the previous one. I did only 133km. Most of the way I was going through villages which I liked very much. I feel that my place on this planet would be somewhere there, in some village where life is slower and the air smells (optionally) like strawberries, parsley, dill, river, grass or lindens. Cycling gives you a perfect possibility to appreciate all those smells. In the evening I got to Niemczyn. I was hosted by my friend’s parents. I liked them a lot. We spent the evening together watching a match between Poland and Germany, and afterward we talked a lot. I must say that I really appreciate older people. They are smart, they intuitively understand more than students, they are impressively experienced and, most importantly, they’re more humble towards life. When it comes to my friend’s parents, I was very surprised how much they trusted me. They gave me a key to one of their flats and left me there alone.


The last day I remember my thoughts when I was getting up on the last day. I was sad that my challenge is almost over when I still had energy to cycle (I’m not commenting on my ass condition here, of course). I didn’t want to come back home fresh and with the feeling that I could have done more… When I got up in the morning the sky was dark. In a few minutes it started pouring. There was a thunderstorm so I was caged indoors. My host suggested that I stay for one more day, and my brother called me and proposed that he can come and take me home by car. I was motivated to continue because I didn’t want to give up on the very last day. I waited for the moment when it stopped raining and left Niemczyn. The first part of the way was okay. I don’t know why, but it feels like the rain is afraid of making me wet. It never starts raining when I cycle. It always used to be like this… since that eighth day. When I left Rogoźno (about 20km before Oborniki), another thunderstorm started. At the beginning, I stopped under one bus stop’s roof but I realized that it was only going to get worse, so I continued. That was definitely the most difficult part of my trip. The same rain wasn’t that bad. The worst was the wind, which almost stopped me! I promise I couldn’t go ahead, I couldn’t drive straight, I was balancing from the left to right (my bike is very light) plus any car or truck that was about to overtake me splashed me with water. My main concern was… what the drivers were thinking about me. I was afraid that they would feel sorry for me. I was trying not to make the impression that I was helpless, because I was afraid they would worry about me. By my posture and facial expression, I was trying to show them that I was all right. Do you think they got it?

After 20 km in survival circumstances I felt resigned. I got to Oborniki, where my father’s office is situated, and I was close to calling him and asking for help. Luckily, my father had finished work early that day. I had no choice but to continue. The rain stopped, but the wind seemed to be stronger. People in the city hid in their houses and I felt like an outcast, alone in the street.  


It was the last day, so I decided in the morning I would go round and visit my God mother. From Oborniki to her place I had another 20km, which was the slowest 20km I’ve ever cycled. When I was going up the hill on the easiest gear the wind… STOPPED me. I walked up the hill and then continued. It was harsh. I let myself crying, swearing and complaining out loud since no one heard me. When I got to my God mother’s house she opened the door saying “My God”. I knew I looked scary, but I didn’t think it was that bad. I showered, I had a hot tea, I talked to my relatives and at 8 p. m. I decided that it’s time for me to go home. My aunt protested and didn’t let me go. I was trying to persuade her that it’s only 20km and I’ll be home in about an hour but she was rigid (you see this is why I prefer to cycle on my own because sometimes I have ideas which reasonable people consider unreasonable ;)). I came up with an idea that I can call my mum and she’ll persuade my aunt. She did. Mission was complete. The last 20km were like a reward for all the pain I suffered from before. It was sunny, the air was fresh, I felt like a heroine. When I completed the distance I counted kilometres… I did 987 of them! МОЛОДЕЦ!

Thanks to the trip from Vilnius to Poznań, I know now that distances about 1000km are cycleable. Amazing, isn’t it? It kind of means that one day I can unexpectedly cycle to your city, you never know.

I hereby want to say thank to each and every one of you. I dedicate my success to YOU! I hope that the fact that a simple unprepared girl took her bicycle and drove 987km convinced you that you can do the same. You are all amazing!

My colleagues prepared material about my trip. It’s in Polish but lasts 2:30 minutes only. I hope you’ll not be bored! ENJOY!   



#1 aaa Ewa, jestes

aaa Ewa, jestes niesamowita
jestem dumna z Ciebie
Pozdro z Wilna

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