Friday 14 May 2021
Thursday 13 May 2021
When I reached my prebooked room in a agroturystyka that evening a landrover stopped by me and a camouflage clad guy waved me over. I took him for the landlord but soon discovered that this was Polish border patrol! "Documentation!" I was asked and his female partner tried to check my ID while I was explaining in English what I was doing here. They did not believe me it seemed but still let me go. At least they did not take me for a an alcohol or cigarette smuggler. My room in the agroturystyka cost my just 15 Euro but could have been a 4 star hotel. Needless to say I was the only guest.
Although Olsztyn (Allenstein) had survived WW II relatively undamaged, it was destroyed by the Soviet Army, the German population was displaced. Nowadays most of the old city has been beautifully restored and enjoyed my sightseeing trip through the Allenstein's brick Gothic churches. The city caters mostly for German tourists: When I came to close the cathedral's altar, the alarm system sounded in form of a prerecorded announcement: "Don't step into the altar area" in Polish and in German ...
Even hiking out of Olsztyn was a delight: The E11 follows the river Lina with plenty of scenic paths and rest areas. (Alas it was too cold to rest ...) In the tiny village of Barkweda I encountered a big poster of Napoleon. A quick internet research revealed that Napoleon fought a battle here against the Prussians and Russians to cross the river. Napoleon won.
In the tiny village of Schmolainen the E11 made a strange long detour. I briefly thought of shortcutting it - and luckily I didn't! The trail took me to the former sommer residence of the bishop of Ermland. After 1945 the former castle was used as an agricultural school, but is now being restored to its former glory. It is set in the middle of a beautiful park that could be the film set for a fairy tale movie. Old trees, overgrown hedges, small path and thick walls that can only be crosses through theses wrought-iron gates. I could have wandered around much longer but several stray dogs decided to chase me out of their domain ...
|Cloister of Stoczek monastery|
Saturday 1 May 2021
After Poznan I finally left the Camino and continued on hiking trails. This route had been a suggestion of accomplished Polish long-distance hiker Agnieska aka Zebra. Her goal is to hike all Polish long-distance trails - and therefore she and another Polish hiker friend joined me for the next section. Michal aka Shakespeare did not know who I was but immediately recognised me when I met him in the parking lot of the train station were Zebra was to arrive soon. There are not too many ultralight hikers around in Poland ... Before embarking we had a quick lunch consisting of all leftovers from Michal's kitchen. We then followed the blazes - and immediately ended in a bushwhack because the trail has not been maintained for decades ...
To be honest the Camino route across Poland is not really very exciting. The landscape is dead flat, there is very little forest but endless fields. The trail is often routed over paved roads. There was no protection against the ice cold winds, rain and snow. But there were lovely sections along the river Odra or the many beautiful tree alleys. I discovered lots of interesting village churches and cemeteries, often still with German tombstones. Because of the winter temperatures people weres still heating their houses. Thick black smoke came out of the chimneys which smelled horrible. At least for this reason the Corona face masks were of advantage...
|Lubin monastery church|
|At the bridge across river Neiße in Görlitz|
|Market square of Bolesławiec|
|Crossing the Odra in Glogow|
Sunday 14 March 2021
After one year of Corona restrictions many countries are still (or again) closed to tourists, my original plan to hike in the US went down the drain. In spring 2021 there is not much choice of hiking destinations, especially if you don't want to fly. I still have two "unfinished" European traverses so it was obvious for me to pursue one of them - and the choice was easy: Last year I had started in Görlitz at the German-Polish border and had hiked South to Italy. This year I will start there again and go North through Poland, all three Baltic states and Finnland up the Finnish-Swedish border at the Gulf of Bothnia. The route is already planned out because I had intended to go there in 2020, but then had changed to Italy instead.
In this still unstable Corona situation Poland is a great choice: It borders Germany and in an emergency I can easily get back by train. More important still: Poland has currently very few restrictions for travellers. I don't need a Corona test to enter, even museums and hotels are open - and I will need accommodation at the beginning of my trip because now in March it is still bitterly cold! But most important: I have never hiked long-distance in Poland before, only short sections in the Tatras.
When I stumbled across a Polish Triple Crowner on the internet I contacted her - and Agnieska aka Zebra helped me to find a better route than my own concoction. I will now hike on a mixture of pilgrimage trails, the European long-distance trail E11 and self-designed routes.
If I will be allowed to enter Lithuania by the time I get there, I will continue on the Camino Lituano, followed by the Camino Latvia and the Coastal Trail in Latvia and a long-distance trail in Estonia.
In Finland I'll follow the E6 which is now a project of Finnish hiker Matti who offered a wealth of route suggestions and advice.
The entire route is about 3500 km long and I'll begin with 1,200 km through Poland.
I will start as soon as the weather improves and hope to be able to succeed in hiking the entire route - but this year a lot can go wrong or cause changes.