Wednesday, 23 February 2011

On The Road to Węgrów

It's been a while since I answered the Call of The Road. Today, I presented at a conference organised by Mazowsze province's regional development agency in Węgrów, some 90km due east of Warsaw. As no train goes anywhere near Węgrów, it had to be a car journey.

The weather could not have been more perfect for driving. Minus 15C when I left home, clear skies. Once I was past Stanisławów, there was hardly any traffic - nothing ahead of me, nothing in the rear view mirror. This is Droga Wojewódzka nr. 637*, which runs from Warsaw to Węgrów via Rembertów, Sulejówek, Stanisławów and Liw.

Above: between Stanisławów and Liw. Purest Mazowsze. Flat, flat, flat. Tree-lined road. Below: wooden houses in Liw. Much as they'd have looked in Tsarist times.

On the way back from the conference (which ended at around 4pm) there was still daylight; I drove home towards a setting sun. Below: I pulled over to the side of the highway to photograph the river Liwiec as it passed through Liw. It was a fair walk from the lay-by to the bridge; the snow piled up by the side of the road was deep, I was wearing polite office shoes rather than rugged outdoor boots, and so, once again this winter, I ended up with wet socks.

Below: and onwards towards our beloved Warsaw. As on the way out, there was hardly any traffic. Węgrów is not on the beaten track, this route is good for cycling (I've done Warsaw-Węgrów-Sokołów Podlaski-Siemiatycze four times by bike). Low population density east of the Vistula makes this an attractive part of Poland for me.

Soundtrack today - Count Basie and his Orchestra, from the album The Atomic Mr Basie, in particular the tracks Whirlybirds, Flight of the Foo Birds, and of course, Kid from Red Bank. Big Band at its finest (and recorded just two weeks after I was born).

* The 637 passes the large military zone that stretches from Rembertów on Warsaw's eastern fringes all the way to Pustelnik (25km!). Here in days gone by, the Tsarist army and later the Red Army could park itself in case of potential unrest. The 637 is the old Trakt Liwski, built by the Tsar, upgraded by the Soviets after 1945, allowing for the rapid deployment of Russian forces from the border into Warsaw. In the late '90s when I first cycled this route, the road surface was still in relatively good condition; today, it's deteriorated. The sparse traffic along the road, passing through towns like Węgrów no longer warrants the big zloties needed to keep it maintained to armoured fighting vehicle standard.

This time two years ago:
In the stillness of a winter forest

This time three years ago:
Over the fence


jel said...

I really haven't realized that there are still such old houses in Mazowsze. Beautiful photos. My congrats on them.

Sigismundo said...

"polite office shoes"?

Hmm, some language interference there, maybe... Perhaps one has been in Poland too long!

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Sigismundo: No, it's an old family phrase ('polite trousers', 'polite shoes' etc) pre-dating our move to Poland.

@ Jel: Thanks! Eastern Mazowsze has much that's old and eyecatching.

Sigismundo said...

Still language interference then... albeit dating from an earlier generation of Poles?

@jel. Yes, the small town/village of Liw, about 60km east of Warsaw is particularly nice. It still retains many wooden houses which are clumped into what was once a fortified settlement, and almost certainly dates back to medieval times. Also has a great castle and museum. (Not much in the way of other tourist facilities however).