Sunday, 5 May 2013

By bike, south of Jeziorki

The last day of the great Majówka (extended May bank holiday) and finally the sun comes out. A lovely warm day, with temperatures topping  23C, the highest all week. An ideal opportunity to get out into the countryside by bike. From Jeziorki, the nearest countryside lies south of Piaseczno ('Setchno or Sand City), a town with which Warsaw has a similar relationship that London has with Slough. The sooner through it the better. Not an easy town to navigate through, I always get lost here.

Below: I passed hundreds of cyclists today; here I'm at Zalesie Dolne station. Now, you may have heard of Zalesie Górne station, south of Piaseczno on the line to Radom, but Zalesie Dolne is on the touristy narrow-gauge line from Piaseczno to Tarczyn.

Below: am I on the Mazurian lakes? Have I cycled all the way to Wigry? No, this is one of the fish ponds between Żabieniec and Zalesie Górne. I spent a while here sunning myself and watching the myriad wildlife, including a swimming grass snake (grey with a white stripe behind its neck, like this one). No midges, gnats or mosquitoes whatsoever - thanks to the dragonflies darting about.

I cycled back through Żabieniec, Siedliska, Chylice and Julianów. Żabieniec, a village full of działki (summer-houses) was already in summer holiday mode. Disco-polo music was blasting out of tinny speakers, bare-chested young men riding in the back of pick-up trucks; Pan Heniek and Pan Żiutek were staggering to the sklep wielobranżowy for another flaszka, while scores of cyclists were riding up and down ul. Główna, Żabieniec's main drag.

Below: Half a kilometre east of the level crossing on ul. Julianowska, there's a man-made hill, created by developers who've been filling the area south of Las Kabacki forest and Chylice with houses during the boom years, 2003-2008. This hill, some six-seven metres high, affords splendid views of the surrounding countryside. The railway line is the one that carries the coal trains from Okęcie sidings to the sidings at Konstancin-Jeziorna and on to Siekierki power station.

Below: a convertible Cadillac from the late '60s/early '70s; a splendid sight. If I were minister of transport I'd limit motorists to a 1-litre hatchback and 10,000km a year. If they wanted anything else, such as this magnificent vehicle, they'd have to provide me with an essay stating their aesthetic, historical and ideological reasons for wanting to own such a machine. If their essay gushes with sufficient enthusiasm, permission to own would be granted. The owner would be obliged to maintain the vehicle in showroom-style splendour for the pleasure of future generations of admirers.

Back home I find I overdid the sunshine; I will no doubt have a red nose and peeling skin on my forehead. For the record, I covered 38.6km by bike today, all but 2km of it on asphalt. My commuting bike, built over 20 years ago, is good for this kind of cycling; with an upright riding position, I can appreciate the scenery, the skinny tyres are good for tarmacked roads.

This time two years ago:
Functionalist architecture in Warsaw

This time three years ago:
What's the Polish for 'to bully'?

This time four years ago:
Making plans

This time five years ago:
The setting sun stirs my soul

This time six years ago:
Rain ends the drought

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