Monday, 13 July 2015

Marathon stroll along the Vistula

Sunday was going to be nice, so after a early start, massive breakfast and packing supplies, I set off for W-wa Jeziorki station where a Koleje Mazowieckie train took me 25 to Góra Kalwaria. A convenient connection, it left at 08:20 and arrived at 09:02, leaving plenty of rambling time. Not many people on the six-car set, but quite a few cyclists and walkers.

Today, passenger trains no longer cross the Vistula as they once did; the line beyond Góra Kalwaria is freight-only and heavily used - I saw several freight trains hauling oil cisterns, containers, empty flat-cars or as below, logs. If these are to be burnt in coal-fired power stations in order to claim green certificates - shame. If they are to be used as building materials or for furniture, doors and window frames - great. In the distance, the rail bridge across the Vistula, downstream of the road bridge that carries the DK50.

Below: I take a closer look at the bridge. Note to urban explorers - crossing is not safe. Trains are frequent and long, the wooden planks are rickety as are the metal barriers. SOKists (railway guards) lurk in the bushes and hand out fines to those foolhardy enough to attempt the crossing. Having said that, PKP PLK, Poland's rail infrastructure operator, should build a segregated and safe pedestrian crossing here - it would boost local tourism.

Below: Overhead a Polish designed-and-built TS-8 Bies trainer, restored and today privately owned. I guess it's kept at the airfield at Gassy that I visited several years ago. I snapped another example of this lovely vintage aircraft at the Radom Air Show two years ago.

I set off northwards, in the direction of Warsaw, heading downstream. After a while I come across a jetty sticking out into the river, used by anglers. From here, I get a distance shot of the bridge. In the short time I was here, three trains crossed the river. The weather was ideal for walking; not too hot, not humid, a slight breeze wafting across.

All along the riverbank, proof of how mighty the Vistula is. I am standing on a uprooted tree that was carried downstream on a flood, until it came to rest on this jetty. Massive tree trunks could be seen here and there, testament to the power of the elements.

From the end of the jetty, looking across at the deserted sandy beaches of Otwock poviat on the other side. The river water is far cleaner today than it was before EU money started being used to build water treatment plants. Seven years ago, I observed (here) " The water is filthy with floating plop-plops..." "Three went by in the space of a minute." Yesterday, I saw none. The EU's Water Directive is proving to be a success in improving the quality of Poland's rivers.

The road running parallel to the flood defence wall ('wał') is very popular with cyclists. Few motorists come here - good. It's quiet and peaceful. Road bikes on the road, off-road bikes on the wał itself, mostly heading south in the direction of Góra Kalwaria.

Below: islands in the stream. Every now and then, sandy islands appear in the middle of the Vistula. Magic views, unspoilt, few people around.

Below: am I on the banks of the Missouri? Is this Montana? No, if I turn through 180 degrees, I find myself asking...

... Is this Apulia? Am I overlooking the olive groves of Abruzzo? No, this is heavenly Mazowsze. Peaceful and sublime.

But the solitude comes to an end as I reach Gassy, from where a ferry takes cars, motorbikes, cycles and pedestrians over to the Otwock shore. Below: the real queue starts on the jetty. Cars have a long wait, as the ferry can take but five at a time. Pedestrians and two-wheel traffic has no trouble getting on. Tickets start at 3zł for a pedestrian, 18zł for a car with passengers. Journey time is less than five minutes, the ferry runs non-stop from between 09:00 and 20:00 at weekends (details here).

This time last year, I was here by bicycle, doing the same journey the other way. The ferry was in place, but had not been given permission to operate because of protests by ecologists. Evidently good sense prevailed, as this service is boosting tourism on both banks of the river. Demand was plentiful, walkers and cyclists far outnumbering the motorists.

Below: on the Otwock side, looking towards the wał. As soon as I cross the river, I note a different ambience or klimat; slightly different flora. Which side of the river more definitively captures the essence of Mazowsze?

From here, I walked through Otwock, the Piaseczno of the East. A sprawling suburb. My Bilkom mobile application fails to inform me of works on the railway line back to town, I catch a replacement bus service. All told I walk over 39,300 paces (31.5km/19.5 miles) during the course of the day. No ill effects (muscle pains, blisters) at all.

This time last year:
Complaining about the lack of a river crossing between Siekierki and Góra Kalwaria!

This time two years ago:
S2 update (nearly ready, as it happened)

This time three years ago:
Progress on S2 bypass - photos from the air

This time five years ago:
Up Śnieżnica

This time eight years ago:
July continues glum (2007 - a rainy summer)

1 comment:

Bob said...

Nice - we were biking that area on Sunday (on the west side). A real pleasure to ride, see the orchards fields if dill, cabbage, potatoes etc.