In search of the best roads to cycle on in Poland, Podia travelled to Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski. It was also an opportunity to visit some of the oldest mountain ranges in Europe. Four seasons in a day mixed with some rolling hills and a demanding climb to one of the highest points in the region.
The Świętokrzyskie Mountains, or Holy Cross Mountains are aptly named. It seems at every cross roads, in each farmer’s land we pass, a holy cross sits proudly surveying all around it. It is a Saturday afternoon, yet it is the churches and not the roads that are busy. It seems people here truly live by the name of their land.
The land might also be holy for cyclists. Notable not only for the distinct lack of cars throughout, but the small country roads that prove to be some of the smoothest we have experienced. A positive sign was watching a farmer and his son sweeping away the mud tracks left by his tractor.
A day filled with many small ascents and descents; the largest of them culminated at Łysa Góra (Bald Mountain), which at 593m is the second highest peak of the range. It also happens to be the spot where the Święty Krzyż Benedictine monastery is placed, although it was the TV tower that first gave away it’s location.
According to legend the monastery was built in 1006 by the first King of Poland; Bolesław Chrobry and took its name from the parts of the Holy Cross, which were offered to the monks. The location of the monastery wasn’t accidental – before the baptism of Poland at the top of Łysa Góra, pagan rituals occurred where witches gathered on their Sabbaths to ‘dance with the devils’.
The sanctuary has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times throughout history. It has also served as a prison during Soviet and Nazi occupation with the later executing thousands of Russian soldiers there. A mass grave is located near the peak, although we didn’t venture there with our bikes.
Back at the bottom you will find ample opportunity for bottle refill and hits of sugar, unless you are unlucky like us to find a wedding reception taking over the amenities. Never mind, a shop will suffice once you push the door buzzer. Literally.
After Łysa Góra two main roads 753 & 751 become a key part of the route, although a cycle lane is present for the majority of the time and the smooth undulating tarmac sees the kilometers fly past.
A turn just before Sarnia Zwola brings us back onto the quiet country roads that have been so typical. We reach them at the best part of the day, with the sun casting it’s long light across our shoulders as we make our way north back into Ostrowiec.