In celebration of it’s first autumn of cycling in Poland, Podia decided to visit one of the best places for this particular time of year; Bieszczady National Park.
Located to the east where Poland touches the borders of both Ukraine and Slovakia, it is an area of raw natural beauty.
Bieszczady as a region has an interesting history. Looking at a map it seems the cartographer slipped when drawing the borders and in fact up until 1947 the majority of the population there, were mountain people called Boyko who had Ruthenian-Vlach origins. A communist operation to displace them led to the area being left empty for a number of years before Poles began to slowly move there. The consummate effect this had, is an area of exceptional beauty that feels far more remote than somewhere like the Tatra mountains.
The first of our two days of riding see’s us take a less conventional 136km loop close to the lake in Solina before searching out gravel sections and detours through lesser known parts of the National Park. The riding here is characterised by rolling terrain that rarely offers long major challenges, yet the constant short sharp climbs soon sap away energy levels.
Starting in Cisna we make our way on large, yet reasonably quite roads that offer a tantalising glimpse of what the day has in stall for us. Even an early crash on a wet switchback wasn’t enough to dampen our photographic eagerness as each curve in the road offered another Instagram opportunity.
Next is a detour off the loop to Polańczyk, for a closer look at the lake and a coffee stop, before making our way back to the loop. After Polana we decide to take another little detour leaving the 894 towards Czarna for a 7km climb. With an average around 9% and plenty of switch backs it makes descending back down the same way far more fun than continuing on to Czarna. This also means you can continue on to Lutowiska by taking a 9km section of gravel.
Riding a road bike it is understandable to be a little apprehensive of gravel, especially when the gravel turns out to be large holes in the road. But don’t let this put you off, just be sure you have plenty of spare inner tubes. It is often these types of roads that offer the most interesting and challenging moments of a ride. Luckily for us, we completed the 9km without any major incidents and continued along the 896 with the border to Ukraine over our left shoulders.
We left the 896 by Dwerniczek and rode along smaller lanes that run beside the San river in the heart of the National Park. This was the highlight of the entire route, where the tyres of your bike will only be competing with the sound of the river. With the power of hindsight we would suggest you complete the earlier parts of the ride faster and have longer to linger through here.
The last part of the loop, from Brzegi Górne back to Cisna (which will feature in the next post, To the end of Poland Part 2) provides the final and most photogenic tests of the day. A long and gradual ascent towards Wetlina culminates with switchbacks that are reminiscent of more exotic climbs. Once Wetlina has been crested a long, fast descent takes us back to our basecamp in Cisna for grilled sausage and a beer (or two).