By Konstantin Gridnevskiy
As every year, this October we decided to bid farewell to autumn in our traditional way – by hunting for mushrooms. This time, however, we also combined it with staying for three nights in a guest house, a day cycling trip and two short forest hikes – a few ideas if you are planning an outdoor trip in Poland.
This year we did not go too far away from Poznań, Marta’s home-town, as only 70km to the north-west from there there is Siekarów Landscaped Park (Sierakowski Park Krajobrazowy), nicknamed “The Land of 100 Lakes”. In reality there must be even more of them there, as the map of that area is just full of blue spots of all shapes and sizes, making it look more like that of Finland or Sweden. In fact, besides hunting for mushrooms we were also looking for lakes suitable for a spring packrafting trip and of course we found a few.
Around 70% of the whole area are forests and lakes, whereas less than one third is used for agriculture. Therefore fresh air, peace and possibility of being on our own in the forest for the whole day were guaranteed.
Our home base this time was a nice four-room guest house in the neighbourhood of a small town of Kwilcz. We stayed there from Thursday evening until Sunday afternoon. During this time, we managed to go for a short cycling trip of about 20-25 kilometres, which partially retraced my last year’s route when I cycled from Leeuwarden, NL to Poznan, PL. We even managed to pass by and say hello to the people who I met during that trip and on whose lawn I spent the last night of my 11-day journey.
On Saturday we also went mushroom hunting. Unlike last year, however, this time it was especially challenging as the lack of rain in the summer and recent intensive winds dried the ground. The owner of the guest house where we stayed even told us that there were no mushrooms at all, which, luckily, was not completely true.
But it did take us half a day of searching for a small number of petit, well-hidden mushrooms, some of which were already half dried-up, whereas last year, just after a couple of hours in a forest we could easily hunt down full baskets of the prime specimen.
But regardless of how few mushrooms we found in comparison to the last year, we still had no grounds to complain, which became apparent from the reaction of our neighbor from the guest house. You should have seen the face of the woman who walked into the kitchen and saw us busy cleaning the mushrooms, most of the table covered in our precious loot. As it turned out, they managed to find only two, which made our day even more special.
I guess the reason why the others were not so lucky with the mushrooms, was because they stayed in the neighborhood, and the forests there were very different in their nature.
There were significantly more deciduous trees, whereas the place where we went ourselves was dominated by pines. And we clearly could see that difference as the next day, before the departure, we went for a short hike in the valley of the Kamionka river and could not find any edible mushrooms at all. It does not say that it was not beautiful though.
Besides of the walk that morning we also visited an old farm, which was turned by the locals into an interactive museum that provided information on the local nature and gave a glimpse of the life in Poland in the past.
A nice middle-aged woman, who was on duty, gave us a short guided tour of the premises. From the conversation, we learned that she was the head of the village and also the one who was backing the project from the beginning.
Now, this museum is a part of the district library and functions as an educational facility for school groups, who came there for various workshops including pottery and weaving. Part of the money for its development was received from the European Union, attesting to which was a sign on a wall.
In general, a lot of places had such signs. Be it the guest-house we stayed in, a semi-ruined palace we passed by or a well-developed family-run hotel and conference complex Olandia, with an 18th-century manor house in its heart – all of them received European donations.
We visited Olandia during the cycling trip and definitely enjoyed the visit to their restaurant, where we tried some more or less traditional dishes. The soup, for example, was served inside a hollowed-out loaf of bread, which, I think, is always a nice gimmick. And after 15 km of cycling, this hot soup definitely tasted much better than the cold sandwiches that we had in our backpacks.
Our timing there was also perfect – hardly had we finished the meal when the restaurant filled up with people wearing cowboy hats. That was a group of employees of some company on a team building day. We had seen them running up and down the terrain, performing all sorts of tasks in smaller groups led by people dressed like a sheriff or a Native American. For me, the whole experience was somewhat surreal.
The reason why that “Wild West”-themed team day was organized there was probably because the place has a stable of horses of the traditional Polish breed. We saw those horses and even made friends with some of them before we got to Olandia.
The secret to befriending them was in feeding them with some really ripe and sweet plums what we found next to the road. Marta has told me what in the past farmers and land-owners planted fruit trees along the paths and edges of the fields to demarcate their territory. Now, a lot of those trees are still there.
The great advantage of this area, in general, is the sheer number of marked trails for hiking and cycling. We really didn’t need to drive far to find ourselves at a trailhead in a forest, where we could start a 15 km loop walk.
In fact, driving or cycling there was a very pleasant experience on its own, as due to the glacial activity the area is rather diverse and hilly and we passed through an endless number of charming valleys with lakes. As a matter of fact, when cycling, we had to negotiate a hill, which was the steepest climb of my last year’s cycling trip as well. And like last year, we almost ended up stepping off the bikes and pushing them up the hill. Whoever says that this part of Poland is flat is definitely lying.
This time, as during every our journey, we also learned something new about nature and history and made some other small discoveries:
Not far from the place where we stayed we passed by some old bunkers. We are not sure when they were built, but we have heard that they were used by the Polish army in the past.
Cycling next to a field, we saw a big bird of prey taking wing just a few meters away from where we were. On the inspection, it turned out that there were leftovers of a rabbit or a hare that were almost picked clean. It took us a few moments to realize what that was.
Next, to Olandia we saw a poor grass snake that had been run over by a car. It was still alive, but we doubted it could survive for much longer as parts of its entrails were visible. We carefully picked it up and put it into the grass, next to the road. It is really a shame that so many snakes get killed by cars all the time.
On the whole, it was a nice short trip, which allowed us to say goodbye to autumn and recharge our batteries in the anticipation of the coming winter. It also gave us a lot of ideas for the future as we really think that it would be nice to return there in spring and try to packraft some of those 100 lakes.