Words and Photos: Fed by Wild
The damn daily treadmill had bent our necks so low that when we had finally raised our sight above the desks, keyboards, and coffee mugs, we realised Saturday had landed. Instead of filling our hearts with joy, this turn of events gripped us with fear: how not to waste this sacred time of the week! All the more, it was well after midday.
Putting the bikes into the car, driving, taking bikes out of the car, packing, driving, then performing all these activities in reverse upon Monday morning’s return—it all sounded like a perfect definition of a wasted weekend. A bikepacking trip supported by Polish National Rail seemed absurd, just something to add to the towering pile of other silly ideas. Packed and prepared, in our saddles, we made the only reasonable decision: Silesia, the land of our fathers. To be precise, Upper Silesia. Our plan was to go north from our tiny Silesian hometown and back again. There was only one thing that could tempt us to give up our plans: the nearby city of Katowice, the region’s capital. Our route would take us through the city and we knew we would be treading on thin ice. It was going to be a great test of character to avoid indulging in the city’s nightlife. However, without even an exchange of words, we agreed that there was only one right direction: north.
We didn’t really have a plan. We were relying on our foggy image of the northern territories with an added dash of blind luck. The promising path we pursued slid in between industrial facilities of the mine and disappeared over a railway embankment. At this moment our path became a tricky labyrinth between lots of railway sleepers and train carriages. Riding alongside the railway and keeping the pace proved impossible. From the very beginning, we had hoped to avoid the the railway altogether, but as it turned out, the national rail had other plans for us. But on Saturday, the world belongs to you. With accordance to this motto, we wasted the remaining time playing with a hidden camera we found on a tree. The railwaymen probably use this camera to keep an eye on the carriages and so we decided to provide them with a little adrenaline rush.
The gravel and sandy forest tracks disappeared under our wheels. Finally, we ended up on a slag heap. It’s not unusual in Silesia and one should take into account the risk of unexpectedly finding themselves on top of one. Or several. This one looked like the Queen of Silesian Heaps. As we later determined, it holds the name ‘Rocky’ and comprises 17 million tons of rocky matter that has accumulated over 80 years. What’s interesting is that it is among the largest in Europe. Plus, it appears to be some kind of cult heap, as it attracts enthusiasts from around the globe. This has to do with the heap’s unique shape and its ‘magic’ power field, as it was put by a native we stumbled upon along the way.
Night in the tower
The city sucked us into its empty streets. A ghost town left to the mercy of insects, cats, and drunkards. We kept losing our way and finding it again in the cluttered streets lit by the orange light of sodium lightbulbs. Finally we entered Kościuszko Park, the largest green area in the city (Katowice’s answer to Central Park). The openwork construction of the old parachute tower rises over the crowns of the park’s trees. As Katowice natives, we had climbed it several times before, using different methods. First we used the stairs to get familiar with this construction. The second time we visited we brought climbing gear and used the classic climbing method to reach the top. Finally we attempted to climb the overhanging platform using modified anchors. From that point on the tower held no further mysteries for us. However, this would be our first time scaling the tower while carrying our bikes. The hour was late and the parachute tower in the centre of the town seemed to be a perfect place for a VIP campsite. The steep stairs were extremely narrow and spiraling, and some curse words cut through the night’s silence. However, casting dark spells on reality didn’t help much, and our struggle with steel and gravity seemed endless. Eventually we managed to get to the top, which was perfect for camping… or nearly perfect, because upon reaching the platform, we realised, of course there was no chance of making a campfire. When we opened a can of cold beer and we saw the view, we knew we had chosen the right place. A private terrace with the view over the whole city.
In the morning, the city paths were slightly less enchanting. Time for breakfast and a quick getaway. Tempted by the modernist architecture of the city but discouraged by traffic, we ended up in Nikiszowiec, a historic miners’ district of Katowice.
Dark, leaden clouds spelled rain and all visitors who had rediscovered the charms of this antique miners’ colony swarmed into restaurants. After a fierce battle, we got a place to sit in Cafe Byfyj. Here we waited in lawn chairs, expecting, at any moment, heavy rain and our second breakfast to arrive. Cafe Byfyj is a nice and cozy place known for its great food and extremely friendly staff. It was these aspects that prolonged our stay. When we set off on the bikes the city continued to be bathed in cold rain and nothing predicted its end.
Once again, Silesia has shown us well-known places from a different perspective, and with a lot of fun, too.