Irish Cycling Campaign in Wodzislaw Slaski – Erasmus+ Project

Irish Cycling Campaign is part of a fabulous Erasmus+ international project with broad themes of social inclusion, intergenerational relationships, climate action and cycling promotion – as we reported on here earlier in the year. The project is centred around cultural exchange visits between the partner organisations based in Spain, Portugal, Poland and Ireland. Those organisations are a mixture of schools and cycling advocacy bodies. 

The latest exchange visit was to Wodzislaw Slaski in the very south of Poland, and we were delighted to have ambassadors representing ICC from the groups of Galway Cycling Campaign, Great Southern Trail and Dublin Cycling Campaign. In this article, Reg, Denis, Íde and Hugh (pictured above) give a little account of the trip.

Day #1 – Reg (Galway Cycling Campaign)
After a lovely breakfast at the hotel, we met the leaders of the other groups from Spain and Portugal and made our way to the high school where the Polish students are based. Each of the project groups presented their progress so far on the Erasmus+ project. These presentations were educational and entertaining, and Hugh did a great job presenting for the Irish Cycling Campaign!

After collecting our bikes, we headed off to see some of the nice local scenery. The cycling itself was varied on the day. We started off on public roads as we left the school, but it wasn’t long until we were on the safety of segregated cycle tracks/cycleways and most of the rest of the spin was on quiet country roads or forest tracks. It was interesting at one stage on the country lane in that we were confronted by a huge bus – but we were informed by our hosts that public transport simply goes everywhere!

We made our way to the lake and then the students enjoyed a treasure hunt while the adults did some exploring. It’s 20 years since I played volleyball, but I was back at it (and I’d say I’ll make the 2028 Olympics)! At the next location, we were served a beautiful traditional Polish meal by three lovely ladies in Polish costume.

We then split into three groups and enjoyed some relaxing, walking and more cycling. We visited a timber church built in the 13th century with no nails, before returning to the school and handing back our bikes. There were some sore bums and tired muscles after all of the cycling and sight-seeing!!!

We then enjoyed a lovely meal in a beautiful restaurant on the town square – and afterwards we returned to the hotel tired but very happy with the day after rekindling old friendships and creating new ones!!!

Day #2 – Denis (Great Southern Trail)
On our second day of our trip to Poland and after a lovely breakfast in the Amadeus Hotel in Wodzislaw Slaski, we boarded our early morning bus to take us to Krakow, one of the oldest cities in Poland. On our two hour journey, mostly by motorway, what got my attention was that the area was totally used for growing crops of wheat, barley and grain, unlike Ireland where cattle is the norm. Along the motorway, there was a continuous fence in place to protect wildlife from crossing the motorway and special overhead crossings existed to facilitate wildlife to cross safely in various parts of the motorway. As I observed this the movie Jurassic Park sprung to mind with us safely on the tour bus. 

At 11am we arrived at Krakow and were split into groups and were greeted by our English speaking tour guide and started our tour by Krak castle and were told of the legendary Krak dragon of which a statue exists. The Dragon didn’t let us down as he blew out some flames before we left him to view other interesting monuments and our tour guide told us very interesting facts about the city’s history.

At 1pm we went to a town square restaurant and were treated to a traditional Polish style lunch of beetroot style soup followed by beef and potatoes and a dessert consisting of a strawberry jelly cake cake known locally as OWOCAMI. We then had time to browse around and explore the city centre at our ease.

Our next adventure was to once again board our bus and travel to a World Heritage Centre known as the Wielizka salt mines. We descended 53 meters underground where on different levels there were salt carved statues of various famous people, and even a church where weddings and functions take place regularly – and as we were leaving a wedding party was arriving. The aroma of salt wafted through the caverns as we walked along, and if you had asthma the salty air would be of benefit and some of our group were brave enough to lick the salty walls on the underground chambers. Even though we spent three hours underground we only got to see a fraction of what exists in the salt mine. On returning to the surface we visited the salt mine shop where salt chocolate and other salt products and souvenirs were for sale.

Photo credit – Biciclistas de Corella

It was truly an inclusive and educational day for all and we returned late to our hotel around 11pm for a well-deserved night’s rest in preparation for the next day.

Day #3 – Íde (Galway Cycling Campaign)
We left the hotel early again and traveled by bus to two different visitor attractions.

The first was a natural reserve built by monks. It was a wetland with some of the oldest trees in Poland!! There was a slight bit of rain falling, but we could shelter under the canopy of the forest. One of the local teachers had a treasure hunt set up for us and we all took part in a photography competition. We were divided into groups mixing different languages and ages. We had to download an app to identify native trees and measure their trunks with the pieces of wool provided. Our host put a lot of work into the tasks. It was a very enjoyable few hours in the forest. Dad (Reg) and Denis got a good few bites on their legs while in the forest. We were supplied with a packed lunch and ate it in the forest. Next we visited a museum in Katovice where we learned a lot about the complex history of Poland.

Chefly, Hugh and Reg

In the evening the adults enjoyed a meal in a restaurant in the town. I was invited to attend a party at the house of one of the Polish students, Ana. We had a lovely evening and enjoyed some Polish cuisine and lovely hospitality.

Day #4 – Hugh (Dublin Cycling Campaign) 
Our final day in Poland was to start with a gentle kayak ride down the Oder river.  This was a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of Poland on one side and Chechia on the other.  It was a 7km “ride” which took about two hours to complete, not too exhausting for our final day. We had to keep watching for fallen trees just under the water, there were a few close calls, but we all got to the end safely and mostly dry.

Photo credit – Biciclistas de Corella

Once we had all the kayaks loaded onto the trailers, and had a rest, we were off to the next destination. We had a 2km walk to a nearby holiday village. We arrived at lunchtime to find Polish sausages on the grill, prepared for us. We were certainly ready for some grub, all very tasty and appreciated. We had some time to relax, have a swim in the lake, and chat with our new friends. Then we were back to base for some free time before our final event.

Photo credit – Biciclistas de Corella

Our final activity for the trip was the farewell gathering at our host’s school. This was our wrap-up of the four days of events. The Polish students had a test of the “most Polish person”.  This involved trying to pronounce a Polish word, make some pierogi, and taste some Polish mustard; all good craic. Reg managed to grab the crown when nobody was watching! 

We finished the evening with some songs and karaoke. This was a terrific few days with lots of shared learning for all, and sharing of ideas.

Photo credit – Biciclistas de Corella

Reg, Denis, Íde and Hugh want to sincerely thank Asia and Eva and their colleagues from the local high school for organising a wonderful Erasmus+ exchange. All the students, hosts and visitors did themselves proud. They are a credit to themselves, their families, and communities. Irish Cycling Campaign is looking forward to hosting the next exchange visit in October, and we are hoping we can meet the high standards already set. 

For more photos from the trip, take a look at the Facebook pages of 

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