Can you imagine an official who takes off his tie and shirt in the middle of the week, gets on a bicycle and covers 445 kilometers, visiting 3 countries?
On a normal day Marcin Płachno is the Director of the Polish National Tourist Office in Vienna (ZOPOT). An experienced manager and sports event organizer, he has held the reins of the institution responsible for promoting Poland in Austria and Switzerland since 2021, being behind, among other things, the success of the Poland Soul Travel campaign, showing the unknown face of Poland in slow style to recipients in these Alpine states.
From June 14 to 18, he personally demonstrated how close Vienna is to the Polish border, covering the route from Vienna to Kraków on his bicycle on June 14-16, and spending the weekend of June 16-18 in Kraków. The stages of this unusual challenge could be followed on social media profiles of Poland Soul Travel.
445 kilometers – it is the distance between Vienna and Kraków. To see with your own eyes one of the first twelve UNESCO World Heritage sites, therefore, you only need five hours spent on the train (a daily convenient connection between the two cities is available) or in your car. Or… two and a half days on a bicycle!
The route of this unusual trip led off the main roads. Along the way, Marcin visited, among other places, the charming Kroměříž in historic Moravia and stopped at the Polish-Czech border in the charming little town of Cieszyn, located on both sides of the border. Internet users following the challenge were able to see how great, specially-prepared routes for cycling the Czechs can boast about, and how consistent investments in cycling infrastructure are also changing Poland – most of the section from the border to Kraków ran along the Vistula Cycle Route, the route of which coincides with the EuroVelo 4 cycle route under development. The trip also became an opportunity to promote the network of MTB routes for which Bielsko-Biała and the neighboring ski resort of Szczyrk are famous in Poland.
See the full route of the trip in the Komoot app.
Having arrived in Kraków, the Director of ZOPOT Vienna shared photos of his favorite places in his hometown with the viewers – including the district of Kazimierz, full of atmospheric pubs, the tiny Bracka Street, where the Nowa Prowincja café, beloved by Kraków residents, is tucked, or… the intimate antique shop Skrypt, where our hero used to sit for hours as a child.
The following stories recounted Kraków’s new attractions for tourists of an active approach: kayaking on the tranquil Vistula River, which spills wide in the city center; wakeboarding, sailing and SUP boards on the Bagry Reservoir, also officially named “Little Croatia,” or the amazing blue Zakrzówek Reservoir in a former limestone quarry, recently adapted by the city authorities for wide use.
The visit to Kraków was not unrelated to the 3rd European Games, which begin in that city on June 21.
But that was not the most important thing about it.
"Riding with the phone in airplane mode. A mind set to single-task - without stimuli, notifications from mail and apps, and other curses of 21st century communication. Simplicity and freedom as scarce experiences in our busy world." – it is how Marcin briefly sums up the hidden meaning of the trip. Many of those who followed the Polish official's challenge may have been granted something similar.
The trip the Director of ZOPOT Vienna embarked on can also be understood as an invitation to amateurs of active tourism on the Danube. “As the Polish Tourist Organization, we promote our country on a daily basis and encourage people from other countries to come here in their cars, by bus or plane. With this trip I want to show that Poland is really worth visiting, even covering 445 kilometers on a bicycle,“ Marcin Płachno says. “Of course, choosing a bicycle as a means of transportation for such a distance is certainly a challenge for experienced fans of two wheels, but everyone can start with small steps, such as giving up the car in favor of a bicycle for short distances, or taking a bicycle on vacation to Poland for exploration,” he adds.
The coronavirus pandemic has revolutionized the way we think about the world and paradoxically contributed to a huge increase in interest in short-distance travel. The transformation has also been in the context of a growing environmental consciousness and a tendency to abandon frequent air travel.
Vienna is fortunate to function historically on the border between Western and Central Europe, providing an excellent base for travel to at least a few countries in the region. Poland is also one of them.
A quick return to Vienna on June 18 was by train – a scheduled train departs Kraków Główny Station at 2:03 p.m. each day, arriving at Wien Hauptbahnhof at 7:49 p.m. The connection finder is available at this link. In addition to plenty of room for bicycles, the Przemyśl – Graz train has a Swiss-type panoramic car this year!