On the road: travel blogger pedals west to east along Poland’s southern border

Zu Beck covered over 700 kilometres during her journey. Eva zu Beck/YouTube

One of Poland’s most famous travel bloggers has cycled the length of Poland’s mountainous southern border from west to east as part of a gruelling challenge that saw her cycle up to 100 kilometres a day.

Eva Zu Beck, who has over 700,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel and over half a million followers on both Instagram and Facebook, decided to make the 700-kilometre journey partly because coronavirus restrictions had blocked more exotic journeys, but also because she wanted to pay homage to her late grandfather, a travel writer who inspired her career.

Fully equipped at the start of her 10-day adventure.Eva zu Beck/Facebook

To add a twist of adventure to her journey Zu Beck decided to spurn electronic navigation, and rely on paper maps.

After cycling 150 kilometre on her third day she felt exhausted and told her YouTube audience:

“This is one of the problems with not using Google Maps. One of the challenges is that you cannot know the real distance because it is so hard to tell on a paper map and when you get lost you could be easily adding an extra 15 kilometres to the journey like I did yesterday.”

Zu Beck camped along the route.Eva zu Beck/Facebook

Zu Beck’s route took her from the German-Polish border near Görlitz to the Polish-Ukrainian border over 700 kilometres away. Her route actually took her nearly an extra 100 kilometres than what an optimized route from Google would have taken a cyclist but as she highlighted, she took a few unexpected detours.

On Day 5 Zu Beck travelled from just outside Katowice to just outside Kraków, and exclaimed that “this is what am doing it for,” as she cycled along quiet country roads, surrounded by nature and landscapes typical of southern Poland’s undiscovered beauty.

The cyclist and her equipment.Eva zu Beck/Facebook

The final stretch could either be covered by taking a more rural route, absorbing the relatively untouched wonders of southern Poland or enjoy a string of smaller but captivating cities such as Tarnów, Debica and Rzeszów.

The sixth day of her adventure was interrupted by continuous rain but it gave Zu Beck time to recover and remember her grandfather whose travels inspired her. She translated one of his quotes from the travel journals he left her and that helped motivate her and keep her going.

Her route took her off the beaten path. Eva zu Beck/YouTube

“I’ve noticed one thing changing in me,” wrote her grandfather. “I’ve lost all my rush. Kilometres no longer impress me, whether there’s 100, 200 or 600 of them, I’m indifferent to that because I have to cross that distance anyway. So I’m not scared of distance anymore and the same applies to time, whether I am meant to be on the road for three hours or 17, what’s the difference? Either way, I have to reach my destination. I simply get onto my vehicle and I ride as far and for as long in absolute peace until I reach the destination that I have set for myself. I also don’t let the discomforts bother me. Whoever cannot adapt to this kind of life or cannot come to love this kind of life cannot be a true traveller. To be a true traveller requires character.”

Zu Beck at the Ukrainian border.Eva zu Beck/Facebook

Despite the inspirational words of her grandfather Zu Beck struggled after the rain, not knowing how far she had come and how far she still had to go. Luckily there were more long stretches of roads surrounded by fields and tall trees, the storm was behind her and the blue skies propelled her forward towards her final destination.

The route Zu Beck took.Eva zu Beck/YouTube

“Most days, I spent 10-12 hours on the bike, riding, pushing, smiling, screaming, crying, thinking, navigating, and wishing for it to finally end,” she wrote on her Instagram page. “The last three days, I spent much of the time promising myself that I would never ride a bicycle ever again. Those are the moments that make us. You tumble into the deepest, darkest of pits, thinking you’ll never recover, thinking you cannot take it anymore but then you realise that you’ve been through worse. So you get yourself together, you get up, and you keep moving. Up and down the hills, rain or shine, in the darkest and brightest moments, you keep moving. Truly, the world belongs to the brave.”