Across southern Poland via some absolutely original Hitlerbahn, an off road diversion and the must-see Wroclaw to the Ukraine border at Rzeszow.
Last year’s drive across northern Poland had been tough going on mainly back roads. This drive across the south is expected to be much easier, on the almost brand new A4 from the German border near Cottbus, south east of Berlin.
A4 is only brand new from Boleslawiec, around 80km from the border. Save for some tarmac patches, up until then is the absolutely original surface of the ‘Reichsautobahn’ Berlin-Breslau, opened by Hitler in 1936. Like parts of the A11 Berlin-Szczecin we drove last year the road surface is hilariously bumpy.
After Boleslawiec the A4 is closed for an accident. We follow the diversion signs and end up in a forest.
Soon after that the road turns to rutted, sandy track. Reluctant to turn round we keep going; eventually we find our way back to the motorway. A great adventure, in retrospect.
Cannot fail to be impressed by Wroclaw (formerly Breslau), built around the River Oder.
The old city centre is enormous; this is just one side of the main square.
Some of the newer buildings are impressive too.
Not far from Krakow is Oswiecim (Auschwitz), site of the former concentration camp. It’s one of those places you probably should visit but, as in Srebrenica in Bosnia some years ago, we’re keen to crack on. With a speed limit of 140kmh we can do just that. Diesel, even at a motorway prices, is around £1/litre. Toll charges for the entire 270 miles between Wroclaw and Rzeszow total 36ZLN (£6.20).
It’s amusing that we’re still on E40, the road that starts at Calais and runs through Brussels.
Poland upset the EU Auditors recently because their motorways are so much more expensive to build than neighbouring Germany. It’s mainly because the Poles like to line the road with sound barriers.
There are lots of interesting buildings in Rzeszow – see Rybek main square above, the Castle, and even some of the modernist concrete from the Communist era – but it’s no Wroclaw (and neither is it trying to be). The main attraction for us is the proximity to the Ukraine border, just 100km away.