The Brda River – Majówka, what is it all about?

Majówka (the first days of May, with national holiday on the 1st and the 3rd), this word in Poland is almost mythical, it brings different emotions, mostly these positive. Elder Polish people associate ‘majówka’ first of all with so called Labour Day (today called the International Day of Solidarity People of Work), during which crowds of people took part in manifests and demonstrations. Tradition is still alive although attendance and motivation have changed. Majówka is also May 3rd Constitution Day, recognised as a holiday in 1791 (right after adopting the Constitution) with different troubles celebrated until today. Between these two days, recently has appeared another holiday: the Day of National Flag, also willingly celebrated.

This May triduum has been for good in Polish history. These various days bring together definitely one thing: freedom, in the broad meaning of this word. I would like to focus on that one specific aspect… Days free from work! Well, there is nothing to hide, everyone knows what is it all about. These are not only 3 days (as the 2nd of May is a day off as well), but 4 or 5 and even 7 days off if you work on your schedule (and employer) properly!
Majówka is an ideal time to get rest, have a few days off and celebrate, everyone in his own way. Majówka is time of mass migration; visible on crowded motorways, full trains, raising prices of plane tickets. This is also internal migration, the mental one, that is based on withdrawing from life, hiding somewhere in the forest and being focused on oneself.

Frankly speaking, we are always very excited about majówka and as average Polish person we check a year ahead in which days that long weekend will appear in calendar. When the schedule is planned, happily we look for a place, region that we would visit. Just as this year, in two days we are going to a new destination, but later we will write more about this. We have some kind of our own tradition regarding majówka weekends. Two years ago, for the first time together on the bikes we cycled to Drawieński National Park, what we wrote about here.

A ride along the river turned out to be a very good idea, so the last year we pedaled again, but along the Brda river. You can guess what we are going to do this year 🙂

The Brda river, called the queen of Kuyavia-Pomeranian rivers, is 238 km long, where 210 km can be used for canoe purposes. The lower part of the river is a part of international water trail E70 that links Antwerp in Belgium with Klaipeda in Lithuania (another interesting idea for cycling or canoeing trip).

We started our May migration going to Bydgoszcz, composing our bikes into train carriage complicated and crowded pattern, to start our route almost at the mouth of the river, getting north to Tuchola Landscape Park. We were positively surprised about the infrastructure around Bydgoszcz actually, but finally we got into the forest being happy with the quiet surrounding and more and more green landscape around us.

Imagine the situation. You cycle whole day, listening to the birds appearing in spring, enjoying the time spent together and forest surrounding. You reach the place where you would like to put the tent, and there is crowd, buzz and music, and the magic is gone 😉 Getting to the campsite near Tuchola, we were spotted by the group of cyclists, male team in their 50s who tried to share some beer with us and they did shared some stories. We actually like the companion of others but maybe not always… Especially when someone tries to force his own way of spending free time with a lot of alcohol and stories drifting around it only. As we are masters of diplomatic talks 😉 we refused staying there and followed the trail to find another campsite/a place good enough for camping.

Sometimes I wonder about the good luck that stays with us. We finally reached another place, where we were completely alone. We used perfectly prepared infrastructure, basically for canoe groups, but what’s the difference. There is no better thing than (or maybe there is but at that moment we didn’t think about it) finishing the tiring day with some toasts with cheese over the fire and a quiet night by the bubbling river.

Right, that was supposed to be about cycling along the river and its attractions. Usually the trails are very diverse. Two years ago by the Drawa river we lost the way a little, we had to push the bikes up the steep river banks or carry them to the other side of boggy channels. There were some more adventures over the Brda river, some special ‘sections’ also brought us the trouble!
Right behind Bydgoszcz, when we got into the forest we came across ploughed part of trail, completely impassable. Was it a UFO runway or mysterious quicksand, or maybe raceway for roe-deers? These issues remain unsolved until today. We cycled at the side of that trail; we ticked the box ‘the first special section’. We are still devoted to analogue maps, many times we wondered at the crossroads, of course to reach the destination finally. The destination was the river, as it flows deep between its high banks that are a challenging for the cyclists. Helping each other we managed that diversity as well.

In case of canoeing, choosing the directions seem to be easier, you just go together with the river flow and maybe try to avoid collision with trees stuck across the river. And what about the bikes when your road goes into the water?! Swim to the other side and look for help? Throw away your stuff, inflate bike bags and conquer the river banks with the bike? Speed up and see what will happen? No, nothing like that… There are some small ferries that transport local habitants and tourists, so there was no need to go back or water the belongings. On the other side of the Brda river it wasn’t easier at all. No more quicksand, but kilometres of sandy roads indeed. We couldn’t complain about the lack of variety though!

Because of the time restrictions, we haven’t reached Bory Tucholskie National Park. However, trails between Bydgoszcz and Tuchola offered us a lot. Diversified river banks (our trail at the same time), forest sanctuaries, trails in the woods in which we were keen on having a break or well-prepared infrastructure. All these and positive energy created another wonderful Majówka. If anyone is wondering what is better option a canoe or a bike, we have an advice: cycle along the river!


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