Cycling Europe Day 45: Poland, Pouring Rain, and Thoughts of Egypt

Today I crossed three mountains to get from the Czech Republic to Poland. That part

Poland! Albeit in pouring rain.

Poland! Albeit in pouring rain.

was fine. I’m up for almost anything but those killer hills they have in southern Czech Republic.

I knew to expect rain today. It was rough. I got through the first 30km in dry weather. Then the heavens opened her doors as wide as she could. I cycled the remaining 45 km in pouring rain. The first 15 km of those were fine because I was cycling uphill and generating heat. As soon as I started going downhill, the only things moving were my hands controlling the brakes, and it wasn’t long before I started shivering uncontrollably.

I was wearing a long-sleeved cycling shirt and a rain jacket. My shirt was a bit damp from sweating in it for four hours. I stopped at a roadside cafe, stood by one of their outdoors tables that was under a big umbrella (no one was eating outside in that rain) and changed my shirt, added a fleece, and put my rain jacket back on. I was drier but it took getting to a place where there was a bit of an incline and I started generating heat again for me to stop feeling that I was going to fall off my bike from all the shaking.

It was total relief to find a hotel, take off my soaked cycling shorts, and get into a hot shower.

Despite the rain and poor visibility, I could see that this part of Poland is really beautiful. I can’t wait to see more. Today I’m in Jelenia Gora and apparently it is worth seeing. But it’s still pouring outside and will continue to all night. I can’t bring myself to go back out in that. I’m going to chill this evening in my hotel. They have a pool, so I’ll probably go for a swim. They have a sauna I’ll have to pay extra for, but given all the cycling I’ve been doing and the shivering from today, I figure it’s worth it.

I try as much as I can to avoid thinking about Egypt. It depresses me when I do. But I couldn’t help it today.

The Egyptian presidential elections were supposed to last for only two days. The Supreme Council for Elections announced yesterday that today would also be an election day. Apparently the turnout of voters the past two days was very low. Not only have they added an extra day, they also made the past two days official holidays and ordered malls to close so that people had no excuses not to vote.

I need to wait to see what the turnout statistics are. I don’t even know that we’ll ever learn the true numbers. But this talk has me confused.

Millions took to the streets on July 3, 2013 to give General Al-Sisi a mandate to “combat terrorism”. On August 14, the State massacred hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members and their supporters who had organized a weeks’-long sit-in. Among the dead was a former colleague of mine; one of the most gentle and kind men you could ever meet. It seemed then that a very large number of Egyptians supported the massacre. They were fed up with the instability caused by the huge sit-in, with the Brotherhood themselves, and wanted life to return back to their understanding of normal.

I’ve over-simplified. It would take many many more words, ones I do not have the mental energy to come up with, to describe the complexity of the situation in Egypt and how we’ve reached the point we’re at today.

But I’ve been wondering since I heard about the low voter turnout: Where have all those people gone? Why aren’t they voting now for Sisi? Did the media and social media give me/us an exaggerated sense of their numbers? Have they changed in the past few months from being Sisi supporters to not wanting him? Have they just generally given up on the process? We’ve had many elections since the Revolution. Are they all just “electioned-out”? It’s really hot in Egypt these days. Is it the heat? Or is it that we’ve had a silent majority in Egypt whose voice is now being “heard” through their silence? Is it a bit of all of this?

I can’t seem to figure us out as a people. Sometimes I reach a point of utter despair with my fellow countrymen and then something like this happens. Once upon a time they even revolted. Should I retain some hope that the Egyptian people really do want democracy rather than the iron fist so many people seemed to have been demanding?

I’m off to the pool. These eastern European countries give you so much more for your money than the western European countries do.


  1. The low voter turn out got me to thinking the same and, although I couldn’t help it, some hope did sneak through into my thickened skin. Sometimes I don’t know if it’s the rulers using the Egyptian people or if it’s the other way around. I read a commentator that said Egyptians used Sisi to get rid of a president they didn’t like and now they “naffadoolo.” Very, very interesting what happened with the elections this time.

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