Lemkivska Kobiouka is a 150-mile bikepacking route in the Carpathian Mountains that traverses one of the most remote and wild areas of Poland. Though once bustling communities, the valleys of the Low Beskid Mountains are now quiet and desolate, a land shaped by a tragic history…
The Lemkivska Kobiouka route was created to showcase the natural beauty of the Low Beskid Mountains, as well as to pay tribute to the Lemko people and to keep the memory of their unique cultural heritage alive. The route traverses their ancestral land, Lemkivshchyna. It is ideal for an unhurried ride, enjoying wild nature and picturesque landscapes with rolling hills, vast meadows, burbling rivers, and primeval forests. It is designed to avoid all major roads, traveling on empty dirt roads, forest service roads, hiking trails, and some pavement to connect it all together.
Lemkivshchyna, or Lemkovyna/Лемковина in the Lemko language, is a region in southeastern Poland on the Slovak border. Lemko country spans the Carpathian foothills between two rivers: Poprad in the west and Osławka in the east. Lemkos are one of the ethnic groups of Rusyns–Carpathian highlanders. Over the years, they had forged their own distinct traditional culture, which can be seen in their unique language, spirituality, architecture, and other areas of life. They led a simple life in peace with nature, farming a harsh alpine ground and engaging in animal husbandry until the 20th century, which was apocalyptic for their culture.
During the First World War they experienced first repressions, almost all the Lemko intelligentsia were imprisoned in the concentration camp of Talerhof in Austria. Next came even more tragic events in the aftermath of WWII, by mid-1946 the majority of the population was resettled deep into the Soviet Union. The final exodus, after which Lemkovyna became completely desolated, was caused by Operation Vistula in 1947-50. The Polish Communist regime, with the assistance of army and police units, forced Lemkos to flee their native lands, which scattered them in small groups over so-called Recovered Territories, with the intention to quickly assimilate them. This ethnic cleansing has left an irreversible imprint in the cultural and landscape character of the region. The abandoned lands were reluctantly populated by new settlers. Soon nature took over, most of the buildings collapsed, and some of the villages completely vanished.
The route features a few steep but short uphills that may require you to push your bike, and there is one mile-long hike-a-bike. The route crosses multiple rivers and soggy meadows, most of which are rideable, but there are places that involve bike portage. After heavy rains you can award this course an extra point on the difficulty scale.
It’s easy in terms of resupply. Every now and then there are basic shops where you can get food, though they might be closed on Sundays. And water can be taken from plentiful mountain streams, but you should filter it to be sure.