Saturday in Berlin was a slow start but eventually had Liz and I on bikes to the internet café where we realigned our plans. Previously we had boasted a trip to Poland’s Baltic Sea coast before following that around to Riga in Latvia. Time and cold weather cramped our plans so we turned our compasses south, wanting sun and more time to spend in it. We’d now head from Berlin to Krakow in the south of Poland with our sights set on Romania’s Black Sea coast, via Slovakia and Hungary, then to Bulgaria and Turkey and onwards around the Med to Morocco. Looking back, We were kidding ourselves trying to do such a great loop… Bumblebee can only do so much.
We’d been mentally prepped for the poor roads of Poland and they started immediately – tha-thud, tha-thud, tha-thud-thud. I was trying to dodge potholes but realistically, if I’m not hitting this one, I’m hitting that one.
Pretty quickly after the open border we see an occasional man standing under a bridge with a small table, sometimes just a bucket in front of him. They’re dangerously close to the highway, but then again, with these potholes, we’re not going dangerously fast so it’s cool. We catch on – they’re selling mushrooms plucked from the forests off the highway. If I wanted mushrooms I’d have stayed in Amsterdam.
We pull over to exchange some money at the kantor and quickly a bearded ginge and his toothless lady friend approach us wanting to clean our windows. ‘No’, I say. ‘Nein’, I try. Shame I hadn’t got ‘Nie’ sorted already. Nevertheless our pit crew did such a good job on our windscreen we haven’t found someone good enough to do it since. As a result an anthropologist (I’m hoping that’s the bug one and not the human one) would have a field day on the front of Bumblebee (oh dear, do you think that’s bad karma?). They are by the border because that’s where the novices are, novices unwise to culture, protocol and currency conversion. As a result I gave the chap 5 Zloty = which equates to 1.25 euro. Then he hustled me for more (as one coin could not be split between him and toothless wifey) so I gave him a spare 1.5 euros. It’s cheap to bicker but it took two minutes. Three euros for two minutes equals 90 euros an hour – not bad I reckon, it’s not my fault not too many people with dirty windscreens cross at that border crossing. Maybe he should invest in a locust plague in Dresden, after all ‘You gotta spend money to make money’ as Shaun Hanley would say.
Moving on. We travelled through the hills and at the first village we got to, after seeing many more people’s disregard for their own life with a road-side mushroom station, discovered, none too surprisingly, gravestones seemed to be a cash crop in this part of the world – on every corner. They’re like the H&M of south-west Poland.
Our first night was spent at this beautiful bed and breakfast (with camping space) in the mountains. The large old place dates back to something like the 1600s. In the morning after a cold shower we took a walk to the neighbours, some beautiful little places with matching letter boxes by babbling brooks in fresh pine air, like pine-o-clean but more piney, it was very quaint and very much like Little House on the Prairie, or was that Anne of Green Gables?
Throughout Eastern Europe you’ll see ornate shrines of Jesus on the cross by the side of the road, and generally not at a crash site though you will see them too. He’s them emblazoned with some corrugated iron over his head, maybe to protect him from the elements which is nice except if someone rocks his roof, cos iron is way noisier than tiles. But it seemed he was with us all the way, so I guess that’s a good thing.