A Travellerspoint blog

Day 7 (24 Jan)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNgcYGgtf8M

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If you want to have an idea how it feels to be on the road during probably the most challenging bit of the trip ... check that youtube link!

I must have had an unusual good moment when I decided not to go for the original crazy idea to do Sopot to Latvia in one go, which was calculated by the GPS as +11 Hours..
As it happens, the odd 450Km from Sopot to Marijampol took me 7 Hours.
Whilst German border to Sopot were referred to as "provincial roads", today there were a lot of "village roads".

Guess I should be happy that there was no fresh snow as I sincerely do not know how the car and me would have coped....

Unfortunately I do not have a sample photo of the worst bits. Most of the time there were simply no shoulders to stop and take a reference picture!

But there is hope!
As far as 10y back Poland said that a highway from Trimiasto to Warsaw was a priority and they are now working at it.... (left bit).

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with nice results - notice the 125Km speed, pity it was only 10Km long or so.

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Another "progress" ahead of everything else. Note the sign on the right!

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Next to the local roads, my biggest challenge today was my otherwise trusted GPS! I suspect it to connect to Russian sattelites - possible after what Putin is already doing in USA with Trump.

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Sorry it is so blurry but you can see it sends me on the white line from Poland to Lithuania closer to the coast. Believe me, straight into Kaliningrad, or USSR. Would have been quite an experience to show up at the border without visum and being turned back with a few AK47.
(Kaliningrad was taken by the Russians in 1945 with the help of Allies as per Potsdam Conference. It used to be called Koningsberg and was in Prussia. Kalingrad is an ice free port in the Baltic and it will stay forever Russian now. They need the strategic access to the Baltic and Northern routes. As much as they took Crimea to control the Black Sea and the Bosphorus. It is 15,100Sq Km, or half the size of Belgium).

Lucky I felt uneasy from the start and checked at some petrol station the correct road as per Google maps. Had to detour to the East and force the GPS. Halfway on the road the traitor GPS found the right route. No more risk of of being captured by some Iwans!.

Eventually made it to the Lithuanian border. Sign reminded me again that Russia is only some 20Km away (at least the Kaliningrad enclave).

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On the subject of GPS, it really had a bad day. At the time of crossing the border between Poland and Lithuania (in fact with Schengen there is no need to stop any more, same as Belgium to Netherlands) it steered me 100m off the main road into a side parking and back onto the road. When joining the road, there was a mobile Lithuanian border patrol team. He must have thought this strange that a foreign car makes a side move, so I had the pleasure of handing all papers and some explanation. At the end it was OK but you know there is always a small worry that something may be not fully in order. Adding the Babylonian language handicap, it would have been nice to have missed the whole experience. I hope the GPS behaves again from tomorrow...

I nearly forgot. For a good part, the trip took me through the Polish - Masurian region. Economically a bit behind, sparsely populated but for that reason very nice views. Either large plains or large woodland area. Most particular and famous are the 2000 lakes. A great summer destination if you like nature, fishing and walking.
At first I was not so aware of the lakes as they are not necessarily next to the road. But early in the trip I noticed in some villages - repair shops for motor boats. Looked funny having mostly watched fields and forest up to that time, but the famous penny dropped eventually.....

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So tonight a rest at Marijampole - some 50Km into Lithuania. Was already dark when I got here so double luck to leave the road "early".
No clue what is the claim to fame of this place. Checking Wikipedia; light industry, regional capital - but only abt. 48.000 people. It looks to me that it is simply at the crossing of three countries = it has apparently the largest secondhand car market of Europe, you figure it out.

A last particular thing. Just past the Lithuanian border, never seen as many large petrol stations in 1 Km. At least 10, and same brands doubling up! Well, became very clear as on the 50Km on Lithuanian roads, trucks were one behind the other. So like Livingston (nearly) found the source of the Nile, I have found the source of East European trucks.

So that was my day - driving, driving and yes, driving.
Looks like a job tomorrow to check the colour of the car under the dirt......

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Cheers

Posted by moustache17 09:28 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Extra specially for my friend Danilo

these are the fondest of your memories during our trip in Zakopane

Danilo is known as a gourmet guy, both cooking and eating.
Mostly eating actually.

In one of his comments to this blog, he mentioned some dishes.

There is a typical South Polish (mountain area around Zakopane) at the entrance in Sopot where I used to go from time to time. Here they serve the honest and rich food that is really tasty but only once a month max;

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I enjoyed this 5000cal meal.
Schmalz = to start with your beer, goose fat to spread on fresh brown bread
Beer = only one size counts = 500ml (each)
Golonka = pork knuckle in honey, with potato mash and some sauerkraut

The waiter did advise me not to take the Pierogi (dumplings) so I failed on that item. Would have been impossible!

I did manage yesterday evening to have another great dish, Zurek soup. Was not as nice as how they present it hereunder, but the taste was good as ever.

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Danilo, some other time and place we will have to do this again.

So well fed and happy, off to the next stage tomorrow.

Cheers

Posted by moustache17 11:22 Archived in Poland Comments (1)

Day 6 (23 Jan)

Gdansk

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Today had a casual walk around Gdansk.

It is lovely city. Of course when I was in Poland and living in Gdynia I could not sympathise with it so easily. It is like Rotterdam/Amsterdam. Barcelona/Madrid. Now, being more neutral it is fair to say that it is indeed very nice.

Gdansk has an interesting history with many facets. Not going to bother you with too many details but you need to know something to appreciate the architecture.
In the 17th century Gdansk was a well known Hansa city so traders of many (Western) countries did business here and built houses (English-Dutch).
Till early 19 hundred it was part of Prussia and having a large German population. Between the wars, starting with the treaty of Versailles in 1920, Gdansk (and Sopot) was a semi autonomous city state. Till 1939, you know what happened then... Now it is of course an important part of Poland, the outlet to the Baltic sea together with Gdynia.

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I am not going to comment on the buildings, just enjoy them as I did walking past.
The museum was closed otherwise I would have visited to warm up and stretch the day.

Side tracking a bit (literally). Took the train between both cities. Very close and convenient.
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You cannot make the comparison but I can tell you that this is one of the areas of major improvements. Both the railway stations and the trains. Better that what we have in Belgium today. Do I have to say that the train has a sticker ..... yes ..... European community. And why not? Polish always felt like part of Europe and I fully agree with them!!

So, I let your imagination go. Really recommend to come and visit for yourself. Summer is the time to enjoy, not what I am doing now in winter. Especially without the snow.

Jutro (tomorrow), on the road again!

Cheers

Posted by moustache17 10:54 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Day 5 (22 Jan)

Sunday, day of rest

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Not really much happening today.

Had to revisit some of the old watering holes of Sopot.
Spatif was as good fun as ever, met some interesting people.

At the end, Polish wodka did win once more.

So had a relaxing day today. Had a casual walk around again but nothing new or spectacular.

Some administration.
Had to throw things around as most importantly my GPS indicated a +11 Hour ride from Sopot to Ventspils (as originally planned). And believe me, do not mess around with that GPS as it is accurate to the minutes.
Did pick a place halfway with a decent hotel and Marijapole (Lithuania) jumped out of the hat.
Never heard of it, certainly never been to - what looks like a provincial place.
I have been in Lithuania on several occasions. Checking a possible terminal in Klaipeda as well as exploring Kaunas/Vilnius when I lived in Latvia. But all in all no particular feel for the country.
Riga/Latvia is much better in my book, so I will be heading there after the overnight stop and stay a couple of days.
Before heading Ventspils and the ferry from there into Sweden.

All this is updated in the planning. Not so sure if Visby will stay. My thinking goes more to taking few days in Copenhagen. Never really visited as a tourist and expect more diversity with museums and things to see.

Not sure, time will tell over the next week.
Same as me, you will find out in one of the next blogs.

For tomorrow, Gdansk - looking forward to this day trip.

Dobry Wieczor or Good night from Sopot

Cheers

Posted by moustache17 12:15 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Day 4 (21 Jan)

Sopot

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Good feeling to come back in town.
Spent (yes, now only -t) nearly 4 years in this place and still like it!
It has changed (don't we all in 12y?).
It still has most of the familiar places. And some new. I guess it is unavoidable that more and modern hotels (yes, Sheraton types) are coming in as Europe is becoming a smaller place. Physically it is expanding but I mean, with all cheap flights and long weekends... I have many friends who have already explored another great Polish town - Krakow. A must!! Next for your is Sopot.

Sopot has added also more international restaurants. Whereas in my days there was none, today there are for instance two Thai restaurants. And many other flavours and cuisines. Used to be exclusive and expensive for Poland. This shows that the money is now around to spend.
Coming back to hotels, a website mentions 552 options. For sure there are several 5 star places these days.

For me it still the old Grand Hotel that is most typical and finest.
Not going to recite all the details but it was built 1927. As the whole of Sopot was a summer holiday place for the rich and famous, the hotel annex casino was the place to be. Hitler stayed here during the war (suite 251/253, opposite my room!). Great classical building.

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Above picture was taken from the Molo (= a wooden pier, said to be the longest in Europe for those who like Guiness records...).
Here she is;

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Sopot is attracting a lot of local people for a Sunday stroll (although it was Saturday today, but you understand...).
There is the main street - Monte Casino - that connects straight with the Molo. Right distance for a walk with the family, lots of cafes and ice cream places on the main street to fill the afternoon.

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(that little wooden kiosk is still there after all these years, and probably was already before I arrived 2005. Still selling the same small bric a brac items as always!)

From the Molo, took a picture of a strange Japanse Nikon lady - she was feet in the water and pointing camera down towards the murky water. Not sure what she saw but just left of her one of the most photographed items - troupe of swans that stay over in winter.

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I have no fetish of Japanese women photographers, just wanted to show the Baltic sea and beach. Really a nice place and not known in Western Europe. Winter for yes, winter walks. In summer, madness;

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Look at me during some hot summer 2006 - 2007??

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What I really like about Sopot is the typical architecture. Some very large beach villas, built by rich (German) industrialist in the early part of 1900.
Some examples;

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I was fortunate to live in an apartment in one of those fine villas. First floor. One of the nicest places I ever lived abroad. Ann visited here, I hope she is reading and that she also has a good memory of the place.

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Other regular spots where you could find me

1. my regular pub - Lord - , although now disappeared and became Italian resto. Had a great interior and bar owner, Admiralski (nickname).

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2. THE hottest bar/pub in Sopot, over 60y old with a crowd of artist and beau monde. Craziest mix-match of second hand interior. On their website they mention;
- 2.5m shots of wodka consumed
- 14K people fell off the stairs (as you do first floor pub with all those wodka's)
- 5300 police raids, etc
Always a gamble, will have to check it out later to see if still that magic.

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3. The fish restaurant Przystan. Great place. Part of the Sunday walk. Always packed with abt 100 people and some 40 more waiting outside. Ridiculous cheap but excellent fish for a few Euro. Good habit in winter to sit outside with fresh hot fish and a large (duze) beer, a real treat!
This is where I am heading tomorrow!!!!

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So, this is it for today. Really nice walk. Now some exploring during the evening for a meal and yes, Wodka.
Tomorrow could be a quiet day, but you probably hear from me anyway.
Looking forward also to Monday, planned to go and see Gdansk - another great historical city.

But that is for Monday.

Cheers

Posted by moustache17 09:36 Archived in Poland Comments (3)

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