Today I drove in the direction of Gdansk, a city on the north coast of Poland, from Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Seeing as Google maps predicts the route to take seven and a half hours, (meaning it would take me around 9 – 10 hours) I decided to stop at Gizycko, a small city in the lake district of Poland.
▣ Highly recommend ▣ Boring but safe ▣ Shit. Boring, strenuous & dangerous ▣ Incomplete
What I thought’d happen
I’d get to a country with slightly safer roads
What actually happened
I had a wakeup call about my own mortality
Medieval castle at Trakai
About 30 minutes south of Vilnius is a miniature wood town surrounded by lakes. This is Trakai, once the capital of Lithuania and now one of the most visited historical spots in Lithuania.
I stopped by Trakai to visit the picturesque medieval island castle on lake Galvė. I parked my bike as close as possible then walked over a bridge and through the small forest, passing accordion players and buskers to the castle.
It was a sunday and the place was bustling with families, the pitter patter of feet clattering across the old wooden bridge and the sounds of happy chatter floating around the outer castle walls. Leaning on the edge of the shanty wooden bridge, the sun warming my back I soaked in the castle in all its grandness. It was an impressive sight, reconstructed with consideration so not as to look unnatural.
I walked through the gate and realised there was an entry fee to visit inside of the castle walls. This would have been fine except I’ve been so used to paying for nothing in the Batics that I left my wallet back on my bike. I tried to sidle through the gates but a stocky lady in a bright pink sweater caught my shifty body language and strode over asking for my ticket. I back-pedalled. I didn’t have the courage. It’s not that I didn’t want to pay, it’s that the effort of walking back such a long way to get my wallet was too much.
The roads in Poland
After the castle I took the most direct route to Poland.
The roads were exhilarating. That is, the roads in Poland. Not in Lithuania where I was forced to take dangerous boring freeways because every other road is pure dirt, dust and death.
As soon as I crossed the border I felt rejuvenated. That is, once I managed to block my nose from the lingering smell of floral cow poo. It really was such a peculiar scent that it remained with me the entire day.
The roads around the north of Poland are typically German, slow curvy roads opening up into long stretches, neatly lined with leafy trees, their orange tinged leaves drifting off and across the road in the wind. This area was intoxicatingly beautiful and exhilarating with its isolated roads and turns. The best I have seen since I left Norway a month or so ago.
If it were EVEN possible I’d say that Polish drivers are worse than Baltic drivers (I’m so sorry to all you good tempered safe driving Polish citizens out there). They seem to have the temper and impatience of Germans and the stupidity and irrationality of Lithuanians. I saw the first of many accidents in Poland today, a serious pile up resulting in a car totally flipped on its back. Ambulances and fire trucks howled through thick sleet in their desperation to reach the scene. It was dismal and shocking and made me reflect on the candied tires, hung like colourful wreaths by the side of the road that I had seen earlier that day.
I arrived in Gizycko and fell asleep dead on my bed from tiredness. I decided to stay at a hotel but finding it was another matter. Directions are like doing quadratics in primary school if you’re tired and miserable and wet. My gear isn’t waterproof – only water ‘resistant’ – and it felt as though the sky decided I was doing the ALS Icebucket challenge without my permission. Frown.
I shuddered in the cold and squinted through the rain, trying to decode the map through the cracks in my iPhone. I sighed and wished for the day to end. Rain makes riding miserable.
What I learned today:
- I don’t care how waterproof your riding gear is. Riding in the rain is defeating.
- Appreciation. For a warm, dry bed.