East, then north
(and another 4-in-1 day)
It was time to leave for the east. My campground friends, Christy and Tony, from Brighton in UK had left the previous day, off to continue their tour of Health & Safety Museums in Germany, often spending days tootling around on the bicycles carried on the back of their motorhome. Nice to meet you both, and share an evening chatting with you!
It was a slow pack up in the continuing heat, but eventually I left and headed for the town centre to find the post office, and some metho for my stove, as I was running low. Wow! It's difficult trying to find a post office with real people, as most here in Germany are automated, which didn't help me at all in sending a package to Australia. Finally gave up after going to several auto-posts. Bought some "spiritus" and set off for the motorway about 1.30pm.
It was hot riding on the motorway. I saw a neon sign with two temps: 33.2C general, and also 41.2C on the motorway. How they get the motorway temps I'm not too sure, but I did agree with it. Perspiration was pouring off me.
Had a couple of extra rest stops when the back pain got a bit much in the heat, so it was a slow, relatively short day (570km) when I arrived in Frankfurt-Oder to find somewhere to stop for the night. I'd decided to motel it, hoping for an early getaway in the morning, as my camp packups were quite slow in the heat. Ended up in a great little gasthous/hotel, with brekky and secure bike parking, for only €40/A$60 - cheap for Europe!
DAY 2 From the German-Polish border, through Poland.
So after a delightful brekky (only one other couple present) it was time to head further east. Just a few km from the overnight stop, and I was crossing the river into Poland, riding to just past Poznan on the motorway, then turning to the north east. Although I was now on main roads as opposed to the motorway, these roads are much smaller and narrower, stillo heavily trafficked, and their condition leaves a lot to be desired - very bumpy. And of course, small towns and villages all along the way made for generally slow going in the unpleasantly hot temps. They're having a bit of a heat wave here, apparently.
I did see two moose, and many deer, warning signs in Poland, but the beasties were not in evidence, fortunately.
Poland was a bit of a shock to the system, after the neatness and industriousness of Germany. For the first 50km or so over the border there were massive roadworks, huge new hotels/motels and service stations everywhere along the highway, and the Poles seem to like their "24 hour night clubs", which I'd guess are brothels by any other name, judging by the lurid advertising banners outside. Most of these servos, and many little one room box-huts, had signs out for "kantor". It took me a while to work it out, but it means "money changer". The almighty euro is king here! Dozens of semi-trailers filled each servo parking lot when they weren't congesting the roads.
I debated changing some euros, but kept putting it off, thinking I wouldn't need any Polish money! Haha! Eventually saw a small kantor with a decent exchange rate, so pulled in and changed some of my euro stash into some Polish zlotys(sp?), or PLN, and also some Lithuania currency, LTN. No Latvian currency (Latis) available here, unfortunately.
The Poles didn't seem all that keen on agricultural work, by the looks of things. Many farms were in disrepair with an unkempt look. Vast tracts of once productive land were laying idle, overgrown and covered in weeds. Perhaps the communist system did have something going for it, after all. However, most of the blocky, soviet era, concrete buildings - both in towns and rural areas - were now deserted, deteriorating and desolate in their common blankness.
The riding day came to an end in the hamlet of Kosewo, atill in Poland, at the Country House mini-hotel. The English name looked good to me! It was a delightful little hotel, all timber logs, both interior and exterior, with a decent clientele there for the evening meal out on the decks overlooking the pond, apparently, as they'd all gone by later that night. Walking into the reception area to be confronted by a bike (a Ural?)
and Harley-Davidson signs everywhere felt it was the right place for me, made even more so when I walked out onto the verandah porch later, past the snowmobile with Harley stickers on it,
to come face-to-face with this:-
It's a small, small world out there, that's for sure!
The fish in the pond would thrash in frenzy when some diners threw bread into the water. They appeared to be of decent size, although the ones I saw next morning were little more than fingerlings - possibly ferocious fingerlings?
Wandering out onto the deck for breakfast the next morning, my eyes swung to the bike - Oh, no! WillyWee was still asleep, lying on his side, back wheel up in the air, still with his blanket/cover on! Damn!! I was so disgusted at him, I had brekky while contemplating just how to get him upright again. Why strain my back if there is another option? It was obvious by the lack of footprints around him that no-one else had been involved, that the sidestand had finally worn a way through the grass, sand and rumbled bricks beneath it, and over it went.
I asked the lass who prepared my breakfast if there was a guy around. "No" was the answer, then she pointed to herself and did a lifting motion, so out we went, and up came the bike, quite easily. Oh, to be young, fit and strong-backed again!! Okay, so forget the young part - I'll just take the other two! No damage, except a couple small holes in the homemade bike cover, and lots of dust on it.
DAY 3 - yet another 4 countries in one day: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia
I'd only gone a few km before stopping on the footpath to take the first photo below . Yes, I know it's yet another church, but hey! there are some wonderful styles and designs out there.
Then, not much further on, I spied these twin towers below, and detoured for a looksee, coming upon them right at the end of the service, which must have had some significance (4th of July????), as the lawns in front of the church were packed with parishioners and the service was being broadcast over a PA system. Of course, I'd just parked on the street, with the flashers on, while I took the photos, with cars forced to overtake illegally, so then had to navigate between all the departing faithful to get back out to the highway, getting strange looks from all and sundry.
I must say, in some of the Polish cities considerable effort had been made to make the residential structures a little more cheerful for the residents, by painting the exterior of the large apartment blocks in appealing colours. Often, those with balconies had all the balconies in the block painted in striking, strong colours, creating a most colourful and pleasing effect.
Although not the most pleasing of colour schemes I'd seen along the way, I stopped, to get the two photos below, in a bus stop area, and was almost skittled by a bus pulling in! Oops! sorry mate! I gave him a wave as I went past.
A stork and its nest! Nope, just an ibis as I later discovered, but still pretty impressive, I think, the nest balancing atop a thin pole high above the ground, mama bird keeping a watchful eye on the noisy interloper below.
And then I crossed into Lithuania.
Immediately, I noticed a vast improvement in the overall state of the houses and land. The agricultural landscape was neater, with far more land under production and efforts had been made to tidy up the farm buildings as well as the houses in the towns and villages. Again, the soviet era buildings were mostly decaying and desolate, being overtaken in the fashion stakes by more modern "westernised" homes. People seemed to have far more pride in their homes and land than in Poland.
I began seeing more and more of the ibis nests, and this one below had at least 5 birds, that I could see, squashed into the nest.
Although fuel remained at roughly the same price as in the rest of Europe, food and drink in Lithuania were incredibly cheap, just over A$3.00 for a filled roll and a coffee. Then later, I weakened, deciding to try some of the local fare set out on the counter top in a servo where I'd stopped for a rest, not needing fuel. It looked lovely, round balls of a dough-like stuff, tossed in icing sugar! And yes, they tasted nice, too! Also had a pastie type of thing, which came heated, with some kind of tightly packed meat filling. Also very nice, although I wouldn't want to be eating these types of food all the time, as I can't imagine it's all that healthy, somehow!
And so into Latvia ...
With no Latvian money, I wasn't tempted to stop and sample the food! Rode all the way through the country admiring the cleanliness and neatness of their homes, farms and landscapes, compared to Poland's.
At the border with Estonia, the infrastructures of the old border crossings were still in use, this time housing a currency exchange and a cafeteria for travellers. The infrastructures were still remaining at all of the borders I crossed, although they are no longer in use, as all the countries through which I'd passed recently were now either official members of the EU, or else had adopted the EU policies. However, not all countries have adopted the euro as their currency, preferring instead to retain their own, which means trying to work out how much one should change into each country's currency. A bit of a headache, as one normally tends to end up with pockets full of different currencies, with no hope of ever again spending it. Ah well, the joys of travelling. But it must have been infinitely worse before the Euro and the EU came into existence. At least now, there is no requirement for visas between countries.
So I changed my remaining Lithuanian currency into Estonian, and was one my way into the fourth country for this day. I checked out a hotel on the GPS and set off towards it, somewhere on the coast, not too far into Estonia. Turning off the highway, I was riding directly into the lowering sun, and was fortunate to barely make out a movement to the right, just ahead of me, braking just in case. Out of the forest, up the bank and onto the road strode a full grown moose cow, stopping to look at me as I braked to a halt, frantically reaching into the tankbag to get the camera. In the couple of seconds that I was looking away, the damn thing ambled across the road and all I then saw through the lens was a big fat rump going down the opposite bank. Now, who wants to see a photo of a moose's rump? Hopefully no-one, coz I didn't bother taking it!
The hotel/campground was very nice, and I passed a group of camping bikers on the driveway in to the hotel, waving to them, although they stood and just looked as I went past. Oh, well, can't win them all, I suppose, although most of the bikers on the road for the past few days had enthusiastically waved in response to mine. They were on 4 Moto Guzzis and a Kawa 1400.
Soon had the tent set up under the pines at the edge of the beach - the Baltic Sea, looking left to Latvia and right to Estonia.
Going, going above, and gone, below.
I'd been planning on staying in the hotel, to get away early, but when I heard 1000 Eeks, I quickly decided to camp. To explain, 10 Eeks is roughly A$1.00, so I wasn't gonna be paying A$100 for a hotel bed, when I could camp on the beach, was I? Although it did cost me 200 Eeks for camping, and then I had brekky for another 100 Eeks. But they had free wifi, which had been decidedly absent (even at Maccas) through Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
DAY 4 Through Estonia to the capital, Tallin
It was an uneventful ride up through the remaining section of Estonia, about 200km, to the capital of Tallin. I'd prebooked a hotel in the city for the night, as the ferry to Finland departs at 8.00am, and I didn't want to miss it, as I'd also prebooked that.
I took my time riding in, as I couldn't get into the hotel until 2.00pm, so stopped along the way for an icecream and coffe, just to waste some time - and to get out of the continuing heat!
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