I spent some time looking through two old synagogues that had been turned into museum's, and that was all that was left in this town to show the Jews had ever been present.
Went into a milk bar (corner store) to buy a ice-cream, and I had the choice of about 50 different bottles of Spirits, ignoring the beer, I would have needed 19.49zl to buy a full size bottle of Vodka to start the day (NZ$8.15, US$4.65) and this is Sunday morning while most are still in Church. Boy you could have some party here for very little money, incidentally I have noticed quite a few men having their own party's as I drive around, many can't hardly stand!
I then moved on to Lublin, with the intent of looking at what was left of Jewish life for there but the traffic, and parking restrictions, made it wishful thinking. I drove around a little while looking for a hotel, I'm not sure where they hide them, eventually I decided to get on the motorway towards Warsaw with the thought they should be plenty of hotels there, I did stop at two establishments, the first was charging 50zl, and the second one 95zl, the first one I didn't dare think what the room would be like for that price so I drove on, the second one had two beds, the absolutely no room for a suitcase, so I drove on. Finally I reached where I am now we have a room for 70zl, it is adequate but no telephone, so again no access to the Internet.
Remember my comment about the number of bicycles, and my wonderment as to how safe and would be to ride them about the country, today on the main road I saw a bicycle on one side of the road, and injured person on the other side of the road being attended to by some ambulance officers, and a few moments later a helicopter landed in the field the side this incident obviously to take him to hospital. It appeared to be a middle-aged man, and these are the group I have noticed that I often having their individual parties, but whatever the cause, too much partying or a careless driver he was getting a free ride in a helicopter.
I have 14 more days to go of aimlessly wandering around the country, and I'm getting a little bit tired of it, I have no real objective, which of course makes it very hard to achieve anything, the fact that I managed to find a hotel every night probably is an achievement. So I might wander back to Warsaw, return the car, change my suitcases, and see if I can get a week's last-minute travel to some location. That's the thinking at the moment so I have to see what tomorrow brings.
Monday 6 June Bielsk Podlaski
This morning I was awake at sunrise, and at a moment I am a little brighter even though they sunrise was about 430, the simple reason was there were no curtains, looking through my guide book on Jewish Poland, I see I had missed and interesting town so I decided to wander back to have a look at that, I found the old temple easily, it had been turned into museum with Jewish artefacts, but the street that had some of the original houses escaped my attention totally until I asked the lass at the museum, who could only speak four languages, fortunately English was one of them, where the street was, and it was, as I expected, within a stone's throw of the synagogue, but it was market day in town, and the tents everywhere throughout the old quarter, which hid the delightful old street, that was once, it had changed substantially since the guide book had been printed, and no longer shows any external appearance of any Jewish occupants, as suggested in the book.
So after this visit, which did not live up to expectation, I again turned my car North and started my daily quest for a hotel. I thought my quest had been answered early when I saw a sign for a hotel called Las Vegas, however the person that designed this visited that city probably in the sixties, and a look at the bar was sufficient for me to get back on the car and keep on driving.
Currently I'm close to the Belarusian border in a two star hotel, which has large bedroom, and lounge for the expensive price of 140zl.
The driving, today, was no worse that any other day, except for two cars which unexpectedly met, it looks like while one was passing, which is surprising it doesn't happen more often when I see some of the places they pass, but police and fire brigade were there directing everybody around the accident, no sign of an ambulance so hopefully it was only the cars that were damaged.
Tuesday 8 June Elk
Quite and under interesting day-to-day, drove from last night's town of 27,000 through the next town -- city of 300, 000, hate these large cities, particularly in Poland you've got no show of finding your way through them simply. You need three maps, one large map at a scale of one to 750,000, then a book map to a scale of one to 500, 000, and finally another book map with a scale of one to 250,000. With these three maps you have a little bit of a show of working out where you want to go out and sometimes they even help. Getting through this large town I did my usual trick of passing the same spot several times, and Bob you would please with me, I did not even let on that are recognised the spots, I just drove on ignoring the corner I turned last time.
I did consider going into Lithuania for a couple of days but considered the scenery would probably be no different to what I'm seeing now. Elk the town I'm spending the night in as at the start of the Lake District of Poland, and as I went through a real thunder shower before I got here I thought I'll stay here early (it was only 1 p.m.) and hopefully have a fine day tomorrow.
You get a lot of time thinking as your driving, sometimes when you see a car passing, coming right at you, you think what am I doing here, but most times it's about what you see in what you observe of people and their actions.
On these travels I've been through some very small villages here in Poland, and it's very interesting where ever you go you see young couples walking hand-in-hand. It's interesting when you look at the broad picture and you realise that these people parents and grandparents have probably lived in this town for many generations, they will probably meet a local girl and will probably marry, possibly by the age of 20, and probably will remain together for the rest their life. Neither will probably get outside their country, and if they get to Warsaw that will be the highlight of their life which they will talk about for the rest of their life. It's interesting expectations you have, and is quite possible, that a boy or girl, from the same size village in New Zealand, mainly by the time the Polish couple are marrying, the backpacking around the world, getting their overseas experience, and often meeting their future partner in some other country, and they may be divorced by the time they are 40. I wonder who has it right?
In this connection also, it used to be the accepted fact that whatever your father did, you end up doing something similar as he. And when you look at the options in a village today in Poland you understand why this accepted fact in actual fact makes sense. It's only with the affluence of the West that a Labour's son can find it easier to become a doctor than 90 years ago, then he would have needed to have been seen to be outstanding, and then would have needed the patronage of the wealthy person in the village.
It is interesting getting connections to the Internet, first I have to get a telephone line that I can use, then I log on using a program called IPassConnect, this works in most countries except couple I've being too on the trip, and first it has to get a line locally, then the number it dials has to be free, and then it has to recognise my log on name and password, this latter step sometimes takes up to 12 logons before it will go through. Has usually I'm waiting for technology to catch up with my way of thinking, it's almost there but of course every time does catch up a have to move the goalposts because what is possible always becomes more involved.
If you considering travelling to Poland and you are either go to stay in hotels, and or travel on trains, packed the suitcase before you leave, and go down to your local railway station and carry your suitcase up the steps of the overhead bridge, all for a great flight of stairs and try carrying the suitcase up and down that for a few times and then consider the size of the case you are carrying in what you are carrying and it. This probably applies for a lot of Europe.
The hotel I'm staying at is on the edge of quite a large Lake and I guess it is extremely popular once summer gets here. Today there is the wind blowing over the Lake, and looking at the waves it is good to be on land.
Wednesday 9 June Dragacz.
Well I drove through the Lakes district, I did see one or two Lakes, when I looked at map again it was obvious that the main road went quite a distance from the majority of the Lakes, and even the secondary roads did not do justice to the Lakes. If you do want to drive through Lakes, thousands of Lakes, drive down through Finland, you won't be disappointed.
I experienced an unusual number of aggressive drivers today, and I wonder why there seems to be so many in Poland. I wonder can be that powerful cars are a reason the new experience to the majority of the population, and they feel they are invincible with the power, and can overtake under any circumstance. I've seen what I assume have been the pre-westernised cars which had been little Fiat 650's, Lada's, and old Skoda's. None of these would have permitted the dangerous overtaking I see many times a day.
This evening I had a meal in the 24 hour restaurant, they had no English menu, and the girl could speak no English, so I used my card of illustrations and ordered steak and chips, and got steak onions chips sour cabbage and lots of other miscellaneous items which for those of you that know me, will know how I appreciated all of that.
Thursday 10 June in Torzym
I had breakfast in the same restaurant, different girl, she could speak English, reached up on the top shelf and brought down an English menu and left me to it, what she concentrated on the real job in hand, giving two unattached men the eye, the smile and making sure she leaned over so they could see how much she spent on her bra, I assume that was the reason, and I assume they were unattached was all the attention they were getting. She appears to be on the early shift, and probably thought marriage may be less work, thoughts she may look back on with wonderment!
I decided today to head down to a city called Poznan, and as I was going south I noticed a lot of activity and or log the Catholic Church's on the way. Getting to Poznan at about 10 AM I found every shop was closed and I noticed a very large crowd outside a church in the distance with the police force keeping things under control. I then realised they were celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi, evidently each area has their own the date, but this particular state was all locked down, and everything closed like New Zealand in the fifties on a Sunday.
I decided then I might as well go on to the border and see if there was anything of interest there, before I knew where I was I was crossing the border, they peered that the passport, waves beyond and I was in Germany and Frankfurt/Oder, and I saw a sign towards a large shopping centre so I thought that will be of interest, I won't bore you with the left turns, the right turns, the threequarter turns, and all the other turns, but I ended back exactly where I started, and don't ask me how. I then headed in a slightly different direction and found myself outside the shopping centre, so I wandered through that and found nothing of startling interest.
Back in the car, thoughts now I will go back to Poland, but a sign on the road said Berlin 75 K. I thought that is not far, so about 90 minutes later I was on the outskirts of Berlin, in the middle of the roadworks, in the middle of nose to tail traffic, with large trucks from Belarusian, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia, Poland, and Germany all with the apparent thought in mind that my little red car did not matter.
Then just ahead I saw the sign for the ring road, got on to it, with luck heading the correct way, at 130 K. so before I knew where I was I was back at the border, considered staying and Frankfurt the night, but when you're rolling along at such as speed it is a shame to stop, so I was back at the border to Poland, everyone was holding up the passport in the border control guy was just waving them past, then he saw my passport, and that woke him up, he took the passport showed it is associate, who waved me on, so I was back in Poland at about 45 minutes from the border found this hotel where I am set for the night.
As I was crossing the border back from Germany, there were all of these Polish vehicles towing vehicle trailers, they were obviously going into Germany to buy secondhand or wrecked vehicles, and looking at the numbers that were going in that were coming back across the border that must be a booming business. The thirst for good cars must be unlimited. The real enterprising ones had the car transporters loaded with cars they had bought, I even saw some full of wrecked cars that they obviously were going to patch up and sell.
This is not only limited to Poland but I saw transporters with Lithuanian numberplates, so it looks like all of the new EEC members are buying cars from the more affluent old EEC members. This of course is just the cycle of business it is good to see so many of the members of the old Soviets have learned what capitalism is.
Friday 11th June Trzbaw
It was a nice hotel last night, nice breakfast, but a lousy thick duvet, under which I cooked most of the night finally calling it quits at about 4:30 a.m. when the light was pouring into the room and all the birds had commenced their day.
So I got off to a reasonably early start, but that did not last long as I started feeling tired (I wonder why) so I pulled over into a service station area, locked the car and had a snooze for about 90 minutes.
Then I decided that might be actually possible, today, to see some ancient buildings because they appear to be right on my path, and I could even find them on the map. I started off well in this fantastic little village, so I parked the car, pulled out the camera, did one photograph, and then decided, after the situation had been lurking in the background, ruining photographs, making them hard to take, that I had a major problem with my camera.
The viewing screen was quite dark and I assumed this was because the lens was not opening up to full aperture, which meant, to my thinking, it could either been the lens or the camera, because that would have been an electrical control which gave the impulse for this to happen to the lens.
I have been expecting to have some major camera trouble like this ever since I started just carrying the one lens and the one body, and I thought this will teach me I should have been carrying an extra body, no, make that lens, no, whatever I carried would have been wrong. I worked on the principle that if something went wrong and would be better to buy that thing in the country I was in when I needed it, if I needed it. Well now I needed it!
Well I was about 60 kilometres a way from the city I passed that was yesterday celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi, and the town was locked down on that day, I thought now they should be ready for business, so I went back and found a major shopping centre, and started looking for a camera shop.
The first shop I saw was a luggage shop, and having been sick of carrying my suitcase at all of these stairs here in Poland, I thought now is a good time to sort this out and started looking at suitcases, and found three that were real good possibilities, they looked about half the size of my existing case, so I thought was now time to check out my existing case to see if two of these cases would take all of my goodies.
I took tape measure from the shop out to the car, and thought it will be simpler to wheel my suitcase in, which I did, and is interesting if you have something very heavy that you have to carry, and grows in size in your mind, the three suitcases that I had sorted out what all the same size as my existing case. This blew all my theories and currently I'm at a loss in this whole area. I think the simple answer is I am just carrying too many clothes!
So I carried on walking around the mall and found a camera shop with a 300D, kept on walking and a computer shop with one as well. So I went out to the car, collected my camera, and went back to the camera shop and the guy that could not speak English. He was not sure of what this weird foreigner wanted, and the foreigner was not quite sure for either.
When I realised I had this camera problem, I thought at least I have the small Pentax point and shoot, and then I started thinking about the photos I have been taking, and realise they were basically snaps, and that my photographic ability, if I have one, is photographing people, which I have not been doing for quite some time, and So why do I need such a complex camera, for just doing snaps of the countryside that I happen to pass through.
So the first step was to see if I had a problem, and I put the lens onto the 300D, and it darkened its screen as well, then I tried putting the 300D's lens onto the 10 D, but of course the lens would not fit would it. I started then looking at point and shoot camera's, which was when I realised why I used a complex camera as a point-and-shoot because quite simply allowed me to do what I want to do.
Now I started getting simple, I thought it was the lens, and with sign language asked him if he could supply me a new lens, he said not Sigma only Tamron, well I did not want that, so I started looking at what he had in the shop, and he did have a Tamron 28 to 300 sitting on a Canon camera, I asked to try the lens on my camera, no problems, my lens on the new camera, problems, so that told me what the problem was so I'm now proud possessor of 2, 28 to 300 Zoom lenses one that works and one that does not, that incidentally increases the weight of my suitcase making it heavier still.
So I went back to luggage shop, was unable to resolve anything, back to the car and back south. The second nice looking hotel I stopped at, reviewed all of my luggage, thought how I could manage with two suitcases and a camera case in some other places I was heading for, looked at all of my clothes that I had and wondered what I could leave behind, and was no further ahead so I had a asleep.