Sunday, September 1, 2019

Farewell Baltic - and Southwards! (5058)

At the time I thought it was the crossing from Helsinki to Tallinn that marked the end of our first phase, but it wasn't. It was riding south from Gdansk and leaving behind the body of water that has been the backdrop for our trip so far.

We've more or less circumnavigated the Baltic and its associated seas. And it's been great. The people, the history, the food, the cultures, trade, industries, wars, invasions, occupations, languages - and the biting insects, well, we now know just a little bit more about them - and we're fans.

These waters have connected the places we've been to. We've ridden over them, under them, beside them (sometimes with sea view, sometimes not) and been ferried across them (more than once) and it's sad to leave them behind.

But we have - and everything seems just slightly different. The roads, the traffic, the driving styles and the country codes on the vehicles (we even saw some GB stickers).

Border crossing
Leaving Russia was easier than getting in by a factor of 7:3 (90 mins v 210).

Rude receptionists 
We arrived in Gdansk, tired and dehydrated (that really hot weather had returned) to meet the rudest hostel receptionist so far. He seems to have decided to piss off as many 'guests' as possible. I rolled with it - I was too tired to start looking elsewhere at that stage. The hostel is la Guitarra - there are others, if you visit.

Gdansk is a lovely holiday town that seems to have taken on the mantle without sacrificing its dignity.

Water play
Bridge up!
Angelika took the political walking tour (in German with an overly verbose guide). I wisely spent the very hot afternoon mostly prone with a beer or two.

Lost in Łòdź
We're starting to lose faith in our GPS. There are two streets in Łòdź called Stefana Jarancza and, despite being given the correct city code, it took us to the wrong one. On the dodgy side of the city. On an unmade road. With an angry alsatian guard dog nearby. In thirty degrees.

The 'clay' of the unmade road was actually sand and I nearly dropped the bike when I hit it. But I didn't. And we eventually found the right place - but it added an hour to the journey when the heat meant we could have done without it.

But Łódź is a vibey and chilled place and we enjoyed our post-snooze wander in this, the home of Polish film. We ate in a Jewish restaurant. I had tea with Slivovitz.

Flâneur territory
Street clock
Where we stayed
The plains
One thing that strikes you as you ride from Kaliningrad to Germany across Poland is how flat and easy to traverse it all is. Long, straight roads. Various generals have used this to their advantage over the centuries. No natural impediments to movement, you see. It has contributed to one of the main historical themes of these parts.

Throttle control
I imagine many of you are wondering 'How does Simon keep a grip on his throttle all day without his hand becoming cramped and tired when the poor chap doesn't have cruise control?' Understandable that you would. Well, I alternate the main effort of the grip between index finger and second finger of the hand, relaxing the other when not on duty. It works. There, you can relax now.

Camping in the heat
Here is a photograph of the pilot pondering:

Pondering pilot
This was during the (very hot) run from Łódź* to Dresden. I was thinking about how it was going to be, pitching our tent in this heat, after this gruelling day and camping for three nights in what was forecast to be stifling heat.

So we're staying in a posh, expensive hotel in the heart of Dresden's Old Town. Sometimes the self-indulgent choice is the right one. (Certainly, the Pillion seems to think so.)

*We've given criminally little time to Poland. Another occasion, maybe.

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