Friday 14.8.2020 460km Total: 460km 6h 9m Total: 6h 9m
I've planned this years trip through Poland, Belarus and east Germany providing I can get into Belarus at all and get back into Poland without getting thrown in a quarantine facility.
I'd decided to include Brest in Belarus as it's in what is called a Visa free zone with a simplified process to get more tourism in the region.
What I didn't understand before I started looking into it was that a simplified process for an ex communist state that hasn't completely let go of the old ways stills is a bureaucratic nightmare for a normal person.
The term simplified is somewhat relative.
Hotel bookings mean nothing, they still need an invite stating that you've bought some sort of guided tour.
Best I could find is that I've now bought a guided tour in Grodno (a city I have no intention of visiting), health insurance that is completely surplus to requirements as I'm already insured and entrance to a museum in Brest I might or might not visit.
Anyway. Back to the present. I barely get any sleep so I give up around 7AM even though I don't have to leave until 11AM to catch the ferry to Gdynia.
I guess I'm getting old as I've already packed and get bored with waiting just for waiting's sake and ride off at 10 and ride the speed limit to the point it's almost embarrassing.
I've hardly ridden the bike at all this year so it was an almost euphoric feeling to get in the saddle and ride off.
I chew away at the miles and I have lunch in a small village called Vrigstad. The weather is glorious with 24-26°C so I stop often just to hydrate.
It was for the best that I left earlier than planned as I arrive in Karlskrona just an hour before final check-in on the ferry and that margin got to good use as I've never been so unlucky with picking a cue in my entire life.
The traffic is flowing nicely until a white van with a mini-excavator in tow and blocks the check-in.
Half an hour later in the scorching sun I give up, break off and rides to the back of the only check-in that's now actually open.
But the age a miracles are not over, finally the god damn van reverses out of the cue and traffic starts moving again so in a flash I'm back there.
One, I repeat one god damn vehicle gets through and then a brown minivan blocks it all up again.
After another ten minutes a Pole in the other cue to which I am eternally grateful signals that I should break in front of him.
I was there with an hours margin and finally check in with less than ten minutes to spare.
With the bike strapped down and in the cabin I'm barely even surprised when I go to wash my hands and the water splashes straight through because the entire drainage beneath is broken.
I might be a bit grumpy but still it's glorious to be heading out.
Onboard the ferry I seem to be the only person wearing a mask despite it being mandatory in a public environments in Poland.
Tax free was out of the question because they had a one-in-one-out system due to Covid and the cue was astronomical.
I have dinner in one of the restaurants and head back to the cabin.
Saturday 15.8.2020 167km Total: 627km 3h 8m Total: 9h 17m
Disembark the ferry to glorious weather, a bit too glorious perhaps rather that than the cold.
I have a few thing I want to see in Gdansk and first on my list is Torpedownia, a ruin of a complex the Nazis used to test torpedoes during the war.
The Soviets plundered the place of all equipment after the war and for a while it was used for dive training until it was left to history.
On my way down to the beach I pass a large building with a fighter plane mounted on a plinth that I'm sorely tempted to snap some pictures off.
Luckily I didn't as I soon realize it's some sort of Polish Top Gun, a military installation.
I check up on the bike, lube the chain an head off.
If the first point of interest was somewhat obscure then number two isn't any less so, Hotel Zdrowie.
A sanatorium built on 1962 to provide rest and relaxation to the union members of Solidaritet.
When it closed down in 1995 the buildings where ransacked and started the decay into the ruin it is today.
In my defense regarding the legal aspect of entering a place like this I followed in the footsteps of a polish family so if this place was supposed to be cordoned off then it isn't any more.
It was a nice dystopian excursion which got all the better by a few guys recording the video for a blues track on the second floor so there was an excellent soundtrack to the whole experience.
I had meant to explore a few more or less weird attractions in Gdansk but the temperature was relentless.
It was toasty when I got off the ferry and has only gotten warmer.
27ºC is a bit rich in full Gore-Tex amour so just to get a bit of respite from the slow cooker that is me I head out on the highway and on towards Malbork Castle.
It was hardly surprising that I wasn't the only one with that idea on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the ticked line was almost ridiculous.
One weird phenomenon I reflect upon is that even though we're packed like fish in a barrel hardly anyone is wearing a mask outside but the moment they step over the threshold to the ticked building everyone mask up.
After about an hour I have tickets for 3PM and in the meantime I have a late lunch.
If I was disappointed that this was the last thing I'd get to see today that disappointment is immediately dispersed the moment I set one foot inside the castle, the superlatives are not yet invented to accurately describe the magnificence of this building.
It is the largest castle in the world and the largest brick building in Europe.
Built by the Teutonic Knights in 1406, a German order of knights dating back to the 1100s.
It's on the UNESCO world heritage list since 1997 and rightly so.
The castle spans over 52 hectares and is divided into upper, middle and lower castle.
The outer walls encloses 21 hectares which is four times Windsor castle.
Grandeur comes at a price and the wealth came from the knights monopolizing the amber trade and they tied close ties to the Hansa when Gdansk became a member of the Hanseatic League.
The whole thing was so overwhelming I walked around all afternoon gaping behind my mask like a fish on dry land.
Come evening I ride back to my royal accommodation at the Royal Residence in Gdansk, a quaint little place just outside the city center.
Checked in and smartened up I head down to the down because I at least wanted to see the Lenin Shipyard.
There is a monument to the 1970 protests just outside the shipyard.
A peoples movement against the communist leadership because they'd raised the prices on food and consumer goods that culminated with military firing indiscriminately into masses of people just trying to get to work.
42 people died and the wounded where in the thousands.
The conclusion was that Brezhnev and Moscow removed the communist leadership in Poland and put new marionettes in their place, the price increase was reversed and a wage increase was announced.
This was to be the starting point for the Solidarity movement in Poland the led in the 80s led to the first free elections in the eastern block where Solidarity won a landslide victory in 1989 claiming all senate chairs except one.
It is Saturday after all so I think I've earned a beer so on the way back I get one at a convenience store.
As I'm none the wiser as to local law I ask the teller if it's ok to drink it in the street.
She doesn't really give me an answer and is obviously very uncomfortable with being asked about it.
But as I'd bought it I might as well drink it so I walk on, a bit lighter in step.
As I trod along I meet tons of people who are obviously dressed up for a night out but absolutely no one is carrying anything drinkable, not a living soul.
I sink that beer down at a new personal best before discarding the evidence in a trash can where after I can use my phone to check up on local law and ascertain that it is most definately illegal to consume alcohol in the street in Poland.
Note to self: check this kind of shit beforehand.
I get a Jack Daniel's Angus steak at 7-street bar and grill for supper.
It was the perfect ending to great day as that meat was close to a religious experience.
Sunday 16.8.2020 349km Total: 976km 5h 59m Total: 15h16m
Gdansk is a city with so much history I could have spent days here but I've already booked my next booked for tonight so after a short stop I'm off.
I ride to Westerplatten, a peninsula at the mouth of the river Wisła where the first shots were fired during WW2.
The free city of Danzig had a munitions depot there and on the morning of September 1st 1939 the battleship Schleswig-Holstein sailed into the harbor and fired a broadside.
The Nazis thought it would be an easy win but after a hard and bitter struggle the ground troops had to fall back and it was only after massive bombardment from artillery, Stuka bombers and a torpedo boat they finally surrendered the garrison.
By then a week had past since the first shots where fired.
The Poles have by right of history erected a monument at the site to commemorate their fallen heroes.
After visiting the ruins and the monument I head off unto roads along the Kaliningrad and Lithuanian borders that are like a bikers dream.
Lush trees on both sides and twisty road with good asphalt. I was enjoying myself immensely up to the point where my travel companion Horton makes himself known.
It was about lunchtime when it hits full force and I feels like someone is trying to put a nail through my eyeball.
I get off the main road, force down a readymeal and get some meds.
The jacket is spread on the ground as cover so I can lay down and I actually slumber off for a little while.
When I come around the attack has subsided and I can actually ride on.
I need to fill up on petrol so I head into an Aral station.
However there is a distinct lack of credit card machines so I run around like a headless chicken looking for one until I realize the windowless bunker next to the pumps might be manned.
I knock and enter and stumble upon a grouchy old man who's obviously been looking at my total confusion in the cameras without lifting a finger.
He flat out refuses to engage the fuel pump despite me proving I have the means to pay my way.
The only thing the man says as I'm about to leave in anger is gerade aus und links (straight ahead, then left).
As the options weren't exactly plentiful I chance and actually go where he said and just 75m away there's another petrol station who gladly took my money.
I really wonder what all that was about.
From one hateful little man in a bunker to the next: Hitlers wolf's lair, Wolfsschanze.
Due to my Horton-induced nap I get there pretty late in the day but that had the great benefit of me practically having the entire site completely to myself.
Apart from the staff I don't think I saw more than half a dozen people, it was a magnificent experience that well surpassed my wildest expectations. Completely surreal.
The area is about 6.5km² large and was completed the 21st of June 1941.
The inner zone consists of 11 bunkers made in 2m thick steel enforced concrete.
Hitler was convinced the allies knew the exact location of the complex and that they'd bomb it any day but the airstrike never came.
It's not entirely clear if the allies knew the location of the site or the purpose of it and the Soviets didn't even know the site existed until ground troops stumbled upon it during its advance towards Germany.
Despite the sun now marching at double speed towards the horizon I try and squeeze the most out of the day and head out in the woods on a wild goose chase for another somewhat obscure attraction, the ruins of a Bismarck-tower.
The Bismarck-tower in Srokowo is one of hundreds of monuments built around the turn of the last century to commemorate the Prussian prime minister and the first German chancellor Otto Von Bismarck.
The plan was that during speciall days they would light up the fire bowls in all the 240 towers erected in what was then Germany as beacons of celebration of the chancellor but it never happened.
A lot of the towers where built as lookouts and that is also true of the one at devils hill in Srokowo.
It was a curious attraction and bit unnecessarily exiting running around in what was by then practically a pitch black forest looking for it.
By the time a park the bike at the hotel in Gizlycko it's almost 10PM.
Trying to find an open restaurant in a village this size seemed pretty futile so I buy a non alcoholic beer (by mistake but it was actually pretty good) and wolf down a readymeal.