When we navigated our way out of the city of Kaliningrad we came across a naval museum that wasn’t open yet but as the doors were not closed we ventured onto the premises, walked around and took pictures. The Russians are very proud of their military history and achievements and do like to show off a little bit occasionally.
However, all the military (army, naval) bases we had passed during our travel through Russia looked quite run down, sometimes even on the brink of collapse but the supposedly old and obsolete material that has been on display on various locations that we’ve seen always looked immaculate, well maintained and cleaned.
We don’t know why that is but after all the Potemkin Village was a strategy invented in Russia and maybe they are simply continuing in this tradition.
With views on the Vistula Lagoon and the Vistula Spit we made our way through the Kaliningrad District exclave, the former East Prussia to the Russian-Polish border. We had been warned before and during the rally that the Poles seem to not like the Russians too much and therefore are very meticulous in their immigration process and take their time. We crossed the Russian border in a record-breaking 30 minutes and then hit the end of the queue at the frontier to Poland and the EU.
Doing some recon Jörg discovered that there were lanes towards the control post where only Russian cars were in and another one that led to the EU passports’ entrance. We then squeezed the Fat One past the other cars and suddenly had only 3 cars left in front of us. First passport control, then customs control. The customs’ officer was friendly yet professional and we had to open everything. In the end he wished us fun and success for the rest of the rally.
All in all the process had lasted about 2 hours and we were in Poland.
We had decided to aim for the seaside town of Kolobrzeg//Kolberg on the shores of the Baltic Sea to spend our last night on the rally.
We passed Danzig/Gdansk on the South and covered some distance on Polish country roads.
At least we tried to, which wasn’t a lot of fun.
The quality of the roads was pathetic, it seemed like there was a village every kilometre, where we had to slow down and the traffic was surprisingly heavy for a Saturday afternoon in the countryside.
So progress wasn’t as swift and smooth as expected.
Still, the mood on board was good.
At one point Franz was driving and asked Jörg to read the roadbook’s text for today. One of the attractions they mentioned for this day was the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork (Marienburg). And, lo and behold, at that exact moment we were just about to leave Malbork. Jörg turned around and saw the castle next to the river.
It’s still to this day the largest brick building in Europe.
Of course we stopped and paid the castle a visit i.e. running around it.
But first we had to sort out the parking.
Clever Poles had fenced off a piece of ground and were now asking for money to park your car. The problem was though that they didn’t take credit cards or Euros but only Zlotys. After a lot of discussion in Polish, German and English the lady in the booth was willing to accept 5 Euros. And then she gave us back 10 Zloty (about 2 Euro) with a piece of paper denoting our license plate and the entry time.
Viewing while walking across the river and then around the castle we could only admire the feat of constructing and building such a fortress just out of bricks.
Like on most days of our trip we didn’t have the time to do some proper sightseeing and get into the castle and do a tour there. But when you’re getting to Gdansk make sure you make a detour via Malbork. It’s really something even only from the outside.
Back at the car park we handed back our paper slip and wanted to get to the car when the lady in the booth called us back and handed back the 5 Euros. We were a bit confused now for at this point we then would have parked for free plus we were 10 Zlotys richer…
We gave her back the 10 Zlotys and left with everyone happy and smiling.
The roads were now getting twistier but also a bit less crowded. Having texted with some of the other teams we had agreed to now head for Szczecin/Stettin instead of Kolberg. We had researched a nicely located camping spot there next to the marina, where we all wanted to meet for a last night. We did some dinner shopping in a Polish discount supermarket where one of the other customers gave us some tips in German, and then continued our journey to the western border of Poland dashing across the beautiful and slightly hilly countryside, leaving quite a few Poles in the Fat One’s wake.
We found the camping, picked a nice spot and had a drink, Gin and Tonic this time as we had finally been able to get ice cubes in a supermarket, waited for the others, then prepared dinner.
Once they were there we had small pancakes with sour cream and cured salmon for starters, followed by a nicely marbled polish steak with jacket potatoes and some herbal cream, and polished that off with a tasty Spanish white wine. That’s Europe for you.
We had another evening of telling tales, laughter and banter and the occasional drink and around midnight were getting a bit deeper by discussing our takeaways from this rally – apart from the weather during the first days nobody could say anything negative or think about anything they didn’t like.
We did about 530 km that day and needed more than 11 hours for the trip.
Then we spent the last night in our tent.