Alexey Moskvin

Baltic Exchange and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘gdansk

Gdansk to Kaliningrad

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The weather is rubbish today and it’s the first rainy day since I left. It really doesn’t appeal much to walk around town in this, so some things have to be cut out of the plan. Although, to see Falowiec – that massive council block, just seemed like a very appropriate idea. And there it is, a monster of the communist dream, over 800 meters long and is a home to about 6000 people. Quite nice flats, they say, and not particularly cheap.

Fighting through the traffic I smell a bakery and make an emergency stop. Bakeries have become a perfect source of one’s lunch – local, freshly made and usually delicious stuff (pirozhki! Appeared on this side of the border), for both savoury and desserts. Add a tomato and an apple from a shop nearby and you have a decent meal.

To counterbalance Falowiec would be the Malbork Teutonic castle. It’s a bit out of the way but is worth going to. A massive red brick structure, I walk around it but decide not to go in. It’s very flat and windy on the way.

But before Malbork there’s still the pannier to sort out… The sat nav shows that there’s a dealership in Gdansk, how very convenient. I pay BMW Zdunek a visit and despite the funny name they are a great and super helpful bunch. Luckily for me, instead of having to wait for a few days for an order, they do have one there and then. I leave with a new pannier and £300 lighter but while they were fixing me I have a nice chat with Pawel, get drier, less worried, fed and coffeed.

I get to see the sea again. Also stopped to take a photo of the cross – I noticed those are scattered all over Poland and reminded me of Spain.

I set off for the Russian border. The insurance is sorted for both Russian entries in a tent just before the border crossing. A woman with a mix of Polish and Russian is filling out papers and is worried that the whole tent will fly away – the wind is so strong.

It’s easier than I thought. Not much hassle at all. Everyone’s very friendly and excited I came all that way. So, very shortly, I’m through and the wonderful feeling of familiarity feels me up, so I do figures of S on the road to the amusement of the bunch of locals waiting for something at the border. Or, most likely, they just thought ‘what a wanker’, but I don’t care – it’s my first ride in Russia.

Kaliningrad greets me with stone paved road, the one that feels like an ocean on a particularly bad weather. With tram tracks in the middle. I bounce along until it gets quite scary inside the Brandenburg Gate where I have to slow down to about 10 mph, just to keep the wheels attached. Much to the annoyance of the local traffic who are never mindedly whizzing along at normal speeds with ringing suspensions.

I find Tanya’s block and Vadim hangs out of the 8th floor window to say hello when I call. The next challenge is to hide the bike. ‘No good to leave it here’, they say, ‘people can just carry the bike away’. ‘They’d need at least three heavy weight lifters’ I say but surely agree that it’s better to park it somewhere safe. There is a design agency just opposite, so we go to ask whether we can leave the bike on their grounds for safety. Artur, the guard, agrees, so we squeeze the bike in between a lorry and the wall, so it can’t be seen from the street. Just to make sure, we cover it with a couple of sheets of linoleum to keep it away from rain and the eyes of the director – the guards are not supposed to be helping us out.

We should really come up with a name for this… It’s just like tequila boom but massive and with sambuca instead of tequila. Lots of fun, as with large glasses it’s almost impossible to hold the precious liquid inside when it explodes at the impact. Everything around becomes sticky very quickly, so if you want to repeat the trick, keep a lot of paper towels at hand. Awesome. And no hangover in the morning.
For most of the next day I walk about Kaliningrad.

For the Eurovision night there is a bunch of friends around. Tanya cooks great stuff and Sambuca Spray is replaced by more traditional wine and vodka with juice.

Written by Alexey Moskvin

21 May 2011 at 20:21

Kolobrzeg to Gdansk

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Breakfast… apart from cheese and yoghurt almost everything is with fish. A beetroot and herring salad – I’m definitely feeling closer to my homeland. Tapping my fingers on the table to some polish pop song I stuff myself with every unfamiliar bit of food, partly out of curiousity, partly trying to compensate for the lack of proper dinner yesterday. The owner comes out to say bye and that her husband found me on the internet. We smile and I promise to send some photos of St Petersburg.

Nothing else to see in Kolobrzeg, so off I go, to explore the roads of Poland.

Getting rather desperate for lunch, so looking out for a place to stop… and eventually there it is, something that looks like a restaurant. Stopping and slowly turning onto a gravelly path and… right foot slips on the gravel and down I go, adding another couple of scratches to the engine cover and breaking the right pannier. Doesn’t look serious but to go all the way with this doesn’t appeal either. But I’ll think about it later… now I’m just tired and hungry. A couple of guys are running towards me from the restaurant, helping me up and inviting me to their table. A big bunch of Danish hunters with a Polish guide who speaks English and Russian. A coffee and a plate with all kinds of cheeses and breads appear in front of me. Danish guys carry on talking Danish, we talk with the guide in Russian… I leave after about half an hour with a slightly dented pride, memories of a good company and full of food.

Do you remember the bad roads I complained about? Now, look at this… Broken bricks, sand pits and stones… I’m very careful with speeds now – after Germans I don’t want to make any more mess out of it but Poles don’t seem to care about speed limits. They probably also think that those lines painted on the road is for entertainment purposes only. I’m slowing down a lot, trying to avoid potholes and drivers. Potholes is another matter. All kinds, shapes and sizes. No point in trying to avoid them, maybe just the biggest ones, just to make sure that the wheels stay attached. Roads look like a blanket that’s been through a shredder and then sown back together by the left hand of a bricklayer. No offense to bricklayers. Poland is getting ready for the UEFA.
Renata. She educates me about everything in and around Gdansk and everything seems to be worth visiting. I change my route, trying to accommodate as much as I can the old town, the docks, the longest council estate, Sopot, Malbork castle… ‘I don’t think I can fit it all in’ I say, ‘What’s the traffic going to be like?’, ‘MIght be quite bad – road works’, ‘It’s ok’, I wave my hand, ‘I can filter, go through’. She smiles ‘People don’t like that’. Thanks Renata, I think I should follow your advice. Her mum is staying there also, a lovely old lady who cuts off ‘Nie rozumiem’ when I try to find out whether she speaks any Russian… But then we do have a bit of a conversation later on with Renata translating.
She has a lovely big house, in the Osowa district. Everything is nicely arranged, her two daughters are playing outside. My room is in the loft, we have lower our heads when we get there, it’s got a red carpet and it’s the kids playground. It’s a been a funny day, not even the sat nav saved the tracks.

Written by Alexey Moskvin

19 May 2011 at 10:10