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Balls To The Baltic - Latvia or Bust



Here Be Dragyns

I don't know an awful lot about the next installment, other than I kept waking up every time Jonathan stopped the van because he kept failing to find his way out of Berlin. I offered to help navigate until we were back on the main road, but he assured me we'd be fine so I went back to sleep. Only to be woken up a couple more times as the van ground to a halt and Jonathan struggled with the map. I'm sure that we stopped at some of the places more than once. The next thing I knew we were driving down a country road and when I asked, I was told that we were now in Poland. The border guard had checked our passports, looked in the back of the van, and on seeing me sleeping had left me to it. What a nice border guard.

I took a few moments to wake up properly, and then at the next stop I took over the driving. Needless to say, within a few miles of being at the wheel I was trying to decide if we were lost or not. We went over a roundabout and all the other traffic went the other way. At first I thought this was a good thing, but then as the road we were now on began to look less and less like a main road, little doubts started to form in the back my mind.

So, avoiding all my male hormones, when we came to a garage I decided it was better to check before we’d traveled a few hundred miles in the wrong direction, and I (sorry guys, I know I let the side down) pulled in to ask directions. It was still dark, about five or six in the morning. A quick look at the map gave us no more information (I did try to avoid asking), so I jumped out of the van, and headed over to the lit up kiosk to (hand over my masculinity) ask. It turned out there was no one there (no twenty four hour service stations here), it was just lit to lure unsuspecting travelers into the realm of the biggest meanest looking dog I have ever seen in my life. I’m not kidding; they breed Alsatians with grisly bears in Poland

“Great!” I think. “I’m not just handing my masculinity over, this thing is going to tear it off”.  The ‘dog’ started barking so I smiled back, in that “nice doggy” sort of way and decided that now would be a really good time to make my way back to the van. However, the ‘dog’ (and I use the term loosely) had the intelligence that comes with being one of Satan’s horde and had waited to start barking until it was between me and the van. OK, there's no point being scared, just get back to the van… and be prepared to run. I kept a very safe distance as I skirted around it, and must admit to feeling a huge sense of relief as I soundly closed the van door behind me.

There’s obviously a moral to this and it’s quite simple. If you’re a man, don’t ever stop to ask directions. It’s just not the way it’s done. The universe will punish you. Get a woman to ask for you. If you don’t have a woman handy, find one, and ask them to ask someone else on your behalf. As a last resort, dress up and hope the universe doesn’t notice.

If you’re going to wear fish nets, shave your legs or it just looks tacky.

I headed back onto the road, and within a mile had found a sign for where we were headed anyway. We'd been on the right road all along. However, I now knew that we were out in the wilderness here. If you ever check this area out on an old map, it will be marked ‘Here be Dragyns’. Bare this in mind if you're ever in the area and you need to stop for any reason in the middle of the night.

I drove on as the sun came up and the beasts returned to their beds. Jonathan had woken up, or at least was passing occasional vague comments from the back of the van. "Check out the sunrise" I said. "Urghh" he said. We drove on through Posnan, where I first discovered that Polish drivers include some of the best, or worst in the world depending on your perspective. It must take some talent to be able to squeeze through some of the gaps they will go for, and hey, who needs to give other vehicles space when you are that good at undertaking. I thought the Magic Roundabout in Swindon was good. I thought the Arc de Triumph was special for bringing out the best in drivers, but there's just something about Poland and 'duel' carriageways that tops them all.

We stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe, and then discovered just how little Polish we knew (none) when the menus were completely indecipherable. OK, this was going to be fun. It was the lunch time lottery.

Jonathan had a much better idea. He looked around the room, found someone who had something he fancied, and then pointed at them and said in best English foreigner speak (i.e., loudly and slowly) "I want what he has". The lady behind the counter said something back that could have been anything and Jonathan said "Yes, what he has, him there" (pointing). The lady nodded, and then looked at me. I simply held up two fingers (the polite way, she wasn't French) and when she nodded again, I added "and a coffee".

One of the great things about coffee, is that it seems to be ‘coffee’ or ‘café’ or something similar in just about every language in the world. The same goes for beer. It’s the universes way of telling you to enjoy your addictions while you can.

So we had a hearty breakfast of Polish sausage, chips, and various forms of shredded cabbage and beetroot, all for about sixpence, and very good it was too. The toilets were little scary, but heh, I've survived Glastonbury a number of times, so nothing is going to phase me on that front anymore until someone invents ‘bunk bogs’.

We hit the road once more, and passed the time by listening to Polish radio. That's when I came up with the 'ski game'. It's a very easy game to play. All you have to do is count the seconds between the times the people on Polish radio say "ski". The maximum we managed was about four seconds. It kept us entertained for a good few minutes. It's probably one of the many reasons I'll be going to hell.

We'd have been better off driving round Warsaw but decided to go though to get a brief glimpse. Not our best ever move we realised a couple of hours later, while we were still driving around and cursing the lack of road signs. Fortunately I had a compass with me, and we could occasionally check our bearing and tell if we were going in completely the wrong direction. This works for me in London, because I know that as long as I keep heading in roughly the same direction, eventually I'll hit the M25 and can escape. Warsaw had us going round in circles. We finally spun round it enough times to reach escape velocity after a few hours. With the sun setting to one side, we headed off in the direction of the border.



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