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Balls To The Baltic - Latvia or Bust



Garden Ornaments or Declaring Independence

It was fantastic to have a good shower in the morning and get the grime of the trail off of my back before heading down to breakfast. Then it was time to get them doggies rolling (they were obviously very round doggies) and head back west (south west) out into the Polish wilderness. 

Other than the fact that they obviously breed Alsatians with bears in Poland the wilderness wasn’t actually all that wild. In fact it mostly consisted of driving down roads and staring out of the windows. Playing the ski game with the radio had become old, so I humoured Jonathan with his new game which was taking pictures of all of the bus stops as we went by. I was slightly concerned that this was only a small step away from ending up with an indexed catalogue of pictures of telegraph poles but I played along on the grounds that it probably makes waiting for a bus slightly more surreal if someone drives past in a clown van and takes your picture while you’re standing there for no apparent reason.

This kept us entertained up to the point where we were happily driving down the road, and I spotted a Mig fighter jet in someone’s front garden. Now most people are happy with a few flowers and maybe at a push, the odd gnome or two. Maybe clip the hedges into exotic shapes if you’re really bored on a Sunday. There are of course cases where people will leave a car in the front of their house while they work on it, and maybe that’s what was happening here. Maybe whoever owned this house simply had it as a ‘little project’ they were working on. Something to do on a Sunday afternoon. Pop out into the garden and ‘tinker’ with the Mig after dinner. Maybe they intended to declare independence from the rest of Poland at some point. Just what we need, More Polish borders. Anyway, we headed back to take a few pictures. I do feel now I should have wandered up to the house and asked them where they got it, although to be honest, what with Jonathan’s fear of guns, maybe approaching someone who owned a fighter jet wouldn’t have gone down so well.

So we headed on. Taking pictures of bus shelters seemed a bit of an anti climax after the Mig so that game faded away. It’s probably worth noting that we’d decided to take a detour on the way home, and head to Prague for a day. I’d not been there before, and on the journey up we’d decided that on the way back we would take a little more time and find ourselves a city to stop in where we could ‘go out and play’. I suggested Prague simply because I’d heard it was cool, and it wasn’t that far out of the way. I only mention this now because it explains why we spent the entire day driving through Poland, and didn’t do an awful lot else.

We decided to ‘do’ Warsaw as we passed rather than take the ring road. For those unaware of the term, ‘doing’ a place is a term originally coined by American Zen Tourists in the seventies. It means that you can claim to have been somewhere because you passed through it, even though you may not have actually stopped at any point (hence such phrases as “we did Europe in a week in June”). Apparently, it’s about the journey, and not the destination, hence the term ‘Zen Tourists’. We got lost, so the journey was far more enlightening that it may otherwise have been.

I’m not sure how long it would normally take to ‘do’ Warsaw but we went round and round in circles for a good few hours before finally getting up enough momentum to break free of its obviously enormous gravity. Points to note about Warsaw – they have a garage where you can buy the best chocolate biscuits in the world. As I said, we didn’t exactly stop to see the sites, so that was the highlight. They were very good biscuits though.

We then headed down to Wroclaw where we planned on spending the night. We rolled in as the snow was starting to come down in the early hours of the morning, and we then had the usual trek as we rolled around the city looking for a suitable hotel. We found one of the generic chain type of places (no cowboys this time), which I’d never heard of but Jonathan had, but it was a hotel and that was good enough for me so we booked ourselves in and then headed out to get some food. Unfortunately, there was a McDonalds just next door, but fortunately it was shut, so we headed over the road and grabbed some bits and pieces from a garage forecourt shop as it seemed that the entire rest of the city had closed for the night.

On the journey down from Warsaw we’d passed a McDonalds, that was placed next door to a church, and it struck me as ironic, or perhaps iconic, how the ‘golden arches’, or ‘huge yellow streaks of piss’ as I like to call them were actually placed higher than the church steeple. Whilst it’s hardly surprising that this capitalist icon has suppressed the spiritualist ideal, because heh, people would rather be fed than dead whatever the politics, it struck me as somewhat tasteless (add more salt – or maybe a lattice of mayonnaise and ketchup) if not disrespectful.  It’s cheap and tacky and I’d love to see the applications for planning permission. Having said that, this particular town also had more of the soviet style tower blocks than I’d seen in the rest of Poland put together and half of the people there probably thought that the big yellow streak in the sky was an attraction. I have scary visions of the future, where after the apocalypse, tribal people dance around and pay homage to the big yellow upside down ‘W’ that is all that’s left amongst the rubble. Maybe they’ll nail someone to it. Maybe it will be a clown. 

I would like to point out at this point, that I’m a juggler.

We headed back to the hotel as the freezing wind did it’s best to freeze our western assets, and settled in for the night. Spurs were playing Fulham on the telly which looked like it could be entertaining so we watched that for a while. Looks can however be deceptive and I fell asleep half way through it while it was still nil-nil and not looking like changing.



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