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Balls To The Baltic - Latvia or Bust



How Things Change

Today we wrote a song. It wasn’t a particularly good song as these things go (although the harmonies had something to be said for them), but it meant an awful lot to us. It was called “The ‘we’re not in a ditch’ song”.

Maybe I should start at the beginning. During the night, it had dropped something between six inches and a foot of snow. The van looked exceptionally cool, if not to say damn right cold under its new white coat, so the first job of the day was to clear to the windows before we were going anywhere. The next was to find our way out of this town. Needless to say the traffic was terrible due to the downfall, so once we got going, we then spent ages sat in traffic queues. This wasn’t so bad as it meant we actually got to see a little of Wroclaw even if we weren’t really stopping to play tourist. It’s a very beautiful place, although it has to be said, it was mostly white. The roads were awful. I commented that they felt like someone had driven tanks down them, and then it occurred to us that maybe someone had. Needless to say we managed to get lost heading out of the town, although in our defence there were roads on the map that they were still building, and we managed to sort ourselves out easily enough by using the age old method of asking a policeman.

Everything was good until we hit the Motorway. Now I’d assumed that places like Poland would be capable of handling things like snow. I was under the impression that they got enough of it. However, since breaking from the Soviet block, they’d obviously lost any supplies of salt they previously had as Torville and Dean could have done a routine down the middle of the road… if they could avoid the passing juggernauts.

Evidently the polish solution to roads that are covered in ice is not to sort out the ice. It’s to practice driving down them as fast as you can, thus spending as little time on the roads as possible and therefore reducing the chances of being involved in an accident. I can see the logic …

After a while we decided to take a break from the mayhem and stopped at the services. I call them the services as they were a place you could stop and eat by the side of the motorway, although to be honest it was more of a roadside café. I say café, it was more of a roadside log cabin, albeit an incredibly picturesque one in the snow. In all honesty I’d probably prefer it if more services were like this one rather than the faceless places they tend to be. They served huge plates of pig and chips for sixpence, so no one in our company was complaining. Jonathan had a great time trying to get a cup of tea which went something like:

“Can I have a cup of tea?”
guy holds up herbal tea bag.
“No. Black tea”
guy looks confused, which is unfortunate as this has worked in pretty much everywhere else we’ve been.
“Black tea? English tea?” in a vaguely hopeful tone of voice.
The guy still looks confused.
“Breakfast tea?”
look of confusion.
“erm  ….Coffee.”

The guy smiles and heads off to get coffee, and probably now thinks that English tea is actually coffee. As we sit down to wait for our breakfast Jonathan vows to form a society to educate the rest of Europe about English breakfast tea. I must ask him how he’s getting on with that.

Anyway after a seriously good feed we were ready to take on the motorway again. This lasted until we were half way down the slip road, failing to accelerate as the tyres refused to grip, while a juggernaut was bearing down on us at ridiculous speed. As we realised that we couldn’t really accelerate, and we couldn’t really stop, and for that matter, steering was probably questionable we realised that a life on the Polish motorways was probably not for us. At least not until we got skis fixed to The Jestermobile. Fortunately we could come off at the next junction, however as junctions came and went that weren’t marked on the map I began to get more and more concerned that we’d missed ours. Fortunately, after about four junctions we finally reached the one we needed. It seemed that an awful lot of people had identical plans to us because when we thankfully left the huge grey streak of polished ice we joined a huge great streak of Polish cars which were all very stationary. Slowly the queue moved forward and ten minutes later having moved about a hundred metres it turned out that there were actually people directing the traffic.  This evidently worked because after another hundred metres we back in the clear and moving again.

We weren’t moving very quickly, because the roads were still pretty treacherous, but at least now we didn’t have twenty tons of lorry bearing down on us every couple of minutes and we could take our time. The snow continued to come down as we wound our way slowly through the ever more mountainous roads. I’m not sure how far we’d gone as, like I said, we were traveling very slowly, but it must have been half and hour or an hour down the road, when suddenly out of the window, through the blizzard, high up on the hillside was a beautiful old gothic castle. It was …huge.

“Wow, look at that!” I exclaimed instantaneously in awe and wonder at the thing.



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