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.
look of confusion.
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.