Monday 7 July
Do you know where Kafiristan is? It’s Christian Europe, meaning ”Land of the infidels”. The description comes from a travel book by Evliya Celebi, a 17th century Ottoman traveller. Our travels today were Warsaw – Ostrow Mazowiecka – Lowza – Stawiski – Szczuczyn – Grajewo – Augustow – Suwalki – Marijampole. All of it in Poland, except Marijampole, which is in Lithuania. That’s where we are right now, at 11pm, and darkness is falling, because we’ve also adjusted our watches by one hour forward. Another good day, starting in Warsaw, finishing warm and balmy at the outdoor restaurant in Marijampole in Lithuania.
Birds kept following us as we spent the afternoon counting trucks. But before that we had the whole morning in Warsaw. And before that we had breakfast. We sat there eating scrambled eggs and sausages, talking Swedish. Next to us three Chinese sat by their table having their breakfast. It was parents and an adult daughter I think. We talked about something and then the older woman said ”Världen är liten” (The world is small) in perfect Swedish. They were from Stockholm and this was their third driving holiday in Poland. A short while later they realised they couldn’t get anywhere as their car battery was flat, due to the lights hadn’t been switched off. We push started them and they could be on their way. They were to fly home tomorrow Tuesday and then go to Riga, Latvia. ”See you in Riga,” we called out as they headed off.
Bus to the City centre, across the Vistula river. We first went to the Old Town, which is both old and new. After World War II Warsaw was nothing but piles of rubble and the whole city centre has been rebuilt from zero. They found old city plans archived in America, which assisted them. It’s a wonderful place with a very enjoyable atmosphere. The old city walls, churches everywhere and to top Warsaw off, is the Cultural Palace, Stalin’s gift to Poland. Well, Poland had to supply materials and help, but the building, modelled on the Stalin skyscrapers in Moscow is huge. A whole section of Warsaw had to be bulldozed to give room for the 80 million bricks and the 30 storeys. The architectural term ”brutalism” is very appropriate. Anders and I took the elevator (with a lady working as elevator assistant or button pusher) to the viewing platform. A really good spt for a birds’ eye view of the city.
At 1.45 pm we headed north east. Warsaw kept on going for quite some time before giving way to forests and fields. Yesterday I’d seen some storks on top of power poles, but first thought they were plastic decoys being put there (don’t know why though, to look nice maybe). They kept on coming today and suddenly a stork was moving on one of these nests. They were real. Then they kept on coming all through the day, on electricity poles and also in the fields. They were real all through Poland and into Lithuania, all the way until we sat at the restaurant at Mercure Hotel in Marijampole to have a very late dinner. Then we had swallows jazzing around the square in the evening light. I don’t know if swallows jazz, but the restaurant was called Pizza Jazz and thought somehow the swallows jazzing gave the restaurant its name. Hmm, I don’t think so, really.
Otherwise the them was trucks, trucks, trucks, a never ending flow of trucks from the north. I’ve never seen so many trucks. Mostly narrow roads made for dangerous driving byt motorists wanting the overtake all these trucks. We speculated if maybe they were carting all of Finland away, bit by bit. ”Look, that’s a part of the parliament house in Helsinki.” ”Look, the Tampere train station.” ”And there goes Kekkonen’s sauna.”
Luckily the weather was good – and we had the guidance of Sofia Rotaru singing the same songs over and over again. What more do you need?