Moto Adventures

Friday, August 24, 2012

Poland, Solvakia and down to the Ukraine for borshch

Small townsites with homes amidst bountiful gardens line the side of the small country roads we are choosing to ride.

The slavic countries are living 40 or 50 years behind us in some things, like hurding their cows down the main street(sound familiar anyone?)but in other ways their life is largely the same as these young girls with the cows were probably talking on their cell phones as they walked!

One last day in Krakow, a visit to Wafel Hill and Castle and a good Polish lunch.

Ken misses the off road riding at home! We stopped along a creek at the side the road to cool off in the 30+ degree temperatures. We soaked our feet and before we left our shirts, that kept us cool for a while.

Along the road in Ukraine you can find water taps with fresh drinking water, this one was made up to look like a tea pot and cup.

Along side the road in the mountains leaving Poland many vendors were selling wild mushrooms, sheep cheese, honey, huckleberries and assorted jars of pickled wild mushrooms.

The four days in Krakow, we spent waiting of the bike tires, was spent just kicking back at the campsite. We only went into the city one afternoon to visit Wafel Castle which we missed the first time around. This being our longest stop in one place(where we were not specifically visiting someone)was very relaxing. We had a chance to meet a couple from France, another from Germany(originally from Holland) and a family from Sweden...Huskvarna to be exact...I think we drove right by their house on our way out of town! Outrageous, we enjoyed the visit and especially the Swedish apple pie and whipped cream! The Michelin Anakee tires arrived and we had them mounted and balanced (something Ken usually does himself so he was a little put out)and we where on our way with the sun in our back and the wind in our face for just under $400.

The temperatures are starting to climb so we headed for Slovakia and maybe a few hills. We spent one night camping along a reservoir where we met a mother and daughter out for a evening beer together. We found the Slovakians a little reserved but these two where very friendly, and we were very happy to find someone who spoke English. We had a great evening questioning each other on our different ways of life past(under Soviet rule) and present(the daughter now works for the Slovak E.U. government in Brussels). They invited us to their cottage...the blue lagoon...for a night cap and then gave us ride back to our camp at close to midnight!

We are found it easier in Poland and Slovakia to find a place to eat a hot afternoon meal and then just something small at night. $3-$4can buy you a great lunch with soup, a main, and a drink(sometimes even dessert). I'ld like to say that an afternoon stop pleasantly broke up the day, which I guess it really did, but we have only been doing around 200-300km per we haven't had hard days to begin with. We are travelling the small roads enjoying the villages, it is havest time here and the people are bringing all the vegies from their gardens, from potatoes to squash, tomatoes and cucumbers. Everyone in the family or should I say the village is out to help. Several times we have tripped across a very touristy area by mistake, with activities like rafting, spas, and hiking going on to name a few.

Going into the Ukaraine was the the only border we have crossed which is not in the E.U. I took a picture of Ken at the border crossing which a couple of the guards promptly made me erase from my camera?!?! The Africa Twin is registered to Heinz and it has a German plate but Heinz had letter notarized for us to say that we allowed to have the bike, everything sounds good. The officers at the border looked at the letter from Heinz(front and back...with nothing writen on the back) then called another guard over to read it(front and back...were we missing something?), who in turn passed it on to one more guard who entered our home information in a computor, smiled and said good-bye? We were in! but they didn't have us fill out an imigration form, hopefully this will not be a problem on the way out. The Ukraine seems to be the poorest of the countries we have visited so far but the people are very friendly. There is definately a huge separation between the poor and the rich-the rich, who are driving their expensive sport utilities(like mad men), and the poor who are riding horse and wagons on very unimproved roads. It's easy to see wo has benifited the most from the new free market system. Beer is definately the drink of choice, coolers full of many types of beer line the walls of every little corner store and there are more cafes and bars than you can shake a stick at. Beer is cheaper than water and they start drinking it early in the day, it appears to us that there may be a bit of a drinking problem. I don't drink beer but Ken is enjoying a few.

Yes, life is good here in the Ukraine! Yesterday we got a cute little hotel for less than $20 a night, then went out for borshch and varenyky(perogies) for $7 for us both...I am happy! However unfortuanally, when the bill came we didn't even have the $7 in our pockets to pay(we were .50 short) and Ken had to run to the Bankomat for more money...try to explain that to the waitress using hand/sign language. Here, in the Ukraine, no one speaks English. Russian-yes. German-maybe but English-not a chance. Who would have thought that we would be using German as our second language when we were trying to negotiate the price of our room yesterday, not me.

All in all, we love it here. For breakfast today we went to the bakery next door and got a fresh loaf of bread, white and soft just like mom used to make then we went for a 6 km long walk up a road near our hotel. On the way back down we stopped in at a little bar/store where Ken had a beer and we talked to an old couple drinking schnapps and 4-6 young guys working on their 2nd, 3rd or 4th beer. We spoke English to them, they spoke Ukrainian to us and we all laughed! Sitting in our room we can hear the horse and wagons clipity-cloping down the back alley, looking our our window we can see hillsides covered in fields dotted with piles of hay, raked by hand and trying to comunicate with the people...well that is really good for a laugh.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Baltics and South

We had a great time with Heinz and Martina during the late 10 days, it's nice to have a couple of extra bikes along and we enjoyed their company in the evenings playing cards and sharing an nightcap(we discovered a liquor called Vanna Tallinn, yummy, great to sip and great in coffee). We made our way up to Tallinn, Estonia and were very impressed with the city. Its is very different from the other historical cities we have been visiting. The first thing was, I think, it is a little older, some building dating back to the 1200 and 1300's. The second thing we noticed was the white...most of the buildings are white and the third thing was, it's a bit more artsy than the others. Many little streets and markets in the citz are full of artisans painting, knitting, sewing or making something!!!Unfortunately we are all on bikes and there is no room for taking anything with us.

From Tallinn we headed east to Lahemaa National Park were we did a little free camping along the coast of the Baltic Sea, the government free campsites were very nice, clean, most had a cover over the table and they all had either a camp cooking stove or fire pit with metal grates. The only thing that was not very nice at all were the pit toilets...yuk!(the bush looked better). The water was a little too cold for us to go swimming but the view was great. We enjoyed riding along the coast, visiting some of the old estates dating back to the 1300's and driving through small villages, checking out everyones back yards and the town squares. Everyone has a garden growing, potatoes are number one producers and a close second is cabbage, both are the stables in their everyday diet, I'm loving it.

We made it as far east as Narva on theEstonia-Russian border where there is a castle on the Estonian side and also one on the Russian side. From there it was down through Estonia and back across into Latvia to the Slitere National Park which is located our on a tip of land in the Baltic
Sea from where you can see the sun rise on one side and set on the other.

The hill of the Crosses in Lithuania was our next big stop. It was here that the Lithuanians had a graveyard which the Russians continuously destroyed and the Lithuanians turned around and rebuilt, today there are millions(no exaggeration)of crosses piled into a hill where the Lithuanians still come to place crosses in memory of their deceased loved ones.

We enjoyed the Baltic countries, they were not 'wow' countries but the food was great and countryside with the many, many km of farmland and all the coastline to the Baltic Sea was very nice.

We said good bye to Heinz and Martina yesterday as they headed home to Germany via Klaipeda and we headed south into Poland. Tonight we are staying in a hotel in Lublin after searching for two campsite that never were! Our back tire is in need of being replaced and we thought maybe we could get one here go! Most bikes here are either scooters or sport bikes not adventure bikes, we need a different tread pattern on the tire than they do so ours is a little harder to find. We will have to make a few phone calls and see if we can find one in maybe Krakow...we liked that city and it wouldn't be too bad going back there for a second time.

The dome on one the cathedrals in Tallin looks like the tiles are made from onion skins.

The Hill of Crosses

Ken and I on the Baltic Sea, on the northern side of Estonia the beach is rockier than on the west coast where you can walk for miles on beaches of powder fine sand.

Tallinn, from a view point in the old city.

Heinz and Martina take a little walk on the beach.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Poland and the Baltic Countries, Lithuannia, Latvia and Estonia

In Kuldiga, Latvia, they sold colourful tableclothes in a store where they also made them.

The main square in Krakow, Poland, was big and busy.

A lady at the side of the road in Lithuannia sell fruits and vegetables from her garden. She was nice enough to let us take a picture and then insisted that we take some apples with us, which I put in the only place we had jacket pockets. Unfortunately, we had to stop and throw them away because they were bruised and full of worms:(

They say Polish is hard language to learn, and we can see why. Can anyone translate this for us?

Varda Ruga, in Kuldiga are the widest waterfalls in Europe, not the biggest but the widest.

In Krakow, we enjoyed a dinner of all our favourites, perogies, cabbage rolls and borcht.

Dresden, Germany, is beautiful by night. We enjoyed a walk and did some people watching by city light.

We have been very busy since we left Holland. Travelling over 3500 km and crossing six countries, Belguim, Germany(again), Czec, Lithuannia, Latvia and now we are in Estonia.

After leaving Amsterdam we traveled south, through a small part of Belguim and back in Holland to a motorcycle campground in Heerlen. It was recommended to us by a couple from Holland and we would recommend it also, the owners were very nice and campground was nice and clean.

From there it was back to Germany. Driving through Monschau on our way to Dresden. The night before we reached Dresden we stayed in Wetzlar at a campsite along a river and we had a very big thunder storm, the ground shook the lightning was so close! Dresden was very impressive, we had driven by in recent trips to Germany but had never gone into the city. It was a nice mixture of old and new, and there was a concert in the park under one of the bridges that we enjoyed listening to for a while and people watching.

We spent a day and half riding through northern Czec before heading into Poland. We had spent time in Czec on a previous trip so this time it was short and sweet. Poland was a pleasant surprise for us. We knew the food was going to be good but we also loved the countryside and found the people very nice once they warmed up to us. We especially loved Krakow. We stayed in a campsite about 4 km out of town and took the bus and tram into town for the night. We have been to more cities this trip than in all of our others put together and we are really enjoying it(even Ken). Polands people are very hard workers and it was not out of the ordinary to see them out raking the fields by hand or using very outdated machinery. We rode many little side roads through countryside and saw men sharing a beer while looking over a large field they had just finished working and women picking vegetable in gardens much bigger than we are used to. A great amount of their stables still come from their own land, not the local grocery store. The last night in Poland we stayed in a campsite just short of the Lithuannia border, camped beside a lake we actually swam and enjoyed the company of many locals, until a thunderstorm blew up and chased us all away. There doesn't seem to be any rime or reason to campsites here, at this campsite we payed $3 with a shower included but at other times we have paid $15-$20.

We met our friends, Heinz and Martina, in Klaipeda, Lithuanna and are now travelling with them. Heinz is on a Honda Africa Twin and Martina is riding a Honda Trans Alp. Still heading north we crossed the Latvia border and headed into Riga, another old city with an amazing old town center. The city campground was located an an old Expo site across the Daugava River from the old town. We walked into town for the evening and made it back just minutes before another thunderstorm terrorized us with terrents of rain and winds that would have flattened our tent(once again, as in Nord Capp)if we hadn't made it back in time to batten down the hatches. The next day we packed up soggy tents and headed out in miserable weather for our next destination, Tallinn, Estonia. Here we have a room for the first time on this trip(not including the cabins at the campgrounds), there is something special about having your own bathroom in your room...even if it is small. We will ride around Estonia for the next few days then slowly start our way back down toward Klaipeda where Heinz and Martina will once again take the ship back to Germany and Ken and I will continue on our way.