Tuesday 27th was nice and warm again and we had good driving weather. We set off for Warsaw from Swiecie and travelled about half of the six hour trip on small backroads and the rest on the main road with the van bumping and rattling a lot less. We were surprised to see so many older people with their shopping walking along the road or many on old bicycles riding around the countryside in both the Czech Republic and in Poland. We passed what we thought was a flower show so turned around and went back to have a look. We had to laugh because it turned out to be a cemetery with dozens of flower stalls in front of it. There were kilometres of orchards of apples, pears and apricots along the main road to Warsaw. We experienced more erratic and impatient drivers here in Poland than anywhere else on our travels. We stopped at a service station and saw many men gathered around tables having a a break and drinking alcohol before they hopped back into their vehicles. Gave a new meaning to drink/driving. In some smaller towns and in the cities we found 24hour “alkohole” shops packed to the rafters with every kind of alcohol. Even the campsite had an extremely well stocked bar with all varieties of liquor!

We had lunch by side of road and then on to “Wok camping” about 25mins out of Warsaw. I didn’t know if “wok” was a Polish word or if it vaguely referred to the mixture of people at any camping site. It was our most expensive stay to date at $50 a night but they at least had good wifi connection. It rained overnight and was very overcast in the morning and started raining as we caught the bus and then tram into the city and walked  two kilometres into the “old” town. The old town was almost completely destroyed in the 2nd world war but in the 50’s and 60’s the the buildings were  restored to  their former glory.  There were a myriad of cafes and restaurants throughout the old town so we stopped a girl and asked her where we could have authentic polish food. She directed us to a cafeteria like place which seemed a left over from the communist era with tiled walls,old lace curtains and older women doing the cooking and waitressing. They had an extensive blackboard menu and an A4 dog eared piece of paper with interesting translations in French and English but that didn’t help much as they only had half a dozen things on offer. Everything I pointed to the woman shook her head and she then pointed to what was available. I just nodded and after paying her she handed us a small bit of paper which we then passed on to the cooks who called out the dish when the food was ready. I kept dashing to the counter every time they shouted something but we eventually got our food and enjoyed a delicious mushroom and dumpling soup, a potato and vegetable soup and some pierogi (cheese and potato dumplings) and mushroom and sauerkraut pancakes.

We made our way back to the tram in the rain and we were glad to get back to Van Mauriceson before it turned very cold. It was very cold night although we were snug in our boiler heated van .  The next morning but we braved the cold and as it wasn’t raining went into the city again .  We did spend a lot of time in various shops and had a bowl of soup at lunchtime to warm ourselves. The forecast was not that good – back to winter for us again, a cold 14degrees with cloud for the next few days so we decided to move on up to Torun the next day where Maurice’s namesake, his uncle Maurice was a prisoner of war after Dunkirk until the end of the war. The camp was in the forest to the suoth but nothing was left of it. The highway petered out for a while after leaving Warsaw and we travelled alongside kilometres of grain crops, rape and strawberries fields with many roadside stalls selling fruit, honey and jars of mushrooms. We saw a few “night workers” plying their wares during the day in lay bys alongside of road. We passed an array of enormous factories in the industrial areas close to Torun.

It took of much of the day to get there with many roadworks so we decided to continue on to Swiecie (north west of Torun) to a very small but lovely camping ground which was more like the owner’s garden. It was right next to a castle from the 14th century with the river flowing nearby.  A amily run concern with a middle aged couple and their son and with a mixture of English and German we got by.  When we left they shook our hand and wished us well. The day we left they had wheeled into the garden an ancient wood fired stove on a trailer in which they had a pressure cooker and three other compartments with which to cook the potatoes and vegetables. Maurice called me over to see an older man collecting hay with a horse pulling the old harvester and two men with pitchforks piling up the hay.  Some old practises are still around the countryside.

We were surprised at the number of McDonalds and KFC’s in Poland on the highway and in the towns. The people in general were not terribly well dressed and didn”t seem to be as affluent as their neighbours further south. We did see  houses painted and some with colour but even after 25years since the fall of communism but there were still a lot of grey buildings. There is practically no English spoken by anyone over about 25 years of age around the towns and in the countryside (which is more understandable) and only a little German by the much older generation. Most of the staff in the larger commercial camping sites have enough of several languages and in all cases the staff have been most helpful and friendly giving us tips on how to get to the city,what to see and where to eat. Torun looked like an intersting old town so we decided to drive an hour back to it on the Sunday to have a good look around. It was beautiful and sunny with not a cloud in the sky as we made our way to the old town where there were many pedestrian streets.  Most cities or towns here had an old town and a new side of town where there were more shops and large appartment blocks. We visited Nikolas Copernicus’s house and being a Saturday the town was crowded with mainly Polish people shopping and relaxing in the many cafes and bars. Torun is situated on the fast flowing Vistula river and is a very neat and tidy town with wonderful historically important edifices. It had the most impressive looking gaol we had seen complete with round tower. There was of course a McDonalds, KFC and the largest Tesco we had come across just outide the town. Parking for the van was easy and well signposted. There was a lot of roadwork in town and we had to look out for the many trams and trolley cars moving around the town. We then headed for Bydgoszcz which was a much poorer town although it did have some lovely buildings and a large park along the river and a  large market square. We had a good coffee here at a beautiful cafe and just got back to the van in a very timely manner as there was a torrential downpour for half an hour and we had inadvertently left one of our hatches wide open. We were the only campers when we left the camping ground but when we returned there were scores of bikers enjoying food and much wodka!  They were a friendly bunch but luckily most of them had left by the evening and we could just hear the band in a tavern across the river which played until midnight.

The 1st June saw us drive from Torun to Gdansk via another old town called Chojnice where we there were  two large churches and people standing outside to hear the service as there was no space inside. Opposite the churches were two shops side by side – a very 1950’s style clothing shop and next to it a shop selling drug paraphenalia – very strange indeed.

We drove to  Gdansk passing the shipyards and saw the old townwhich was very imposing with many magnificent buildings. Our camping site “Stogi” was located very close to the beach in the middle of a small forest. We put our boiler on in the van that night as it was getting colder and by the next day it had got down to 14degrees and it was back on with the winter coats again – yuk!

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