European Roadtrip, Part 2

Read part one of this epic here.

I’ve now finished day two of my voyage to Estonia. We’ve been driving for more than ten hours in total today so I will try to recall the day as best I can.

I was thankful to find that the spiders had not visibly returned in the night as I slept. My relief was slightly tempered by the spider I found in the shower, but the emotion of this moment very quickly gave way to confusion as I was simultaneously trying to take a shower and would soon realize that the “hot” and “cold” directions of the tap were labelled backwards. Points for creativity, Poland.

As I leave towards the check-in building to return my key, I nearly trip over a bucket of fish. I actually had noticed this bucket last night on my way in, but had forgotten about it in all the excitement with the spiders. I am somewhat perturbed to see it still here in the morning, but I have no concept of whether this is a normal hotel occurrence in Poland. My instincts say no, but any Polish people reading this are welcome to correct me

I decide to put the fish bucket and spiders behind me as we hit the road. The nice thing about highway driving in Poland is that the speed limits go up to 140 km/hour. However, the Poles are an impatient people and even as we were cruising along at 160 km/hour, we would frequently be overtaken by people going much faster. For my American readers, 160 km/hour translates to almost exactly 100 miles per hour. From this experience, I conclude that Polish people have no fear of death and imagine that every time a Polish driver takes to the highway, they undergo a spiritual transformation to embody one of the 16th-century Winged Hussars charging at the enemy to demoralize them.

After several more hours of risking our lives at high speed through ex-Soviet agrarian landscape, we pull in to a charming gas station / casino / motel / cafe / welding shop? I’m not certain about this last one (there was just some welding equipment laying around) but the first four had explicit signage. As far as I could tell, they were all the same building. I paid 2.50 złoty to use the toilet (yep, Poland still uses its own currency) but since I didn’t have any coins, the attendant let me pay with a card. Big props for joining the 21st century, Poland. I don’t have much more to say about this place, but I did take some neat pictures.

Soon after this little pit stop, we decided to take a shortcut through some rural villages in order to avoid the congestion near the Lithuanian border. I am grateful for the enormous rental car’s 4×4 capability as we careen down farm tracks and back roads that, as far as I could tell, were legally two-way conveyances but, in practice, were only wide enough for one car at at time. Naturally the speed limit of these roads was 90 km/hour. I refer you to my “winged hussars” observation above. Another thing that is remarkable about this part of the journey is that we are able to see an enormous number of nesting white storks standing in their nests, built on chimneys, telephone poles, and houses, and even standing around in fields. By my estimation, we encounter roughly fifty of these birds. Perhaps that’s why the birth rate in Poland is so high (I don’t actually know if it is high, I just said this for the sake of the joke. Please don’t check).

Not too long after we fend off the horde of storks, we reach the Lithuanian border. We are officially in the Baltic states. We are happy because we can use our Euro cash again, but sad because the speed limit has now dropped to 80 km/hour and the use of speed trap cameras is pervasive throughout the country (way to narc, Lithuania). I consider this as I remember that the car was rented with the professor’s credit card and resolve to only speed when he isn’t looking.

Around 19:00 hours (that’s 7pm for our American friends), we decided to stop for some food. Since it is a Sunday evening in Europe, the only places available are the restaurants in the food court of a nearby shopping mall. We decide it’s worth it. As we walk into the mall, I realize we are being overseen by enormous faces, carved into the walls. I am somewhat unnerved by this but I also noted that this mall has a large saltwater aquarium so, on balance, I give them a 6/10 for decor.

After an acceptable dinner, we head back out the car. On the way, I notice a kiosk selling various creams and lotions, as well as these sandals. Since I don’t read Lithuania, I am unable to offer any explanation or context, but I think I prefer it that way.

A few (several) more hours on the road brought us into Latvia. In order to avoid the speed traps, we resolve to follow a local with a Latvian license plate on their car and simply do as they do. This works for a couple hours until we realize that the person we were following actually has Polish license plates and that we are completely screwed. Also, at some point we switched one time zone to the east?? I have no idea where this happened and I refuse to look it up.

We arrived to the hotel at almost 1 a.m. (local time). As I check into my room, I make a quick and thorough search for spiders (as I imagine I will do to every hotel room for the rest of my life). So far this room seems to have significantly fewer spiders than the hotel in Poland, so Latvia wins this round. There is actually one tiny spider on the lamp, but he seems cool enough to stay.

I take a moment to orient myself in the room. It is modest but serviceable and as far as I can tell, a double room only costs 33 Euros. For that kind of economy, I will raise my spider threshold ever so slightly. I am momentarily confused by a weird knob on the toilet until I realize that YOU PULL UP TO FLUSH?? LIKE I AM IN A BACKWARDS CARTOON WORLD?? It’s not looking good so far, Latvia. You can’t take back a first impression.

As I familiarize myself with the rest of the room, my eye falls on the singular piece of artwork hanging in the room and all my toilet concerns melt away. In fact, all my concerns melt away; I ascend to a higher plane and am finally at peace.

Tonight, dear reader, I will tenderly slumber under the watchful eye of the King.


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