We were a bit sick of going by bus from city to city and everything started to blend, so we decided to hire a van in Berlin and take it through Poland. We wanted to have a bit more freedom and spend time in some of the many national parks that Poland has. We hired the van for three weeks without even considering what the weather was going to be like. Turns out, October is already freezing in Poland! Like colder than a Melbourne winter and it is only autumn for them. The first week in the north was particularly bad, with some nights getting to zero and days barely reaching one degree.
As we got to the south in the second week, the temperatures were warmer- 12 in the day, 6 at night- and to us that actually felt sooo warm, when at home we would normally be freezing to death. Pretty crazy how quickly your body adjusts to the climate!
But in the end, we decided to give our van back about five days early. Although we saw almost everything we had planned, we had also planned to spend a few nights in each national park and do some more walks, but with the freezing temperatures, it just wasn’t possible. We had pictured chilling out a bit more, but we couldn’t sit outside of the van. We were exhausted from lack of sleep, sick of being cold and on top of that, we were desperately missing the luxuries of regular showers and clean clothes (all the campsites with facilities closed for winter at the beginning of October. Like I said, there was minimal thinking through for this trip). All of our ‘campsites’ were actually petrol stations, where we’d park our little van up with the massive trucks or we would just find a place in the middle of nowhere.
But it wasn’t all horrible! We actually had a really good time and a lot of laughs (Matt not so much when the camp stove took an hour to cook eggs). On our very first day, we had a bit of a problem when we (Matt was driving, I’d like to point out) decided to take the van off road a little bit in a national park, onto some sand. Big mistake. We got bogged of course and tried everything to get it out. Then we decided to start walking to town, which was about an hour away and by town, I mean a few houses that are sort of near each other. But lucky for us, after about 10 minutes, we saw the headlights of a car! We ran down to where they had parked and then found three old Polish guys, who spoke not one word of English.
Thanks to a bit of improvising and Google translate, we told them what we had done and knew they understood when they started laughing. But they were old school Polish men who get shit done, so of course they had all the necessary know-how and equipment to get us out of there! We learnt our lesson after this and stuck to the paved roads.
Biebrzanski National Park
We have to say that Auschwitz was a lot different than we expected. Of course it was incredible to see the buildings, knowing what happened here, but the mood of the whole place was just not right. It has become such a major tourist attraction that it seems to have lost much of its meaning. There were far too many HUGE tour groups that came in by the bus load, many of them rowdy school kids who didn’t take any of it seriously, of course. Apparently they cap how many people are allowed in each day, but it didn’t seem like it.
We were expecting a quiet, sombre place where people were reflecting on what occured here (which is what I have experienced at other camps I have visited), but instead it was just like any other tourist attraction, which is unfortunate.
KLODZKO (tiny town)
STOLWE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK