As we were leaving Wasilkow we followed up on a comment on the last post from Alex, mentioning an array of crosses on a hill outside town. Off we went and so glad we followed up on that lead to the pilgrimage site of Swieta Woda – the Holy Water. It’s also known as the Hill of Crosses, similar to the same place name in Lithuania – literally hundreds of thousands of crosses, ranging from over 40 ft to just a couple of inches in height. Hard to photograph the scale as the hill slopes gently backwards, just think crosses as far as you can see and that is pretty much it.
Crosses are hung on crosses obscuring some and making others larger, it is a sea of crosses. It has become a place of pilgrimage and coaches were arriving and leaving regularly whilst we there there. The church broadcasts Mass over a loud speaker system, due to sheer numbers of visitors they would never be able to fit inside despite it being a large church. For us both one of the most amazing and moving sights we have ever seen. We bought two small wooden crosses and left them in memory of those from each side of our families who are no longer with us. Thanks Alex for a great tip 🙂 .
May 3rd another bank holiday, this time Constitution Day. As we were driving through a small town we spotted a parade in the square and stopped off for a look. The firemen on parade were more interested in our van than what was going on, several popping behind the fire engines for a quick smoke and a look. Lots of certificates being given out and a small band playing, very few spectators though other than the fire brigade, us and a handful of proud parents – so not the super celebrations we were expecting. We did pass a convoy of Polish military vehicles heading towards Warsaw and the parades there, strange to see them have a police escort – would have thought they had all power needed to get through, the thought of Warsaw and all that traffic meant we agreed that the convoy was enough of a military display for us.
Fire brigade out in force for May 3rd
As we head further North campsites seem to be pretty much marina based. It’s a bit like the lake district – minus the hills – small villages and towns set around lakes with sailing and water-sports a plenty. On our our campsite at Borki Marina there are Dutch, Finnish and Estonian – not a local registration to be seen but would guess in high summer its heaving with Polish holidaymakers too. The Estonian here on site is possibly the most stern and scary looking camper we have ever met, we both think Russian Mafia – but not sure they take their holidays in a caravan! We are keeping out of his way just to be sure.
Augustow is a mix of old and new in terms of houses, shops and the marinas. Plenty of development has taken place with marinas springing up right around the lake and several very ‘bling’ hotels. Prices in the shops here are at least 50% cheaper than at home. We found a brilliant bike shop in town, if we had the space on the bike rack we would have been bringing home a couple of new Giant bikes. instead we made do with a new bike lock each and Iain bought a handle-bar bag. When he went to pay the guy said just pay for the lock! We didn’t get why, a decent bag which had a price on it – I am now worried he didn’t say what we thought and we have stolen it, well if the police get involved Iain has stolen it – nothing to do with me!
With so many lakes and cycle paths we have had the bikes off the van again, it’s a seriously good cycling country, we have done more miles in the last 3 weeks than the last 3 months. Poland has amazed us with the quality and quantity of cycle paths, it has also thrilled us with being so flat, since we came around the Tatras we have not seen hardly a hillock let alone a steep climb. As a bonus there is a canal here too complete with tow path, the Augustow Canal runs right through the border and into Belarus. Sadly they will not let us in without a visa so we can’t do the whole canal, we have made do with a good few miles around this area.
Along the canal we came across another of the little villages of teeny houses on miniature small holdings that we have seen regularly throughout Poland. These small plots of land, called dzialka, are very similar to allotments as home but they all have some form of house on them, some no more than sheds, others quite elaborate timber dwellings scaled down to dolls house size. In all cases the plots are used to grow vegetables and or flowers and usually the families that lease them use the little houses as weekend and or summer homes. There is supposedly waiting lists of 20-30 years to gain a lease at a dzialka as they are so popular.
We (I) have been investigating whether we could go to Russia, or to be more exact Kaliningrad. It’s the little exclave between Poland and Lithuania and seemed like it would be easy enough to pop in over the border whilst we passed. Even a day trip on the bus sounded like a plan as we are so near. Alas it isn’t going to happen, the only exception to the Russian visa process is for cruise ship passengers into St. Petersburg – motorhome day trippers still need to apply for visa’s before they leave home so that one is out and we will be heading straight into Lithuania instead towards the end of the week.
The sink leak has reared its ugly head again! Nowhere near as bad but the whole sink was out re do the pipes again – on the upside we left a piece of the glass cover under the sink last time and really couldn’t be bothered to take it to bits to get it out – its now retrieved. Iain is determined the sink will not beat him, they still have another six months to battle it out – my money is on Iain but the sink is currently putting up a splendid fight.
A few more days mooching around the Polish Lakes and into the Baltics by the weekend is looking like a plan 🙂 .