The Southern Poles

As we were back in Poland we both felt we may as well travel South through Poland, rather  than cross into Germany.  We love the brilliant Polish roads – not too much traffic, great surfaces for mile after mile through the forests.

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Our campsite in Kobylanka was on what appeared to be an old park, just us and a few tents and a few hundred years of rust and rot in the facilities block! We were both very much at the stage of its too hot, not just a bit hot, way too hot. At 36 degrees we were both cooking, so much so we hit the beach on the lake for a dip – like bath water and very clear, too clear as you could see the fish swishing around your feet . A perfect sandy beach but the walk out was endless, after a good five minutes it was still only knee deep but never has a body of water been an inviting to a body.

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Kobylanka lake

The Polish do swimming lakes well, there is always a load of imported sand, cafes, all the blow up swimming aides you could think of and a general feeling of the seaside brought inland.  We were feeling a lot of love for the campsite and village until the campsite loud-speakers burst into the Polish national anthem at 6am  – we dreaded looking out the window in case everyone was up doing star jumps, luckily there were just a few hundred cyclists getting ready for a cycle marathon. We also saw our favourite campervan to date on the site – what it lacked in room it made up for in character and the French owners both strung up a hammock each to while away the afternoon and evening.

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Our next campervan??

Driving down the S3 Southbound we were somewhat stunned to spot a colossal statue of Jesus on the edge of the town Swiebodzin.  At  33 metres (108 ft tall), the crown alone is 10 ft tall, it stands on a mound so the whole thing stretches up over  52 metres (172 ft).  The town residents paid for the construction with donations totalling over €1 million. It’s all very impressive but, if it had been me I wouldn’t have built it right outside a Tesco supermarket and I wouldn’t have piped cover  music of  Michael Jackson’s Heal the World ringing out around the site – both things detract immensely from what is a very beautiful and simple structure.

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It is incredible to see, more so when you consider a small town of 22,000 residents found the money to pay for it. Built in just 5 years it was completed in 2010 and is now the largest statue of Christ in the world (yes, it beats Christ the Redeemer in Rio De Janeiro by 3 metres).  The grounds are still being landscaped and what appears to be a small hotel being built. There were very few tourists there but sure at it matures it will become a must see on the coach trail along with the Hill of Crosses in the North, Poland looks to have secured two of the iconic Catholic pilgrimages of the future.

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It has been a week on excessive heat and thunder and lightning. Every night we have had cracking storms to watch followed by torrential rain, then by the following morning each day the sun has steamed the ground dry and it all starts again. It’s been too hot for our fridge which just couldn’t take the temperatures so we have let everything defrost and eating our way through a few odd mixtures over the next couple of nights to use everything up.

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Beautiful house at our stopover in Przytoczna

Ending the week we are just an hour off the Czech border in the town of Bolkow. The area was once part of Germany but many towns were ethnically cleansed after WWII when the native German residents were expelled and replaced with Poles. Seems strange to think that not only has the town moved to a new country but that the people here are pretty much newcomers.

Here we found our cheapest campsite we have stayed on anywhere in Europe at £5 per night all in – and the all-in includes the town municipal outdoor pool being a few steps from our door. Oddly the campsites off the coast have been all but empty, it would seem holidaying inland in Poland is not de rigueur, so it’s just us and two  other familys on the site.  We have both had a swim in a pool, its old, it’s a bit cracked and worn (like us then) but when the mercury hit the mid 30’s this afternoon we weren’t even slightly picky and joined the town’s people for a dip.

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Wrong turn – right good result

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The last few days we have pottered around on the South Coast of Sweden, enjoying the sunshine and working out what to do next. Once we turned the corner from the South East coast it all became more urban, more holiday town, more people and much less the Sweden we have found so wonderful.

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Our final night was just outside Ystad, amongst the dunes with 30-40 vans, all very peaceful and quiet. Come 7am the rumble of wagons, many wagons, the circus is coming to town and pitching up in the next field – yippee! It took nearly 2 hours for all the circus wagons to pull on, at least 50 or so including plenty of proper old fashioned circus caravans.

I was telling Iain about memories of circus having camels and elephants – Iain was laughing that circus don’t have camels – at which stage they start unloading the camels 🙂 followed by a call that can only be the elephants unloading :).

To leave Sweden our options were to drive back through Denmark or catch a ferry direct to Germany. The latter seemed favourite and we found loads of ferries that run from both Trelleborg and Ystad. One of the cheapest options was to catch a ferry from Ystad down to Swinoujscie, which is in Poland but only a few miles over the German border.

We sailed with Unity Line, somewhat old fashioned but have to say a perfect crossing. We asked for electric for the fridge (our experience of the Greek ferry practically cooking the insulin still gives us palpitations), which was no problem but meant they loaded us three hours before the sailing time. So even though it was due to be a six hour crossing we were on-board for nine hours.

We went mad and plumped for dinner out on the boat – everything was bread-crumbed, no really everything – and not a vegetable in site other than some sauerkraut. Maybe not our finest hour in the culinary stakes of travel but it was the first time we had eaten out of the van since Holland, so a treat none the less.

After a mill-pond crossing we arrived in Poland, a vague plan set that we would drive 5 miles along the coast and stay on a camper-stop in Germany. All seemed good even though the ferry appeared to be docking on the wrong side of the estuary.

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Late evening arrival in Poland

Problem one -we needed to cross the estuary to get to Germany – there isn’t a bridge. We found mini-ferry and also found problem two, it takes cars only. No worries we re-routed Sat Nav – 590 km if we avoid the ferry!! It’s a very long estuary. Iain went off to see the ferry man who told us there was another ferry several miles up the road (our Sat Nav obviously hasn’t heard of it).

By then it was nearly 9 pm, we didn’t know the route, we didn’t have any Zloty to pay for a ferry, it was nearly dark – it seemed easier to just head for a campsite in Poland, and there was one 15 minutes up the road in Miedzyzdroje. We arrived as the gates were closing but they let us in to what seemed in the dusk a very busy site.

Woke up this morning to the busiest of busy sites, heaving with tents, caravans and motorhomes. People were everywhere – a massive shock to our system after being used to no more than a handful of vans anywhere. Our pitch was an unpopular one as we were a wee bit close to our German neighbour, so much so we could hear him slurping his morning cuppa – we moved to the next one and avoided any diplomatic incidents.

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Being totally unprepared for Poland we set off on the bikes to explore and more importantly find some Polish money and do a bit of shopping. On the good news front, we can afford anything we like again :). Prices in Poland are incredibly cheap after being in Norway and even Sweden. We did a small shop and priced that a similar basket cost us £24 in Norway, £15 in Sweden and just £7 in Poland – after a few months of watching every penny we spent its fabulous to just shop without counting for a change.

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It does appear we have inadvertently arrived in the Blackpool of Poland! The village has a permanent population of 6000 – in summer this swells to 200,000 (and pretty sure we met most of them walking in the opposite direction to which we were cycling).

The road through the village runs for about tow miles and consists of tourist tack shops, arcades and cocktail bars. To be fair it all looks very clean, its full of people, the atmosphere is a cheerful and friendly one and there seems to be enough things to do to keep people occupied for a week or so.

 We went to the beach where people were squeezing themselves onto the smallest specks of sand, with another few thousand heading their way hate to think what it was like by lunchtime.

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We did think we were going to stay a few days, the sheer numbers of people make it not for us and we have sat out the afternoon in the sunshine (a very warm afternoon at 86 degrees (27 degrees) at its hottest. Tomorrow we will head down the Polish border looking for some peace and quiet and apparently even warmer weather before crossing into Germany somewhere in the South.