Entering Poland from the north-east we hit a crossroads in our trip, either we follow the Baltic coast and turn south through the middle of Poland or eastern Germany, or travel down the east of Poland close to the borders of Belarus and Ukraine. We chose the latter.
Our first stop was at Augustow in what you could call the Polish lake district. Parked just behind a ‘glitzy’ looking spa hotel that looked out-of-place, we strolled along the promenade to the small beach area and outdoor cafes and bars.
Doing what we always do in a new country, region or city; we checked out the cost of beer. Here, a large beer was 7 zloty (approx. £1.45); we thought we’d hit the jackpot. We had been to Warsaw before, but could not remember the price of beer. Perhaps we can’t remember because it was so cheap?
Not having local currency meant we couldn’t sample it yet, but we still walked into Augustow thinking it might be as pretty as the promenade and beach area.
The tree-lined cobbled road into town suggested it might be, but up close the niceties were over-shadowed by fast food signs, adverts for cheap day-glo clothes and tacky souvenirs. Blackpool sprang to mind. We went back to the van for the night.
In the morning we used the last of our fresh water, the last clean pairs of pants and the toilet was full, things were getting desperate. With Mr Papadopolous style launderettes pretty much extinct and no signs of a water tap or toilet emptying facility; we needed a solution.
Park4Night suggested a nearby campsite which accepted Euros, we discussed it over breakfast and agreed it was the only viable solution.
So for €14 and several mosquito bites, we spent a day and night at our first proper campsite of the trip. We hand-washed our smalls, had proper showers (including Stanley) and recharged our toilet and fresh water tanks; all under the inquisitive stare of the locals.
Feeling clean and refreshed we headed south to Bialystok; the nearest city to enjoy a bug-free walk around town.
The town was full of people enjoying a public holiday; celebrating the Assumption of Mary and also Polish Army Day.
Part of the festivities included free soup and bread, which we jumped in line for. Considering our recent diet the soup was a little rich for us, and we left the bits of sausage for Stanley, but even he didn’t want them! Have we all gone full veggie?
In the afternoon we travelled further south, through small towns and villages. In one village the old folk sat outside their houses, trying to sell their vast array of home-grown squashes. We’re not sure if this is a custom on this particular holiday, but seeing pumpkins made us feel autumn was on its way.
We made a short stop at the Holy Mountain of Grabarka, the most holy Orthodox location in Poland. Similar to the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania, the ‘mountain’ is adorned with crosses of all shapes and sizes. As we arrived, preparations were being made for the annual pilgrimage where some 10,000 pilgrims make their way up the hill to pray.
With this in mind we decided not to spend the night there, nor did we collect any healing water from the stream below. Instead, we spent the night by the River Bug, close to the border of Belarus.