Old Habits

There’s nothing funny about it, but seeing a white Fiat Panda full of nuns made both of us chuckle. We were on our way to Niemirow, a small village right on the border with Belarus.

Perhaps it’s because we live on an island and don’t really have borders, but standing on an imaginary line, looking into another country fascinates me, hence the reason we visited Baarle-Nassau-Hertog earlier in our trip. But what I forgot about Belarus is; it’s not part of the European Union nor Schengen, therefore a hard border is in place.

Parking beside the Catholic Church (there’s one on every corner), we set-off on foot towards the border; merrily past the watchful eye of the local residents. Our pace slowed down when we spotted a Land Rover in military green parked across the road. Thinking it would be suspicious to turn around; we continued towards it.

A female officer jumped out and politely asked for our documents and purpose of being in the area. As we handed over our driving licences we explained we were just walking the dog (we even had a warm black bag to prove it!).

She took our licences and radioed through to someone; it wasn’t enough. She required our passports and offered to drive us to our van, an offer we declined. Instead we walked back to the van with the Land Rover slowly following behind.

Back at the van we handed over the passports and log book (they didn’t require Stanley’s), after a short wait while someone on the other end of the radio checked our names against the Europol list or something, we were good to go, not to Belarus but somewhere else in Poland.

That somewhere else was Zamosc, an ‘ideal town‘ about 37 miles from Ukraine (we had no plans of getting closer). Named after the founder Jan Zamoyski in 1580, just like Telford but older, it was modelled on the Italian trading cities during the Renaissance period. Our Park4Night was one of three options just outside the fortress walls.

We arrived late Thursday evening after a long drive through rural villages and the agricultural heartland of Poland. It looks like everything grows here, apples, all sorts of berries, corn (as always in Europe) and my favorite; hops, the Lublin variety I presume.

Thankfully, part of the journey was on seemingly new motorways. Like the autobahn in Germany, the rule is keep right unless you’re overtaking, and if you’re overtaking; do it fast because that small dot in your rear mirror will soon be a car right behind you. And here in Poland it could be anything from a Polski Fiat 126 to a BMW M3!

Just one of the many Polski Fiat 126 we saw

On Friday we walked around the pretty town of Zamosc and decided it was our sort of place; old, small, plenty of bars and cafes and not full of billboards like the roadsides and villages (UNESCO probably have something to do with that).

Zamosc Town Hall

We decided this would be the place for a small bite to eat and a few drinks, but first we needed currency.

We worked out £200 would be enough to see us through Poland; approx. £100 on diesel, £50 on groceries and the rest as general pocket-money. We loaded our Post Office travel money card and did a little recognisance on the bars and cafes.

Choosing the Jazz Club on top of the ramparts, we both enjoyed our favorite Polish food; pierogi. Washed down with a large beer the bill was just 40 zloty including tip (£8.87 at our exchange rate).

Pierogi and beer, is there anything better?

With a taste for beer we easily fell into our old habit of drinking in the afternoon. The Culture Trip recommended 8 bars, 4 of which we visited; particularly enjoying Seta I Galareta, a cosy little bar filled with memorabilia from the communist PRL era, complete with a branded Trabant out front.

Cute little “Trabbi”
Bust of the old landlord!

As people filled the old town square to watch something on the large screen for the film festival, we moved onto Klub Bilardowy Metro, a billiards club within the fortress itself. Here we enjoyed Czech beer (the owner prefers it over Polish) and chatted with Dariusz about his favorite British sitcoms – Keeping Up Appearances and Fawlty Towers.

By now Stanley thought we’d had enough and took us home back to the van. He was right. The next day was another hangover day, but this time Hannah suffered the worse.

As with hangover days back home, the local convenience store benefits with extra sales of bread, cheese, crisps, fizzy pop and a few beers (I wasn’t feeling so bad!) to help cure it.

But unlike home, the hangover cost only £31.60 and the cure just £5.32.

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