Malbork calling

We had a hot day in Vilnius looking at yet more churches, towers and eating out. We at a brewery and had beer with beer snacks (cold smoked pigs ear strips, 4 types of cheese and deep fried bread) followed by mushroom soup served in a loaf of bread and traditional cold beetroot soup served with roast potatoes. It was nice but a little off putting as it looked like raspberry milkshake. Trakai had an attractive red brick castle (rebuilt) on an island in a lake with loads of tourists. More traditional food – pasties with a pork or spinach and curd cheese filling – yum.

At Varensa wet met the most incompetent Tourist Info lady ever. She knew nothing about accomodation in town, but gave us (wrong) directions to an out of town guest house. We asked her to ring and check they had spaces, which she did, but when we got there eventually they were full. Luckily the restuarant nearby took guests too. It had been a long day on gravelly nasty roads and we were not happy.

Into Druskininkai we had the most amazing thunder storm. We tried to out cycle it but failed. The sky got darker and darker then it just tipped down – then it hailed hard ! After some really hot days it was quite refreshing. Grutos Parkas is like a Lenin them park with rescued old statues since Russian rule and playground rides for the kids. We cycled into Poland with a young American couple we had met up with. After aiming to cycle 110km a day they seemed to enjoy our schedule of cake/biscuit and ice cream stops. Also it was novel for them to have a navigator as they were cycling from Stockholm to Slovakia with only free tourist maps and no compass !!!

We camped at Hitlers Wolfs Lair bunker which was a little strange sleeping in a tourist attraction. We could have stayed at Hitlers guests hotel which is still used as a hotel today. Now the bunkers are falling apart having been blown up some time ago. Ian climbed up some vertical steps to stand on Gorings artillery post. The Eblag-Ostrada canal has a series of 5 slipsways to raise boats 99.5m over 9.3km. Its like a funicular for boats, they sit in a cradle then move on rail type tracks up/down to the next stretch of water. Ian was very excited to watch this.

We are still cycling through Poland as we are still on schedule and its not as bad for cycling as feared. Thats said in a week we have seen the aftermath of 2 road accidents (car hits tractor ? and car drives into ditch). Some cars pass close and fast but the majority do hold back and wait a bit. In general Poland is more interesting to cycle through than some of the Baltics as there are frequent villages and the people are friendly too (it must just be the ones in Slough that are grumpy). The other day we had to escape some chap who was insisting on giving us directions despite our map. The temperature has dropped to the twenties and its nice to be able to breathe again – we had not realized how much cycling 50 odd miles a day in 35 degree temperatures had worn us down.

Today we are having a break in Malbork which has the largest gothic castle in Europe. For most of our trip the most common other foreign visitors have been Germans, but as we get closer to Germany there are loads of them everywhere.