Week 12 - and we thought we had it bad.

14th - 20th August 2017

Moving day today we have gone from Camping (nr 33) Tramp to Kemping Nad Stawem just 100 km to the north. It was on the journey that we discovered how very lucky we were during the night of the storm last week when a large chunk of mistletoe blew off a tree during a wind storm and crashed onto the roof of the caravan narrowly missing the Heki roof light. We drove through miles and miles of damage caused by the same storm. Thousands upon thousands of trees destroyed as if a giant had hacked at them around 3 or 4 metres above the ground snapping them like twigs. Six people, including two young girls in a tent, were killed. Here in Poland it is being labelled the worst disaster in European forestry history it is said the forests will take at least two years to clear up and many more to replace what was lost.

Embed from Getty Images

When we arrived at the new site we set up as usual but could not get the fridge to operate. We tried it on electricity, we tried it on gas, it would run for a minute or two then the fault alarm would sound. After turning it on and off for a couple of hours we turned it off hoping against hope that it can be fixed as a new one is over £1500 plus fitting.

Faced the prospect of drinking warm beer for the next month we set off to find a camping or caravan dealer where we could buy a portable fridge. The local tourist information told us there was a caravan dealer in Gdansk and that's where we were headed. We had tried to ring the guy who does our caravan servicing and repairs but, unusually, got his answer phone Sue seemed to think it was around now he took his family away on holiday so we were quite surprised when an hour or two later when he rang back, yes he was on holiday but knew we were in mainland Europe and would be ringing only for advice and not a callout. We explained the situation. He asked what the roads were like in Poland, we replied awful and told him about the main road we were travelling the day before that had a 10 - 15 km (6 - 9 mile) section of cobbles that rattled out teeth, despite slowing down to less than 20kph (12 mph). Hearing this Steve the engineer suggested it was probably the shakeup of the refrigerant causing the problem “ . . . leave it turned off for a few hours then try again . . , “. We did just that and it has been fine since. Thanks Steve, great advise.

We continued into Gdansk to find the caravan dealer in case that wasn’t the answer but despite having lat, long, coordinates we never did find it. What we did find was a huge almost grid locked traffic jam throughout Gdansk and a determination never to go back there.

The views from the camp site over the River Noget are superb and the Malbork Castle that dominates is just a few minutes walk. We went for a wander into the town and discovered that the castle which dominates the town as the only tourist attraction with its re-enactments, guides in period dress etc., etc., has been virtually rebuilt since more that half was destroyed during WW2.

IMG 5177.jpg

Malbork Castle - Largest brick building in Europe.

 Restoration work has been ongoing since 1962 using detailed plans of earlier conservators and it is now once again the biggest brick building in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We had intended to go inside but the various leaflets show big empty spaces with nothing in them so we gave it a miss.

Elbląg Canal is 80.5 km in length, which runs southward from Lake Drużno. It can accommodate small vessels up to 50 tons displacement. The difference in water levels approaches 100 m, and is overcome using locks and a remarkable system of inclined planes between lakes. It is the inclined planes we had come to see, they were a fascinating piece of engineering so efficient that the boats using them hardly paused in their passage of the canal.

IMG 5220.jpg

A boat on a buggy!

 The canal was designed in 1825–44 by Georg Steenke, carrying out the commission given by the King of Prussia. Construction began in 1844. The difference in height over a 9.5 kilometres or 5.9 miles section of the route between the lakes was too great for building traditional locks; an ingenious system of inclined planes was used instead, though the canal includes a few locks as well. When a trolley is pulled out of the water the trolley bed will be parallel to the slope bed not the water level giving the possibility of damaging the vessel as going down the incline the bow would touch before the stern risking breaking the vessels back. Going up the incline the stern would make first contact again risking damage or destruction. Steenke devised a system of wide wheels and twin rails that ensured the trolley bed so it was always parallel to the water surface. We took a boat ride which not only gave us experience of travelling up and down two of the four inclined planes, but the boat we were on was serving a sausage lunch comprising a large sausage, large picked gherkin and a large portion of mustard - delicious.

For the first time in a very long time we went out this evening and despite being out after dark we didn’t turn into pumpkins. We went through the castle, spooky in the dark!!, to the main town square where to quote a local tourist leaflet “ . . . the principle attraction of this place is the fountain with water flowing from nearly 50 nozzles and “dancing”to the rhythm of music. The show of water and colour is stunning especially after sunset . . . “ the 20min evening show was scheduled for 9.00pm and being in Germany the show started spot on 9.00pm. We were totally underwhelmed, particularly when the local teenagers decided that playing crap music on their boom box and riding bikes through the fountain would give the watchers a better show. Sadly they were probably right.

Moving day. We have at last reached the coast, the seaside, the Baltic Sea. Fortunately we did get the site selection right. Our site - Camping Na Granicy*** - is one of many on this part of the coast and was a little crowded but compared to others we saw it was the Ritz.

IMG 5230.jpg

Miles of soft sandy beaches

The place is heaving with holiday makers on what is a narrow spit of land around 500metres wide with Lake Jamno on the south side and the Baltic Sea on the north side. The northern seaward side has little if any vehicular access, the prom is accessed (mainly) by foot there are miles of golden sands unspoilt by commercialisation of any kind, but get back on that road and you will find virtually every inch of space either side taken up by fast food outlets, crappy souvenir stalls and game/entertainment stalls anything that may part the holiday maker from a few zloties.

We had a drive into Darlowo this morning, it is another seaside town similar to the one we are staying in but Darlowo is famous for its smoked fish. We, of course, bought lots.

Having looked forward to exploring the Polish Baltic coast we decided that a single day was enough and today have moved back into Germany and met up with our outbound track at Camping An der Havel.

As we left Poland we needed to get rid of our viaToll box as it is on loan and must be returned. We had discovered that the last services in Poland could do this for us and stopped there to tank up as well as give the viaToll box back. It was pandemonium, the place was packed. We tanked up then parked, anticipating the box return taking some time. When we reached the front of the queue the cashier said we must go the the restaurant on the opposite carriageway to return the box. Thinking there must be a bridge or tunnel we went outside and looked -nothing. If we were to return the box we must drive into Germany to the next junction, go back into Poland stop at the restaurant get rid of the box continue driving (illegally as we had no viaToll box) till we found a junction and could reverse direction and drive back out of Poland. Like that was going to happen!!!

Thinking I must have misheard I went back inside and found an English speaking assistant/manager who said we could return the box to him, he pointed to a particular till for me to go to so I joined the queue - again. When called forward it was to another cashier who said I had to return it to the restaurant . . . .!!!!! as steam started to come out of my ears the assistant/manager saw what was about to happen, rushed over and took me to another till to do the necessary return paperwork. All went well until he asked for our bank IBAN and/or SWIFT number. It seems this is how the refunds are paid. Hands up all those who know their bank IBAN or SWIFT number - Oh I see no-one. We just put our sort code and account number but think the chance of getting the refund is absolutely no chance what so ever.

Update Oh we of little faith!! Our refund was credited to our bank a little over a week after leaving Poland.

Driving away we decided that the fault probably lay with German transport law, HGV’s are generally not allowed to move on Sundays so there would be no trucks moving from Poland into Germany and consequently no need for Sunday staff to be trained to receive viaToll returns.

© S W Ghost 2017