V0617 - Report (Gołdap - Mikołajki - Gołdap)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways. For as
the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, August the 18th.

It was early evening when Sergey came to my place in his car carrying his already packed things into a bicycle rucksack which we call Torsten. This name was given to it a long time ago when it looked like a man called Torsten. My things were not packed yet but there was not much to pack. Our tandem was already at my place. We had some supper before leaving the place. The tandem was attached to the top of the car. Since the tandem is a bit longer than a usual bicycle, some tricks invented by Sergey were used. We went to Alexey's place to pick him and his bicycle up. It was also attached on top of the car. After that we had a 3-hour car ride to the frontier crossing point 'Gusiev - Gołdap'. In order to reach the point as early as possible, Sergey almost overheated the car's engine. The weather was great until we left the car in a parking lot. It has immediately started raining. Sergey and I put on our waterproof suits. Sergey had a green one and I had an old orange one which looked quite funny. However it's better in a suit than without it.

The Russian side of the crossing point was fine. Our frontier guards were very friendly with us knowing that we were tourists. Usually there are a lot of people on bicycles going to Russia from Poland just to buy cigarettes, gas and alcohol. It's much cheaper in Russia. Then they sell it in Poland and make money this way. The problems began when we stepped on the Polish side of the border. First of all we were not allowed to overtake cars which were in a queue. We usually do it and car drivers don't mind. They understand that waiting in a car differs from waiting with a bicycle under rain. Polish frontier guards didn't even allow us to stand under a roof of the check point. As a result we became wet waiting for our turn. We could get under the roof only after the cigarette-guys went there. A very funny thing happened while one of the Polish frontier guards was checking cars and bicycles so that they have lights and warning signals. Alexey didn't have the signal. They said: "If you don't have a sound signal, then you go back to Russia". Isn't it funny to cancel the trip because of the damned sound signal which is never even used in such kind of trips? "No, we are Russians", - we thought. We asked Polish cigarette-guys for a simple bicycle bell and installed it on Alexey's bike. The frontier guard was surprised and wanted to know where we took the bell from. We explained that we had a lot of bicycle repair stuff in our packs and the bell was among it. He was still surprised, probably he thought: "Damn Russians. They always have the way to get out of a problem". In order to visit Poland one needs at least 500 zlotys (Polish currency) or its equivalent. Sergey had 200$ and each one of us had around 100 zlotys. We used a similar trick. When we were asked to show the money we simply took Sergey's bucks and showed them. It worked perfectly.

Saturday, August the 19th.

After all the bureaucracy we could finally start our long-awaited trip through the night. We gave the bell back to Polish cigarette-guys. They have been waiting for so long while we were crossing the border but the value of the simple bicycle bell meant a lot to them. It was raining for the whole night. We had to wear our waterproof suits. The first stop was in Banie Mazurskie. There we had a snack. Sergey had a vigorous mix of hot tea and XTC. He says that it helps him ride.

The way we attached bicycles to a car - 1 The way we attached bicycles to a car - 2

We continued our ride to Giżycko skipping one planned stop. Nothing could be seen in the night. The only source of light that we had was two lights installed on the tandem and the bicycle. There was a nice payphone in Giżycko. It allowed sending SMSs and even e-mails. We had something to eat and continued our ride.

Our first stop in Banie Maz. Sergey drinks some vigorous mix of tea and XTC Are you gangsters? - No, we're Russians!

I changed with Sergey and started driving the tandem. It seemed that we could finish our ride to Mikołajki without a stop. However we made our stop in a small town called Kozin. I really wanted to sleep and took a can of RedBull not to fall asleep. It was dawning when we saw a sign reading 'Mikołajki'. It didn't mean that we finished our trip for today.

It's not just a simple phone... Here was our second stop, Giżycko

First we decided to check out the hotel Gołębiewski, It actually was our target for the trip but the price was quite high - 600 zlotys for the three of us. Alexey went downtown to get some Żywiec beer. We had to wait for him in the cold outside. The wait was a pretty long one. I even drank some liqueur that I bought in a duty free shop at the border. Then we went to one of the hostels to rent a room there. Any movement on bikes seemed very hard in the morning. We really wanted to sleep. Once we reached the hostel we found out that there were no places. The first available one was at 10 a.m. We had to wait outside again. None of us wanted to go anywhere. We just sat in a terrace near the house where we were served some tea.

It was early morning when we came to Mikołajki and it had already lightened The goal of our trip - Hotel Gołębiewski

The host of the house, a woman, was very hospitable to us. She probably understood that the night ride was not an easy one. I was feeling really cold and to warm myself I used a hair-drier. This hair-drier had been used as a fan for a grill in the terrace. I dried my socks and shoes. Then I just warmed myself with the drier because hot tea was not enough. Some Italian guys left the hostel quite early to our surprise. After a few time we could occupy the free room. The hosts of the hostel came in and made up beds and cleaned a bathroom. We thought of how much money they might make on keeping the hostel and the conclusion was - more than enough. Sergey and I took shower and the three of us went to bed right away. Sergey told us that we had only 2 hours of sleep but we argued to make it 3 hours.

This is a polish hospitality, we were offered some tea when we came to a hostel Our wet luggage

It was afternoon when we woke up. Slowly we cooked macaroni with tushenka (tinned stewed meat) and had it with tea. Then we went to the hotel to a water park. The prices are 25 zlotys - entrance with 1.5 hour included and 5 zlotys - each extra half an hour. We spent there 3 and a half hours. After entering the aqua park, enjoining saunas and jacuzzis, swimming in pools and sliding down the tubes we understood why we had to have such a cold rainy night ride. It was the most enjoying and relaxing part of the trip. There is one attraction called a WC-pan.

After the sleep after the night driving one needs to eat Mezenov outside of the hostel

First you enter a tube and slide down until you get in a round construction with water on the walls and a hole at the bottom. You make a couple of turns inside and fall through the hole into a water-pool. It really looks like a WC-pan on the inside.

Sergey in a waterpark This thing is called a 'WC pan'

We gathered in the hostel after the enjoining the water park and thought that we were hungry. We decided to look for some restaurant and have a supper there. It was quite a task since there are a lot of different restaurants and cafes in Mikołajki. The town is very nice and small. I wondered where people come from so that there are so many places to eat out. Probably it's only because of the hotel Gołębiewsky and the water park. Otherwise the town is just a small Polish town among many others.

Aquapark is right near the hotel Doesn't it look like a sea?

In the evening we watched TV and went to sleep early. Alexey bought 6 bottles of Żywiec porter and had a couple in the evening. He took other bottles home. This beer is not sold in Russia.

Sunday, August the 20th.

In the morning we took a shower, cooked, ate and packed our things. The weather was totally different from that in the night. Alexey gave us a portable two-way radio and told us that we can go without waiting for him. Usually we went ahead and waited for him at the each stop. Our first stop was in Giżycko where we swam in a lake. We met a goat with long horns there. In Giżycko we passed by a gas station to get some food and eat.

Tourist's part of Mikołajki That bridge is seen from another one

The day ride was a usual one. We have been stopping, resting, waiting and going on. We took the same road on the way back but at night it seemed different. At night we didn't see a lot of things like lakes and houses which we saw during the day. Right before crossing the border Alexey decided to buy more beer to have in the car. Less then ten kilometers left to the border. We doubted that we would find a place where to buy beer because we needed a place where plastic cards are accepted. However there was a sign to a gas station on the road. When we reached the place we thought that the station is closed a long time ago. It looked so old, but there was a shop where we could get what we needed.

The weather on the way back was really different - it was sunny Surprize (an English equivalent of preved)

There were a couple of cigarette-guys on the crossing point. We thought that we could overtake them while we are riding to the Polish frontier guard. The guard turned out to remind us the goat we saw near the lake. He saw us taking over the cigarette-guys and told us that we had to pay a fine for not stopping on the 'stop' sign for cars. Otherwise we had to go to a Polish jail. We just waited until the guy calms down and crossed the border without paying anything. The Russian part was ok except one thing. I didn't know that the portable two-way radios were not allowed to carry through the border. I had it attached to my backpack. When a customs official saw it he got mad. He lost the gift of speech. He couldn't say a word for a few seconds and then he told me to remove it immediately. He didn't want to bother us and let us go after I put it in my backpack.

In a short, the trip was great...

A road sign in Goldap - near the frontier We thought that this Gas stantion is closed long time ago

© Author: Oleg Yakovenko.
© Photographer: Oleg Yakovenko.
© Insert of photos: Sergey Mezenov.
© Comment to photos: Oleg Yakovenko.

PS: Data of tandem's computer:
   Distance: 208.67 km
   Average speed: 21.86 kmh
   Movement time: 9:32:33
   Maximal speed: 60 kmh

Russian side - home, sweet home It liked the disk brake