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Yachts along the waterfront
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A couple of złotos to go please

By all accounts today was another “bus day” but we drove through such beautiful scenery and ended up in another lovely little part of Poland at the end of the day. It made the travel and drive a real pleasure, even if it was long and unchanging. First we followed the same route back down to Malbork, a drive of a good hour or so. The same scenery as yesterday but I was looking a little more keenly now and kept thinking “if only I could stop and take a picture”, as I have done on so many occasions when we’ve been on the road. Of course nothing should be easier than to stop. After all, we’re in our own car, on relatively quiet roads, but there’s the impetus, the momentum that carries you forward and many sights just flash by. Things I wish we had stopped for include the cherry vendor on the broad cobbled road to Malbork, with his simple stand full of the yellow-red cherries, and the views of round bales of yellow hay lying on the freshly mown green fields, and the fields of waving grains, sometimes with a profusion of blue flowers (cornflowers?) Oh, and the most characteristic sight of all, the occasional stork nests, with two or three tall typical storks, with their orange-red long beaks, black and white feathers, stood on tall red-brick chimneys or purpose-built poles, usually at the older farms.

We re-entered “ordinary” country for a while – bigger roads, more built-up, petrol stations and the like, but later in the afternoon the landscape changed again. Whereas before it been totally flat, like Holland, it now gradually became a little hilly, well, there were some curves to the landscape at least, and the hilly bits became more forested. Before it had been almost exclusively fields, with rows of trees separating plots or lining canals. Now it became thickly forested all around us. In other parts we drove along idyllic country lanes (even though this was the main road from this part of the country to Warsaw), with fields on either side, a church spire and accompanying villages here and there, and lined on both sides by thick sturdy green trees that looked as if they had been there forever. It went on like this, and we swapped driving a few times and kept an eye on our average speed. Since leaving Gdańsk it had started to climb from just over 20mph to a whopping 40mph!

By mid afternoon we reached the Mazurian lakes district and started to see some holiday homes and adverts for hotels. We reached the little town of Mikołajki, which seemed to be the Mazurian equivalent of Windermere, in that it is the principal town of the area. As soon as we reached it, it felt welcoming, with a great laid-back summer holiday atmosphere. We found a little hotel along the lake, a good find as it was only a short walk along the lake into the town centre and we managed to get a room with a view on the lake and a balcony for only zl.192 (£34), excellent. We’re sharing the hotel with a German tour group, and were lucky to get such a good deal.

After settling in, we went for a walk along the lake shore and into town. It was pleasantly hot and sunny, with only the tiniest bit of wind, but just enough to give a bit of relief from the heat. All along the lake shore there were little yachts, 25-30 footers at most, moored bow-first along the shore, with an anchor laid out behind, and there were boats out on the lake itself. On our right, as we walked, there were the back gardens of the houses along the lake (so there was: little pavement and path, then a fence and the back gardens which rose up and at the top the main house). Away from the town centre the back gardens were filled with barns and sheds, with tomatoes and other plants, with chickens and dogs. As we got closer to the centre there were some home-made bars, sheds and decking and benches plonked into the back garden, an informal “hungry hill”, and a perfect spot for a cold beer! The bars got bigger and more formal, i.e. proper bars, and there were more yachts and pontoons as we walked further. It was the back-end of the day and many boats were coming in to moor up for the night. Some were already cleaning and sorting out their boats, others already had drinks or a barbie on the go on the quayside. [... p24] Despite not having a go ourselves, it was nice to see all the activity all around us, the boats looking tidy and colourful, the young yachties playing around. Most of the boats are charters and it doesn’t look like you need much experience around here – no tides, calm winds, little traffic. We picked up a corn on the cob to munch, and further on picked a café-restaurant for a meal, rather disappointing fish.

Mikołajki is a real little find, for us that is – the Poles certainly know about it! A relaxed summer holiday spot, at the centre of a whole district full of little glacial lakes, many of which are interconnected. After the meal we strolled back to our hotel. Even though it was late, it was still relatively light, and the sky was a graduation of blues and with deep dark browns and reds above the horizon. It was in fact still so light that there were hardly any stars visible. Back at the hotel we had a coffee and a vodka on the main terrace, where the group of older (East?) Germans were still busily talking. I could make out that one guys seemed to be the main focus, but whether it was his party or he was merely a guide I couldn’t make out. Around us the conversations were about “jaah, my son-in-law …”, “I used to do this-or-that but not now...”, recollections of being at school (a long time ago!), a lot of reminiscing and digging up memories rather than living here and now. Still, the atmosphere was jovial and friendly.