Luxembourg to Tallinn weekend drive

May 10, 2007

Yet another weekend and yet another 2276 km behind me, I'm in Tallinn in one piece :) no major happenings, but as all of these journeys, it wasn't entirely uneventful. And I killed many bugs. I don't think my car's nose has been this "buggy" ever ;)

May 5, Luxembourg, 7:06, 0 km

Kicked off early Saturday morning. As expected, very light traffic. What nutcase would drive this early on Saturday? :)

I had the GPS calculate me a route from Luxembourg diagonally across Germany to the crossing to Poland at Frankfurt (Oder). It gave me a "southern" route which I have always taken so far, but it also gave me a "northern" one using the A2 in Germany. I haven't done the northern one so I took that.

Usually all travels east/northwards from Luxembourg begin by going towards Trier on the motorway, but not so with the northern route. It took me through secondary roads to Echternach and then across to Germany, going on secondary roads for about 150 km before finally getting to Autobahn.

Outside Luxembourg, 7:20-7:22, 10 km

Panic time :o as I had misplaced my car documents. Not a good idea for four border crossings to go without them. Turns out they had fallen out of my pocket onto the floor. Whew.

Crossing to Germany, 7:40, 38 km

Germany and Luxembourg are separated by Moselle so you always get nice scenic views when crossing or just going to the river.

Refueling and lunch somewhere in Germany, 12:21-12:50, 520 km

Nothing interesting except some traffic jams due to road construction, but that's to be expected.

Toilet break in Germany, 13:52-13:57, 647 km

When going on the A2, I found that it goes right past the former West-East German border and they also have a museum at one of the exits. It came on too quickly before I could react and enter, but good to note for the next time.

Crossing to Poland, 15:25-15:36, 821 km

Truck queues went on for several kilometers. I feel for the drivers. Amazingly, throughout the whole route, there were very many trucks with Belarusian license plates all the way to Estonia. Not sure what's up, I don't remember seeing those so much previously.

All borders these days operate joint border guards so the Polish and German guards were happily looking through my ID card and license and looked at my license in amazement, as it's in some weird pre-EU format (current licenses are credit-card-size, this is some strange larger format).

And so it was time to go off from Autobahns and onto the Polish road hell for about 100 km with the trucks and everyone else. There's a very dangerous driving pattern that I found out exists in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. The roads are built so that there are one and a half lanes going in either direction, so that there is one proper wide lane and then some sort of half-lane where you would typically have emergency stops but that's used also for driving. And this means that in total, there is a width of three lanes and three cars fit on the road side by side. And this, in turn, means that when people are taking over someone, they don't need to worry about oncoming traffic -- they just start taking over and the car being taken over and the oncoming traffic all pull a bit aside and this way it usually works out...

... except what if TWO cars from both directions decide to overtake at the same and end both up in the center lane and going directly towards each other? And since the traffic they are taking over has already pulled to the side lane, there's no further space left for anyone? I worked out a theory about what happens then and I decided to call it the "Big Bang theory". Fortunately I didn't get to witness it but I was kinda scared by this tactic in these countries.

So anyway, in Poland from Germany towards Warszawa you go for 100 km on twisted roads through villages, until you get to the Polish A2, which is indeed a very fine road. It's a brand-new 2+2 lane proper motorway with grade separation and all, and since it's so new, it was constructed so that there aren't really any lower-speed sections due to curves or inclines, it just flows pretty much smoothly in one straight line.

Refuel and snack in Poland, 17:40-18:06, 1004 km

I was still optimistic about making to Warszawa that day that would have been my ideal plan, so off we go again and back on the road.

Crash site in Poland, 18:35-18:50, 1049 km

... when suddenly, traffic slowed and came to a grinding halt. Turns out there had been a crash and police and emergency services were on the site. I was about sixth and seventh car from the crash site. I could see a lot of people there but nobody didn't seem to be doing much anything except talking with each other. Some firemen were sweeping the road. But finally they picked up the wreckage and let everyone go again.

Map-reading, 19:51-19:56, 1172 km

It was a bit confusing what to do after I get to the end of the highway (the newly-built section ends a bit before Warsaw currently) so I took another look at the atlas.

I don't understand Polish traffic directions logic. To complete the portion between A2 and Warszawa, you have several ways to do it. I would do it the straight way and on major roads, but the Polish have told you to actually go backwards and through extremely crappy roads.

Here's a map so you can see what I mean. The blue line seems more logical to me because at least the right part of it is on a major road. But the Polish suggest the red line.

Maybe they would be the same in the end, but I'm pissed at the "red line" because I encountered another sticky situation :)

Crash site #2, 20:20-20:30, 1200 km

So... on some narrow village road, traffic again came to a halt. And looked like something was going on, there were police cars and things. Looked like a crash, so people again just sat there. And I was glancing sadly at the setting sun and the last minutes of daylight as I just sat there.

I thought they'll clear it up quickly, but then some people started turning around and going back. I thought this can't be this easy that you can just block an international transit road. Well, turns out you can. But Polish people are creative and then I saw some cars moving in front and some coming also from the other side, showing that there was some kind of bypass organized from the crash site.

That bypass turned out to be nothing more than simply getting off the road and straight onto the green field. :) And I followed someone until they turned themselves into an opening between two cars, and I was stuck blocking oncoming traffic in the other lane. And I was close to the bypass and could see that it was pretty rough. And then I figured, well, my car isn't certainly certified for offroad traffic. And should something happen, I'm stuck somewhere in the middle of Poland, in the dark, not speaking the language, not having a dime of local cash, and with a very low mobile battery, and a broken vehicle. So I turned around and got the hell out of that crash site and took another route that's shown with green on the map.

So then it was time to start looking for a place to stay overnight. I just went to random roadside motels. The places I went to indicate clearly the transition that Poland is currently going through :) at one place, I met two nice older ladies who were otherwise OK except that they couldn't speak a word of anything but Polish and you couldn't pay with card. The second place where I also ended up staying had a younger woman who spoke "a little" English as she said (it was fine), and you could also pay with card, and it was all fine.

Hotel in Poland, 21:40, 1275 km

I was pretty worn out, so it was a good night's sleep.

The times on the second day are all in Eastern European timezone, even though Poland is in the Central European one.

Kick off from hotel, 8:48

And so it was about 50 km to Warszawa. On a Sunday morning, traffic was fairly light. And amazingly, I didn't get lost this time, yay :D I had anticipated an hour of getting lost in the maze, but the signs took me right to the correct road northeast towards Lithuania.

Refueling and snack, 11:20-11:28, 1461 km

Poland is a catholic country and they are very serious about it, and as it was Sunday morning, you could see a lot of people and activity around churches.

Crossing to Lithuania, 13:39-13:46, 1630 km

Traffic in the Baltics is much lighter than in Poland. You get mainly transit traffic (trucks), in Poland there's also a lot of intercity domestic traffic and people going to the next village. Lithuania was almost like home :)

Refueling and lunch in Lithuania, 16:03-16:20

Crossing Lithuania to Latvia, 16:57, 1898 km

I was a bit worried about Latvia. Maybe I'm paranoid, but the events of the past few weeks were still fresh in memory and so I seriously thought that some extremists in Latvia might organize something in support of Russian extremists and take some action against someone with an Estonian license plate. In Russia across the Estonian border, for example, the Nashi extremists organized a protest where they stopped Estonian trucks. Fortunately, the Russian police broke up that one fairly fast.

But of course I was silly to worry and nothing happened.

The portion of the road right before you get to Estonia, around Salacgriva, is especially beautiful. You have the Baltic sea and beach on the left side, separated from the road with a thin stretch of pine forest. And the sun was setting into the sea and it was simply a gorgeous sight.

I realized then it will be a great summer for me.

Crossing from Latvia to Estonia, 19:25-20:05, 2097 km

Yep -- the crossing took 40 minutes. That's the longest compared to others that were all instant. This is because elsewhere they just glanced at your documents, but due to the current hostilities, Estonia has implemented stricter border controls. This means that everyone's personal and car documents were checked in the computers against some databases. But there's a shortage of staff in our Border Guard, because the border crossing has six lanes in theory, but only two of them were open, and there was a long queue for all cars.

Home, 22:00, 2276 km

Ahh.. now that wasn't too bad was it.

Metrics

The car says that the average fuel expenditure was 7.7 l per 100 km, and average speed was 83 km/h. The fuel figure is better than sometimes before because I didn't go over 140 or 150 kph on the Autobahns, this takes up fuel as hell. Also the weather wasn't so hot as last summer so the strain on the climate system was much less.

Costs

The costs for this trip were...

  • fuel in Luxembourg before takeoff, 41.08 €
  • fuel in Germany, 70.31 €
  • fuel in Poland, 195.29 PLN (52.09 €)
  • another fuel in Poland, 174.21 PLN (46.46 €)
  • fuel in Lithuania (half tank), 91.33 LTL (26.45 €)
  • motel in Poland, 120 PLN (32 €)
  • highway tolls in Poland, 3*11=33 PLN (8.8 €)

All fuel costs combined = 236,39 €

All costs combined = 277,19 €

So... it's not really that expensive, as flight tickets to/from Tallinn may be hard to obtain and even more expensive than this, especially if you want them on a short notice. And the fuel cost stays almost the same when going with multiple persons. So if you're OK to put up with some inconveniences and strange roads and unexpected adventures, then road travel in modern Europe, also eastern Europe, is quite convenient when going with a group.