Tallinn to Luxembourg with visits to eastern Poland

Jul 06, 2007

On July 2 to 4, I again drove from Tallinn to Luxembourg -- but also did some travelling in eastern Poland, following up on my last year's trip. I visited the museums and memorials on the sites of Treblinka, Majdanek, Sobibór and Belzec Nazi extermination camps. I'll cover the actual visits in a separate posts, this post is again the "driving logbook" with notes from the road. This was my longest three-day-trip to date, covering a distance of almost 3000 km.

July 3, Tallinn, 6:51, 0 km

I wanted to have an early start since I knew I needed more time in Treblinka than last year where somewhat I ran out of time and could not visit other parts of the camp than the first one. My original plan was to get out already at 6, but I overslept a bit :)

Latvian border, 8:51, 192 km

Nothing interesting in Estonia, neither in Latvia. Traffic was building up as the day went on, as it was a normal business day.

Small break near Lithuanian border, 11:10-11:17, 375 km

A funny thing happened at the toilet in the gas station where the door was closed and there was a switch nearby with some Latvian writing on it. I thought the switch was to open the door, but turns out it was for turning the light on and off inside, and the man using the facility before me was not too happy about me flicking it :P oops. Sorry. Duh, put English signs to things on international roads, people.

Lithuanian border, 11:30-11:34, 393 km

Traffic again lighter in Lithuania...

Refueling and snack outside Panevėžys, 12:12-12:33, 450 km

There's a good Statoil station there that I had remembered from my drive in the opposite direction last time. Otherwise you'd have to refuel near Kaunas where you have only Lukoil and some other stations that I do not fancy so much.

And then it was onto the Polish border, and the few kilometers before the border the traffic situation became what I would call "pornography". The road had one lane in either direction, and the right lane was occupied by a long line of trucks waiting to get to the border. And then there were some other trucks who for some reason thought they didn't have to wait in the line and just blindly overtook the long line of trucks, using the opposite lane. And of course, there was oncoming traffic too, and again this was in the form of trucks who then had to pull over to the side of the road to let the oncoming trucks through. So there were three lines of trucks on a two-lane road, and you had to somehow survive there with your small car. Fortunately there wasn't any crazy speeding going on and everyone somewhat slowed down for oncoming traffic, but it was still quite perverse and I imagine quite scary for novice drivers. But I and my car remained in one piece :)

Polish border, 15:03-15:05 (14:03-14:05), 660 km

Switch to another timezone. And this is the earliest ever I've made to Poland, so things looked quite good timewise.

There was a VERY nice touch by Polish authorities. After checking my papers, they handed them back to me, but also gave me a "Welcome to Poland" booklet. The electronic version of it is here, but the paper version was in a handy small format and very useful for a traveller. Border crossings are a great point to do smart marketing for your country if it doesn't get too excessive and stays practical, but this is probably the first time that I've seen any country actually doing it.

Snack break in Suwałki, 14:26-14:51, 685 km

There's a nice Kaufland mall/supermarket in Suwałki right off the E67 Via Baltica road on the righthand side for any last-minute supplies.

Refueling in Łomża, 16:53-16:59, 824 km

Up to this point, I had been driving on E67 that is the main road from Estonia and the Baltics to Warszawa and beyond. In Łomża, I turned off from it and further to the south, going on smaller secondary roads from now on.

I then also did my only navigation error of the three days, and this is where the GPS came handy even though it didn't have any Polish maps. I missed a turn and was supposed to go to Treblinka on the same road that I did last year, but it didn't look familiar at all. And I should have been heading southeast, but the navigation thing showed that I'm going east or even north-east. I then turned back and backtracked to the right place, losing around 20 minutes. A lesson to not become overconfident and always read the signs. The road signage in Poland is adequate everywhere except Warszawa :)

Treblinka bridge stop, 18:19-18:23, 910 km

Not a very encouraging sign now, is it ;) yep, it's the same "fuxored bridge" as last year. And I suspect it's not going stronger year by year...


Treblinka visit, 18:32-20:22, 916 km

More details will be in another post. Although a strange thing is how I say that last year, on July 16, I was here after 9pm, yet it was already getting dark this time around 8, and yet this year I'm much closer to the summer solstice so sun should actually stay up longer, not less??? Could it be that I logged the times with wrong timezone last year? (There's a timezone switch when you come to Poland.) In any case, it was kinda spooky walking in desolate woods without a soul in sight and things getting darker and darker. I actually did see a hare running around, and I thought hmm, if there are hares here, there must also be other things are eating them... but I made it out in one piece.

After the visit, I made it further southeast towards Lublin, where the plan was to get by the night. This was one of the more difficult parts of the drive, as I was already pretty bashed from the day and it became pitch black dark and so even more difficult to drive. So I pulled over in random roadside motels and was initially out of luck, as they were either full or didn't speak anything but Polish or just generally didn't look too nice.

Overnight, 23:00, 1065 km

I finally found a place to stay around 50 km before Lublin. It was kind of decent and only cost 60 PLN (around 15 € :) ). It didn't include breakfast, but this means I could choose and buy my own breakfast, instead of sticking with the quite meager choices that usually come as breakfast in Polish motels.

And then I found that there was not a normal mattress in my room, but a waterbed :D It has somehow happened so that I haven't slept in a waterbed before and now my first time was at a random Polish roadside motel.

Average fuel expenditure for the day: 6.6 l/100 km. Not bad, eh? Quite economic car :)

Average speed for the day: 70 kph

July 3, kickoff towards Lublin, 9:02

Majdanek was supposed to be right on the outskirts of Lublin, instead of some desolate woods. And indeed, I located it quite easily, although the signage in the city towards it was not that great.

Majdanek visit and snack, 9:55-11:55, 1110 km

More about Majdanek in another post.

One thing that I was lucky with was the weather. It looked quite bad in the morning where over breakfast I saw the Polish TV weather forecast that basically said "rain and thunder all over the place". And I said to the rain gods, "please, you can rain all you want when I drive and sleep at night, but please please don't ruin my memorial visits and don't rain then". And they must have heard me, because I got some decent rain during driving through the whole day and night, but not a drop during my visits.

Refueling break, 12:00-12:03, 1117 km

And the road then took me eastwards towards Belarussian border. Landscape not that much different from the rest of Poland.

Sobibór visit and snack, 13:17-14:33, 1220 km

Again, more details in another post. Things looked good timewise, because I thought it would be ideal to cover all the three sites in one day, even though it meant some rushing and I couldn't see everything in detail. And I was lucky in Sobibór to be doing things in exactly this order, as the museum was actually open only until 2pm -- had I gone to Belzec first, I would have found only a closed museum.

But now it was time to head off towards Belzec.

Belzec visit, 16:42-17:31, 1370 km

I was now going to the southeastern corner of Poland and instead of Belarus, I was getting close to Ukraine. I tried scanning for FM radio stations from both countries, but didn't get any -- apparently their respective western border areas are also so little inhabited that they won't bother having stations there. But I did see GSM networks from both countries :) I was as close to within 10km from both borders, and I thought of even going over to Ukraine for a second to see another country where I haven't yet been, but this will have to remain for another time.

So in any case, I visited Belzec and was really satisfied with myself when I came out, as I had fully met my plan of getting to visit all the sites within the planned time.

Now it was time to switch from touring-visit-mode to driving mode, as I had about 1500 km to cover from southeastern Poland to Luxembourg. I thought of coming back towards the north to take the northern E30/A2 route, but upon looking the map I saw that I was closer to the A4 route, so I headed further south and joined E40/A4.

I had previously driven the western highway part of A4 and I had higher expectations also for its eastern part, as also my atlas indicated that the "good road" would start already before Krakow. In fact, it was undergoing major reconstruction and was as bad as a typical Polish village road, so it took me a lot longer than anticipated.

Dinner break, 18:54-19:26, 1461 km

As I had covered all the distance originally planned, it was now time to reward myself with the first proper meal for the past two days :P

Refueling break, 22:49-23:05, 1683 km

Things were now getting bad again, as it was again pitch dark and raining and I was worn out from the long drive and visits. There weren't too many roadside motels in sight, so one plan I had was even to make it to Germany that day and seek for motels there. But I still ended up finding one in Poland, about 100 km before the border, even though I made it to the night a lot later than originally anticipated. This drive again was fairly difficult, as there were periods of rain where you had to slow down, and then with the drier time I slammed on the gas pretty hard.

Overnight, 1:51, 1984 km

Average cumulative fuel expenditure for past two days: 7.0 l/100 km

Average cumulative speed: 80 kph (the faster sections on A4 definitely contributed to this)

July 4, start from hotel, 8:35

Now it was just drive and drive...

German border, 9:50-9:58, 2078 km

After documents check, I had an unusual customs check where the gentlemen wanted to know if I was importing any cigarettes :) which I of course wasn't.

Refueling, 10:26-10:32, 2128 km

Refueling and lunch, 13:44-14:13, 2523 km

Covered almost 400 km in three hours, not too bad.

Arrive in Luxembourg, 17:58, 2913 km

And I'm done. Phew. Time for some rest.

Average cumulative fuel expenditure for the whole trip combined: 7.7 l/100 km (on Autobahns, when going at 150-160 kph, which is the fastest that this car can do comfortably, it takes a lot more fuel)

Average cumulative speed for three days: 98 kph

Here's also a map of my drives and visits. If it doesn't work inline, click here to see it on Google.