25 May 1980

Leave Gdansk for Oliwa and the Masurian region

Late departure after a leisurely breakfast that does not end before 10:30, but yesterday was a long day...

Oliwa cloister
Anyway we finally get going and head to Oliwa, a suburb of Gdansk with an interesting abbey that exudes history. This was a major headquarters for the Cistercian monks for centuries. Poland's catholic roots reach quite deep in history. It was also a proud town, even an independent one when it was briefly separated from the city state of Free Gdansk in the 1920s. Huge organ inside.

We then move toward Malbork, where we arrive in the late morning to admire the imposing fortress.

Our next stop in the Masurian region. Finally we get some sunny weather and the countryside is beautiful. The small towns and villages we drive through are rather desolate however, much poorer than those we saw in the South of the country.

We reach Olsztyn at dinner time and end up eating at the "Karolowe" restaurant. We have no clue where to go and this is a recommendation from an Italian guide book I have with me. Less than impressive meal, but cheap.

After the early dinner we decide to move on and try to aim and find a place to sleep at Ruciane Nida. In the meantime we need gas for Giallina. We find a station and buy 48 liters. The man at the pump agrees to sell us fuel at black market prices, but refuses to take his cut like all his colleagues. I think he says something along the lines of "this is the right price for the Poles and it should be the same for the foreigners, screw the government rules" but I am not exavtly sure. He is a really honest black market fuel seller.

When we reach Ruciane Nida there is no hotel to speak of.  We move on to Wygryny, a small village of a few hundred people. We stop and ask some passersby for a hotel, and they look at us with puzzled expressions: "Where are you trying to go at this time in this neck of the wood?" they seem to say without speaking. We move on and run into a bunch of drunkards that can't believe they got free entertainment making fun of us fools.

Then luck seems about to strike when a tiny old man says he is working to build a hotel, but then adds that it won't be ready before next year! However, a big signpost from the PTTK (the Polish Tourist Board) announces that "the trees are our friends". Which is just as well as it looks like we may have to spend the night in their company.

We fearlessly drive on and reach Pisz, a small town of some 20,000 souls. it's past 10 pm but we find a small hotel with two rooms. We even manage to smuggle Cathy in as a student of SGPiS so that she can pay the reduced rate.

The evening ends with a couple of beers and playing cards and a long conversation with Ann under the romantic starred sky.

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