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Vilnius to Poland

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  • bass_drum_ben
    Ok, continuing from the last post...sorry it takes so long to get these up here, but I haven t had much time to write. OK.... I woke up late, as usual, and
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2002
      Ok, continuing from the last post...sorry it takes so long to get
      these up here, but I haven't had much time to write. OK....

      I woke up late, as usual, and didn't get a chance to say goodbye to
      Vladas, but Inga was home with the baby. I made a last check of my
      things to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything, as usual, put away
      the bed, and ate breakfast. Inga and I chatted for a bit, and I
      finally made my way out the door at about 11. Vladas estimated 12
      hours to get to Warszawa, so that would put me there quite late.
      Better late than never, so I walked to the road. The best idea was
      to go up the hill to the intersection of the road to Traku. It took
      a while to get up the hill and I took a bit of a shortcut to get
      further down the road, and stuck the ol' thumb out. After about ten
      minutes I noticed people were pointing in the other direction, as if
      I should go back to a different spot. I waited a while longer, and
      finally decided maybe I should backtrack to see if there was a queue
      or something that I was missing. Sure enough, there was a bus stop
      that looked like a good hitching spot. Wide road, just after a curve
      leading into a bridge so that cars had to slow down, and it was easy
      to be visible. Not long after I arrived, two girls got off of a bus
      and started hitching as well. We smiled at each other, but continued
      sort of in competition. In about five minutes, someone stopped for
      them and sped off before I could even pick up my bag. I was pretty
      ticked that they 'stole' my ride, but oh well, not much I could do.
      After about 20 minutes, someone stopped, but wasn't going my way. So
      I continiued, and after another 20 minutes, someone else stopped,
      this time going to Traku. He was a rather old guy, spoke no English,
      but I told him who I was, where I was going, you know, my story, in
      my best simple english and hand gestures that I could. He asked if I
      know of the castle (by drawing it) and I tried to explain that I had
      been there a few days before, but he didn't get it. So when we got
      to Traku, he took me to see the castle. Well, that was nice!
      Although I had seen it before, I must say that it's a cool castle.
      It was destroyed several times in various wars, by the Germans,
      Poles, Russians, and Swedes. This rebuilt version was quite nice,
      and I wish I had more pictures of it. I could have easily bought
      some souvenier postcards, but it's not the same. The castle and the
      town is surrounded by five beautiful lakes, and in the summer it's
      quite a bustling tourist and resort town. But shrouded in the winter
      fog, it's rather quiet. Anyways, I acted amazed when I saw it and
      thanked him very much for showing me, and then he took me to the road
      to Marijampole. It wasn't a good road for hitching, as the lanes
      were narrow and the sidewalks had trees in them. So I walked down
      the road until it opened up a bit, and started again. After a few
      minutes an old man started shouting at me, and I told him I didn't
      speak lithuanian, only english, so he motioned that I would get
      killed waiting outside of town. I heeded his warning and walked the
      200 m back to the roundabout and tried again, in the trees, but there
      was no way I'd get a ride there. Again, drivers motioned for me to
      move back. There was no obvious 'good spot' so I tried various
      places, always being told by someone to move (in so many lithuanian
      words). Finally I grew frustrated and returned to my spot that I
      would supposedly get killed at. Travelling in such a manner has
      certainly made me a bit fearless, hopefully that won't come back to
      haunt me in the future. I know, I know, be safe. I will. Don't
      worry. After freezing for about a half hour, a truck screeched to a
      halt next to me, and I opened the door. I asked the beat-up old
      driver of the beat-up old truck if he was going to Marijampole, and
      he made some gestures that I didn't understand and he finally
      wrote '80 KM' on a piece of paper. Good enough for me, so I hopped
      in. Man oh man, what a ride. The truck stank like cigaretes, the
      dude was missing some teeth and the others were on their way out, but
      he seemed nice enough. I kept my guard up. I think the truck was
      built before shocks were invented, as every bump practically shot me
      to the ceiling. And there were no seat belts. The road was about as
      nice as the truck, so I thanked god I didn't get carsick. And so I
      watched the scenery bounce by, old shacks here and there, mostly open
      woods and fields, with occasional farmland. The Baltic countries are
      quite similar in terrain, actually. Hills, but no real mountains,
      moist air, open woods, lots of farmland. Unfortunately most of the
      farms are no longer operating, as the economy forced many people from
      the country to go to the city to work. As a result, overcrowding and
      unemployment in cities rose sharply, and towns in the country simply
      shut down. During my tour of the Baltics, I saw quite a few of these
      mostly uninhabited towns, and some old soviet communes. The communes
      are quite a sight to see. All buildings were boxes, and all towns
      pretty mich fit a common design. In the middle of the town was a
      community farm/garden, and surrounding it were various 'business'
      buildings, and around that, residential buildings. The buildings
      were designed to fit as many units in as small a space as possible.
      In each unit, typically not more than 50 square meters (500 square
      feet) big, lived a family of five or so. Communism demanded
      effeceincy, not comfort. I guess they didn't realize that to a
      certain extent, one must be comfortable to be effeceint.
      These were not the only reminders of the old days, less than 15 years
      ago. As we drove, we passed many old russian cars and trucks,
      spewing exhaust clouds into the air, clunking along past their limit,
      ready to fall apart at a moment's notice. But in the old times you
      had to be resourseful, as you couldn't just get a new car when the
      old one died. You had no choice but to fix what you had, with tools
      and materials you had available.
      I thought about these things as we bounced along rather
      arhythmically, and managed to doze off a couple of times. So much
      for keeping my guard up. But the driver had to keep his eyes on the
      road, or else risk falling into a ditch or oncoming traffic. So I
      think I was pretty safe. Eventually we came to a town where I would
      have to get out and find anotherr ride to Marijampole. The driver
      pointed me in the right direction, and I started to walk. I was
      somewhere in the middle of town and thought about asking locals if I
      was going the right way, but I trusted the driver and kept going.
      Sure enough, there was a sign showing that it was about 30 km to
      Marijampole, so I put down my bag and sat waiting for a car. It was
      a quiet road, so quiet I could hear the chickens across the street
      walking around pecking for food. A few cars and a couple of people
      passed, and then a nice new Mercedes, vibrating from bass, stopped.
      I asked 'Marijampole?' and he nodded,so I got in and off we went. He
      didn't speak English, so he turned the music back up and drove pretty
      freakin' fast. I indcated that I was going to Poland, so he nodded
      and took me to where I could get a ride. Out I went, made a sign,
      and within minutes someone stopped and took me pretty close to the
      border. I figured it was within walking distance, so I set off on
      foot through the little town I was in. When the road opened up, I
      nonchalantly stuck out my thumb as I walked, and suddenly a bus
      stopped. For me? I hurried to the bus and showed my sign, the diver
      nodded, and I became one of many old russian ladies and young
      students packed in a tiny bus heading for the border. People got off
      at various places, and the drive told me when it was time for me to
      get out. I was at the border, or at least in the truck queue for the
      border, and I walked to the guard. He looked at my passport and let
      me walk through to the checkpoint, where my passport was checked
      again, and at the actual border my passport was checked a third time,
      and finally stamped to exit Lithuania. It was already quite dark, so
      I began asking drivers if they were going to Warsaw and if they could
      take me. One guy looked at me suspiciously and said 'hmmm, I don't
      know. Where are you from?' 'The States' 'Oh really? I don't believe
      you. Let me see your passport' So I did. And he was quite amazed.
      I told him my story about hitchhiking around the world, and he agreed
      to take me most of the way, but he was going to Germany and would not
      go through Warsaw. No problem. All this was discussed while waiting
      to go through Lithuanian customs, and finally we were allowed through
      to Polish customs, where we had to go through a search of the car and
      the standard 'where are you going, what do you have' questions. We
      got our passports stamped, and I discovered that mine was stamped on
      the wrong page, upside down, and mostly illegible. Polish. But I
      was in the country, so no matter. We were finally on the open road,
      about five hours from Warsaw. The drive was rather uneventful, the
      usual chat, but it was dark so there wasn't mch to look at. I
      couldn't charge my camera batteries either because his lighter plug
      was broken. Weak. Somewhere along the way he stopped for directions
      at a gas station and bought us each a liter of buttermilk. Yum.
      Kinda. Better than nothing. We made our way to within 90 km of
      Warsaw, and it was here that our paths would split. Me to the south,
      he to the west. We had developed a pretty good friendship over the
      course of the drive, and he asked if I was sure I didn't want to go
      all the way to Koln with him. Nope, sorry. =) So that was it. He
      got my bag out of the back seat and I grabbed my food bag and
      backpack, we shook hands, and he was off. I had to get rid of all
      that buttermilk I drank, and found a tree to mark. It was then that I
      realized that something was missing, something usually in my money
      belt. MY PASSPORT!!! I panicked a little bit, searched aroung the
      gas station that he left me at, searched my food bag, backpack, but I
      knew where it was. On the floor of the car. I probably dropped it
      white drinking my buttermilk, because I remember looking at it while
      we were stopped and thinking I should put it away, when the guy
      handed me the carton. WHAT AN IDIOT!! And so you see why I am my own
      worst enemy. I have know for quite some time that I lack common
      sense, but I have been improving, or so I thought. First my
      flashlight in California. Then my bags in Paris. And my wallet and
      phone in Stockholm. Then my scarf and then gloves in Goteborg. My
      towel in Estonia. A glove in Lithuania. If I am learning from my
      mistakes, it's certainly a slow process. Back to the journey-
      I waited for about ten minutes, and then figured that if he was
      coming back with the passport, he would have come. So the best plan
      was to get to Warsaw as soon as possible and go to the embassy. I
      flagged down a truck, an although the driver didn't speak English, he
      took me about 40 km and did his best, albeit in vain, to radio
      another truck to get me to Warsaw. He left me in a small town, which
      I walked to the outskirts of, and flagged down another truck. This
      time there were two in the cab, neither the driver spoke a lttle
      english, the other none. But they took me right to the center of
      Warsaw and showed me the bus station. I walked to the bus station,
      found security, and told them I lost my passport and needed to get to
      the embassy. Only one of them spoke English, very little, but he
      knew where the embassy was. He drew a map for me and told me what
      bus to take, and even took me to the bus stop. That bus was no
      longer running, though, so we changed plan and he took me to another
      bus and redrew the map and told the driver to make sure I got off at
      the right place. So I went, and found my way to the embassy. it was
      closed, of course, but there was security police in front. I told
      them what happened and they buzzed me to the security inside, who in
      turn let me into the embassy. There was nothing they could do until
      the morning, so the guard did his best to find me a cheap hotel,
      calling about 20 places in the process. It wasa bit amusing,
      actually. I had gotten over the fact that my most important piece if
      identification was gone, and was rather enjouying myself. The guard
      assured me that it wouldn't be a problem, and in the morning the
      embassy would able to get me a new passport in a matter of hours.
      But I needed a place to stay. I was willing to stay on the street or
      anything to save money, but the guy convinced me that a good night's
      sleep would be good so that I could deal with the report in the
      morning. While he was calling places, I went back out and talked to
      the guards, hoping maybe I could crash with them when they went
      home. No dice, as they were on duty until 7 am. Oh well. So off to
      a hotel for $30. Worse things have happend, I guess.
      In the morning, there was a crazy line front the embassy, but I
      noticed other people gong in and out of another door. I went to tht
      door and said I lost my passport, and they let me right in. Sweet.
      I then talked with a consulate, and she gave me papers to fill out
      and suggested I get an emergency passport, if i needed to leave
      Poland, and get a new passport, which would take two weeks and cost
      $85. Hah! I don't think so. I said I'd wait and see if the guy
      might find the passport andf turn it into the embassy in Germany.
      She thought I was nuts, but it was my choice. So I crossed my
      fingers and said I'd check in a few days. Skip ahead a few days...I
      meet the same guard in front of the embassy, chat fgor a while, he
      invites me to kick it with him in Gdansk, his hometown. I accept but
      don't set a date. I don't go into the embassy yet. Next day, I go
      to the embassy again, this time I go in and check on the passport.
      The same lady sees me, checks my ID, and says she got an email from
      Germany saying that someone has my passport there, and will send it
      to the embassy in Berlin. Boo-Ya! Talk about lucking out! damn. A
      few days later I get a call saying the passport is in Berlin and I
      need to call there and arrange delivery to Poland. I decided not to
      call but go to the embassy in Warsaw to get the email address (phone
      calls are too expensive) Instead of the email address, I convince
      the lady to have the passport sent regular mail to the Warsaw
      embassy, where I can pick it up in a week or so. Sweet. Talk about
      relief!
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