Poland - Kindness and Krupnik
It is often said that what makes fantastic journeys are the people you meet and not the places you visit -we have already met some truly wonderful people during our trip so far and our first night in Poland was not going to be the exception.
Deciding to ride through Lithuania without stopping (next time we promise we will!) we had crossed the borders without any problems, just the usual queues. We were heading in the general direction of Warsaw but lulled by the past few days’ relaxation we had set off without any real plan or idea, or for that matter even currency!
The night was drawing in and 600km had just clicked up on the trip meter. We’d had a good days riding but were now tired and needed to stop. Unbeknownst to us we were in an area known as Masuria, the Polish lake district.
Riding along through the tree-lined road we glimpsed tents. Great- a campsite! However, there were no signs anywhere for it and no obvious campsite entry. The only sign we could see was 'sanatorium'. Now a sanatorium in the UK used to refer to a medical facility which is specially run for patients who are suffering from long-term illnesses. In years gone by these facilities were mainly associated with people who were suffering from tuberculosis. So, just imagine our surprise to see this sign but to also see tents erected and a holiday-like feel to the place. I think the easiest way to describe it is rather like our Butlins holiday park in the UK, but with much less commercialism.
After being waved in we pulled into the site and after hauling ourselves off the bikes were enthusiastically welcomed by Monica and Vycheck (the site manager and his girlfriend who was there on holiday).
It was late by the time we’d pitched the tent, which had been a slow affair due to all the children that gathered around, excited by the bikes and bemused by the two funny-looking riders who by this time were also looking the worse for wear. Monica appeared some time later and in polite but perfect English asked “We are having some food, we would like to invite you to dinner”. 20 mins later, with introductions sorted we were sat round a table at the entrance to the site eating BBQ’d food, fresh salad and sipping on cold beer laughing and joking like old friends.
It wasn’t long before Vodka was mentioned, “have you tried Polish vodka?” asked Vycheck – of course I hadn’t but knew I was going to. Lisa had and then mentioned her love of Krupnik, a Polish honey-based vodka that she had been unable to buy in Europe for the past 12 years. They were surprised that Lisa knew of this and with that Monica was up and away in a flash bringing back to the table a bottle of the very same! Needless to say a fantastic and memorable evening was had which ended up including two bottles of vodka, half a bottle of locally brewed ‘something’ which was incredibly strong and an entire bottle of Krupnik.
Yet again we’d both been floored and delighted in the spontaneous and genuine hospitality we’d been shown by relative strangers, however, our experience was proving a well-known expression true – ‘there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet’: