I was sitting in the passenger seat fiddling with the GPS, nestling all my road trip necessities (lonely planet, lucas paw paw ointment, cameras, haribo snacks) into their daily positions, when I turned my head to see what Joe was faffing over, and there he was being interviewed by a reporter and a camera crew.

As it happened, Wojtec, the national news weatherman was running a story about a competition to crown the 8th wonder of the world and we happened to be parked in the heartland of Poland’s only entry; The Great Masurian Lakes.

Whilst I laughed to myself in the front seat, the reporter asked Joe, as a foreigner, what he’d loved about visiting the area. With honest diplomacy, Joe answered ‘Er, well we only got here yesterday, and er, there was pretty heavy cloud, I mean like, only 2 metres visibility. And it went dark at half past 3, so er, to be honest mate, we haven’t really seen anything yet…’

Not wanting to let a chance for polish fame slip away, he casually rolled into the conversation our little drive from Australia AND managed to tell the shark story too – and low and behold, we had earned ourselves a spot on Polish National News.

Ofcourse, we wanted to avoid the houding paparazzi for the rest of our tour of Poland, so we headed away from the big cities and on a shorter route via the Baltic coast to Berlin.

 

The Great Masurian Lakes were stunning – the narrow roads around literally hundreds of small (and some not so small) lakes were lined evenly with autumnal trees in flashy yellow and copper colours. In the summer you can spend ten days navigating through the canals between the lakes for over a hundred kilometres by kayak. Instead, we chose a small history lesson in the form of visiting Hitler’s old bunker named ‘The Wolf’s Lair’ where he spent a large proportion of WW2 in hiding, planning and issuing his wrath on Europe. This was the place where the plot from the film Valkyrie took place – where Hitler should have been executed had things have gone right. It was silent and chilling exploring the blown up ruins of bunkers set amongst the damp and beautiful forest, thinking of all the un-human orders that would have been issued cowardly from this place of hiding. I could imagine the scene – so detached from the horrors – Hitler casually taking his alsation ‘Blondie’ for her morning stroll in the woods and mulling over his own evil genius. It gave me the heebees, and I was glad that we’d decided not to visit any of the sights of concentration camps – I don’t think I could bear the sadness of it all.

I left The Wolf’s Lair feeling as though I didn’t want to see anymore – there’s a whole itinerary of Poland dedicated to war, but there are much more beautiful things to see beyond the stuff that haunts you.

We drove towards the coast again (having skirted around Kaliningrad now) and past G’Dansk to the holiday destination of Sopot. As it happened, the next day was a ‘Polish Independence Day’ and G’Dansk was the home of Polish solidarity so festivities were rife, hotels were expensive and we challenged ourselves to eat as much polish stodge in one sitting to celebrate. Ouch. I think it was here that we discovered a soup called Zurek – a sour creamy soup with potatoes, sausages and a boiled egg (sounds a little bit like the McDonald’s breakfast menu but I can assure you it was delicious).

We spent about four days on the coast in a little town called Leba, where the winter population is 4,000 and the summer population is 60,000. After a daily traditional polish breakfast of heart attack on toast, we took the hotel lady and her husband’s bikes 18km through the forest reserve to the sand dunes and climbed over them to the most spotless beach I’ve ever seen. And finally we drove through more and more quaint villages and tree lined roads from Eastern Europe to Berlin.