2012 Photogallery Poland, Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia
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Poland, Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia Trip Journal from August 17 to 26, 2012

To return to the Poland Pictures or Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia Pictures.

Country: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia
Duration: August 17 to 26, 2012
Total Distance Traveled in these Countries: ~4059km
Memorable Impressions of the Countries:
Poland was the highlight. With no shortage of historical sites to visit, Poland kept us hopping non-stop. The country has westernized after the fall of the iron curtain in record time, carbon copying Germany, without the bureaucracy. People appear more laid back and the countryside still has a rural feel to it. Both the salt mine at Wieliczka and the Concentration Camp at Oświęcim are a must see. At the outset of the journey we planned to trace Ruby’s ancestors located in former Damsdorf (Niezabyszewo), which we were able to accomplish adding another dimension to the trip. The Baltic Countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, are small and compact, and therefore give the impression of the forgotten ones. Each country has its own distinguished features. The small capital cities are easy to explore and retain most of their former charm and historical buildings. Estonia by far was the most western, mostly due to its close proximity to the Scandinavian countries; whereas Lithuania, seemed to be an extension of Poland.
Fuel Cost:
Poland: approx. $1.75CDN (5.83Zl)/litre for Diesel.
Lithuania: approx $1.70CDN(4.84Li)/litre for Diesel
Latvia: approx. $1.71CDN (0.979La)/litre for Diesel
Estonia: approx. $1.79CDN (1.395 Euro)/litre for Diesel
Accommodations Cost: Campsites between $10.00 to $25.00CDN/night
Food & Drink Cost: Cooked our own meals.
Exchange Rate:
1.00 Polish Zloty (Zl) = $0.30CDN
1.00 Lithuanian Lita (Li) =$0.35CDN
1.00 Latvian Lat (La) = $1.75CDN
1.00 Euro (Estonia) = $1.28CDN
Border Formality Costs:
None. Poland, Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia are part of the European Union.  Green Card Insurance required.


August 17, 2012.  Getting our gear together, we head to the small farm outside of Leipzig to pull out the Toyota Landcruiser from the barn.  We are off on a ten (10) day trip exploring Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.  This is our last trip of the year as we yet again decided to relocate from Germany to Turkey the following month.  By the time we hit the road it is late morning and we take the back roads and join up with the Autobahn East of Berlin.  The border crossing is just a sign to welcome us to Poland.  No immigration or vehicle inspection required as Poland is a member of the EU.  Our valid Green Card Insurance is all we require.  As the sun sets we turn down a small dirt track going into the bushes south of Toruń and set up camp for the night.  Mike fries up some Schnitzel which we enjoy with some potato salad and beer.

August 18, 2012.  With only ten (10) days, we had to determine exactly what the must see sites would be and cram as many as possible into the short time scale.  Most of the sites are located at the center of a city; therefore Mike took the up-front initiative prior to us leaving to find the GPS coordinates for a suitable parking spot to park our, rather large for European standards, vehicle as close as possible to the action.  We arrive in Toruń by 9am and are able to park within a few steps of the Klasztorna Gate and massive city walls.  Toruń city center hugs the River Vistula and is most famous for the birthplace of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.  We of course could also not resist having some of Toruń’s ginger cake, but beware it is rock hard, however it makes for a nice souvenir.  We enter the city walls through the Holy Spirit Gate and check out the Crooked Tower, Copernicus House, Holy Spirit Church, Town Hall, Wilam Horzyca Theatre and scroll around the old and new market square.  The old market square has some beautiful restored Baroque façade houses.  Purchasing some fresh breakfast from the Bakery we decide to enjoy it outside the city walls overlooking the River Vistula.   Interesting enough, dozens of very well restored old Polish minis come driving by, honking and parading their vehicles.  Poland has always been of special interest to Ruby as her mother’s father was born in the province of Pomerania.  Pomerania used to be part of Germany (on and off) until after WWII.  Ruby’s grandfather, his mother and siblings left their hometown of Damsdorf (called now Niezabyszewo) after WWI to move to Frankfurt am Main due to the death of his father.  Neither he, or any of his off-springs ever returned.  His name was Max Parzatka von Lipinski.  Ruby’s uncle was able to provide the village name Damsdorf and todays corresponding polish name Niezabyszewo.  Through further research on the internet we were able to determine the origin of the name Lipinski, which is the habitational name for someone from Lipnica or Lipienice.  After our visit of Toruń we make our way inland toward Niezabyszewo (Damsdorf), passing through the village of Lipience first and then Lipnica.  To determine if we are on the right track we searched out the cemetery and wandered among the tombstones, excitingly finding many headstones in the same names as Parzotka Lipinski.  We approach Niezabyszewo (Damsdorf) through a thick forest and suddenly there it is the sign.  Niezabyszewo (Damsdorf), a small village, consisting only of a stone church at the center and numerous farm buildings lining the main street.  Wow, this was it.  It made sense now to Ruby why her grandfather had made his new home in Bremthal, Germany.  The landscape was a carbon copy.  Niezabyszewo’s (Damsdorf) cemetery is located on the outskirts of the village.  We take our time combing through the rows of tombstones.   It was amazing, so many with the name of Parzotka, Lipinski or similar namesakes.  Numerous had died only in the last 10 years, similar in age of my grandfather, probably cousins.  Ruby was wondering if her grandfather’s father’s tomb was one of them, but without his name we were unable to figure it out.  We were happy to be able to explore this part of Ruby’s past.  There was still some daylight hours left and we continued onwards to Malbork.  Malbork is probably one of the best preserved Teutonic Knights Castles in Europe. Entrance is 39.50Zl/person ($12.00CDN/person).  Not sure why, but castles are always neat to explore.  It brings back childhood memories.  Maybe only childhood memories for Ruby growing up in Germany.  Our campsite for the night is located directly opposite the castle beside a pond.  We look back on the day over a bottle of Bordeaux wine, barbequed sausage and potato salad.

August 19, 2012. From Malbork we take the scenic country back roads, past Elblag and the great Mazurian Lakes, through little villages to Augustόw and entered Lithuania on a minor road close to Kaunas.


Immigration and customs does not apply as Lithuania is part of the EU.  We wind our way to Trakai and its impressive Island Castle.  Built by Vytautas the Great the Castle is located on an Island in lake Galvé.  The lake serves as a natural moat around the castle.  We are able to access the island over a wooden footbridge from the mainland.  Inside the Castle walls locals are traditionally dressed and showcase how life would have been a few hundred years ago in its heyday.  After a pleasant visit we set up camp on the northern shores of the lake at Kempingas Slenyje for 54.00LTL/night ($16.00CDNnight).  A nice treed site on the lake shore, perfect for a nice meal of fresh Tortellini and a bottle of Bordeaux wine.

August 20, 2012.  In the morning we visit the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius.  The old historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We find a parking spot close to the Applied Arts Museum and wander straight up to the upper Castle for a 360 Degree view over Vilnius.  The old town is very compact and it is easy to explore the small cobble stone streets that meander from the Cathedral Square.  It is still early and we find ourselves almost alone gazing up at the Vilnius Cathedral.  Its interior and exterior design is based on a Greek Temple.  We walk up to the Gates of Dawn, popping our heads into every church along the way.  The style of churches range from the Russian Orthodox Holy Mother of God, to the Gothic Church of St. Anne, to the Greek Temple of Vilnius Cathedral, to Baroque Churches of St. John’s Church, Church of St. Theresa and Church of St. Catherine.  After all those churches we are churched out.  A scenery and subject change is due.  Our next stop is Kernavė, an archaeological site dating back to 9000BC with findings of an ancient civilization.  From the top viewing point we can make out several grass covered mounts with wooden steps leading the way.  The mounts are supposed to contain medieval ramparts and fortification.  It is a peaceful spot to explore and overlook the Neris Valley.  We continue north to the Hill of Crosses at Siauliai.  Thousands and thousands of crosses, crucifixes and rosaries cover a small hill, making for great picture opportunities.


With lots of daylight left we enter Latvia.  Driving along some deserted back country road we come upon Mežotne Palace.  Too late for the inside tour of the palace, we still enjoy a wonder through the massive Palace garden.  38km from Riga we find this great little campsite (14 La/night - $25.00CDN/night) with a home-made sport activity playground, which was even fun for us adults and took out any energy we had left in the day.  Dinner was a relaxing event of getting out the BBQ to grill up some German Sausage and eat store bought potato salad.

August 21, 2012.  On the quest to explore yet another UNESCCO World Heritage Site we enter Riga, the capital of Latvia.  The historic city center is located on the Daugava River behind still existing city walls.  Early morning seems to be the best time to explore cities.  Tourists are not yet mobile and the locals are busy getting to work.  The Town Hall Square with the statue of Roland at its center is surrounded by some beautifully restored historic buildings.  One to note is the House of Blackheads and adjoining Schwab House with its unique architecture.  The St. Peters Church Tower impressively overlooks the square.  Just around the corner is the Dome Cathedral with its cross-vaulted gallery of the Dome.  The German influence are depicted everywhere from the German-built organs in 1884 to small German engravings showing the date and water levels inside the church when the Daugava River spilled over its banks.  At last, we poke our head into Riga Castle.  Leaving the big city behind we turn to the quieter countryside and the Gauja National Park.  We are particularly interested in the historic town of Cẽsis and its Castle.  Cẽsis used to be one of the seats of the German Crusaders.  The historic town itself has beautiful restored wooden and stone houses and some not restored buildings which make for an even better picture opportunity.  The Castle was built by the Brotherhood of Swords.  We scope out every building, but the most unique feature was when we were given oil lantern to enter and climb the dark tower, it is fun to be a kid again.


Taking the coastal road #4 north we get glimpse of the Baltic Sea.  We cross the border into Estonia, another EU member, at Ikla.  Passing Pärnu we continue onwards to Tallinn.  Just before Tallinn we detour to Keila and the northern coast of Estonia in search for a campsite.  An official campsite, we were not able to find, but a small forestry road takes us into the tree covered area, away from any civilization.  It starts to rain as we pop up the roof tent of the Toyota.  Dinner inside was a better choice as the mosquitos and the rain took over outside.  Mike cooks up some noodles with sauce and we enjoy a bottle of Cesu Beer (Latvian Beer).  During the night the temperatures droped significantly and we get the heater going for the first time on this trip.

August 22, 2012. Tallinn definitely has the prettiest historic center of the three (3) Baltic capitals.  Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the compact historic center has it all.  We start at the Town Hall Square and the Town Hall with its 115 step octagonal tower.  Inside we see the Citizen’s Hall and Council Hall.  Tiny cobbled stone alleyways lead of into different directions, begging us to explore the medieval town.  With the DK Guidebook and its Street-by-Street recommended walking tour it is easy to find all the key attractions, like the Holy Spirit Church, Niguliste Church and Dominican Monastery which was closed when we visited.  Nevertheless we had fun walking through the medieval passageway getting to the monastery.  Another picturesque spot is the St. Catherine Passageway.  From the Viru Gate we head to Toompea Hill.  There is just so much to see.  We enter the Toompea area through the Pikk Jalg Gate Tower, get to walk along the medieval towers and the Kiek-in-de-Kök cannon tower.  The name Kiek-in-de-Kök…who came up with that. Wandering along Lossi Plats we check out the Pikk Hermann Tower, which is part of the Toompea Castle and the adjacent Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.  Further on is the Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin and a couple of great panoramic viewing platforms, the Pakuli and Kohtuotsa.  Saying good-bye to Tallinn, we drive all the way from Tallinn at the northern point of Estonia back through Latvia, Lithuania to Poland.  The 650km journey would have been pretty uneventful, if it wasn’t for the massive Thunderstorm we hit in Lithuania.  We are used to passing Thunderstorms, but this one seemed to follow us for a couple of hours.  The road conditions were traitorous, the windshield wipers could not keep up to the massive amount of rain and our tires seemed to hydroplane.  We were continuously pulled into the deep water filled ruts of the road.  Numerous times when visibility was reduced to zero we would pull over.  Along the way we checked out the Hesburger, a Baltic Hamburger fast food chain, a couple times to satisfy our hunger.


60km south of the Lithuania / Poland border we find a campsite.  Not the best location being right beside the road.

August 23, 2012.  Back in Poland we are on a mission of hitting all the historic places, starting with Warsaw, the capital of Poland.  The old part of town lies on the west side of the River Vistula.  As always the old town square (Rynek Starego Miasta) is the focal point.  Restored immaculately after the destruction of WWII, it is the heart of Warsaw.  Most of the area is off-limits for vehicles, or there are huge sidewalks in place for strolling along while gazing up at beautiful architecture.  From the old town square we head past the Cathedral of St. John, the Royal Castle (Zamek Królewski) and the Zygmunt’s Column in the center of Plac Zamkowy.  From here we follow the Krakowskie Przedmieście.  First we come upon the impressive Neo-Classical Façade of the Church of St. Anne, followed by the Statue of Adam Mickiewicz, Carmelite Church, the Namiestnikowski Palace, Church of the Visitation, University of Warsaw, the Church of the Holy Cross and at last we turn around at the Staszic Palace.  En-route to Krakow we detour to the small village of Zalipie.  Being in the country side, there is no clear direction to Zalipie, therefore it takes us a good hour driving in circles until we finally come upon the place.  We stop at the museum were a couple of local women are painting flower motives on wooden boxes, wooden spoons etc.  It definitely felt back country.  Anything made out of wood is decorated with colorful floral, animal, geometric and other motifs.  That includes the outside and inside of houses and even fences.  It is a pretty and cheerful village.  We end up getting a painted wooden box as a souvenir.  90km from Krakow in Tarnów we set up camp at Camping 202 for 52.00Zl/night ($15.00CDN/night).  At the campsite local restaurant we enjoy Borscht, Perogi and Polish beer.

August 24, 2012.  We get to Wieliczka early morning and take the 8:30am 2-hour tour of the famous and very unique salt mine.  This 700year old mine has a great history and it is for that reason inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.  Again one of those extraordinary places on earth.  Besides being able to walk through a network of underground chambers and seeing wooden mining machines, the underground Chapel of St. Kinga is awe inspiring.  The altar, chandeliers and sculptures are all made out of salt, carved by local miners.  By noon we are in the heart of the old historic center of Cracow, the main market square (Rynek Glowny), gazing up at the Church of St. Mary and the Renaissance building of the Cloth Hall.  Taking the long way through the backstreets to the Wawel, we see many more historic buildings.  On the Wawel, behind still induct fortified walls stands the Wawel Royal Castle (Zamek Królewski) and Cathedral.  In midst is the lost Wawel Exhibition, which houses archaeological finds and the reconstructed chapel of the blessed Virgin discovered in 1917.  Southwest of the Cracow lies the oldest Calvary in Poland called the Kalwaria Zebrzydowska.  The Calvary consists of 40 chapels, with the Bernardine Church at its center.  Besides being protected by UNESCO it is a major place of pilgrimage.  Not far away lies Oświęcim (Auschwitz), which we had visited in 2010 on our way through from Russia to Germany.  As we pass through, silence falls over us, as we remember visiting this horrific site, detailed in the 2010 Picture posting on our website.  We make it to about 230km from Chorzow and set up camp at the 101 Campsite beside a major highway overpass.

August 25, 2012.  We are on the shortest route back to Germany and try to pick up a couple more UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the way.  The former Century Hall designed by Max Berg in 1911 to 1913 in Wroclaw is our first stop.  It was intended to be the centerpiece of an exhibition commemorating the centenary of the coalition’s victory over Napoleon at Lipsk (Leipzig).  The highlight of the day is our visit to the Churches of Peace in Świdnica and Jawor.  Both Protestant churches are some of the largest wooden timber framed churches still surviving in the world.  They were built marking the Peace of Westfalia (the end of Thirty Years’ War 1618-1648).  The interior are two tiered gallery with paintings and decorated furnishings.  We reentered Germany at Görlitz and stay 20km north at Feriendorf Finnhütte on Quitzdorfer See for 12 Euro/night ($15.00CDN/night).  With no one around we set up camp directly on the lakeshore.  Our last night of a perfect trip we celebrate over a bottle of Bordeaux and German sausage on the BBQ.  It seems all we were doing on this trip was eating sausage and drinking Bordeaux.

August 26, 2012.  Returning home the last 200km to Leipzig and cleaned out the vehicle for storage.



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