• Day1054

    Osobowice, River Odra, near Wrocław

    May 16, 2019 in Poland ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Tonight's overnight spot is on a narrow spur of land in the wide River Odra. Our side of the spur overlooks a calm backwater while the other side is fenced off for use as a military facility. Trees lead down the bank to the waterside where a handful of fishers sit patiently watching their floats.

    We were able to make decent progress eastwards today thanks to the good quality motorway. The last time we visited Poland there was a huge operation taking place to create roads such as these, which saw us driving on temporary, packed gravel routes that severely tested the old van's suspension.

    We'd waited until after crossing the border to fill Martha's tank with diesel as it was significantly cheaper here than in Germany. We chose a convenient motorway fuel station and Will's maths was put to good use when we saw the prices were displayed as złoty per cubic decimetre! It worked out at just less than £1.06 per litre. We also found that van service points are advertised on rest area signs as 'WC Bus'. We pulled in beside a familiar Euro Relais installation, attached our hose to the tap and inserted one of the tokens we had left over from our time in France. The machine swallowed the token and gave not a drop of water. Will enquired (in English) at the nearby shop but the staff weren't able to help. Ever hopeful, he went on to investigate a lever pump tap beside the picnic area and voila, several watering cans later our tank was once again full of fresh drinking water! We made a new entry in the Park4Night app to let others know and drove on.

    Exiting the motorway on the outskirts of Wrocław the road became pocked with potholes and we found ourselves driving alternately over worn cobbles and a patchwork of tarmac. Nearing the overnight spot we came to the end of the road and drove on a little further down a dirt track, parking up somewhere we thought was quiet and out of the way. Will got chatting (in German) to one of the fishers, Peter, who told him this was an area you needed a licence for. He helpfully let Will photograph the address of the fishing authority office 7km away, from where such a licence could be purchased and was good enough to advise that we moved the van back on to the road, as police could fine us where we were. It's not always clear where you can and cannot park up overnight, especially in new countries, so we were very grateful for the tip!

    Will left Vicky to rest and cycled the 7km in to Wrocław, arriving just 10 minutes too late at the fishing office! Cycling a further 1.5km he asked at a fishing shop but they didn't sell licences. Oh well, his expedition at least gave him a flavour of the area. Old, run down communist era apartment blocks were the main form of accommodation and cars were older and shabbier than you might see in neighbouring Germany. One feature he spotted was the equivalent of the 'Boris Bike' that we have in London, though here it was electric scooters for hire; pretty cool!

    Back in Osobowice he nipped into a Sam Spożywczy, the local supermarket, about the size of a UK Spar shop. Processed staples like tinned tomatoes and fresh produce like the lettuce he picked up were cheap, taxed at 8% and 5% respectively. Visiting the bakery counter to treat Vicky he bought a slice of rasberry cream cake and a large segment of chocolate tahini halva, a central and south asian treat we are familiar with from indian sweet shops, but also quite popular here in Poland. It has a crumbly, crystallized consistency and is quite dense and filling. We are used to eating small cubes of it but here a slice was cut from a large round. Being a luxury food it was taxed at 23% and as it was priced by weight, it was to the baker's advantage to cut large slices!

    As the sun set, Peter the fisher packed up his gear and knocked on the door to show Will his catch and ask how he got on at the licence office. He was very friendly and really helped us feel accepted and a little more relaxed. The countries we've spent time in of late (Denmark, The Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany) all enjoy strong economies and high standards of living. Poland less so, with people having lower incomes and lower levels of satisfaction with life than the average OECD country. Our big, white, new(ish) van and the equipment we carry (the camera, drone, canoe, tandem) tends to stand out in areas where many homes are in real need of repair. We feel uncomfortable at the contrast and sometimes a little insecure, but we want to experience all areas of the EU and have found that preconceptions hold us back. Often people in some of the poorest regions, such as southern Italy are some of the friendliest and most generous.
    Read more