On the road again........
18 October 2018
Dinner was in another of the vaulted cellar restaurants we are getting used to on this trip. Potato dumplings were the local specialty, named for their shape as Zeppelins. We tried some, quite pleasant but slightly gooey. Long walk back up to the hotel. Great view over the city at night.
A slower start than usual to the day, but we had to pack up and vacate the room by 9.30, putting our luggage in the hotel store again, and heading by trolleybus to the KGB museum. I was not looking forward to this, and in fact I had no idea how horrific the history of the building would be. A museum guide took over from Vassily and showed us the cells in the basement, and explained what happened to the prisoners there. Members of ethnic groups, Jews, Roma people, political dissidents, whether it was the Russians or the Nazis who were in occupation of the country at the time, this was where they were imprisoned, interrogated, tortured, and either sent to forced labour camps or sentenced to death and shot dead immediately in the killing room in the basement. It was stark. We came back out into the street and the sunshine uncomfortable in the awareness of the horrors human beings can perpetrate on each other. The political dissidents only wanted independence for Lithuania.
We made our own way back to the hotel by catching a trolleybus. Vassily told us it cost one Euro, to be given to the driver, then you validate the ticket. We were jammed together at the front, against the glass partition behind which the driver sat. At first we couldn't work out how to give her the money. Then I spotted a small metal cradle, popped a coin into it and pushed it through the partition. Despite the fact that she was driving along crowded streets the driver took the money and put a ticket in the cradle, and pushed it back to me. Amazing!
We loaded up with food for lunch as the journey to Warsaw would take eight hours with only two brief five-minute stops on the way.
For me the journey went reasonably quickly, as I decided to watch the movies available on the screen in front of me. So I watched Kingsman: the Secret Service, Star Trek:Into Darkness, Mission Impossible 4, and Eye in the Sky. It's a long time since I watched four feature films on the trot, if indeed I ever have, but it ate up the time beautifully. The landscape we went through was again monotonously flat. The bus took a route which crossed the border into Poland between the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, and Belorus. A Polish Border official came aboard the bus and looked at our passports, then we were on our way again. We watched a reddish sun set on the flat horizon (a novelty for those of us from hilly countries), then darkness followed, as we struggled with our watches to set them back an hour. We have been two hours ahead of the UK for the rest of the journey, now we are only one hour ahead.
Unkinking our bodies after the long haul, we collected our big bags from the boot of the bus and Vassily divided us up into teams of four for the taxi transfer to our hotel. The bus trip into Warsaw had taken us past huge and palatial buildings, loads of Greek columns, and one very Russian-looking building right in the centre.
Our hotel was quite a drive from the centre, but we checked in very quickly and found our room both spacious and comfortable. We went down to the bar for a relaxing beer or two, and had some fun conversations with our fellow tourists. We will lose Vassily tomorrow as he heads off home to St Petersburg, but he has done a fantastic job making our journey seamless, pleasurable, and well informed. We will miss him.
Tomorrow the orientation walk round town, then who knows?