It is time for another of our Roadtrips (with a capital R). As I only managed to get a week of leave from work this close to Christmas, we had to plan carefully and decide which would be the furthest where we could comfortably drive to. As Berlin, in Germany, would have been pushing it a bit, we decided on Poland. Getting there would allow us to see Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on the way.
We have been planning to travel to Poland for some time now, even though it is a
country about which I have had mixed feelings about for the longest time. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I come from a generation that has seen the Iron Curtain in place across Europe, and been taught the stark difference between the “poor” east Europe and “rich” west Europe. Lately we have had read from the news that there seems to be a strong opposition growing in Poland against the EU, and other things, but as it is often with the best of adventures, one needs to step out from their comfort zone to experience new things! Politics aside, the best way to experience a country is not to read the newspapers, but to actually head there yourself and see what the place has to offer.
As mentioned before, I managed to get only a a week off from work, which sets the time frame we have for us. First we toyed with the idea of driving all the way to Berlin as we wanted to visit all the fabulous Christmas Markets there, but when we opened up the Google Maps and counted the distances and were a tad more realistic than we usually would be, we had to ditch that plan; driving to Berlin would have meant that we arrive there in the morning and would start back the same day. Not worth it.
So, it was back to the drawing board again, and opening up the Google Maps again, we devised a plan; getting a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia first thing in the morning. Stocking up in Tallinn with fuel and other necessary things, and then following the Via Baltica route to Gdansk before heading back via Warsaw.
Via Baltica, or the E67 runs from (Helsinki to) Tallinn to Warsaw in Poland, even though the E67 continues all the way to Prague in the Czech Republic. When I was much younger, my parents thought of driving the whole route, but at that time the Via Baltica was in a bad condition, so the plan never materialised. And also, crossing countries at that time would have required much more time as at that time, back in the late 1980’s, there wasn’t EU and the Schengen agreement. Today, crossing from one Schengen country to another is easy and straightforward. Usually the only hassle is to manage to snap a clear photo of the border crossing sign.
Travelling on the Via Baltica nowadays is quite easy task. The roads are mostly in good condition, but one thing that any driver should remember is that there will always be road works, small or big ones, and at the moment Poland is making the E67 a motorway, an upgrade that is planned to last until 2019.
Before embarking on any journey, especially roadtrips, it is very important to pay attention to the rules and regulations of all the countries that you plan to drive in. For instance, in Finland it is necessary to have the Warning Triangle in your vehicle at all times (and if you are towing a haul carriage behind your car, you need an extra warning triangle for that as well), and having a First Aid kit is recommended. But immediately you drive to Estonia, for instance, you need to have a fire extinguisher and a Hi-Viz vest in your car. We decided to pack the First Aid kit, a fire extinguisher, and two Hi-Viz vests just to be on the safe side of things for the journey.
What you should do, is to check out this list (based on UK requirements for driving in the mainland Europe), and/or your local driver association.
Regardless of the country you live in, you should always have in your car the following items:
- a proper First Aid kit,
- minimum two Hi-Visibility vests,
- a small, approved, Fire Extinguisher, and
- a Warning Triangle
The Drive Plan (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2017
As you can see from the above maps, we decided to do the drive in six parts, which would give us a bit of time at each of our stops and a bit of extra time in Gdansk, which was our main location.
Of course, we were on a pretty tight schedule with this drive, but when we plan the roadtrips, we always try to allocate time to stop in different locations along the way, as there are places and sights that should be enjoyed as well as the drive itself.
We do hope that you enjoy our journeys and are inspired by them. If you like them, or know someone who would enjoy these posts, please share the posts and spread the joy of travelling to your friends.