Thursday, May 8, 2014

Life on the Eastern Border

Life on the eastern border is about local living; its all about 'place' where people know each other because they come from there, they are local. I have been nearly the entire stretch from the upper corner of Poland near the Russian border all the way down to the most southern point bordering with the Ukraine; and all on bicycle. Some people were amazed to see let alone talk to an American woman on a bike interested in their life on the eastern border.
I was even in the Ukraine on bike and crossed the border from Poland into the Ukraine by bicycle. The border guards said it was a first. I will tell the longer version of that story, experience in the Ukraine another day. For now, the tales come from biking along the eastern Polish border. I had a great hot shower in the Suwalki train station... yes, you can (don't know if you still can) back in 2000 have a shower on the train station, a hot hot shower with super pressure. I danced around in there like it was a western hoedown. It was the best shower of my life; after all, it was a long train up to that Russian/Lithuanian borderland riding in the car with the bikes, hard seats and no place to wash up. Once, my shower refreshed me, I was able to get on my bike and start riding. I have already told you about some of the stories that ensued from there on like Paradise in Punsk and the Doctor's Mother. This area of northern Poland reminds me of northern Sweden or Minnesota. There are clean cold lakes everywhere, sandy trails through conifer forests and blueberries to pick. What sticks out in my mind the most is the Czarna Hancza River, cold and clear. I could swim with my eyes open under the water and drink it up at the same time. I stayed in once so long that I did not realize I was getting hypothermia. Sounds extreme doesn't it. For those who cannot take the cold water, I recommend taking in the sauna - a small cabin sits by the river that you can rent for a few hours. The owner comes by and lights up the stove which gets as hot as 110 degrees. You sit until you can't stand to swelter anymore and then make a mad dash down the dock and jump into the cold deep Czarna Hancza.
You can meet nice people that way too, some come from all over Europe. Afterwards, its time for a bonfire, beer and plate of trout with a side of pirogi.

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