The border crossing to the Czech Republic was friendly and efficient at 10am on a sunny Sunday morning.
We carried out the necessary paperwork and vehicle checks in German, mindful once again of the legacy of the all-year round community of ‘wanderlust’ travellers which cause the service industries to assume every non-native is Germanic.
With a shiny new vignette displayed on Bertha’s windscreen, we now had license to travel for 10 days across the Czech Republic’s small motorway network.
Immediately through the border post, the glistening new tarmac underlined our entry into the well-heeled neighbour of Poland, and the shining white road markings led us west. Until 500 yards later. With the border post in sight of the rear view mirror, the road was closed and we were unceremoniously dumped onto a diversionary route.
Entering a new country is always an anxious moment as the only thing on your mind is the condition of the roads. The Czech Republic roads proved to be very well maintained tarmac, despite high and low altitudes and inevitable weather damage. Similarly to Poland, there’s a strict regime of speed control actively enforced by cameras and police.
The diversionary route, although once out of town essentially a country lane, was wide enough to accommodate speeding freight in both directions. Unlike Poland, the roads were not seen as open advertising space. The experience of driving was far more akin to home where the signage was only of highway rules and direction.
We hadn’t realised how accustomed we’d become to seeing large billboard advertising every 10 yards or so of various furniture, clothing and electrical goods outlets. We speculated on the fee that Polish farmers were, presumably, paid for inconvenient but highly visible hoardings placed in their roadside fields.
A small goat in a paddock had even sported a sponsored dust jacket. In Poland, it sometimes felt that everything was subject to sale. It was a lesson in the thrust of our own highly consumerist culture, emulated by westward-looking Poles.
We dropped steeply down a narrow road out of the dark of a forest and toward the glistening waters of Rozkoš Lake, our home for the next two days to get on top of some washing and to plan a new route south.
On its grassy shores we found hordes of Czech and Polish families camped out next to their cars, day trippers as it turned out. We found shade beneath two large oak tress and made ourselves comfortable!
At dusk we walked along a wooden gangway across the lake and were spooked by the jumping’s of strange and ominously large black shapes in the thick stagnant water.
Hot sunshine the next day meant time to wash and dry clothes and remark on the emptiness of the park now that it was a working weekday. A few recognisable faces turned up for an hour at lunchtime, presumably for a break from the office, shop or factory where they worked, but otherwise it was quiet.
In the early evening, volubly high spirits led us to a local fisherman’s hut- turned-bar where the walls were lined with photographs of dolphin-sized carp caught in the lake. The mystery of the gliding and underwater shapes was resolved. We enjoyed a peaceful night.