The traveller’s autumn

Posted by on 07/04/2016
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Two days after autumn equinox; twelve hours between sunrise and sunset; fourteen hours of daylight, and dwindling. Temperatures around fifteen Celsius. The season has arrived with on time showers — though it’s sunny today. Location: Kostrzyn, a town on the east shore of the Oder river, border with Germany. Behind me, Gorzów Wielkopolski with its antisocial dwellers; ahead, the monotonous German perfection. But I must confess that, for the first time, what with the Lithuanian devil on wheeels and the Polish heart of darkness, I feel relieved and happy coming out of the Eastern Block into more civilized Europe.

Una de esas graciosas señales polacas

One of those funny Polish road signs

In the border, I fill up Rosaura’s tank to the last of my groszy (cents), which is the best way I’ve figured out for using all of the remaining foreign currency without undergoing new loses for exchange commissions or unussable coins: refueling does the trick. Which reminds me of a woman I met yesterday in Gorzów, a couchsurfer who set forth one of the most outlandish ideas ever: according to her, liquid fuel is used on police and military vehicles instead of the cheaper LPG (gas) because otherwise, since this one can’t easily be stolen, the corrupt policemen or military wouldn’t be able to take it for their private vehicles. Sublime. She has unmasked the biggest fallacy of police and war logistics of all times, finding out that no country in the world gas-powers their military or police transports in order to make it possible for the dishonest servicemen to steal the people’s fuel. Here you have a tough one, reader. This is where indoctrination, learnt opinions and lack of judgement take us.

For me, however, a heavier tank always means a lighter wallet, thanks to which I can easily climb on Rosaura’s seat and carry on, heading for the German land. Helmet, gloves, pedal and… let’s ride!

By the way, I’ve just realized that for the past two or three weeks I haven’t come across any other motorcycler on the road! I must be one of the very few remaining riders this side of Europe, this time of the year.

Viñedos en Alemania

Vineyards in Germany

A note for the curious reader: on the region I’m now crossing, the new season seems to be delayed compared with what I’ve left behind. I don’t think it’s just a matter of a lower latitude, but mainly because I’m travelling along the maximum gradient direction of average monthly temperatures, cutting perpendicular across the isotherms.

De Gorzów a Naumburg pasando por Herzberg

From Gorzów to Naumburg via Herzberg

No isolines, though, when it comes to Polish drivers, of which these roads are full and whom I can easily tell in the distance because of their moron-ish way of driving, overspeeding and dangerously overtaking. Then, once we get closer and I can see their plates, my guess is confirmed: more often than not, they turn out to be Polish cars.

Uno de los hoteles más sugerentes que he visto

One of the most appealing hotels I’ve gone past

Along this day’s journey, I’ve left behind a few fine-looking hotels located on nice environments, but the moment I start looking for accommodation, there is nothing. It takes me extra one hundred kilometres and two hours, checking every town and village, looking at the map, changing roads, until I find a place to stay: an ugly hotel by a busy crossroads, on the outskirts of Herzberg, a village that — on a closer look — turns out to be very pretty: small, quiet, well preserved and with a local colour. Right in the centre there is a lovely guesthouse, which unfortunately I’ve found too late.

Un romántico patio interior en Herzberg

Inner yard in Herzberg

Out of laziness, I haven’t put my tennis shoes on for my daily walk, and I’m on my boots; but methinks I’m not up to this sort of thing any more. When it comes to footwear, I resent age a lot; getting older. In the days of my youth, when I went hiking with friends, marching up and down along God forsaken hills, laden with huge rucksacks, our regular shoes were heavy military boots (accesible to every lad in my neighbourhood because of the nearby Marines headquarters). With them on, every day we hiked twenty kilometres barely noticing their weight. In those getaways of yore, the only real burden for us were the rucksacks, whereas the boots never deserved a thought weight-wise: we wore them with the sole strength of our youth. But at my fifties, after one hour walking on boots I feel them as iron-loaded gyves. It’s called autumn: not only to the Polish countryside, but also to my life has it come.

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