Szeroka droga

Farewell, Torun, my old friend; good bye to you. I carry on riding miles on Rosaura’s wheels, heading for Germany.

Llanuras polacas, campos otoñales

Polish plains, autumn fields

Today, September 21st, autumn arrives punctual with a first shower — rather a deluge, that forces me to seek shelter under a porch, in Szubin. Luckily I wasn’t in the middle of the countryside. I seize the chance for having lunch at a small pizza parlour, where for a few coins I get a huge and tasteful salad. Once the storm is over and hunger satisfied, I carry on.
Afternoon is declining when I arrive to a depressed and depressing town: Oborniki, where my mobile gadgets tell the existence of several lodgings. One hundred miles says Rosaura’s odometer, more than enough for today. I’ll stay here.

Jornada de Torun a Oborniki

From Torun to Oborniki

The first hotel I try is fully booked. The second, doesn’t exist any more. In the third — a wretched looking guesthouse by the main square — nobody answers the bell; there’s a phone number written on the door, but I’m sure they don’t speak any English here, so I pass. The next one has no free rooms, according to a notice dating perhaps one year. I’m going to have no option but keep riding…
But when I’m about to leave town, in the outskirts, I see by the road another hotel and I stop to ask. The receptionist, waitress in the annexed pizzeria, has me waiting while she tends to the customers. Finally she leads me to a single room facing the road, fine but noisy because of the traffic. Don’t you have another one facing back? Yes, but those are triple, she says. And may I not take a triple for single use? Wait here and I’ll ask the boss.
After quite a while, here comes her boss very pert saying the hotel is full and only the single is available. The fib is obvious, but since I don’t want to lose more time searching for accommodation, I take it. When paying with my card the guy says he only takes cash. I suspect another lie, because in the pizzeria I saw a dataphone. It’s my turn for pretending: well, sir, you see… I don’t have cash enough. He replies with the typical, cheap suggestion: there’s an ATM downtown. Well — then, sorry but no. And I leave.
Almost hour and a half is gone since I arrived to this town, and I don’t want dusk to fall on me while still looking for a hotel further on. I decide to go back to the centre and try the guesthouse. I phone the number and barely manage to make myself understood. The door opens and a beggar-looking guy leads me upstairs. It’s a dismal place: barely a bulb in the hall, torn the wallpaper, smoky and smelly, the room is dirty, shower and toilet slovenly… But this is the deal — and I’ve seen worse places.
Once settled in, the guy starts nagging me about the motorbike, that I’ve parked right below my window: oh!, that’s not a good place, you’d better park it somewhere safe… I bet he can find me a “safe” place at a good price. No, thank you. But a little while later I get a phonecall: hardly straining my Poish, I gather he’s offering a parking place. So, the “receptionist” has called some chum of his to call me. Quite suspicious, I would say. But I stand fast: no, thank you. Then I hung up and, to keep it quiet, switch the phone off.
They won’t relent: the first guy knocks on my door and charges again with the same talk as before. What a bore! They’ll manage to make me afraid and not sleep because of the damned bike. I shut the door on him, latch it and go take a shower. But once I finish, here they come again knocking and calling. That’s exasperating. I play the fool, but no way: now someone’s asking me loudly if I’m Spanish, ‘cos the boss’ daughter can speak Spanish and she’s on the phone… I almost can’t believe such impertinence. Well I open the door and before I realize I’m holding this handy. A female voice is telling, in fair Spanish, that her father is concerned about the bike; I ought not leave it there; there have been cases; recently a foreigner was stolen his car in the same spot… Don’t worry –says I–, I suffer from insomnia and I’ll just watch the motorbike all night long; thank you and good bye. I give the phone back, the guy talks with her a few words and here is the little thing again in my hands. This starts being surrealistic. The daughter doesn’t yield: they have a backyard where I can keep it safe, bla, bla…
I’m sure I’ve never in my life come across such an annoying stubbornness; and this for twenty miserable coins they want to charge me!, as I’ve overheard when they were speaking. Well, sorry but no; I stress the words; I very much thank your concern, but I’m not interested. I’ll watch the bike myself. Good bye!
When they finally leave me alone, I realize the damage is already done: they’ve managed to make me uneasy about Rosaura; and if getting a normal sleep is going to cost me only five euros, it’s not much. So I go to the boss and tell him to show me that famous spot for the bike. Very near, around the corner and past a hallway through a building, he leads me to the typical Polish backyard, spacious and unpaved, were a few cars are disorderly parked. To one side, among two buildings, there’s a kind of cell with a solid iron gate and a big padlock. At first sight, it seems even more dangerous than the street. Shall this guy steal the bike? But I discard the idea; it would be too evident. He just wants to scrap a few extra coins from me. What finally makes my mind up is not the gate nor the padlock, but the other parked cars, which –coincidentally– form a kind of wall in front of the cell, that would render the theft quite difficult.
All right, I’ll take it. How much is that? Nothing, he says. Now he has taken me aback: so it wasn’t greed, after all, what moved him but true concern about my bike? The only obstacle all this while had been my own mistrustfulness? What a lesson I’ve just been taught by life!
Half an hour later, free from Rusaura’s parking issue, I go out for a stroll and some supper. At a small cozy-looking bistro I order szary kluchi, a tasty fry-up with sausages, choleslaw and pasta; and also a bowl of flaki wolowe, tripe with chard, that I find very well cooked.
It’s already dark when I go back to the guesthouse. A few of the room doors to the “lounge” are opened; there’s a communal TV set and the guests are watching a football match. I reckon the live here: they loiter around in their underwear or trackies, smoke, behave naturally… But football does not interest me and tobacco bothers me. I lock myself up. For yet quite a long while, the cries of ¡kurwa, kurwa! (fuck!, fuck!) coming from the lounge at about ten times per minute, are driving me nuts. Very annoying. This is, in fact, the coarsest lodgment during my whole trip.

* * *

And a new day begins. Oddly enough, I haven’t slept bad after all: when the match ended, everyone got to their own rooms and didn’t make more noise. A sleeping pill and my earplugs did the rest, and it’s been a very refreshing night. Who would have said? There’s nothing worse than worrying about worrying.
The morning is overcast. It’s half past ten when I wake up, pack my  things and leave. The receptionist (actually one of the permanent tenants) helps me to recover Rosaura, who is still there, intact, and when leaving I tip him ten zlotis which he tanks hearfeltedly with a hug. Ten zlotis! It’s a bit touching to learn that a three dollars tip grants you the gratitud of a person.
¡Szeroka droga!, he shouts when I start Rosaura’s engine and step first gear. Szeroka droga, “wide road”, that’s what bikers and drivers say to one another when starting a trip.
Now off to the west, to Germany.

Empieza el otoño, continúa la ruta

Szeroka droga

previous chapter | next chapter

This entry was posted in Journey to Nowhere. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *