This week was a week full of history. Old towns, old castles and the history of Auschwitz.
After yesterday’s long day of driving, we decided to take it slow today. We were not yet sure whether or not we wanted to drive into Helsinki and after some research it turns out that a lot is closed on Sundays in Helsinki. Therefore, we decide to skip this city and book the boat from Helsinki to Talinn for the same afternoon. We linger in the parking lot for a while to use their wifi, empty the toilet and top up the water. We also call our old neighbors for the birthday of our neighbor boy, after which we headed for Helsinki for the boat. In the queue for the boat we met two people, Enzio and Rianne, whom Jens and Marijn had already told us about. They travel with a roof tent and 4×4 car. On the boat we chatted about anything and everything and we met again at the same sleeping place. The 2.15 hour boat ride went by very quickly. By the way, it was a really huge ferry with even a dance bar (unfortunately there was no live music).
Once in Tallinn we could drive straight on without having to show anything. Our first mission in Estonia: to finally have our gas bottle refilled. And we immediately notice that we are in a completely different kind of country, because filling the gas bottle becomes already a dangerous and illegal practice and can only happen if some ‘tip’ is secretly pressed into the hand of the gas tanker out of sight of the cameras. We had a lot of laughs about it. Fortunately, we already know a bit how the gas tank should be filled and the man also clearly showed us that he knows how this should be done and that he does it more often, so nothing to worry about. We give him a ‘tip’ which the man was clearly very happy with, so he’s happy, we’re happy, because we can cook again. After this we drove to the sleeping place, which is a parking lot where we can park for 2 euros for 24 hours within walking distance of the center. During yesterday’s long journey, Lon already cleaned the mushrooms we picked ourself, so we eat fresh pasta with a mushroom cream sauce. And Enzio and Rianne also joined us for a nice meal and we chatted the whole evening.
The next day the center of Talinn is on the program and we naturally decide to do this together with Enzio and Rianne. Enzio has already researched a few things and takes us through the city as a guide. It turns out to have a fairly compact center but with a lot of old details and buildings and the city wall is largely intact which is really beautiful. We stroll through the city together and visit different shops and drink good coffee. It really feels like we’ve known Enzio and Rianne for a long time which is really funny. You really notice that it just clicks really well with some people and that’s exactly how it is with Enzio and Rianne. After we have seen every little street in the city, we decide to go on a food tour through the city. First Enzio and Jap choose a restaurant and then Lon and Rianne. We start at a relaxed cafe where we immediately sit for a long time, we show them the movie of Sweden and really chat about anything and everything. The next stop was an Indian restaurant where we all share different dishes. After this we are all reasonably filled and we have to walk back to the car to extend the parking meter. We then linger at the bus for a cup of tea and coffee and then walk back into town for dessert. It is really noticeable that we are all no longer used to reasonable prices for eating out. It is not super cheap yet, but certainly very affordable, which makes it really nice to go out for dinner. We end up at a vegan restaurant where live music is playing, where we eat delicious desserts and have a nice chat. Around 10 pm our food tour ends back at the bus. Tallinn is a really nice city and we are all really surprised by this small capital. Tomorrow we will probably leave Estonia again and head for Riga in Latvia.
The next morning we make our way back into Tallinn to use the wifi at the bakery where we had eaten delicious cinnamon rolls the day before. Enzio and Rianne had to arrange some other things and we would meet them again later today at the sleeping spot in the direction of Riga, near Castle Sigulda.
On the way we did some shopping, filled up the van with diesel and what a relief that was… 50 cents a liter cheaper! Around 6 pm we arrived at our sleeping place in the forest in Latvia. And we had a nice dinner with the four of us and played a nice game in the evening. We also do some sports and used our sun shower for the first time in a long time.
The next day we wanted to drive a long way to Poland. But to get some exercise, we first went for a walk to the castle, Rianne walked with us and Enzio went for a run. It was a nice varied and pleasant walk through a forest and meadows. The castle itself wasn’t much and you had to pay to get in, however we could secretly walk around a small part of the castle grounds without paying. After seeing this we went back on our way. Back at Bob’s we had lunch, called Kas and Danique about their adventures and said goodbye to Enzio and Rianne. It was really nice to spend a few days with them and maybe we’ll meet them along the way somewhere, they also go south and who knows, even to the Canary Islands. Then we started the journey to Poland.
We drove for two days on long stretches of two lane roads, where we saw more trucks than other traffic. We had never seen so many trucks on the road before, they also regularly overtook and so it was not a relaxed ride on the highway. Anyway, we had a goal, Auschwitz, a place that on the one hand we had wanted to visit for a long time, and on the other hand we didn’t. You would rather not hear what horrible stuff happened in this place before, but we still think that you should not close your eyes to what happened in the past. We even went to camp Vught on one of our first dates. We hoped this would have prepared us a little for what we would see in Auschwitz.
We booked a 3.5 hour guided tour of the two camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau. It was an emotional, sad and intense tour during which we received a lot of information about Auschwitz, Birkenau and what it must have been like. The lady who showed us around had been giving tours for 30 years and was a good teller of the history of this place. Auschwitz, Birkenau was a labor and extermination camp and the largest there has been, of all the people who arrived here more than 70% went straight to the gas chamber and the rest had to do work and could die in many more ways, from cold, malnutrition, in all kinds of horrific experiments or as punishment for the smallest things. It must have been horrific.
We took a look inside a “small” gas chamber and saw a model and the ruin of the largest they had here, with the largest being able to accommodate 2000 people at a time… It is really unimaginable what must have happened here and what life must have been like. The lady of the tour emphasized very often that at least 1,100,000 people have died here, but that this is really a minimum. The people who went straight to the gas chambers were not registered and their documents were immediately burned. Also, a lot of the information was burned when it became clear that the Soviets were on their way to the camps. As a result, it is no longer possible to find out how many people were actually murdered here. After our visit to Auschwitz we went with a shuttle to Birkenau which was many times bigger than Auschwitz. Up to 100,000 people could be imprisoned here and the surface of this camp is unimaginable if you haven’t walked over it yourself. As far as you look, there have been barracks here, or rather they were more stables. Here 700, 800, 900 people slept together, in bunk beds of 3 floors with sometimes 9 per bed. Here they arrived by train and all the people deemed fit to work were separated from the rest. The rest went straight to the gas chambers. As much of the stuff as possible was still used by the Germans, even the hair was shaved off after the people had been gassed. Later in Germany, rugs and fabrics were made from this, which is really too horrible. A lot of hair was left behind after the liberation of the camp, this is still on display to give a better insight into how many people have died here. The poison has been found in the hair and in the substances produced, which provides additional evidence that it actually happened as we think. Besides the hair, there were also many other items on display, but what we also found very intense were of course the photos. And bearing in mind that the photos were taken by proud Germans. Taking pictures was forbidden because they wanted to keep secret what happened in the camps, however, some were so proud of how systematic they were, that they couldn’t resist recording it and so that they could brag and set an example for other camps.. Unbelievable. The visit was extremely intense, the scale on which there was murder here and the hatred it represents is intensely sad, but we both think it’s good to see this with our own eyes. And what we describe above is only a small part of the stories we heard during our visit. I could end the story with one more cheerful distress, but I also think it’s appropriate to end it with this.
Much love from us,
Jap and Lon
Menu of the week
|Sunday||Home made pasta with foraged mushrooms|
|Monday||Shared dining tour|
|Thursday||Arabic cauliflower salad|
|Friday||Woked udon noodles with vegetables|
Spendings of the Week
Budget per day €54 and per week €378 and per month €1700
Driven kilometers: 1481