Practicalities

Trip Start Jun 03, 2010
1
12
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Trip End May 28, 2011


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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Practicalities:

Because of some laundry challenges yesterday I thought I would write and entry on the practicalities of this trip so far.



Campgrounds:

Generally just fine… usually quiet enough and good facilities so far, with better toilets and showers than most North American places. They run from as high as $30 or so in Netherlands, to an average of around $15 a night in eastern Europe. About half the time a coin is needed for the showere, but as often they are included. They have been easy enough to find, with luck and guidebooks, though we had to really search hard in Bialystok. We have had to have electricity in campsites recently as there is  problem with the propane lighting system for the gas option of our fridge, which brings me to….

The Camper:

It is just fine for our purposes, and so familiar what with our own Westfalia. It has been treated a bit rougher, and has some rust spots, and a leak at the back hatch when it rains, which it sure has done here in Vilnius. Pat wraps a garbage bag around the foot of her mattress to keep it dry, but we might try some repairs some time.

It has almost double the storage space of ours due to the high fixed top rather than the pop-top, as almost half that extra height is available for storage while driving, so all the bedding,and Pat's guitar go up there.

Driving:

Well, you certainly need to enjoy driving challenges, which I fortunately do. Major highways we try to avoid, but in the east here most are one lane each direction, about the same volumes and size of the Sunshine Coast highway. Then throw in the fact that there are no rules about passing… you just go for it whenever you feel like it, and expect cars to pull over on either side and let you by. Needless to say, I do more of the pulling over than the passing, but there are times when I must due to a truck or other slow-poke… Pat tends to hemmorhage when that happens. Then throw in the other factor of farm tractors poking along on the shoulders, so the pulling over can result in a load of some kind of foul smelling farm material coming through your windshield.

The towns are OK for driving, but the cities are more challenging. I am OK with it, but it can be very difficult, especially considering you don’t know where the hell you are going. Yesterday in Vilnius, I did find a spot near the old town. I was able to figure out that I had to pay due to the sign having coins on it. The machine had a credit card slot so I stuck in my Visa card… nada. When I looked closer it appeared that a special parking card was needed. I did not have Lithuanian coins yet, so I left Pat to protect the van from meter maids while I went to the Info Centre which I thought was nearby. As I walked around the corner it occurred to me to check where I was going carefully… if I got lost I might never see Pat again. Worked out OK.

Gas and car stuff

Gas stations are plentiful, and no problem to use… in fact they are better than our because you can still fill then pay, rather than have to pay in advance. Credit cards are fine. The price is about double our price, but this van is getting pretty good mileage… just over 10L per 100km which isn’t good compared to our Echo, but is about the same as an average American big car.

It is little tricky when we need to fix something.. I have not seen any parts stores like a Canadian Tire. I do need to replace the gas cap… the key broke, and get some kind of goo to fix the leak. I could also fix the propane igniter on the fridge pretty easily if I knew where the heck to get the new part. If I was home…no problem… just order one on the internet, but here, where would I have it sent to?

Communications.

Speaking of internet.. I am surprised at the lack of WiFi in the campgrounds. We haven’t had any since Netherlands. It is also hard to find hotspots in towns, though we have discovered that McDonalds seem to all have them, but who wants to hang out in McDonalds when you have so much wonderful old stuff to see…hence our communication has been irregular.

Groceries.

We have bought groceries at anything from the delightful open air markets, corner stores, supermarkets to super-supermarkets. The supermarkets are somewhat easier because they are familiar, cheap, and we can get everything at one go, but not as much fun, nor as fresh and delightful.

The biggest supermarket so far was, surprisingly, Bialystok. It was bigger than any I have ever seen, and quite bright, spanking new…. But gigantic! It was a little bit like a Cosco in size, but was about 75% groceries, and more openly displayed.

Food is relatively cheap here in the east. Our restaurant meal last night, equivalent to a meal at the Blackfish Pub, was $27 including two beers, a bowl of Borscht, and two min plates. Pat had potato pancakes, I had a local sausage thing labeled "bowels stuffed with potatoes and cheese"…. Mmmm… love those bowels! In reality of course, all proper sausages are stuffed into intestines… you knew that didn’t you?

Laundry.

We’ve only done it twice. At Amsterdam, no problem… coin machines at campground. But yesterday in Vilnius was another matter… we decided to make it a laundry day. No laundry at the campground so we decided to drive into Vilnius and ask around. The info centre gave me a piece of paper with four names and addresses of laundries, and described how to get to the nearest. Well, we set off in city traffic, and found the address about 20 minutes later. It was a corner store in a rather rundown apartment complex. We tried asking the proprietor, and she indicated that it was no more, and indeed had not existed for 2 years! She called a friend in who knew where another one was way over on the opposite side of town. She was very friendly and helpful, and marked it on our map… virtually no English spoken in this whole process.

So, about 30 minutes later we arrive at wht we thought was the right place, only to find a fancy furniture store. The young clerk there spoke some English and was very friendly. It turned out she lives near where the address was supposed to be, so she drew a sketch for us. By the way, the reason we had not found the laundry was because the road we were on had an extra “r” in its long, complex name.

Turned out we were not too far away though, so off we went and found the correct address, near a McDonalds, as was indicated on the original slip from the Info Centre. It was still hard to find, as there was no real signage for it, and we would not have been able to read it anyway!

Turned out not to be a Laundromat, but a full service place… which will be more expensive, but at least we did not have to hag around

All OK? Well, no…. the girl told us, in English, to come back at 7:30. It surprised us that it would take so long but they were busy.

So, we drove back to the town centre and had a very nice afternoon walking about, and a great Lithuanian meal at a bar type restaurant.

Around 7:30 we got back to the building with the laundry… it was dark and all locked up, and an alarm was ringing! There were some people there, but they just said the laundry was closed… they were there to buy a piano in another shop. So, as I type, all of our clothes and bedding are locked in  laundry in Vilnius 25 km from our campground here. We will drive in this morning and hope to find them.

What we are thinking is that either she made a mistake in her English and meant to tell us 5:30 (1730  in often used 24 hour time) or something had gone wrong with the alarm system driving them nuts so they closed early. We’ll see this morning.

Yup… different girl and couldn’t speak English, so we couldn’t ask what happened but all was clean and neatly ironed and folded for us…
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