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An interesting bus drive from Warsaw to Vilnius


Adventure travel tales in North East Europe:
Berlin, Germany
Vilnius, Lithuania
Sigulda, Latvia
Tallinn, Estonia
St Petersburg
Other European Tales:
Prague, Czech Republic
Sighisoara, Romania
Peloponnese, Greece
Venice, City of Water
Cappadocia, Turkey


The bus from Warsaw to Vilnius

To reach Russia overland from western Europe, one might use the train. But, the only train route passes Belarus, what appears to be an ugly country for which an expensive visa is required. We choose for a route through the Baltic states instead. But, we need a bus to get us there. And thus, we experience a bus drive Polish style.

After arriving at the central bus station in Warsaw, we have half an hour before the bus leaves. We buy a (disgusting) sandwich with jelly for now and a (slightly better) sandwich ham and cheese for during the bus drive, which will take approximately 10 hours. And then we head for the platform where our bus will depart.

Our fellow passengers

At the platform (nummer 13, coincidence or not) a few people are already waiting, and we join them. There are a man in a long raincoat, an unshaved man, a father and son carrying a big TV, and two clochard types. We see a few nice Eurolines busses pass by, but Eurolines does not have a route to Vilnius, so we assume we end up in one of the oldies. And indeed, we do.

When our bus finally arrives we are instructed to put our luggage in the back, with the other luggage, except for the TV. An aggressive discussion in Polish follows, but in the end, the TV can come along.

True Friends

We take a seat in the back row of the bus, where we have enough room for our legs. At first, there’s no one in the rows in front of us. But after 10 minutes, one of the clochards comes to the back. He is followed by his friend, who starts arguing with him. In the heat of the conversation, he walks away angry, but after 5 minutes he returns to continue arguing. This time, with better luck, he wraps his arm around his friend and a bit later he even gives a kiss on the forehand. Meanwhile, both take several sips from a bottle and we’re sure it’s not lemonade.

The bus drives through the outskirts of Warsaw, and a few new passengers get in: a few middle aged women and a babushka type. When everybody is in the driver starts asking something in Polish to everyone. We think we hear the term “Kaunas”, another city in Lithuania, but we’re not asked, we don’t understand anyway. We just hope we don’t end up in the wrong city.

Break down

We make good progress through the Polish countryside, until the driver stops at the side of the road. We see smoke coming from the hood and hope for the best, but fear the worst. The driver moves the bus to a small café, and starts explaining in Polish that there’s something wrong.

While the driver makes a few phonecalls, the rest of us heads to the café to order something. The babushka woman tries to make a conversation with us, but with little success. Only when she starts pointing at herself, saying “Vilnius” and “Russia”, we understand a little.

Back at the bus the driver tries to figure out what’s wrong. The side of the bus is opened, but he doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing. Every male passenger joins him looking at the motor, and there’s a lot of discussion going on. In the end, one of our clochards takes off his coat and disappears underneath the bus, the driver holding his coat. He returns with smudged face and hands, but with heavy arm movements he makes it clear he couldn’t fix the problem.

We spend the next two and a half hours waiting, without knowing what will happen. The second clochard (who is very drunk right now) takes a nap and the “mechanic” gets some more beer. Back in the bus he tries to wake his friend with some firm slaps on the face. And the women in the bus try to clean his head, which is still smudged.

New bus

We wait for 3 hours in total and then, a new bus arrives. Just in time, it was starting to get pretty cold in the bus. Our luggage is transferred and we continue our trip. We take a seat in the back again, but it’s a bit cold so we move a seat to the front. The drunken “mechanic” tries to start a conversation, but we are not interested. We say “No Polski” and “No Ruski”, so he tries “Deutsch”. This time, we don’t speak that eather, otherwise we will never get rid of him.

The other drunk wakes up and comes to the back to smoke. We indicate “No” so he searches for another place to light his sigaret. He finally finds a whole near the backdoor of the bus to blow his smoke through.

Then we reach the Lithuanian border. The formalities don’t take very long, but long enough to take a leak before we move on.

Snow

The Lithuanian landscape is difficult to see in the dark. We pass two accidents underway before we realize what’s happening: it’s snowing outside. Our driver doesn’t seem to mind however, we keep moving fast (faster than before so it seems).

When both our clochards start to smoke near the back door, the driver notices them and orders them to stop. Then we smell burned rubber. Again, the bus is stopped and we fear the worst. But luckily, the smell is gone and we can continue.

At a gas station before Vilnius the two clochards leave the bus. It is accompanied by a lot of Polish shouting and it is not clear to us whether they leave voluntarily or are removed from the bus. Actually, we hope the last. A little while later we arrive in Vilnius, and so we end our first, interesting bus trip.

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