Cycle Tour Iron Curtain Tour, part 2, Klaipeda-Gdynia
Dag/day 2: Nida-Svetlogorsk
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Added on 18 May 2019
on 13 Jun 2019
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by Ottocolor on 18 May 2019
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Neringa, Klaipeda County, LT (5 m NHN)
городское поселение Светлогорск, Kaliningrad, RU (46 m NHN)
07 May 2019
After a very cold night slightly below zero it's again a sunny and chilly day. Somewhat stronger headwind, but not felt much in the woods. In the evening freshing up, so I shortened the stage by taking the train from Zelenogradsk to Svetlogorsk.
Lermonotvsky pereulok 2a
No bike road like in Lithuania, but a fairly good tarmac road without much traffic. In Rybachiy I opted for a bad gravel road with a large road works in the middle. So there Russia was itself again. Small roads with many cars in Zelenogradsk that try to squeeze you.
On my smartphone I saw that the temperature outside the tent had been down to two degrees below zero during the night. Nida is known for low temeratures in this season because of all the water around it. The Baltic Sea is just over ten degrees "warm" and the lagoon probably not much more. I met the Swiss guy again in front of the toilet house, and he had thought of us cyclists. But both Marina, Kyushya, the German girl and I had each had a quiet night and, I guess, also the Belarussian father whose name I forgot. As always, when the tent is pitched near bathing water, I went for a morning dip. It was sunny, bright and cold, and the forest was beautiful. I crossed the main road. Karaliaučius 86 km a sign said. Aha, the distance to Kaliningrad in Lithuanian. The Poles call it Krolewiec. In both names, the German Königsberg ("king's hill") shines through. Well, that far I wasn't going now. Just down to the beach, which again could be reached by way of a steep wooden staircase over a mighty dune. But on the other side, the stairs were missing. Most certainly washed away in a storm surge. Well, the bath was canceled, then. In addition, it blew ice-cold in from the sea, so it would also have been a teeth chattering dip. I took a nice picture of the beach with my own shadow in it and sneaked into the forest again. At breakfast, the milk I poured over the cereals was so cold that it iced in the teeth. I had also bought rolls and made a large lunch box out of the delicious Lithuanian black rye bread. Then I managed to "check in" and pay my camping debt. Touchingly cheap. As the prices in Lithuania are generally quite attractive. In Russia, they are even lower. But the salary level there is also literally below the lowest level, the European one, that is. The border formalities 5 km after the start went quite quickly. A lot of showing documents, but the wait is shortened somewhat by the fact that as a cyclist you just cycle past the queue of cars and in front of it. No one takes notice of it and the officers treat one politely and correctly. The way it should be. Just be a little serious, and you have left the EU and are in one of its worst enemy images, Russia. As this the country does not appear tor me at all. People are open and friendly, and I can talk to everyone again, what I enjoy a lot. First chance after the border came where I had to pay 250 rb. (approx.£2) as "ecological charge" at the entrance to the national park "The Curonian Spit". I thought bikes shouldn't pay that, but it was much higher for cars, I was answered. Well, bikes also pollute occasionally. But I saw almost none of them out here. Also not at the first attraction I stopped at, "The Dancing Forest". First, I let it dance and had my food in a clearing in the sun. A dog shuffled in and was very interested in my lunch. Before I finished it, he got a bit of yesterday's sausages and strolled happily off. My bike jacket and vest were wet and clammy with sweat so I let them lie and dry in the sun as I walked into the special pine forest where almost all trunks are deformed and turning right and left. In some places they even grow into a ring. There is an "ecological path" that one must not leave around in the forest. On a blackboard it was explained (only in Russian) that many bids for the cause of the phenomenon existed. Harmful insects were one, another one the soil. It was not terribly exciting, but funny to look at. "The drunk trees" was a maybe even better name, but in Russia this would be impossible. Very surprisingly it started to rain. Rain Dance? Funny. But not any longer when I realised that my jacket and vest were lying in the rain in the clearing. Stupid, really. Well, the rain soon stopped, so the wet clothes were strapped on my bike and past many small stalls with all kinds of tacky Dancing forest souvenirs I reached the main road towards Zelenogradsk again.
Now I had to make some kilometers if the arrival in Svetlogorsk should not be a very late one. The Southwest wind was fresh, but in the dune forest on the spit it was still no problem. So when I came to the main town of Rybachiy, I wanted to have a glance at it. It was a depressing short visit. Many houses were in wretched condition, yes several were pure ruins. I saw also newer houses among the worst. A few small shops lured, but I still had no rubles, so I gave up the shopping. Instead I drank some water at the War Memorial in the village center. And the path I had chosen back to the main road was even worse. Extremely bumpy dirt road, in the middle interrupted by very thick concrete slabs, I had to lift the bike up on and down from and wheel my bike on top of them. Well, my picture of Russia from two years ago was confirmed. Only the waste in nature was almost missing. Thank you for that. Back on the main road I tried to keep 20 km / h on average the 25 km to Lesnoy, where I supposedly could exchange my euros to rubles. With the average speed I succeeded, but a bank was not to be found. Now I had to have water, and of course the modern shop in the village took credit cards. Again, a contrast you wouldn't think possible. But soon after, the water boiled in the pot on my gas stove in an open cabin in the forest. Lovely! With biscuits and chocolate for it was a superlovely break. Afterwards I basked in the sunshine and had a beer. After the break I trod the bike through the sand down to the beach. Almost out there I speeded and crashed and fell into the sand. It hurt a bit, and immediately two worried older women came by and asked if I was okay. Plus admonished me to ride slowly and "accurately". Ha ha. Typical Russian (female) caretaking habit. Lovely! Oops, I had another boost of happiness. And almost hugged the grannies. The beach was marvellous and inviting, but the wind was not, even though the sun was shining. It was five o'clock. Or was it? No, I hadn't set the clock at the border, so it was only four. Nice.
On the way to Selenogradsk in the increasing traffic plus headwind, as the dune forest thinned out, I got the idea to take the suburban train, the so-called electrichka, to Svetlogorsk instead of cycling 35 km. Two years ago my sons cycled across the Curonian Spit in one stretch from Klaipeda to Selenogradsk, from where they took the train to Kaliningrad. There I would go only tomorrow, but I knew that the train's terminus in the opposite direction was today's goal of Svetlogorsk. On my way into Selenogradsk town center, I was several times bullied by the cars on the narrow roads, so my decision to "call it a day" here in this town was strengthened. There was some time until train departure, so I wanted to have a short look at the town, but decided to "prepare" the train ride first. And that was a good idea, because in Russian railway stations all luggage must be X-rayed and electronic items and metal objects sorted out before going through the detector just like at an airport. They are obviously afraid of terrorists. It was introduced during the football World Cup last year, and this has continued. When the check was over, I put the bike on the correct platform, withdrew roubles from a cash machine, bought a ticket and strolled down to the nearby beach promenade. Here, the old German seaside atmosphere was well felt. Only the cold wind disturbed. They had even made a bike path on the newly constructed promenade. Russia is coming after it when building new things. What the World Cup 2018 certainly has accelerated. Kaliningrad was the host city for three of its matches. It was nice with the old big photo galleries of the German seaside resort Cranz. At the amusement pier the difference to today was most obvious. At that time, houses and the promenade were of wood, and the bathing fashion was very decent in the 1920s, for men almost comical in our view. Not least for a naturist like me. Now, I'd better go back to my abandoned bike. Hopefully it had not been blown up like a suspicious object. But it had been checked. An officer asked if it was mine and I was ready to be scolded, but nothing happened. Soon the train rolled in. Very modern and new it was. But apparently built for high platforms. So it was a bit tedious to lift all the luggage plus the bike very high up before the train departed. But probably less tedious than cycling the 35 km to Svetlogorsk in the headwind. After all. The landscape looked increasingly discomforting. The waste also began to appear along the track. But from many train trips I know that train passengers always get the ugliest experience of the landscape. And these villages and hamlets were no exception. So I was happy to unload the whole bunch of bags and panniers onto the same low platform height at the station Svetlogorsk 2. With the bicycle dangling in one hand and a good grip on the handle I clambered down the train's ladder. There were only a few steps to Art Hotel Lumiere, so no problem.
The hotel turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Pure luxury for a cyclist like me, who usually camps, even "wildly" in nature when allowed. But in Russia, camping is almost unknown, and it also seems to me somewhat unsafe to sleep in a tent, even though I have no bad experience to prove it right. Another reason are the low Russian hotel prices. This large double room with private bath and toilet with breakfast and wellness bath cost me £53. My bike was allowed to stand near the stairs, and was happy with that. In particular, I liked the hotel's design theme on film and cinema art. The service was very friendly. After a hot bath, I went out into the cold evening air, where darkness was falling. From the outside, the hotel reminded me of Gaudi's houses in Barcelona with pretty balconies. I was hungry like a bull, but first I went to the cable car's top station next to the station. The evening glow stood beautifully over the Baltic Sea. The coast is very steep here, so the tourists go most easily down to the beach in the small cabins, but of course it was not working now. I was looking for an open restaurant. After all it was almost ten. But an empty Armenian restaurant gladly welcomed me. And I was even more glad with that. After a look at the menu and the prices I decided to go crazy and ordered red wine, soup, Armenian skewers, ice cream dessert, coffee and Armenian cognac. Finally I got poured a bottle of local draft beer into a plastic bottle. Now the staff really wanted to close, I was told. It was 11 o'clock, so it was okay. For this opulent meal, which by the way tasted deliciously, I paid 2700 rubles, approx. £31. I felt like a king and strolled back to my movie art hotel, where I drank the beer and fell into a wobbling sleep on the double bed. Rarely have I felt better after a bike day.