Day 59: Poznan, Poland to Berlin, Germany

Number of tie wraps: 49 (holding steady)

Countdown: 7888 miles down, 697 to go

We are in the home stretch now! We left Poznan this morning about 9:15, and soon began seeing signs to Berlin. The roads today in both Poland and Germany were fantastic, the same experience as the original 1908 racers. Although Berlin gave the German Protos team quite a party when they arrived in first place on July 24, 1908, our reception was a bit more subdued. Click here to read the original New York Times article about the Protos reception.

Road sign to Berlin

Road sign to Berlin (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

This morning, after being on the road for about an hour, we stopped at a gas station and stocked up on flavored potato chips for a picnic lunch, including Mexican Cheese Fiesta, Chakalaka Taste of Africa, Kielbasa Onion, and Hot Chili. We also found some refrigerator magnets, bumper stickers, and a CD with a collection of Polish rock music. There were three CDs available, and since we couldn’t read the titles, Karen and I selected the one in the sage green case, bypassing the CDs in the white and bright green cases. Although the bands were Polish, the music sounded similar to early-1980s music in the U.S., such as Journey, the Cars, and Billy Idol. If anyone out there is an avid collector of early-1980s rock music, please let us know and we’ll be happy to pass the CD along after we’ve listened to it for the rest of the trip.

A sample of our chips for lunch

A sample of our chips for lunch (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Before leaving Poland, we took a brief side trip to the town of Swiebodzin, whose residents raised money for the construction of the world’s largest statue of Christ, which was consecrated on November 21, 2010. In addition to the statue, the monument includes many other Catholic traditions, such as the Stations of the Cross and a garden containing the Mysteries of the Rosary.

Statue of Christ in Swiebodzin, Poland

Statue of Christ in Swiebodzin, Poland (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

After leaving Swiebodzin, we gobbled down the Mexican- and African-flavored chips (the African ones tasted a bit like curry, in case you were wondering) and decided to keep the other two bags for our next picnic lunch. We traveled a back road for about 30 miles before we reached the main highway again and we saw hundreds of trucks lined up at truck stops and gas stations along the way. Karen told us that trucks aren’t allowed to travel on the autobahn on Sundays during the day, so the truckers just pull over wherever they are and take the day off.

We crossed the Oder River into Germany a little after 12:30.

Crossing the Oder River into Germany

Crossing the Oder River into Germany (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We arrived at our very nice hotel in Berlin a little after 2 and then wandered to the Beer Garden at the Zoo for a beer. Tonight we’ll be eating at a traditional German restaurant, and tomorrow we’ll spend the morning running errands and the afternoon seeing the sights of Berlin.

Beer Garden near our hotel in Berlin

Beer Garden near our hotel in Berlin (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tuesday we head to Hanover, a drive of 293 km.

Day 26: Ulan Ude to Listvyanka

We left Ulan Ude about 8 a.m., right in the middle of rush hour traffic. Today’s trip was mostly through forested areas as we followed the Selenga River (which appropriately translates to Beautiful River) and wound our way through mountainous terrain.

Typical scenery during the drive to Listvyanka

Typical scenery during the drive to Listvyanka (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

At 10:20 some snow-capped peaks came into view and about five minutes later, we caught our first glimpse of Lake Baikal. The photo shown below is taken from the southern tip of the lake, where we arrived at around 3 p.m. Even with a bit of haze in the air, the beauty of the area stands out.

View of Lake Baikal from the southern tip

View of Lake Baikal from the southern tip (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We arrived at our hotel in Listvyanka at 6:45, after another long day of driving over bumpy roads and through construction sites; however, the roads continue to improve as we travel west!

The 1908 racers didn’t drive around Lake Baikal because they couldn’t — the terrain was too treacherous at the time — so they instead took a ferry across the lake, which ceased operations many years ago, necessitating our drive around the southern tip of the lake.

However, the original racers didn’t just drive up to the ferry and motor across the lake. According to Julie Fenster’s book, Race of the Century, when the Protos arrived in the town of Missawoia on the eastern lake shore to take the ferry to the town of Baikal on the western lake shore, Hans Koeppen and the Protos team discovered that in 1903 ferry had moved 20 miles south of Missawoia to the town of Tanchoi.

The German Protos team attempted to drive to Tanchoi, but crossing the numerous rivers flowing into Lake Baikal proved too much of a challenge, and they were soon stuck in the town of Michiha, where they tried to load the Protos onto a train for the rest of the trip to Tanchoi. But the 1908 racers ran into the same kind of problem we did trying to cross the border into China — they couldn’t find a way at the Michiha train facility to load the Protos onto the train! So they wound up driving back to Missawoia, which had the ability to put the Protos on the train for the trip to Tanchoi.

As a result of the delays to the Protos from running around the shores of Lake Baikal, the Thomas Flyer and the U.S. managed to briefly catch the German team in the railroad yard in Missawoia. However, the Protos arrived in Irkutsk on June 20 ahead of the Thomas Flyer. For more information on this part of the race, click here for the original New York Times article.

Today, the Roadster still had problems with the brake lights and the struts. The man in the photo below helping to pump up the struts is a Russian truck driver who was on his way to Moscow when he spotted us during a stop for lunch. Luke is planning to stay up late tonight to order some parts for shipment from California to Russia that we hope will fix the problems that continue to plague the Roadster!

Help from a Russian truck driver

Help from a Russian truck driver (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tomorrow we have a relaxing day for a boat ride on Lake Baikal and the day after a short 75 km drive on a good road to Irkutsk.