Now that I have covered some 600km in Poland I have found out that I never really knew how to drive until now. Driving in U.S. is not driving. I would consider it luxurious and smooth movement of an automobile. Where the roads are nice, people generally follow the laws of the road, and unless you do something stupid you’re pretty much safe.
The roads here are terrible. Most highways are overpriced, and a very high percentage of them isn’t even finished yet. Everyone here has this magical date of 2012 set in stone, that is when the Fifa Euro 2010 “soccer” tournament will take place. Poland and a couple other former soviet block countries won the bid and Poland is frantically trying to get up to speed. Building stadiums was just one major hurdle, building roads and train depots for the thousands of people that are supposedly coming is another.
Most “express ways” are single lane, paved roads that are full of small towns along the way. Imagine going 80mph and all of the sudden you see a sign indicating the beginning of a town, where the maximum speed limit is 35mph, and a flash equipped radar camera 100feet behind that sign ready to take your photo for speeding. Not all towns have speed traps like this, and not all boxes that pretend to be radar cams have actual cameras inside. For my trip I had a handy GPS unit that told me exactly where the speed cameras where; “Radar 500 meters”, and sure enough there it was. I’m fairly sure I passed by at least 100 radar cameras along my 6 hour drive home.
I suppose the phrase “paved roads” I used above should be further explained. Asphalt here sucks. All it takes is one hot summer and a few heavy semi trucks and you got grooves deep enough to make your car feel like it’s on rails. Instead of repaving the roads most places just have signs warning the drivers of such grooves. Same goes for potholes and such. Patchwork is so crappy you’re flying around in your car on what should be a smooth road. Everything is also very very narrow. You have enough room for just two cars side by side, no shoulder to speak of, both sides of the road are always lined with trees (that’s to keep the wind and snow away from all the adjacent fields) and there are almost always ditches on both sides of the road as well. So when you fly out of the road, first you hit a ditch, and if that doesn’t stop you, the tree behind the ditch surely will.
Now put all that together, to pass a semi truck which is going some 60mph and just slow enough to piss you off, you need to cross over to the opposite side of the road, fit on this narrow road alongside this semi maybe a 2 feet away from the edge of the road and a foot away from the semi itself, and you need to gas it hard cause you gotta pass this thing before the car coming your way hits you head on. Fun stuff. And right after you pass this truck and get up to maybe 80mph with all that passing speed… a town begins with a speed radar ready to shoot photos. Fun stuff.