I have been visiting Estonia for many years. Since the late 90’s. I have a house there and (now) a Russian-speaking wife. I think I have a unique perspective that locals don’t have. A bloke recently asked me: What did you like/prefer then? (in pre-EU Estonia) Apart from being one of few foreigners in the […]
I recently had some business to do in Estonia. Flying there wasn’t really an option as I had some bulky stuff to transport. Additionally, I wanted to buy something there that is commonplace there but overpriced in the UK: A sauna.
So, I decided to drive there from Manchester to Tallinn.
I have done this drive many times since 1998, and much has changed in this time. On this journey, I decided to take my eight year old lad with me and plan to grab a few pics along the way.
This is the route.
The vehicle of choice is a 1998 Mercedes Sprinter van with 155000 miles on the clock.
My first choice this trip was taking the less miles route through Scandinavia. However, the Newcastle – Scandinavia ferries seem to all be cancelled.
I wanted to take my lad over the Øresund Bridge, and in doing so, getting to Estonia takes only 400m miles driving and two boats. I spent two days Googling and researching. The only other boat that offers anything is the one from Northern Germany to Riga. But that is €785 and takes 26 hours. By road takes 24 hours and costs half that including hotel.
After some research, it seemed that by the longer road route, it was cheaper and saves time.
The van does 90mph at a push (and that is a push). That is 145 kph. Many limits are 90 kph. Yup, I expect to meet the cops………….
OK, now back home, so I can gather my thoughts a little.
Left Wednesday night about midnight. Its about five hours with no traffic, over the Pennines and down the M1 from the North, around London, and off towards the white cliffs of Dover to Folkstone where the Channel Tunnel is.
We hit Folkstone about 5.30 am and I started imbibing coffee there as I knew I had a much longer day to come.
Around 7am French time, we emerged in Calais (France) and headed north for Adinkerke in Belgium.
Why Adinkerke? Why, thats where Tobacco Road is.
I’ll quote from Wiki to explain what Tobacco Road is for those who don’t know:
Belgium has lower taxes on tobacco than France or the UK; as Adinkerke is the closest Belgian town accessible to the French ferry ports, it attracts many French smokers and British booze cruisers every day to make the trip across the border to buy cheaper tobacco. Adinkerke has the unusual claim to fame of having the greatest number of tobacconists per capita of any area in Europe.
Many shops opened around the clock, which provided the advantage of offering other shops and fuel services that would not normally be found in a town of such a small size. While this may have proved beneficial to travellers, local people were inconvenienced by the constant traffic, so the local Mayor has recently ordered the tobacco stores to close during the night.
Due to the smuggling associated with reduced tobacco duty, it is not uncommon for the E40 to be closed at night at junction 1 and French and Belgian police question drivers and passengers of vehicles on the N34 road over the motorway. Many of the tobacco shops have closed now due to declining trade as a result of the imposition of quantitative limits on tobacco purchases being brought into France and Britain from Belgium, regular tobacco shoppers travelling to and from Britain have had their purchases seized by UK customs and been warned about future travel to purchase excise goods.
Duly refreshed by eggs, bacon and coffee, availing myself of a tankful of cheap Belgian diesel, and buying some bargain cartons of smokes, it was time to hit the road again heading through Belgium and Holland with the navigation programmed for Brandenburg on the outskirts of Berlin in East Germany.
Frankly, I had no expectation of anything romantic happening between us, although I must admit that I was secretly hopeful. When, two months later, we became more than just friends, cynics derided our alliance. To them it just had to be a stunt, after all I was 41 and she was 24. They cited my quirky reputation and wonky face as evidence against me,