The Russian border and Rally Poland
The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine brings a new reality to the world.
It is heart-breaking and simply horrible.
One of the great things about rallying is that it takes you to places that ordinary tourists never go to.
This is a story about the 2017 running of Rally Poland.
The rally was based in the lake resort town of Mikołajki.
The bulk of the Saturday action took place around the town of Goldop, about 140km north east of Mikołajki.
The centre of Goldop is less than 5kms from the Russian border.
Just north of the town sits the border with the last remaining Soviet state in Europe – Kalingrad. The state borders Poland to its south, Lithuania to its north and east, and the Baltic Sea to its west. It is the western-most Oblast of Federal Russia.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the independence of the other Baltic states, Kaliningrad Oblast has been separated from the rest of Russia by other countries instead of by other former Soviet republics.
Neighbouring nations, including Poland, imposed strict border controls when they joined the European Union.
This is highly visible at the Polish frontier to the north of Goldop. This international border also serves as the frontier with the European Union. It is heavily militarised and the Goldop crossing is the only way of entering Russia – and vice a versa – provided travellers have the correct visas and permits.
Further east, the Polish-Russian border is heavily fortified. It is possible to gain access to the sealed border via farm tracks – the ones rally fans , especially those with a ‘straight to the tape’ mentality use on events!
Behind the high fences sits a sort of ‘no man’s land’ only traversable by a track machine – in other words a tank!
Further east again, where the boundaries of the three countries meet, sits a tourist attraction where it is possible to stand in all three nations at once.
The tank track is highly visible from this location.
Crossing the border in Lithuania reveals another stark reminder of what an international border with Russia looks like.
The tiny village of Vištytis is separated from Russia by a corrugated iron fence and Lake Vištytis which also serves as a border with the two nations but the lake does not touch Poland.
This geography lesson is brought to you by rally fans who go where ordinary tourists don’t go.
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