Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Gdańsk, Poland--Warsaw, Poland—Day 144

Today I got mugged.

No really, I did. I got mugged.

This morning started off in the typical fashion—getting up, having breakfast and packing up the stuff in the room. We checked out of the hotel and took an elevator down to the underground level, walked under the street to the train station, hauled our stuff up the stairs and entered the train station in Gdańsk. We found our platform and had fifteen minutes to spare while we waited for our express train to Warsaw.

When it came, we boarded the train and it was there and then that I, well, we were mugged. It all happened in this crazy way—Sarah and I had a reservation for our specified train and so when the train pulled up, we headed straight for our car. Sarah got to train number seven and suggested that we get on this one, but I kept going—straight onto train number eight, where our reservations were. So we lugged our stuff up and onto the train and then three men appeared coming out of car #7 heading into car #8. They shoved us out of the way and two of them started walking down the train car. Sarah and I followed in the normal fashion with our reservation in hand and keeping our eyes on the seat numbers to find our designated seats.

All of a sudden, the two men in front of us turned around and started heading back the other way. They started saying things to us in Polish as if they were in the wrong train and instead of stepping back and letting us go by, they just pushed.

And when I mean push, I mean PUSH. Like here are two huge guys smothering Sarah and I together while a third man was standing behind Sarah and pushing her into me. It was a Sarah sandwich with three, huge, horrible Polish men. We were trapped—literally. There was no way that we could push them away—and its not like we weren’t trying. Not only were they pushing us together but they had shoved us between the doors of the different compartments so there was not a chance that we could step into aside. It was unbelievable, at the time, we didn’t know what was going on. How on earth were they were not letting us go by? I mean, we know that Polish people hate waiting in lines and love to cut in front of you, stand really close to you and give the occasional shove, but this was ridiculous.

It lasted for a good thirty seconds. One of the two men in front of me managed to get past us and finally the one in front of me (the one blocking our way down into the car and pushing against us) finally let up. We couldn’t believe it.

When he finally let us through we were shocked and made it to our compartment and threw down our bags in disbelief. Did THAT just happen?

That’s when I realized.

My wallet was gone.

It was not in my bag.

Holy crap.

I gasped as I looked down at my open bag that had been unzipped and searched through. It was open and my wallet was no where to be found. I looked up at Sarah. Oh my god, my wallet is gone. She looked at me not believing what I just said.

So I ran back out into the corridor between the trains and to my surprise, there was my wallet. Thrown onto the ground, but zipped open. I picked it up and ran back to our compartment to check and see what the damages were.

Unbelievably, they had just taken my cash that was in my wallet, which turned out to be around 40 US dollars. I had all my Polish money in my pocket at the time, which was just by chance, so they didn’t get any of that or any of the credit cards in my bag. Sarah’s backpack had been opened but luckily there was nothing to be taken, and my backpack was securely locked.

We couldn’t believe it. It was one of those situations in life where you just start laughing—out of disbelief and out of relief that not only nothing else was taken, but that Sarah and I were both safe. During it all, we honestly had no idea of what was going on since it all happened so quickly but afterwards it made perfect sense to us. All along we have been extremely careful with our belongings and haven’t felt at all like we were targets. How ironic is it that the women on the train yesterday questioned us about why we were in Poland, and were surprised to hear that we were not afraid to be going around Poland on our own.

The train started up and we felt hopeless, but honestly things could have been worse. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if anything else would have been taken, but we were definitely lucky that those guys just took the American dollars that I had in my wallet.

These guys are just more people that are racking up bad karma.

The rest of the train ride was just fine to Warsaw—we got an express train and were there in 4 hours. We weren’t sure exactly what stop to get off on once we got of Warsaw, and we stopped at a train station right outside of the city first. We were supposed to arrive in the center of Warsaw at 2:04pm and all clocks pointed to the time being much later than that. So was this our stop? We didn’t think so, but we weren’t sure. With the train being an express train, we then were hit with the realization—what if this train keeps going and we are going to just cruise on through the rest of Warsaw without stopping?

We had to get off. But we tried the door and it didn’t open! Oh great. First the mugging, now we can’t get off. So I asked a girl standing near us if the train was going to the center, and she assured us that Tak, it was.

So we lurched forwards while trying to hold onto all of our stuff in the middle of the train and finally pulled into the center of Warsaw a few minutes later. We got off and pushed through the crowds of people trying to get on the train we just got off and took the escalators up to the outside area.

We got a taxi to the hotel (making sure he used his meter!) and checked in. We dropped off our stuff and headed out on a walking tour of the city, since it was getting too late to have ample time at the zoo.

We spent the rest of the afternoon going around Warsaw—seeing Old Town which was completely destroyed during WWII. Honestly its so hard to comprehend that such atrocities happened here and that the entire city was reduced to rubble. We saw countless buildings that had been restored and were shocked at the pre-restoration photographs showing all of the destruction. We also saw the site of an old Nazi prison and a train platform where over 300,000 Jews were taken away from Warsaw to concentration camps. The feeling here is indescribable.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.