Sunday, June 20, 2004

Jelenia Góra, Poland--Gdańsk, Poland—Day 141

Today we woke up feeling a little tired from our big hike yesterday. We decided to make Karpacz our destination for the day—a tiny town about 45 minutes from Jelenia Góra by bus. According to the guide book, going to Poland and NOT visiting Karpacz is basically equivalent of committing a sin, so we thought that we most definitely should check it out.

We walked over to the bus station and asked the man at the ticket counter for tickets to Karpacz. He was friendly and gave us the time for the bus (writing down that it left at 10 o’clock) and gestured that we could buy tickets on the train. So we headed outside and started walking towards a place to sit down.

Suddenly, the man came running out of the ticket building. He was waving his hands and saying things and pointing to the bus that was parked in front of us. We got the drift—this bus was going to Karpacz and we didn’t have to wait until 10 o clock. We were beckoned onto the bus and when the bus driver emerged from somewhere, the ticket man explained to him in Polish that we wanted to go to Karpacz. Phew. At least this time we didn’t have to try to get our point across in gestures and we wouldn’t end up with the wrong tickets!

The bus ride to Karpacz was fine. We took the bus all the way through town and up to the top of the mountain, getting off at the stop for the Wang Chapel. We opted to take the bus instead of hiking to it from the town center which saved us a few good hours. We followed the signs and walked up to the Wang Chapel, which just so happens to be a 12th Century Norwegian Chapel (yes, I did just say Norwegian!) that was sold to the Karpacz community by the Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia. Neat.

We had to wait for Sunday mass to end before anyone was allowed to go inside. Sarah and I both didn’t have jackets and boy was that a mistake! While we waited for the chapel to re-open once the congregation poured out, we bought and wrote postcards and suffered in the bitter wind outside. When the chapel did finally open, we literally had to push our way through the line (these Poles are ruthless!) to make it in and to get a seat. We were then given a 15 minutes lecture about the Chapel via loudspeaker (all in Polish of course) and it wasn’t until the lecture was done that we realized that there was an English translation available. Oh well.

Afterwards, we left the beautiful chapel and began our decent down the mountain back into the town of Karpacz. It took us quite a while to get down to the town and we stopped had had some lunch at a pub along the way. When we finally did make it down to the main part of town, we decided that we couldn’t leave Karpacz without braving the huge alpine slide that was beckoning us to ride on. After sliding down a huge hill two times and getting all of our screaming out for the day, we hid from the train that had just started to pour under the bus stop.

We got on the bus and 45 minutes later, we were back in Jelenia Góra. We walked back into town, found an internet café and for two hours or so (along with a hotel break and a mere 6 zloty later) I had time to write more in my blog and catch up on emails while we waited for the rain to stop.

We then got a light dinner before going back to the hotel, collected our things, and got a taxi to the train station to board our 7 o’clock overnight train to Gdansk. We were excited about having a train reservation AND having sleeper cars. After a bit of confusion (which involved Sarah getting off of the train to ask for help while I was left standing on the train with all of our luggage with my heart pounding in fear that the train would all of a sudden start up again without her), we found our sleeper car. There was a nice man in charge of the cars and helped us settle in and took our tickets away from us “for safe keeping.”

Already we were pleased with our new setup. Not only did we each had our own bed (50 zloty each—a steal!) but we figured we had just about 2 hours to read before it would get dark and it would be time for bed. We had 11 hours to look forward on the train and both of us were keeping our fingers crossed that sleeping would pass the time.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.