Thursday, June 17, 2004

Prague, Czech Republic--Wrocław, Poland—Day 138

Today we woke up and spent the morning in search of a post office. One would think that hey, there would be a post office somewhere near our hotel, or perhaps even where the hotel desk people pointed one out, but noooo. That would be too easy. Instead Sarah and I walked around this part of Prague near our hotel for a good few hours trying to track down the seemingly invisible post office.

We finally, finally, finally found it, which in itself was quite a miracle, especially when everyone is telling you to go in different directions. We got into the post office and had quite a few things to mail back to the States. Sounded easy enough.

Well we walked up to the desk and I asked if the man working spoke English. He did not, but the man standing near him did and he told us that in order for us to get a box to ship our things home, we would have to go into the other room of the post office.

So we did, and couldn’t for the life of us see this shelf that he said there would be boxes. After much confusion, we were finally pointed to a tiny closet like door that we were supposed to push a button. Never mind that huge sign on the door that probably said “BOXES IN HERE.” We pushed the buzzer and were let in to a small room. We had to order our boxes from this woman, which was done purely through hand gestures. She got the point and made four for us and was frustrated when we decided on just getting two. We paid her our money and we wondered how on earth these huge boxes were going to fit through the tiny window.

At our feet there was a small steel door and she told us to open it. There were our boxes.

Phew. We packed in our things and went back to the English speaking man, but he wasn’t there. Instead the first man was. We tried to have him help us but then he got up and left. Okay…Then the English speaking man came back and popped his head out of a little window next to Sarah. What is the problem? He asks us. Umm, there is no problem, we say. But I am here to help you? He says. Yes, um, we know, we say. So what can I do for you? He says. Well, isn’t it obvious? We’re standing there holding our packages with Sarah’s already on the scale and he’s asking us what we want to do here?

Finally he came around to where the first man had been sitting and took over the job. Sarah’s package price added up to be 666, which this man thought was quite funny. Ohhh, the devil’s numbers hahaha, he said and it took us a second to understand what on earth he was talking about. Oh yes, hahaha.

Finally the post office fiasco was over. Three hours later. We did have some slight deterrents—going to a park and to a nearby shopping center, but basically we spent most of the time in search of the silly post office which actually turned out to be quite close to the park that we originally ate our breakfast in. Of course.

We just had enough time to get something to eat, or so we thought. We sat down at a pizza place and then realized that our time was more limited. So we decided to leave and walked back to the hotel. We got our things and a taxi and were dropped off at the second train station in town. We boarded our train to Wrocław, Poland (pronounced “Vrots-wahv” of course) and sat down in a train compartment. At first there weren’t many people in our compartment but then two older men showed up and were squeezed four people on one side and three on another, which was pretty full. The train ride itself was fine, but very long. It took us about 7 hours to get to Wrocław and the ride was terribly hot. Luckily the other people got off sooner that we did so we eventually had our own train compartment to ourselves. However we were a little nervous when it seemed like we had the entire TRAIN to ourselves. We got to the Polish border and there were lots of Polish men in uniforms, but no one else around.

Ummm, ok. Where did all of the people go? I walked around the train and found two other girls like us sitting in another compartment, so hopefully we weren’t in the wrong place. A scary yet important looking man in uniform came into our compartment and took our passports. We felt so small next to him and he started writing things down from our passports. Sarah’s passport hasn’t been to quite as many places as mine, so it was easy for him to stamp it and hand it back to her. Mine, on the other hand, is like trying to find a needle in a haystack at this point—there is hardly any room to stamp anything. There was no way I was going to be able to withstand an interrogation as to my reasons for being in Poland, especially with a man who only spoke Polish. I mean, how do you say, “I photograph hippos” in Polish? I hadn’t gotten there yet.

Luckily he wrote some things down from our passports and handed them back. Phew. We were I the clear. That wasn’t the case for some other person who was escorted off of the train. Luckily we were on our way to Wrocław and finally pulled in late at night. We got a taxi to our hotel and found that a rock concert was going on in the main lobby area. No joke. It was 11 o’clock at night, we were starving and more than disheveled and we walked straight into a black-tie, rock concert.

We checked in and collapsed when we got to the room. We couldn’t believe what a day we had and were excited to get a good night’s sleep for the zoo tomorrow.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.