Sunday, June 27, 2004

Warsaw, Poland--Łódź, Poland—Day 148

Today we left the hotel in Warsaw early and got a taxi to the train station. We found our train to Łódź (pronounced “Woodge”) and after eating a quick snack went and stood on the platform that our train was supposed to arrive on. Well after standing there for way too long (quite sometime after it was supposed to come…and didn’t) we decided that the train just wasn’t going to come. Didn’t know why, but it just wasn’t. So luckily there was another train just one hour later than the original and by this point we just had about a half and hour before the second train was supposed to arrive anyways.

We switched platforms and the second train came when it said that it would and we were on our way to Łódź. The train ride was fine and we arrived in Łódź around 11:30. We got a taxi to the hotel and we checked in, dropped off our stuff, grabbed lunch and then took a taxi to the zoo.

The Łódź Zoo seemed more like a park at first—it has big trees and paths that are hard to follow, and its hard to figure out where the animals are since there are not any small maps showing you around the zoo. We found the hippo enclosure eventually and were surprised to see it empty. We wandered around to the back behind where the hippos (along with the elephants and rhinoceroses were) and found a small house that seemed connected to the hippo’s outdoor enclosure. Inside we found just one lone hippo named Hipek. Hipek turned out to be a whopping 49 years old (born in 1955!) and was all by himself. Poor guy. On top of that, he spent most of the time that we were watching him swimming around and around and around in little circles in his tiny indoor pen. You began to wonder if hippos could get dizzy because we sure were just by watching him!

It took quite a bit of waiting and watching to get some good pictures of Hipek—all of his circling was difficult to photograph since he would keep his head under the water. We eventually got some good pictures (despite being indoors!) and headed out of the zoo a few hours later.

We decided to take a tram back to the city center and when we boarded the tram, we couldn’t figure out where or how we were supposed to buy tickets for it. We were worried about not having a ticket on the tram, but since it was so packed, we couldn’t really move and just followed what everyone else did on the tram by not getting a ticket.

We got off and walked around for a bit in the city center before deciding to find the old Jewish Cemetery, which is supposed to be really lovely. We set off walking and it didn’t take long for us to realize how far we had to walk. Luckily we were walking along the tram route so when a tram pulled up near us, we decided to hop on. Again we weren’t sure when or where we were supposed to buy tickets, so we tried to watch what others were doing and it seemed like no one had tickets.

Boy were we wrong.

We pulled up to a stop and a man in a suit boarded. He looked sort of suspicious—a man in a suit with no briefcase or anything. I was thinking just that when he got out his badge. Oh great, he was a ticket collector! Sarah and I didn’t have tickets and there was the stupid ticket collector, just two people away from us. There was no way we could have hopped off of the tram since he was blocking the door. We were screwed.

He got to Sarah first, asked for her ticket and when she didn’t have one, for her identification. I was trying to search for my license in my bag as the tram stopped and he started to escort Sarah off of the tram. I jumped off with them and another woman followed. The tram pulled away, leaving the four of us standing there. The woman was also a ticket collector it seemed. Sarah and I tried to explain what had happened—we just honestly didn’t know WHERE to buy a ticket and it wasn’t like we weren’t trying to NOT pay for the tram, we just didn’t know what to do. This is our perpetual problem in Poland, there are just not signs or any sort of notice indicating what you need to do to use public transportation which can be really frustrating (especially when you don’t speak Polish!).

The man starts talking to us and we try to explain to them in English what happened and the woman snapped at us, telling us that she spoke English but then proceeded to lecture us in Polish. We couldn’t do anything but try to make it clear to them that we didn’t know where to buy the tickets so we didn’t get them, not that we were trying to make off without paying the whole 2 zloty (50 cents) for the ride. She was NOT sympathetic and demanded that we pay her the fine (110 zloty!) and even after we agreed to pay the fine but then asked how on earth we DO buy tickets, she refused to speak to us in English and we think she told us that you could buy tickets at the machines at the tram stops. When she looked around to point them out to us, she realized that in fact there were NO ticket machines at the tram stop we were standing at. See?? We tried to gesture, WHERE do you get them?

We were fine paying the fee but it was frustrating because they didn’t want to help us figure out what we should have done, or what we should do next time. They were both unhelpful and we decided to just call it a day and walk back to the town center (following the tram lines again) instead of going to the Cemetery since it was getting late at this point. Frustrated and annoyed, we walked back and ended up finding a huge internet “café” (more like a warehouse of computers) and then walked back to the hotel to organize the hippo pictures from today, then to get dinner. Poland all in all has been wonderful but has been filled with moments that really test you—from the mugging to just constantly being shortchanged by cab drivers, its been an experience—but a good one nonetheless.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.