Saturday, June 19, 2004

Wrocław, Poland--Jelenia Góra, Poland—Day 140

Today Sarah and I decided to head away from Wrocław and go to Jelenia Góra—a small town about two hours from Wrocław, near the border of the Czech Republic. We woke up and packed up our things, then headed over to the bus station via taxi. We bought our tickets to Jelenia Góra (or so we thought) and waited on the right platform for our bus to pull up. We were really impressed with ourselves for taking on the Polish bus system with such ease and finesse.

The bus ride was going just fine, despite my seat reclining and straightening back into its upright position whenever it felt like it. We thought we were in the clear until a ticket man boarded the bus and asked to see our tickets. So we got out our tickets and waited for him to come and check ours. When he did, he started pointing and talking to us. We didn’t understand of course, so all we could offer him were shakings of the head and blank looks. He kept talking and pointing and we didn’t know what to do. It was obvious that something wasn’t right. He finally gave up on us and kept checking the rest of the tickets.

Finally he came back to us and beckoned us to the front of the bus. Neither he nor the bus driver spoke English. They kept pointing to our tickets and saying something, and we couldn’t do anything. We didn’t know what they were saying. Finally the ticket man asks for my identification (this I could understand) so I get out my American passport. He takes one look at it, hands it back to me, and dismisses us.

Feeling a little shaken, we found new seats and sat down. We then realized that the ticket lady at the bus station had given us the wrong tickets. She had thought that we were going to an entirely different place but on the same route as Jelenia Góra and had given us tickets only halfway. When the ticket man saw that we were foreigners, he just let us go.

Thank goodness because he could have just dropped us then and there off in the middle of god knows where.

We made it into Jelenia Góra and went to get a taxi to the center (“Centrum” as they say here) and the taxi driver pointed to us across the street, telling us that it was just 200 meters away. So we walked with all of our stuff on the cobble stone streets and found the center. I went to look for a hotel while Sarah waited and soon thereafter we were booked in for the night in a cute little hotel with lime green walls and had checked in our bags.

We got lunch and then decided to take a bus to Chojnik Castle, which are ruins of a medieval castle overlooking onto Jelenia Góra below. We wanted to take the bus but had limited time so we took a taxi instead to the bottom of the hill. The taxi driver pointed enthusiastically at the path and we figured out that we had to hike up to the top of the mountain where the Castle was. No sweat, right?

Well, it wasn’t that easy even though we opted for the easier route on the way up. There was a lot of huffing and puffing that went on while we struggled to the top about forty-five minutes later, but once we made it up to the top it was worth it. The castle itself was just amazing, not only for its location and preserved ruins, but because at the base of the castle there was this group of people having this huge sing-a-long to Czech pop music. Very strange, yet very entertaining.

We walked around the castle grounds and up to the top of the tower which had amazing views over Poland and the Czech Republic. It was just awesome and unreal. We spent a while taking pictures and when our legs were ready, made the steep climb back down the mountain. At the bottom we made a well-deserved ice cream break and walked back into town, trying to find a bus stop to take us back to Jelenia Góra. We managed to flag down a taxi heading in the direction that we needed and got the taxi back to the center of Jelenia Góra where we found some dinner and walked back to our hotel. We then were able to make reservations at the train station for our trip to Gdańsk for tomorrow (an 11 hour train ride!) and using our unbeatable phrase book, we reserved two sleeper beds for the ride up. Tired and exhausted, we walked back to our cute little hotel to crash for the night.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.