Saturday, June 26, 2004

Photo--Chopin Monument, Warsaw

Photo--Palace on the Water, Warsaw

Warsaw, Poland—Day 147

Today started off with a trip to Wilanow, an old mansion just outside of Warsaw which has served as a museum for over a century. It also survived World War II due to its location just outside of Warsaw. We decided to try and take a bus there, but after stopping at the train station first to get times for our train to Lodz for tomorrow combined with trying to figure out if we had to buy our bus tickets on the bus or at a kiosk (which meant a lot of walking back and forth) we decided to just take a taxi and figure out the bus on the way back. The taxi proved to be worth the price. The grounds of Wilanow are beautiful and the exhibits inside were also pretty interesting. Despite being smothered in a sea of Italian and Polish tour groups, we were able to have a pretty leisurely time at Wilanow.

Afterwards we visited the small but interesting Poster Museum next door to Wilanow which has on display over 400 posters, ranging from advertisements and political statements. It was interesting. We then found the bus stop near Wilanow and boarded a bus back to the center of Warsaw. We figured out where to get off and were impressed by the extremely efficient and computerized bus system (you buy the bus ticket on the bus, btw).

We got off near a large botanical park and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the gardens, having lunch near the Palace on the Water, which was just that. The gardens were really beautiful despite bouts of rain.

We had quite a funny moment when Sarah stopped me and asked me to take a picture of a bird for her mother (who is quite an avid bird watcher). So I stopped and got out my camera and tried to focus on the bird. But then it flew away and along came another. So I kept moving my camera trying to follow once of the birds (much harder to photograph than a hippo btw!) and all of a sudden there were at least six little birds flying all over us, right in our faces. I screamed and ran away, as fast as I could (which didn’t prove to be fast enough since one bird managed to poop on me) and I left Sarah standing there with the swarm—straight out of the Hitchcock film. It was so funny-as I was running away, all I could hear was her shrieking. I turned around and to my surprise saw Sarah standing there with her arm outstretched and her finger propped just so that a bird could sit on it. And then one did! I couldn’t believe it. Then another, then another. Sarah was shrieking away and I was just dying of laughter and the look on her face was priceless. Needless to say, I never got the picture and when we composed ourselves and tried to get a picture (and some video footage) of Sarah standing there with the birds, none came.

After the bird fiasco we walked though the park and along to another, and then on to yet another before we were back in the main downtown area of Warsaw. We managed to walk all the way back from the parks to the hotel, where we rested for a bit before heading back out for dinner. We found a cute little Polish place and had potato pancakes and deep-fried cheese with our “sok do piwo” (a Polish specialty—beer with raspberry syrup!!!).

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Hippos on her mind...

Photo--Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw, Poland—Day 146

Today started out later than normal. After finishing up a bit of business, we headed over to the Historical Museum of Warsaw to catch the English version film of the history of Warsaw from 1939-1945. The film was absolutely extraordinary—it showed Warsaw in its pre-war state and showed how Warsaw was decimated during the war and how it had to be entirely rebuilt from the rubble. Astounding.

After touring through the rest of the exhibits in the museum, we went and got lunch in New Town. We then headed back towards the Old Town area of Warsaw and visited the Royal Castle, which was once the official Royal Palace and subsequently the Presidential Palace before it was burned down by the Nazis during World War II.

We explored further the neighborhoods surrounding Old Town and ended up at the Chopin Museum which was in itself small but equally fascinating—it displays relics ranging from Chopin’s last piano to the burial clothes of his parents.

After that we went in search of the old remaining wall of the Jewish Ghetto which took quite a while and when we found where it was located, we were disappointed to find out that it was basically in an apartment building’s backyard with no access to actually view the wall.

Soon thereafter it was time for dinner so we actually ate in a Mexican restaurant near the Palace of Culture and Science and it turned out to be fact, just as wonderful as Mexican food in Mexico. It was totally bizarre—there we were drinking margaritas and eating enchiladas de mole in the middle of Poland. It is strange sometimes how things work out.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Photo--The Church of the Holy Cross, Warsaw, Poland

Photo--Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw, Poland

Photo--Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw, Poland—Day 145

Today we woke up and headed straight to the Warsaw Zoological Garden, which is just a short cab ride across the Visla River from our hotel. We bought our tickets to the zoo and walked in and had to walk to the other end of the zoo to find the hippos. Turned out that there was only one little hippo in the enclosure when we showed up! Could it be that there was only one hippo in the Warsaw Zoo?

It seemed just so. We took pictures of the hippo named Gucio (which we learned later) and Sarah showed off by getting Gucio to open and close his mouth on cue. We didn’t realize until other people showed up that Gucio would open his mouth at just anybody, in hopes of food being thrown in. We saw lots of school children gathering grass to throw in his mouth and even a few throwing in chips, which was really sad. We felt awful for poor little Gucio, all by himself in that big enclosure, hoping to be fed by people passing by.

On top of that, it appeared that Gucio had some sort of a cold because his nose made the funniest sound, sort of a gurgle noise that I haven’t heard from a hippo before. He would open his huge mouth and his nose would gurgle—it was quite endearing despite the fact that he was probably suffering from a cold…well, that is, if hippos can actually get colds.

After I took the pictures we walked around for quite a while trying to find someone who worked at the zoo. There seemed to be no one around who we could ask to help us with the hippo's name. We finally found a few men at the monkey enclosure (one with a monkey on his shoulder!) and asked about the hippo’s name—but unfortunately they did not know it.

We decided that this could not possibly be, and walked out to the exit on the opposite side of the zoo to ask the person working at the ticket booth if they could help us since no one else seemed to be of help. Thankfully the woman working there was really friendly and she got on her phone and a few minutes later we walked away with Gucio’s name in my hand.

Sarah and I decided to walk back to the old town from the zoo, so we crossed back over the bridge and started walking. It began to get extraordinarily hot at this point so we decided that we should head back to the hotel first to change. After walking through a park and then trying to figure out the tram and bus stops, we decided to just hop on a taxi and get back to the hotel quickly.

We did just this and went back to the hotel. I organized my hippo photos for the day and then we stopped by the business center at the hotel to have the cds sent off to the States.

Once business had been taken care of, we walked down back into the heart of Warsaw where we visited the Church of the Holy Cross, where Chopin’s heart is actually buried inside. It was pretty impressive! We then walked down a few streets and had to dodge an interview from MTV (they insisted on asking us even though we didn’t speak Polish!) and finally found a good place for lunch. For dessert, we went to the oldest bakery in Warsaw and of course had to test out their famous jelly-filled donuts. After that we walked around a bit more in search of the old Jewish Quarter of Warsaw and instead found a few lovely parks to rest our feet.

Back at the hotel, we took a break before going back out on the town for dinner. We walked past the infamous Palace of Culture and Science (built by Stalin and commonly referred to as representing something much more phallic). It was getting pretty late at this point so we found a quick bite to eat and made it back to our hotel safe and sound.

No muggings today!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Photo--Gdansk, Poland

Photo--Malbork Castle, Poland

Gdańsk, Poland—Day 143

Today we headed a little ways out of Gdansk and went to Malbork Castle, which was built by the Teutonic Knights in the 1300s. It is also the largest brick castle in the world! (Poland couldn’t just have the biggest brick church in the world, now could they?) Anyways, it was pretty cool. We took the train from the Gdansk train station, and after a few confused moments, we finally bought our tickets and were on our way (kinda). Not only did we have several people cut in line in front of us, but we had to wait a while for our platform to register that our train was, in fact, leaving from the platform it said it was and even when we got on our train we weren’t sure that we were quite in the right place.

Surprisingly, we met two women in our train car who not only spoke English, but one of whom had actually lived in Tucson and whose daughter currently lives in Tucson, where Sarah and I are from! How crazy! Here we are at the very top of Poland and we run into a woman who had lived in Tucson. They were both super nice and assured us that we were in the right spot.

About three quarters of an hour later, we got off at the Malbork stop and walked into town over to the huge red brick castle. We bought our tickets and headed inside with a small guide book and spent most of the mid morning and early afternoon wandering around the castle. It was very impressive, not only because of its huge size (it was designed as three castles in one!) but for the amount of restoration that has gone into the castle to restore the damage that it suffered during WWII.

After perusing around the castle, we went and had lunch on a boat restaurant near the castle and got our pictures taken in ridiculous costumes with swords. Who could have resisted?

We then walked a bit around the castle and then back to the train station. We decided to head back to Gdansk and get a few things done before getting dinner somewhere. So we got back on the train, luckily finding the right platform this time, and before I knew it, we were back in Gdansk. We figured out our train for tomorrow to Warsaw and booked reservations for it and then went back to the hotel where just at this time it was starting to pour with rain. Perfect timing.

After a few hours of picture organizing we were back out on the town with dinner in mind. We walked back to where we were yesterday in the Main Town area (Glowne Miasto) and got dinner at a really cute little place. It was funny because there was an Irish couple that we had asked at the Castle to take a picture of us and they were at the same restaurant for dinner! Small world!

Then we headed back to the hotel, thankfully the rain had cleared up at this point, and called it a night.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Photo--View over Gdansk, Poland

Gdańsk, Poland—Day 142

Today we got into Gdańsk at the lovely, early hour of 7am. The train ride turned out to be just awesome—we both were shocked at how well we had slept despite all of the stopping and noises around us on the train. Our only other companion in our train car was this nice, extremely blonde girl who must have been from Poland. She came into our car right when we were both going to sleep and dint’ make any noise at all (well, I guess I was passed out and probably couldn’t have heard anything anyways above all of the train noises) and it was funny, when we pulled into Gdańsk, she said goodbye to us, saying “I’ve never before seen two American girls on one Polish train.”

Neither have we!

We were able to get all of our things together and get off the train with no problems. Now all we had to do was to find our hotel. My hope would be that there would be our hotel, just right out of the train station…

We headed straight over to the taxis and got in, and I handed him my clearly written note stating not only the name of the hotel, but the address as well. So our taxi driver agrees (“Tak, tak” which means “yes, yes” in Polish) and we were off, or so we thought, to our hotel.

After driving us around for a bit, he pulls up to this hostel and then gets confused. Ohhh, okkk, not this hotel? He must have asked us. Nooo, this one, I point out to him. Ohhhh, tak tak tak.

So he takes us back to where we came from and before we knew it we were RIGHT OUTSIDE THE TRAIN STATION just across the street. The hotel had been there all along! My bizarre instinct had been right and we were flabbergasted. To make matters much, much worse, the driver insists that we pay him FORTY zloty. Now for all of you that know about a zloty, there is approximately 4 zloty for every 1 US dollar, so basically he was asking us to pay him 10 dollars for that 3 minute ride away from the hotel, “getting lost” and then back in front of the train station. No way!

We both looked at each other and then at him and he kept insisting in Polish that we pay him, saying in English however “Business, business” and shrugging his shoulders. What the?!?!?! We refused and we handed him 10, which he refused, and then I said “20” and he looked shocked and horrified, again saying, “Business, business”. It was so, extremely slimy. I couldn’t believe that he wanted to rip us off for THAT ungodly amount. I mean, c’mon, at least rip us off moderately, and ask for 15 zloty, but FORTY?? So I thrust money at him and he came back with the change that equaled him getting forty zloty. I couldn’t believe it and all I could do was shake my head at him.

He’s just asking for bad karma.

So he tried to help us with our bags and even tried to shake my hand but I pulled it away and we walked into the hotel, mad as #&*$ that he pulled us off. I mean, its not like we are tourists here! We’ve been in Poland for a good 5 days and we know what is what when it comes to the currency.

Whatever, at least we were able to check into our hotel early and get a shower before heading to the zoo.

We took another taxi to the zoo (this time it was 30 zloty for a half hour ride…that’s more like it) and we were the FIRST people in the zoo! They hadn’t even opened the zoo up yet and we were waiting in line. We got our tickets and a nice little old lady ripped them off for us and we took our map (a very nice map I might add) and headed to the hippos. We found the hippo enclosure, but sadly there were no hippos in it! Only a man cleaning up all of the hippo dung that had accumulated from god knows how long. So we watched him sweep it up for a good while (he probably thought, what on earth are those girls doing??!) and took pictures of the hippos signs.

Where could the hippos be?

There was a house next door to the hippo enclosure and peering into the darkness we could kind of sort out that there were some hippos inside. But how were we supposed to get in? There was a big sign on the door saying something in Polish that made everyone who walked by the door not try to go in it (they would turn away after looking at the door) so we figured that we wouldn’t be the ones to try.

So we passed the time getting ice cream and wandering around looking at a few other animals, including the pygmy hippos and the zebras, checking back every so often to see if the hippos had come out yet.

No luck. We sat down and waited and waited and about two hours later we decided that it was time to ask someone. It was 11 o’clock at this point and not only were the poor little hippos (well, ok big) stuck inside for so long but they probably hadn’t been fed yet!

So we asked this funny little man on a bicycle and to our luck he just so happened to be the hippo keeper himself! Whoohoo! He whipped out the keys to the hippo house, opened it up and turned on the lights. That’s more like it! There they were! Four hippos all waiting to be let outside. I had written in Polish what I had wanted to ask him, and it went like this:

Hello. I don’t speak Polish. I love hippos. How many hippos? What are the names of the hippos? Thank you very much.

Or at least that is what I think I wrote, based on our trusty Polish phrasebook. Whatever I did write, he got the picture and while herds of school children pushed past us to see the hippos, he helped write down the names of the hippos and point out who was the mother (Hektorka), father (Yuzek), auntie (Kiwi) and the baby (Stanisław). It was pretty easy to tell which one was the baby, and of course the father because he was the biggest, but the two females were more difficult. When we found “what’s the difference” in the phrasebook, the nice keeper smiled and beckoned us into the gates that led to the hippos. We went back and around the big bars separating the hippos from us and the school children and were literally behind the scenes. He brought us around to the side where the hippos were standing in a group and pointed the four of them out. They were opening their mouths wide and he was really funny and kept patting them and pointing out who was who. It was great!

Afterwards we thanked him and then had to squeeze through these tiny bars to get back into the “real world” and wait for the hippos to actually be let out of their inside pen. So we waited and waited while our trusty hippo keeper relocated the, err, mess in the outside pen and since there was a lot of it, it took quite a while. He kept smiling and winking at us while we waited and probably hadn’t had anyone quite so interested in them before! At this point we had been waiting for three hours so we were eager to at least get a glimpse of them outside!

Finally the time had come and the four were let out to eat the hay that had been laid out for them. Unfortunately this was all behind these huge green bars in an area that connected the inside and outside pens so we had to wait for them to finish munching before I could get a good picture of them outside. When they were finally done, they all wandered into the outside pen and I clicked away. They all followed each other to an area of grass in the middle of the enclosure that appeared to have just a tiny bit of water on it. The pool itself had yet to be filled so they had to make due with this tiny patch of grassy water.

Now anyone would agree—watching four hippos trying to squeeze onto a tiny patch of grass and share the water is quite a funny sight, and we were definitely amused. Once they all settled down, there was a few minutes of “calm” (and picture taking) before a large truck pulled up bearing tree braches. All four of them jumped up and bolted towards the connecting fenced area and eagerly awaited the branches that were being thrown to them. Satisfied with my pictures, we decided that it was time to move on from the zoo so we said goodbye to the hippos and made our way out of the zoo, stopping first at a small table where a young man was selling magnets and clearing him out of all of the hippo magnets that he had.

We headed out of the zoo, smiling goodbye to the nice little old lady/ticket ripper and decided to take the bus back to the center of Gdańsk. We found the bus stop nearby and when the bus pulled up, we boarded, along with an entire group of zoo-going school children and their teacher. The bus driver was extraordinarily nice, in fact, probably the nicest and friendliest person we have met so far in Poland. When we asked him how to get to the center (we didn’t even know where this bus went or even where we were on the Gdańsk map) he smiled and spoke back to us in PERFECT English that his bus didn’t go to the center, but that we could transfer onto a tram that would take us back. He would show us.


So we got on and rode the bus until he told us to get off. The whole while the children on the bus were quite amusing. Two of the girls had these sticky little hand toys that you could sort of project like a frog’s tongue or something by throwing it and holding onto the end, and the hand part (it was shaped like a and) would stick to whatever you threw it at. Does this make sense? My shoe became an unsuspecting target.

We stopped and the bus driver beckoned us to get off. He told us that we must not get on any other tram except either the #6 or the #12 and sent us on our way. We stood waiting for the tram and boarded the #12 when it pulled up. Now riding on the tram here is unlike anything that I have done before. Its like riding on a roller coaster that only goes straight, but has the same sort of jerking and swerving effect. I literally had to hold on so that I didn’t fly or crash into anyone next to me, and was impressed by everyone around us who so calmly and collectively held their stance without showing any signs of instability.

We got off near the old town center, which also just so happened to be near our hotel. We spent the afternoon walking around Gdańsk, going into the largest brick church in the world called the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary (walking up 405 steps all the way up to the top tower to see the spectacular view of the Baltic Sea). We then walked down a very touristy street were amber is sold (this is the best place in the world to buy it!) and then found the beautiful old main square and cobblestone streets, all magnificently restored. After walking through the square we made it back to our hotel, dropped off a few things, and then headed back to the train station to get a train to Sopot, which is a seaside city about 20 minutes on the train from Gdańsk.

We walked across the street (well, under the street really) to the train station and tried to get tickets to Sopot. Three frustrating conversations with three different ticket vendors later, we were still confused and finally a girl who spoke some English who was behind us in line told us where to go. We had to buy our tickets in a completely different spot than what we had thought so we thanked her and went and found where our tickets were to be bought, bought them, and then boarded the train that the ticket lady showed us to.

We hoped that we were on the right train.

Luckily we were and not too much later we were in Sopot. We got off and our direction told us to “follow the crowds” to the main boardwalk area. Hmm, considering there were no crowds to follow, we did a pretty good job of finding our way to the beach based on the small map that we had. We walked along the beach and put our feet in the Baltic Sea (how cool is that?!) and walked along the biggest boardwalk in Europe (making good use of our 3 zloty entrance fee). We then walked back towards town along another cute little cobblestone road and got an Italian dinner. Our waitress just so happened to speak wonderful English and asked where we were from. When Sarah told her Arizona, she was quite shocked and happy because she herself had just spent four months working on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. She was definitely surprised to find two Americans in Poland (let alone Sopot, she says) and we were surprised to see that she had been to Arizona.

After dinner we walked back to the train station in Sopot and boarded our train to Gdańsk. We made it back to Gdańsk and walked back under the road to our hotel, still a little peeved about our taxi driver this morning but feeling like the rest of the day made up for it.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

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.