Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Krakow, Poland (Wonderful First Impression of Poland)

I can't believe the difference from non-EU countries to EU. It is a big contrast. After walking across the border, I had to wait in line with extremely pushy Ukrainians most of them smuggling in cigarettes and booze. It felt like we were sheep trapped in a small cage. People shook their heads at me and another girl (Sara from NYC) when they found out we were American, which meant that it would take two extra minutes to speak with the border guard than it would for them. When I got to Poland territory I checked the schedule for the train only to find out the next train left at 10:30pm. One of the girl's at the hostel in Lyiv told me it ran every hour and that the trip to Krakow takes about three and a half hours from the Polish border town. She got the latter part right. Feeling tired and low, I walked a short distance to the bus station to see if taking a bus would be any faster.

A Polish backpacker came up and asked if Sara and I needed a ride to Krakow. He said he was going that way and knew how hard it was traveling by train. At first, I was weary and said we would be alright. We started talking to him and I could tell instantly he was sincere and a very nice man. His car seat in the backseat made me believe it was more than safe. We accepted his offer. He had just been hiking in the Carpathian mountains with some of his Ukrainian friends. Robert asked if we were hungry and we both said yes. We went to a small Polish bar and had Polish borscht and periogis. Robert paid for both of our meals telling us it was customary for him to buy us our first Polish meal.

After dinner we walked to where his car was parked at his wife's Grandmother's house. He told us we needed to come in and meet her. She was 89 years old and had been living in the loft for about 60 years just after WW2! She made us hot tea and gave us some wafers. She said that Sara and I were the first Americans to ever visit her. I could tell she wanted to talk to us, but since neither one of us knew Polish we just exchanged smiles and nods. Robert told us she used to be a gymnasitic coach and ski instructor. Robert told us that her late husband helped fill the graves after the war ended. She talked only briefly about the war. When we left her house she gave both Sara and I a big hug and kiss and gave Robert sandwiches for the road trip.

During the ride Robert talked about his favorite bands and how he got into Punk during the fall of communism. He also told us he studied French literature in Paris for three years and he met his Polish wife who was also studying abroad. It was a fun car trip even though I got a bit car sick.

Going to Aushwitz today. I want to see it first and then spend sometime doing more uplifting activities. More to come from Poland.

No comments: