Del suspected his bodybuilding rival was on the steroids...
16th July 2007
Warsaw and Krakow, Poland (euro trip part 5)
Current mood: Rejuvenated
Category: Travel and Places
What with getting a night bus from Lithuania it was inevitable we were going to end up in Warsaw at Stupid O Clock in the morning, which we did.
There were no tourist offices open which meant we hadn't a scoobies of where to go, what to do, and what was happening on Eastender's that night – if we were interested in that sort of thing, and hanging around like a couple of lost tourists wasn't a comfortable feeling as there had been reports of muggings. There I was standing upright, staring at everyone and never ever smiling – basically doing my best to look Polish to avoid being mugged, whilst we were asking ourselves what to do, and it wasn't long after rubbing our heads together we though the best idea was to find our way to Nathan's Hostel pretending to them we were going to stay the night there. This way they gave us a map and all the info anyone could ask for, except for the Eastender's thing. Sure, Nathan's Hostel would have happily given us all this info anyway even if we weren't staying at their place, but by pretending we were going to stay made us feel clever, streetwise and as if we had got one over an imaginary system.
Allies unveil secret weapon against the Nazis...
Once the morning rocked on a little bit we soon realised that the weather was baking. It was pretty much the first hot weather we had except for a short stint in Estonia where I burnt my head into a red beach ball.
The way I looked at it, the North Pole is friggin freezing whilst the South Pole is pretty cold too, so it makes perfect sense to me really that the Pole in the middle is going to be warmest. We only had a day in Warsaw so it involved a lot of running around and seeing things we really didn't understand. Take the Chopin Classical Concert in the local park for example. Glastonbury it wasn't and I hadn't a scoobies who this Chopin fella was, but it allowed me some time to get a 20 minute kip under a bush. Back in the centre of Warsaw we ran into a top bloke called Martin, who we saw briefly in Lithuania.
Outside former KGB museum
The three of us carried on around Warsaw and headed to a former Gestapo Museum but the place ended up being closed, which sucked, although I'm sure there would have been a few people grateful for its closure if some 60 odd years ago. Afterwards we went on a beer and curry quest and ended up finding this brilliant traditional Indian restaurant, which was run by Poles by the way. After stuffing ourselves silly and getting slightly trollied we left Martin to conquer Warsaw whist we headed to the train station to catch another night ride to Krakow, the largest city in Poland. Unfortunately the city wasn't large enough to border Warsaw and a 5 hour journey lay ahead of us with a very overcrowded carriage to accompany us, and to make matters worse there was such little room I no choice but to crash out on the floor outside of the khazi which hadn't the most pleasant aromas wafting from it, I must say.
'Piece of Shit' Street... seriously
One hour I spent in a drunken slumber sat on that bastard floor with my bags tied around my arms and legs to avoid being snatched, basically I looked like a game of twister gone bad, until the ticket man came around and told us our tickets had been allocated seats and to go find them. What a wank, eh? Anyroad, off I set looking for these seats but all the carriage numbers didn't make any sense to me and pretty soon I gave up and plonked my arse on the floor again. That's when a Pole or a Russian, it was difficult to tell, told me to follow him and he'll show me the way. I wasn't sure if he was taking me to my carriage or leading me away to rob me, but I followed him anyway thinking bollocks, a couch is worth risking my life for…
A war memorial of some sort... I think
As you can imagine, after wearing the same clothes for 2 days, not to mention travelling in them for over 10 hours, I was beyond happiness when we were walking through the centre of Krakow towards the hostel and its showers.
You could say my David Beckham fragrance potency was being pushed to its limits. So after shedding a layer of skin in the squirty flower and blitzing our way through the free breakfast before everybody woke up, Mands and I decided to have a lazy day at the hostel to help recharge our batteries. The first day itself not much interesting happened, only having a quick butchers around town, reading a book and almost watching a DVD but the only one they had was 28 Days Later, which was a tad ironic cos I had literally watched the thing on Channel 4 28 days earlier.
Schindlers factory (now closed) made even more famous by the movie Schindlers List
But the next few days were much more fun. That's right folks; another arse bruising cycle awaited us! Stage 4 of the tour de Eastern Europe had now taken us to Poland and this time a 14k cycle tour around Krakow awaited us.
Although she will intensely deny this, Mands had recently been changing her fashion sense to looking more like mine – which is fucking great I might add. Now I know generally boyfriends and girlfriends often begin to dress similar after being together a short while but even I was shocked when Mands came out of the room ready for a cycle tour wearing khaki shorts and a white vest top – exactly what I was wearing. I swear, it was like we were both spawned from the same catwalk fashion designer. When I saw her I felt like putting my pinkie finger up to the corner of my mouth, turning to the rest of the guys in the hostel and saying, 'I will call her Mini Me'. Instead, I went and got changed. And so Stage 4 began and we blasted our way around the city with an American dude telling us all the great things about Krakow, whether any of it was true or not remains to be seen. We saw Schindler's factory, made famous by the Steven Spielberg movie 'Schindler's List' where prisoners of war struggle desperately to meet the Toys R Us production quota whilst avoiding being eaten by dinosaurs. We also saw a tower right in the middle of the square where at the top of it some poor sod died one day after getting an arrow in the neck as he played a daft tune to warn the locals of an incoming invasion. I'm sorry, if I was under attack the last thing I'd do is pull out my trumpet and start blasting of a Westlife ballad, but more likely shitting myself and running for the nearest exit.
And another thing, if you're going to play that sort of shit from your instrument then in my view you fucking deserve to be shot in the neck with an arrow. Blimey, that was a bit of a rant wasn't it? Anyroad a bit more cycling later and we found ourselves at something called the Krakow Mound, which used to be yet another lookout point for invaders back in the day. Fucking huge and steep this mound was, imagine a 100ft mole popping out of the ground and you'll get an idea. And what's more there were 3 of them, and if it wasn't for the third mound I'd swear I was standing on the burial site of glamour model Lolo Farrari – for those of you who don't know who she is, she held the title for the world's largest titties.
Right guys allow me to be your tour guide. There are two big sites, must do's you could say, in Krakow. Auschwitz and Birkenau is the first biggie, more on that later, and the second is visiting the salt mines which we did along with a Canadian called Chloe. The hostel was offering us a tour of the salt mines for 70 PLN but we all rubbed our heads together and worked out an el cheapo was that involved getting a slower bus, having to queue an hour longer than everyone else in 35 degrees heat to get in, not to mention having to queue again just to get out when we were finished, but all these pains didn't go unrewarded as we saved ourselves approximately 17 PLN – about £3.50. Just to get into the mine we had to descend down 300 steps, not somewhere you'd want to trip over you untied shoelace then, and I must say it was a somewhat exhausting but I didn't really mined, ha! What a brilliant pun! Down in the salt mines, which did actually taste of salt by the way as I liked a part that I hoped nobody had licked before, we were given a tour by a guide who explained how they used horses back in ye old times. Now I can guess what you're thinking here cos I was thinking the same thing – how you manage to press a horse into a canary cage is beyond me, but apparently these horses were used to power machinery. They must have been special horses. Anyroad it quickly occurred to me the idea of cramming a horse into a canary cage and hanging it up in a salt mine is a stupid notion – they only do that sort of thing in coal mines…
And as for the first biggie must do in Krakow my little tour dumplings, we already know it's Auschwitz and Birkenau cos I told you earlier. Along with Kiwi Janna and Aussie Mel and a whole other assortment of other nationalities we piled onto the mini bus until all the seats were taken – at which point the driver continued to load people on. Either the guy was aiming to set a new Guinness Book Of Record or he was trying to give us a realistic experience of a concentration camp, but we were that squashed to the point of pressing our faces up against the windows and pulling faces at the pedestrians outside. A bit like those disabled buses over here in England come to think of it. Was that a bit too far that one? Ha ha. Anyroad, we visited the sites and I know half of you are expecting me to let go with some of my twisted humour on this one but this is one even I have far too much respect for. It was an amazing yet horrifying insight that I'm still way off from ever understanding. There, that has to be the first sensible thing I've ever said on these blogs.
On other days we visited more of the city, his time along with Lorna from our earlier travels and Joanna and Emma who are both from here in England, Yooorkshire to be precise. At first it took me some convincing that they were indeed from Yorkshire as they told me they didn't own a tractor nor did they personally know the Dingles, but I threw caution to the wind, this one being 'never trust a northerner' and we shared beers and saw more of Krakow including a place called Dragons Cave, where I was expecting to run into an ex girlfriend if I'm honest with you. It was a welcomed break in there from the 39 degrees outside, I'd only wished I'd brought a crate of beer and some ham sandwiches so I could spend the day there.
After all that lot it was then time to catch the night bus to Vienna which even to this day I still don't know if we went through Hungary or whizzed around the Czech Republic