Well this is going to be a long one so I’d get a cup of coffee before you start. Or just go look at the pretty pictures. The whole trip has been written up over several days so it may not be the most coherent/ consistent piece of reading.
My trip started with me arriving at my friend Aga’s place at 23:00 as agreed however she was still on the tube so I was on her door step for about 10mins before she got there. Aga’s friend/ flatmate and fellow bride’s maid Kasha had organised a friend to pick us up at 05:00 and drop us at Standstead airport for our early check-in.
I saw my first sunrise since I’d been in London it was gorgeous bright orange ball through a little bit of frost on a fresh English morning. I realised the last time I’d seen the sunset was in the desert in Dubai just over 2 months ago.
It was my first experience with Ryan air and as those of you who have been here know it’s hard to get seats together. So I spent the 2hr 20 flight sitting beside a young polish couple and there little 9month old baby who reminded me a lot of my niece Ella and didn’t make a squawk the whole flight. Which is more than I can say for the other 6 babies. - I seem to have a knack for finding the ‘baby’ flights, or maybe it’s just a joy of air travel.
The flight was my induction to what it was going to be like for the whole trip as far as language goes. The entire plane was filled with ex-pat Polsikis heading home to visit family (in the case of the young couple) or just heading home, English was a definite minority on that flight. But then I was flying into Rzeszow (pronounced Jesov) which isn’t exactly Krakow or Warsaw.
We landed in the pouring rain and had to run across the tarmac to get to the terminal. Now I say terminal but basically it was an entry hall the size of a small class room. There was only 1 person on the desk so the processing of an entire flight (737-800 – Sarah P or Mark would know the capacity) needless to say the Polish aren’t the most patient people in the world. I didn’t understand the exact words but I know it wasn’t the nicest statements.
You can imagine the frustration when this Kiwi stepped up to the passport control and the officer took one look at my passport... a quick look at me... then a flurry of key board action.. followed be another look at me... at the passport.. then a fumble in the draw for a handbook... after scanning the book... another look at me... another look at the passport... he leaves.. (remember he hasn’t said a word to me yet) he returns with his supervisor who basically repeats the steps he did. Then finally he asks me in much accented English ‘Where are you going?’ of course I pronounced it wrong and was greeted with blank steers. But it was Aga to the rescue she translated for me and reluctantly he stamps my passport and allowed me to enter the country. I got some very dirty looks from those in the line behind me but I was in. Of course I must add all the officers wear guns and were watching me like I was some sort of crim. including a rather tall blonde polish female officer.. I can work out if that was a pleasant experience or not. ;)
We collected bag and left the airport. The second half was not much bigger than the entry foyer. The first thing everyone did when they got out side was to light up a cigarette which was to be a trend for the entire trip.
We were picked up by Kasha’s Dad and his friend who drove us from Rzeszów to Karsha’s home town or Tornów about a 2hr drive. In that time I lost count of the cigarettes consumed by my 4 polish companions.. I think its called chain smoking.. well almost. The conversation was mostly in Polish as Kasha caught up with her father and the event of Poland, the family and local news.
Kasha explained to me that all the Polish who live in the cities tend to live in the same square shaped apartment blocks which compared to Dubai looked just plain grim. Apparently back in the old days the government offered these for sale to the residence. In some cases the second generation had inherited the debt of the apartments.
Driving in Poland was an experience.. The roads are fairly narrow and they don’t worry about the 100m rule when passing. You know 100m before, during and after the overtaking. No in Poland 10m after is fine. In fact the other cars pull over for you. I’d be lying is I said I wasn’t scared at times. But no one in the car seemed to blink an eye.
We stopped off at a road side café where I got to sample my first polish dish called Bigos (I don’t think it’s spelt that way but that’s how it sounds) and coffee polish style. Bigos is a cabbage + meat stew/ soup dish which was excellent with Polish bread and the coffee is basically a heap of ground coffee in a glass of hot water. I was very strong and reminded me a bit of used engine oil. I managed to finish it though which I think won me some respect with Kasha’s old man. Not that I could understand him.
The café was fashioned as a gaming/ hunting room with numerous deer heads, skins, stuffed birds and other animals. Even the coat hooks were inverted deer hooves. – a little bit creepy if you ask me. Oh course lunch was accompanied with more smoking, see the trend here?
We arrived at Kasha’s place where I meet her mother, who again didn’t speak English at all, and her little brother, Matoosh (phonetic spelling), who was rather shy and was hiding under the bed. When we were in the lounge he would run past the door and back into his room. Very odd but I guess he was only 8. Kasha said he’d be alight on the trip once he got to know Aga and I. I couldn’t understand what the girls were saying but I gathered from the hand movements and the gestures that they were talking about shoes, dresses and their hair. Things don’t really change that much =)
The girls were having their hair done and we needed to get a present for the bride and groom (Bradley and Ana). The girls decided on a small status of a cherub which I should have guessed I’d be carrying =).
While the girls were getting their hair done I walked around the centre of Tornów checking out the local church, statue of the old Pope etc. I also had a look in a clothing shop and of course found myself in the woman’s department, not the underwear section of course but the tops and jean. I was looking for a t-shirt. One of the girls asked me in polish if I was OK to which I replied Dobraha which means OK/ Good. She replied in perfect English.. ‘are you sure?’ that’s when I realised my mistake so I made a quick exit. =)
I got bored walking around with all the shops closing so I headed to a bar to watch the Germany vs Argentina. The problem with looking Polish and being able to greet people in polish is that they launch into Polish with you and can’t understand what you are saying when you try explaining ‘Nie polski’ (not polish) they were patient and I managed to get served =). One thing I learnt though is not to say thank you before you get your change. I lost a 10er as a tip but I was going to tip anyway.. maybe not that much. The polish currency is zloty (zolta). For my £200 (less £20 for conversion) I received a little over 1000 za. I spent 600 of that in the 5 days I was there. Very cheap holiday really.
After the football, where I shared the Polish’s disappointment with Germany winning, I caught up with the girls. Their hair appointments had gone 2 hrs over time but then I figured that would be the case. Girls are the same all over the world =P. Aga wasn’t happy with what the girl had done to her hair, which I must admit was a bit of a change to how she’d had it in the past but then with a bit of hair product, a colour rinse she got it sorted out.
That night Kasha’s dad had cooked us authentic goulash which was so good! Full of meat it was great. Poland isn’t the place to be if you’re a vegetarian that’s for sure.
We ended up drinking (how unusual) with Kasha’s parents and of course there was the usual smoking. Again the conversations were mainly in Polish but I watch the hand signals and gestures and got the drift of some of it. I worked out the warning on cigarettes is the same in any language; English, Polish and Russian. Doesn’t stop them though =P.
I managed to have a conversation Kasha’s dad who only speaks Polish and Russian about what he did. Turns out he’s in logistics so we had a common point of conversation. Although rugby was beyond him, he was getting American grid iron mixed up. I gave up trying to explain it.
Locations Visited: London, Rzeszow, Tarnow
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