Wednesday, March 3, 2010

90 Steps: A Travel Log, Pt. 1

As I mentioned prior to our trip to Krakow, I:

  • was quite apprehensive of taking a 19+ hour train ride--particularly after TOIAW shared his Mystery Country overnight train experiences with me
  • had not ever considered a week's long holiday in Poland
  • did not like the idea of a spontaneous trip (especially one in which I had no part in planning)

I managed, however, to get over myself and had a lovely time. I'll begin at the beginning. TOIAW and I arrived at the train station hungry due to the lack of provisions in our cupboards (why go on a big shop before leaving for a week?) so we decided to stop by McDonald's before boarding the train. I went to find a table while TOIAW ordered our food. When I was sitting down, a young European woman came up and asked me if she could have the table because she thought I was leaving but I explained I was just arriving and she said apologized and walked away. The apology wasn't necessary but there were two guys sitting just a few feet away who somehow came to the conclusion that I had offended her and began yelling very ugly things about me and my country. Not cool. I ignored them at first thinking TOIAW would be along soon but they kept on...and on and on...and people were staring...and they kept saying, "You're a stupid [expletive] [my nationality] and you don't speak [the local language]," and then I kind of lost it and told them I did understand and I did speak the language. Oddly, this did nothing to help the situation (sarcasm, in case you didn't notice) so I shamed my gender and went to tell TOIAW to come and defend my honor. The little punks assured him there was no problem. He told them not to talk to me, not to look at me, and if they ignored his rules he would settle it with them outside. As soon as he walked away they began again--in earnest. I ignored them and opened my purse to find my some lip balm and what happened to be on top but our passports which TOIAW had--for some reason--placed there. At first I was annoyed because the last thing the situation needed was for me to flash my passport around like some wild west sheriff's badge but in hindsight it probably saved TOIAW from injury from my new friend Scar Face (a very ugly and fresh scar that I can only imagine was acquired in an unsavory manner) because when they noticed the bold gold letters proclaiming our status in the Mystery Country they quickly left (and I heard one of them tell the other what he had just seen and then say it was time to go). TOIAW was concerned they would be waiting for us outside but I was pretty sure they weren't that stupid and I was right. Off to the train we went...happy to be uninjured and leaving the MC for a few days!

The births consisted of three beds (top, middle, and bottom bunk) and even though our friend tried to buy us the entire "room" the attendant would not allow him to, "waste his money," so I held my breath until we left praying no one else would be bunking with us. Thankfully, we were indeed alone. Additionally, we were in an international car so the toilet facilities were far better than those in the domestic cars--thank you, Lord! We stayed awake for a bit chatting with our travel companions--lamenting that our car attendant's smoking was stinking up all our rooms--and retired to bed about 23:00. I recall commenting to TOIAW that the heater that had seemed so strong earlier didn't seem to be working as well but he attributed the cold to the window being cracked in order to mitigate the inhalation of second-hand smoke. Oh, and one key bit of information is that it raining/snowing a little.

About 02:00 I woke-up shivering. I had to use the facilities and when I stepped into the hall I quickly noticed it was frigid as if I had just stepped outside. When I tried to flush nothing happened and when I pressed the button to wash my hands the water barely sputted out. In our room I tried to shut the window--choosing asphyxiation over hypothermia--but it wouldn't budge. TOIAW tried also but eventually declared it was frozen open. I then played around with the heater but the metal face was ice cold and nothing I did seemed. I then asked (begged) TOIAW to sleep with me so I could benefit from some body heat. The bad news is I didn't get any sleep. The good news is TOIAW slept soundly and I managed to stay alive. In the morning I discovered, not surprisingly, that neither the heat, nor the water pump were working but that they would attempt to repair it when we stopped at the border. I knew right them we would not have heat until after we left the train. Nevertheless, the rest of the trip was long but mostly bearable and TOIAW and husband-half of our traveling companion couple were able to take the kids for a walk and score some pizza for lunch. Also, I was able to cuddle up in the fetal position for a couple of hours and take a nice nap.

When we arrived in Krakow we immediately went set out to find out apartment. I was concerned after reading some of the reviews but it was very nice and in a great location. The only problem was the 90 steps required to get to the fourth floor. It honestly wasn't that bad for us but we were traveling with a family of six and the two youngest had some problems getting up and down the steps. But, again, the apartment itself was lovely and we had an amazing view of the main town square. Shortly after arriving we set out again in search of real food and found delicous and authenic Mexican food. I could have eaten there every night :)

Join me for Part 2 tomorrow when I tell you all about seeing the sights of Krakow!


Rachel said...

How absolutely terrifying. I am SO glad that you had your husband with you. People can be so awful.

But I hope you loved Krakow - I did when I went, but that was years ago.

The Gutsy Mom said...

Oh my WORD. I don't know which I find more terrifying: the show down with Scar Face or nearly freezing to death on the train. Both sound incredibly uncomfortable.

AKD said...

I am so glad that you were safe - I don't understand people being confrontational for no reason. That's just awful.

Oh, no, I don't know how you got any sleep! Hopefully your apartment was much warmer and more comfortable, and you got a better car on the way home. I can't wait for installment #2!