April 24, 2017

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A few months ago Daniel and I decided on a slight whim to buy tickets to Poland. The tickets were cheap (around 29 Euro) and was to an exotic place that we hadn't heard of. Later on we told Dariya of our plans and she was angry that we were so impulsive but eventually ended up playing along. Renata skipped this trip, unfortunately. So, off we went to Katowice for a fun little weekend. Little was planned, but it ended up being pretty fun.

We hopped a train to Hamburg Hbf so we could catch our plane from Hamburg Airport. The ride from Bremen Hbf to Hamburg Hbf was pretty seamless. We played hangman and a fun game called "Contact" until the ride was over. Once we got off, however, I got separated from Dariya and Daniel. I don't know where they went, but it wasn't with me. I looked around, went to the platform for S-Bahn to look for them, but they were nowhere to be seen. So, I bit the bullet and assumed that they caught the train without me. There was a lot of uncertainty and I was really nervous I was going to miss the plane if I didn't leave soon.

In all of the haste, I forgot to buy a ticket for the S-Bahn, so I was super nervous I'd get caught sans-ticket and have to pay a fine...but all went well and I was good to go. I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I went through security (which is ridiculously quick and streamlined at Hamburg Airport) and directly to my gate in hopes of meeting up with my lost friends. Well, they weren't there so I logged into the Hamburg Airport wifi and checked Messenger. There it was. The message. Daniel notified me that they were on their way. I was so relieved.

I waited for them to show up and we all waited for the departure time. In the meantime, I got my card working and prepped for international withdrawals so I didn't run into any more international fees.

The time came for the flights. They were what you'd expect...flights with RyanAir. It was nothing to write home about but nothing to complain about either. When we got to the airport in Katowice, I withdrew some Złoty (Polish currency...they don't use the Euro because their economy isn't strong enough) and we caught the bus into the city.

Once our bus arrived, we went directly to our hostel, met the person working (who was kind of creepy and had a strange voice and was wearing crocs so I didn't trust him fully), got our room (which was really nice for the 10€ a night that it was), and went out to get some food because we were starving after our travel.

We looked around for a bit but eventually ended up going to some random pub that looked like it had some English outside. Low and behold, nobody in freaking Katowice speaks English. So, we struggled through ordering our food and drinks but then enjoyed the ridiculously cheap prices of food. All in all, I think that meal (fries, enormous burger, and beer) was like 6€. I love it. These prices will continue through the entire trip, which is good because I'm getting super poor after traveling in Europe so much. And Poland is definitely uncensored. One of my first experiences was walking past a club (Energy 2000 was the name, I believe) and hearing an old Polish chap yell, "fuck your whore of a mom," to another patron (in Polish of course). Oh Poland, you never failed to surprised me...we went back to our hostel and prepped for a day of travel the next day.

The next morning, we woke up, bought tickets to Oswięcim, and because the train didn't leave until a little after noon we hung around Katowice for the morning and explored the city. There wasn't a ton in Katowice. There were lots of cool old buildings, but there wasn't a lot that beckoned tourists to come. The best thing about Katowice is that it is a gateway to Oswięcim and Kraków.

After a little bit of exploration, we went back to the train station and waited for our train and talked over some Subway (which deals in 15cm and 30cm sizes here in Europe!). During this time, Dariya also insulted black leather jackets while sitting next to someone wearing a black leather jacket. He promptly left, which we were worried meant he understood us and was offended. Anyway, we waited a bit and our train eventually came, so we made our way to Oswięcim. In case it wasn't clear up to this point (it probably wasn't), Oswięcim is the Polish name for Auschwitz.

When we finally arrived in the city we had no idea what to do. The train station made it seem like a ghost town, and it was kind of sad. There wasn't much around. A cab driver was waiting there at the station though, and the word "Auschwitz" landed us a 5$ cab ride to the museum.

When we got to the museum, we got tickets into the main museum but they weren't for 2 hours...so we caught a shuttle to Auschwitz-Berkenau. It's hard to explain the feeling of being there. I don't really want to write too much on Auschwitz just because I don't feel that I'll do it justice. It's an incredible, humbling experience to be there. It's so sad and it's unspeakably angering. After Berkenau, we went back to the main site and went through the main museum. Unfortunately, we didn't get to spend a long time here because we had to catch a train to Kraków to be able to get into our AirBnB in time.

We caught a 4$ cab back to the station this time, and we caught our long, boring train to Kraków. Poland isn't very visually interesting. It's kind of like taking a train through Iowa. Lots of farms. Lots of racist graffiti. Lots of flat land. Kraków, however, was absolutely beautiful.

When we got to Kraków we ran into some trouble. Our AirBnB coordinators/hosts did not contact us. So, in the train station worried texts flew around and Google searches for hostels in Kraków became much more frequent. Eventually, Michał, our host, responded! Woo! He gave us a time and a place to meet and we were off. We navigated the streets of Kraków at night. The location was really close to the station, so it didn't take us long. Not after arriving, our host also arrived. We successfully have housing! Woo!

After getting put up in Kraków, we decided we would feed our malnourished bellies and get something yummy. Daniel found some place to go on TripAdvisor but we didn't end up going there because it was too full. We walked around a bit more and found a cool place to eat. I got carbonara and a beer, and it was absolutely delicious. The people there were very nice, but we noticed that much of the meal people were looking at us strange. Not only servers. Not only customers. Not only people that came in after we were seated. Everyone. It was the strangest feeling...I felt watched the entire time we were there.

After the restaurant, we went to some Irish pub because that's Dariya favorite thing to do, even though she only ever orders ginger ale while we're there. It was ok...nothing too special. We got some drinks, Daniel got pretty tipsy, and we went back. It was all okay.

The next day we seemed to be just trying to waste time in Kraków. We went to the city center, lots of little shops, we saw an absolutely beautiful castle, and that was the majority of the day. We ended up going to some Polish-esque restaurant and had some greasy food. We walked around a little bit more, visited some churches (affirming Polands Catholicism complex), ate some delicious American ice cream (I miss it so dang much). By the end of the day we were pretty wiped out, so we went back around 7 and fell asleep. I slept for an hour but waited another hour to wake up the other two. We wasted a lot of time sleeping.

Turnt in Kraków.

After we woke up, we ate at Bobby Burger (and I got freaking stickers) and then we went to another random Irish pub (I'm telling you...it's all Dariya ever wants to do) and proceeded to make fun of Dariya for that very fact. We continually talked about "nice pubs" that have "cozy atmospheres" to bug Dariya. It was really a good time.

Castle in Kraków!

The last day, we woke up late and tried to burn some more time before left for Katowice airport. We went to see a memorial to Copernicus and we decided to see a museum exhibit about some Symborska lady? It was all right. We walked around more, ate more burgers (I guess the Polish like their burgers), and eventually the time came to leave.

We made our way to the bus station by passing through the mall it's attached to. We eventually found our bus stop near the top floor and were about a half hour too early so we sat around and didn't do much. Luckily, our bus got there early so we got dibs on seats and didn't die of the cold just standing around. I started up the Podcast machine (my phone) and listen to some more of The Thomas Jefferson Hour, my current podcast binge. I absolutely love it because it reminds me of home, is about TJ, and is about history. The speakers on it are really engaging and it's just generally very easy to listen to.

We drove to Katowice, Dariya at some point asked to trade seats and I said no because I didn't want to disrupt the people around us, and I enjoyed the 2 hour ride. During the ride, I thought we'd be pushing it on time, but we ended up getting to Katowice really, really early and had to wait around in the airport for a while. I continued to pass the time by listening to my podcasts and by browsing Reddit looking for random things. Eventually our departure rolled around and we boarded our plane. Nothing notable...typical RyanAir flight. Meh.

However, when we got to Hamburg we started to notice problems. It was 11:30 and we had trouble with finding a train to Bremen. Eventually we found a train that would work, but it was a regional bahn so it took for freaking ever. 2 hours later we arrived in Bremen with no working local trains, so we had to wait 30 minutes for the N7 night bus and took an hour to get to our stop. From there, we had to walk even further and by the time we got home...we were rather exhausted. It was a long trip, it was 3:30 in the morning, and we had to get up for 8:15 classes

All in all, the trip was worth it. Kraków was beautiful, Auschwitz is one of those things where you can't fully appreciate or understand its magnitude unless you visit it, and the trip wasn't unreasonably expensive. I'd definitely go back.