Friday, September 5, 2008

Getting to Krakow

The alarm went off at 4:15am. I’d been up til after midnight, trying to finish packing but really just fiddling around ineffectively, because of a toxic combination of anxiety and fatigue. It *was* good to post off umpteen hundred dollar’s worth of stuff yesterday - two huge boxes (parents please note!) (about 14kg, believe it or not - but this included MAJOR items like M’s spare shoes, spare clothes - we’re getting down to absolute travel basics now - my heat pad, a ton of princess creams, another ton of souvenirs and gifts which I would otherwise have posted to their new homes, sorry pals, I’ll have to dole the goodies out after we return!).

[Vilnius could be Anywheresville, for all the touristing we got done. In fact if our hotel hadn’t been right in the centre of the Old City, right opposite a major church (nup, didn’t even get the name), we wouldn’t have seen anything remarkable. The general impression we got, from our two short walks to find dinner, and the trip to the post office, is that it’s quite similar to Riga - the old part of town has survived fairly well, the narrow cobbled streets have been left alone, and the prevailing period of architecture is a mix of art nouveau and 19th C ‘gracious home’ style.]

Our hotel room was VERY interesting - to get there, one goes up three storeys in one of those glass-walled lifts, overlooking an atrium. Fine for those of you who don’t suffer from vertigo. Then along a hallway, up a steepish ramp for 3 metres, then through a little lounge with a box full of free books - some in English, so we swapped with some of our stuff - along more hallway, past a steep flight of steps up to what appeared to be one (closed off) loft room; up two steps and sharp right into our room. The room itself had two levels - ‘downstairs’ was the bathroom, wardrobe, desk and two big windows. Up the pine stairs was a bedroom loft, with two attic windows in the ceiling, another desk and a tv. We didn’t much like this arrangement, BUT the big news is that the tv channels were a strange mix of Russian, Lithuanian, French and German; with one BBC channel, CNN (one can’t escape this), AND... a 24 hour classical music channel! We used this as radio almost the entire 38 hours we were there. One of the 2 slight quibbles* we had with it was that only one movement of any piece was played at a time.. but there were some wonderful old recordings, from the early days of black and white tv (with shaky camera work and all of two angles), featuring long-dead artists. This helped offset our angst while we worked out how we were going to get to Krakow ... much frantic emailing to our Oz travel agent and some tidy Interwebs work by M, combined to get us flights from Vilnius to Warsaw; then Warsaw to Krakow.

[*M’s note: the other was that there was minimal info flashed up - very briefly - during each piece saying what it was (allegedly: such as “Schumann’s Carnival” when it was actually just the first two of a long set of movements) and who was playing the main part(s) but absolutely zilch about conductor, orchestra, place of recording, date of recording or other such little details. BUT IT WAS STILL GREAT!!! :-) ]

Which we did, and now I am sitting on a rather hard Polish bed, in a room that is a mix of modern (ubiquitous European bathroom), nice carpet and Soviet bloc bedspreads (yeah, dog-poo brown again). In a minute we’ll have to stagger out to find some food, so that we can then sleep, sleep sleeeeeep to help recover from the last 15 hours of our lives. The two Polish Air flights (LOT on both planes (small DC10s? .. erm.. room for about 40 people; propellers; our seats in row 11 were BELOW the wings). For brekkie we got a little pack with a few slices of ham and salami, one runty sour pickle, one dried apricot and one wee prune; two somewhat stale slices of bread, and a few of those mini-tubs of butter, jam and some sort of Nutella I think. I didn’t open that one. One could have juice or tea or coffee.. M was brave enough to try the coffee but I stuck to tea, my opinion being that average teabag tea, diluted with plenty of milk and sugar, is more drinkable than disgusting coffee.

We were delayed at Warsaw, because it was a foggy foggy morning. The flight from Vilnius to Warsaw took off in what seemed to us to be similarly dense fog, but our plane to Krakow was delayed from somewhere else.. we had about an hour extra to fill in. M made the mistake of giving me all his Polish money (a 100 zloty bill) so I could get some coffee. I was doing fine until I found some English books in a shop next to the cafe, and they cost exactly the amount left from one cup of coffee. My defense is that I didn’t know it was M’s only zlotys! He was pretty pissed off when I told him, in spite of the books being the new Alexander McCall Smith, and a new Andrew Vacswwhs. He walked around the ‘holding’ terminal and there was no autobank, and the money changing person refused to take Lithuanian money, no no no we don’ts want none of thats feelthy dosh... there was nearly a marital, but I went to ask the person at our departure lounge desk if there was any way I could get a hot drink for ‘my sick husband’, or some money, and she said I could leave this terminal for the main one and go to the autobank there. I charged off to do this, fuming inside cos M’s travelling persona caused him to remind me, like a willful child, to get back in time. Like I WANT to get stuck in Warsaw airport with no luggage, money or cats. Huh.

I had to negotiate a lot of fierce guards wearing cam gear (interesting to see that inside the airport, it made them extremely obvious!). One of them was a human being and showed me how to get out and where to head for the money, without any English. I duly extracted millions of zlotys and hied me way back to M. Going through security requires one to take off extra things cf Aussie security - watch, belt and shoes are mandatory. Some ppl had to do a lot of hoicking to prevent themselves losing their daks and/or tripping over them!

The second flight was only 45 mins, and after we were served a ‘snack’ - a Prince Polo bar which is a superior form of a KitKat; same idea, but with quite good dark chocolate. Nom. Washed it down with some nice water, and then I crashed, only waking when the plane thumped as it touched down. Got a good crick in my neck cos LOT planes don’t have reclining seats.

Now for the lunch hunter-gathering and some nice sleep. We don’t leave here until 10th September, so if we sleep/loll away today, we still have four whole days to do stuff and see stuff and buy stuff and go to find stuff and post stuff and get stuff washed and so on. There is a sign on the mirror opposite the bed which says ‘DIAL 333 AND CALL THE WORLD’ and I may do just that.

Seeya later... thudboomzzzzzzzzzzzzzz........

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