Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Poland  ,
Saturday, July 1, 2006

While on the internet phone in Swiebodzin the day before, Glenn had also called Zosia (a Polish lady who he worked with before leaving for the trip) to share that he was in Poland, although he had some trouble getting a line through to her (something about telemarketers calling around that time... heehhe Tony!!!) She had previously given Glenn the address of her nephew and wanted us to visit her home town (where he lived). So we had agreed, and we were to catch a train to Poznan, and then onto Wroclaw, where they would pick us up. We felt a little awkward about intruding on her nephew - whom we had never met, but at the same time, were very excited to get to see a slice of Polish life.

We grabbed our packs and walked to the station - this time able to buy tickets at the ticket window. As the price varies with the type of train caught, we though it best to buy a ticket to Poznan and then get the next one there to Wroclaw... later to prove a mistake.

We caught a train at around 11.30am, after taking a few more snaps in Swiebodzin, and then we were off. The train ride was good - again, some beautiful scenery to pass the time, but when we arrived at Poznan we were shocked - this was a big city! We had to fight our way through all the people to the ticket office and there were at least 20 offices, all with huge lines! We had 15mins to get tickets, but with these lines, we didn't think we would make it, and sure enough, again unable to communicate and jump the queue, we watched as our train came up next on the board and then disappeared. We were devastated. We had told Zosia which train we would be on, and she was to pass it on to her nephew... and now, due to the huge queues, we had missed it with no way to reach her!

At the office, we got tickets for the next train at 1.35pm, an hour later. We got a bite to eat and then went to the platform. Glenn had read on the board Wroclaw at 1.30pm, and wondered why there was a difference in time, but being the same destination and around the same time didn't question it. We boarded the train, both a bit unsure if it was the right one...

The ticket collector soon came around after we departed and when he went to punch our tickets he paused... clearly there was something wrong. The sign had said Wroclaw... but he explained in Polish and sign language that he would return in a while and took our tickets. He returned with a map of the train lines... and pointed out the route of the train and the route of the tickets. The tickets were for the train that went straight there, but this train took the LONG way around to get there. Glenn asked what time it would arrive in Wroclaw... 5.50pm! AAARRRRGGGHHHH. We were expected around 3pm! And to add to the bad luck, we had to pay more for the privilege as the distance was longer (even though it took 2 hours longer!) We sat back in our seats, and resigned ourselves to the fact that there was nothing we could do... to go back would be no quicker now.

We arrived very late at Wroclaw, and had to find a phone to call Zosia's family. All the public phones that Glenn ran to took phone cards - no coins! He went into the post office to try, but they couldn't understand what he wanted and all the phones there were operated by phone cards as well.

After doing a lap of the station and surrounding area, Glenn went into a service station to buy a phone card (not happy about that for one phone call). In small talk he asked the guy if there was any coin phones and yes - nearby, the orange ones! Probably the only ones Glenn hadn't checked! ARRRGGHHH!

Off to the phone and he tried to ring the number... it was even longer before we realised that we needed to dial a 0 first. It finally worked and we called...

From our call with Zosia, we understood that we would get picked up at the post office, but when we called her nephew, it was not clear if they had understood where we were waiting...

This was a stressful wait... as we didn't want them racing around trying to find us (even harder as we had never met!)

Christie spotted them as they pulled up (Zosia had sent us a photo) and we grabbed our gear to meet them. It was wonderful to see big smiling faces after everything going so wrong on the trains, and they certainly made us feel very welcome. We met the family, but after struggling a little with their Polish names and pronunciation, we settled on the English versions of them - Gregory, Joanna, and Matthew. They took us back to their place, the same apartment building where Zosia had once lived!

We settled in and met the young energetic Hector - the cutest dog we have seen on our travels, and he zipped around the house with excitement. The apartment was not big, and we were amazed when Gregory and Joanna offered their room for us to sleep in - of course we tried to refuse, but they would not take no for an answer. Such hospitality! And we had only just met. We felt a little bad that they would be sleeping on the lounge, but Joanna explained that she had to get up at 5am for work (nurse), so that way we wouldn't be disturbed.

Then, we were treated to some Polish home cooking, and had some of the best food we have had in a long time. From fresh smoothies, to soup for starters and Polish meats and salads, we were very spoilt and had a wonderful dinner.

Now, though, we were to visit the old town of Wroclaw, and we jumped back in the car to go exploring. Upon arrival it was beautiful. The streets were filled with green, the ancient churches soaring above the skyline and when we saw the main square - called the Rynek, we were in love! It was so beautiful! Some of the most beautiful buildings and main square that we had seen. We agreed that it was a little like we both imagined Prague to be, although less touristy!

We passed the flower market, open for 24 hours!!! Amazing! The smell and colours added to the experience and we drifted along with the lights and activity in the main square. It was dark by now, but still buzzing with life and people dined and enjoyed the summer evening.

After enjoying the sights, we made our way back to their house, and sat down to share Polish beer (very good!). Joanna's sister came around to help translate and join in - her English was a little better, and poor Matthew was exhausted after doing most of the interpreting work all evening.

We had a great time getting to know each other, swapping stories and drinking beer, and soon realised that it was after midnight and that Joanna wasn't going to get a lot of sleep that night!

The next day, Gregory and Matthew planned to take us to see some more sights of the town (while Joanna worked). After another wonderful feed for breakfast, we left. Gregory had borrowed another car for today (his was being repaired, and the one from yesterday was unavailable today - we are still in awe of the hospitality!). We made our way over to a famous panorama painting - fully circular and very impressive. The foreground had been built up to merge into the painting, so the effect was amazing.

We then went to visit some of the churches on the north side of town, and one had a lift going up to the top, so of course Glenn just had to go up! The view was impressive, although the weather left something to be desired - light rain that just wouldn't give up.

We also stopped by at another place that Zosia used to live - interesting to see the snippets of Polish life and living standards. But now it was lunch time! We decided to eat Matthew's favourite food, as he had done so well to help translate. Kebabs! But the Polish kebabs are not like the ones back home, these are huge! We picked them up at a shopping centre and grabbed some chocolates and took them back to their place to eat. The traffic was quite a nightmare, and on the way, the radiator started overheating! Greg jumped out and out of the back pulled out a huge container of water and refilled the radiator... apparently it was a known problem, but we were a bit concerned. With the traffic, it took quite some time to get back, but the kebabs were worth the wait!

After lunch we put our bags into the car (ready to catch the train to Krakow in the afternoon) and went to visit an old German relics building, used by Hitler, that used to have a big swastika symbol on the ceiling. They had tried to describe the building to us a few times, but it wasn't in our guidebook and all we could work out was swastika on the ceiling of this building that was built during the German occupation and that there was also bunkers built underground - 6 levels, but these were now flooded and not able to be visited.

We arrived at the building and it was closed, so we decided to have a wander around the buildings. It was almost like an ampitheatre, but the gardens that had been grown gave it a real peaceful feeling.

After doing a lap, we decided that we should go to the train station (although Glenn was thinking that with an hour to spare perhaps we could fit in another visit to the Rynek?) Christie set him straight that the traffic was bad, so off we went for the train.

Saying the traffic was bad was a severe understatement. It was a crawl, and the car's radiator started overheating again - it obviously was leaking. Gregory had to keep stopping to top it up with water, and it was getting hotter as the traffic was almost at a standstill. As the time wore away, Gregory was getting stressed that we would be late and we were getting stressed as well! Then the petrol light came on!

Worried with the time and that the car would be damaged we tried to explain that the car was more important than our train, but Gregory was determined to help us catch that train.

Finally we caught sight of the train station, just streets away, but we had only a few minutes to go before the train departed, and we were sure we had no chance. Gregory suddenly pulled the car up on the sidewalk and said "We go the rest by foot" as we were getting nowhere in the traffic. Gregory and Matthew each grabbed one of Christie's bags and we set off running to the train station. With less than 5 mins to go we hit the ticket office... and deja vu ... very long queues - like our experience in Poznan. Gregory somehow managed to talk some people into letting us push in and we got tickets - 1 min to departure - We were sure we had no chance... we still had to get to the platform!

We all ran to the platform and up the stairs - the train was still there! Unbelievable! We said our quick goodbyes and had to remind Gregory that he still was wearing Christie's bag, before we got on and the train pulled away! He was certainly our hero - with the closest call on the trains that we have ever had - we were sure we wouldn't make it, but with his perseverance did - just. All of us were definitely relieved and there were alot of big smiles and kisses blown in thanks for this amazing effort! We just hope that the car made it back home!

Although we only spent a very short time with this family, we will never forget the experience they gave us and the hospitality they shared. We only hope that we can repay them for their generosity one day (come to Australia guys!). And also to Zosia and Tony, for orchestrating this little adventure in such a short amount of time (and telemarketer confusion!) - we will be forever grateful.
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