By God’s grace, our CSer’s brilliance, or sheer luck, all of us made it to Warsaw in one day. Agnieszka (our host, whom we chose out of maybe ten people who had offered us a place) magically found me on the street. We went back to her place, where she prepared tea and sandwiches. I like Agnieszka very much. She has a calmly talkative manner, and an unspectacularly exciting life. A thread of combinations I haven’t really seen before. We went for a walk at dusk before fetching Christy and Valerie, who caught a train for the last leg of their journey. Agnieszka prepared a very typical Polish meal for us – potatoes with soured milk. It was really good!
I claimed the following morning as a recovery period from the previous day’s traveling fatigue. This is becoming a trend. The day ensuing a hitching day includes sleeping in, a shower, and mental reordering. The birthrighters chose to go to the Warsaw Uprising museum. It was a long walk (in the rain), but a very good decision. I can say without hesitation that it is the coolest museum I have ever seen. It resembled a waiting area in a theme park, and had a lot of cool features. My favorite was a mock sewer tunnel that you could walk/crawl through to get a feel of what many people had to go through. It was completely dark, and if I’m not mistaken, a bit damp. Despite the presence of others, and the knowledge that I was safely in present day Warsaw, it was vaguely terrifying. I had no idea how far it went, there were numerous twists and turns. It was cool. We spent several hours at the museum. I managed to ‘see’ everything, but I think I could’ve easily spent the entire day there. That was the only thing we did with our day. The four of us prepared a meal together in the evening.
From Agnieszka’s really cool guidebook as well as her advice, I had a few other things I wanted to do: eat at a bar mleczny (literally ‘milk bar’, a place frequented by students and the elderly for its cheap food), and see the view from the gardens on the roof of the university. Valerie wanted a personal relaxation day, so Christy and I left her sleeping. We found the bar mleczny Agnieszka had recommended and stopped at the window. There was a short menu with prices. Sadly we don’t know Polish. So we found wi-fi and translated the menu. After deciding upon our meal choices, we braved the supposedly unwelcoming atmosphere. Upon entry we found a much larger menu. So much for our choices. When we asked if the woman taking our order spoke English, she slid a menu in our direction – an English menu! My last hitchhiking lift had recommended several really typical dishes to me, so I ordered based on his advice. I got pierogi and since Christy got beetroot soup, I decided to try the sorrel soup (which, after trying, I realized Agnieszka had recommended!) Our entire meal – four dishes in all – cost about four USD. We spent the meal repeating ‘I can’t believe how cheap this is!’ and making plans to move to Poland for their delicious and cheap food. It was all so good, and so filling, and did I mention unbelievably inexpensive? Though admittedly, the filling part of that didn’t stop us from grabbing a chocolate, toffee, and cream cake from a cafe to take with us to the university gardens.
The university was stunning. It may well be my favorite building on the planet. It was all fascinating shapes and shades of verdigris. The gardens were lovely and the view was nice as well. My rebel dropout self was half ready to enroll in classes just to spend ample time there. On our way loosely from the university to home we came across buskers. Definitely the liveliest buskers I’ve encountered. We sat for a long while until they began packing up. Christy wanted a photo with them and we discovered they were Finnish travelers. This day in Warsaw was definitely one of my favorites from the trip until this point.
The next day we departed Warsaw for Krakow. Hitching took most of the day, but we didn’t have a host lined up, so I wasn’t terribly pressed to arrive quickly. The hitching included a stop at the always faithful Ikea for cheap food. We had zapiekanki, which is a Polish sort of pizza. I also had ice cream. They have a self-service machine, which essentially means that I had two servings of ice cream. Hitching also included an impromptu dance session across the highway to the tune of ‘Mahna Mahna’. Sometimes you just have to break the cycle of standing and hoping. It proved a good release, and I’m also sixty percent sure that it acquired us our final ride.
Sometime during the day we received a text from a couchsurfer who was willing to host us. Blaz (pronounced something like ‘bwah-jheay’) is a radio journalist bartender. He turned out to be a wonderful host. He made us several meals, including a typical Polish soup. He also took us to his bar (where we stayed out until the east of the dark sky was smudged with the murky paintbrush-water colors of almost-dawn), and to Zakrzowek (pronounced ‘zack-shoe-vack’). Zakrzowek was recommended to us by our last ride. He described it as a lake surrounded by mountains, in the middle of Krakow. Blaz couldn’t describe it much differently. They both finished with ‘you just have to see it’. And we did. It was gorgeous. The birthrighters went for a summer swim, and Christy and I jumped off of a not-too-high surface. A lovely late afternoon!
Valerie and I spent our second day in Krakow not in Krakow. Instead we took a bus to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The sky loomed black and ugly above us, which we agreed seemed appropriate. It was weird being in a place I have learned so much about. I found the whole experience a bit surreal, but it also lent some gravity to my perspective of that particular portion of history.
In the evening we had our obligatory pizza and met up with a new host. Blaz wasn’t able to host us our final night, so Robert stepped in. We decided to be boring and stay in, and he accepted that very graciously. It was a pleasant and thankfully relaxed evening before our hitch to Prague the next morning.