Poland, continued.

Monday, August 30, 2010

We left Poland Sunday around noon (after eating another terrific breakfast prepared by Piotr's mother). The conversation over the breakfast table went as follows:

Piotr #1: What time does your train leave, girls?
Me: I think, like, noon or something?
Piotr #3: Check your tickets, what time does it say?
Erica: Oh, we don't have our tickets yet.
Piotr #2: So....let's go to the train station pretty soon then, ok?

The Piotrs drove/carried our bags to the station in the rain and bought our tickets for us from Wroclaw to Katowice, where we would then have to buy another ticket to Vienna. We had more than enough time to say goodbye to the boys and catch our train to Katowice. On the train ride back I realized my stomach was sore from laughing. The entire weekend was marked with endless laughter and Erica and I were both very sad to be leaving.  Two of the funniest, had-to-be-there-but-I'm-sharing-them-anyway memories are below.

Sidenote:  My mom and I think that the funniest moments occur when 2 people are having a conversation; 1 talking about one thing, the other talking about something else, yet both think they are talking about the same thing. This happened more times than I can count in Poland. On one of our train rides there, for instance, Erica and I were sitting in the dining car next to a table of obnoxious Australian boys. They all smelled horrible and their accents (of all things) were driving us crazy. Despite the fact that these boys were 20-something, they were making paper airplanes and throwing them around the dining cart. Erica's and my conversation went as follows:

Erica: They smell so bad, I think I am going to be sick.
Me: It looks like they haven't showered for days.
Erica: Well it's obvious that they haven't. They've been backpacking for weeks, you can tell.
Me: Why are they throwing paper airplanes, Erica? Why.
Erica (continuing her previous comment): That is a really common thing for Australians to do, especially at that age.
Me: Excuse me?
Erica: Did you not know that?
Me: Why would I know that? Is that, like, common knowledge?
Erica: Yeah. After they graduate college, this is what they do.
Me: ......after they graduate college, they make paper airplanes.
Erica: No.......they backpack through Europe for weeks on end.
Me: Oh. Yeah I knew that.

Another funny moment (Erica and I thought this was hilarious, even though no one else did):
We (me, Erica, 3 Piotrs) were at the Italian pizza restaurant and when the waiter walked over to us, we realized he knew one of the Piotrs. Polish boys usually look very Polish but this waiter looked so American. After he left, Erica and I said, "Piotr, he looks so American!" The waiter then turned around and returned to the table and asked Piotr something in Polish. Piotr opened his mouth to answer and Erica said, "Piotr, DON'T tell him". Piotr, looking confused, said, "I have to, he asked me". Erica said, "No! It's embarrassing! Don't tell him!" Piotr just stared at her, obvioulsy confused. Keep in mind that for these few seconds, everyone at the table has paused (including the waiter) to witness this strange exchange between Piotr and Erica. Finally, Piotr says something to the waiter in Polish and the waiter walked away. Erica said, "Piotr, why did you tell him!?" to which Piotr replied, "I had to! Sorry...." still looking confused. I commented, "I can't believe the waiter asked him if we thought he looked American...." and Piotr said, "He didn't....he asked me what we wanted to drink...." Erica and I started laughing hysterically and the boys were far less amused. These misunderstandings, for some reason, happened hourly during our time in Poland and for that reason, my abs were actually sore the following day.

When we arrived in Katowice, we had 10 minutes to buy our ticket for the next train. Luckily, the next train was a direct route to Vienna! We felt that 10 minutes was more than enough time, given our recent history of buying the tickets with 20 seconds to spare. Our positive attitude changed immediately, however, when we got to the ticket counter and noticed a very long line....we waited patiently and then, when it was our turn at the counter, the woman told us she spoke no English and directed us to the next counter. We asked her if she spoke German and she said no. We said "Wien, 2 tickets to WIEN" slowly with hand motions and she still refused to understand (even though I think it was pretty obvious what we wanted, but whatever). We switched to the next counter, waited with only 2 minutes left and once we got to the front of the line, the woman (who understood us in German) told us she could only sell national tickets, not international. We were transferred to the next line, and with 20 seconds to spare, it was finally our turn at the front. As we were about to ask our question, a Polish woman pushed us out of the way and ordered her ticket first. Erica and I were irate and tried to get in front of her but she wouldn't move. By the time she was done, the time had passed and we knew we had missed our train. We figured we'd ask anyway, just in case it was late. We did, and as it were, the train was, indeed, late! That's when then found out a fun little fact: you can only buy international tickets from Katowice on the train! Why they failed to mention that to us before we waited in line for 10 minutes and almost shoved a Polish line-cutter is beyond me. So, we ran to the correct platform, grateful for its delay.

On the way, I realized I had a few Zloty left and wanted to get rid of the money. I walked up to the snack bar, realized the woman spoke neither English nor German, showed her how much money was in my hand and then started stacking various food/drink items until she nodded that that was enough. Let's just say that with the current exchange rate, I felt like a millionaire in Poland - everything was so cheap for us! So, after my miniature shopping spree (a few Zloty - the equivalent to basically 1 USD - bought a bag full of treats), Erica and I turned the corner to access the train platform and that's where we say we entered the twilight zone. After a weekend of encounterting no one (other than the Piotrs and their friends) who spoke English, we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of around 20 people - all speaking English - and, for some reason, all speaking to us? They were asking us, "Wien? Vienna? Are you going to Wien?" When we said, yes, we were going to Wien, they said, "Good, us too. We were worried we had missed the train". Then, we started seeing people that we knew.....?!?!? Someone from the Embassy, another person with whom we had shared a compartment on the way to Poland....it was so random and Erica and I were so confused (a common theme for our lives this summer).

Once the train arrived, we found an employee and double checked that we could board without a ticket. He spoke no English (I guess we had exited the English twilight zone at this point) but spoke German. He asked us if we wanted first or second class; we told him second. He asked us again and we told him the same -- second class. He asked us again and winked. We said we didn't want to pay for first class and he said it would be fine and to go sit in first class regardless. So....we did. After the train took off, he opened the doors and leaned in to speak to me (merely inches away from my face) and told me (in German) that someone was coming to take care of our ticket situation. Slightly horrified by the distance between this man's face and mine, I nodded quickly in hopes that he would leave, but also oddly grateful that he was apparently doing us some sort of favor. Shortly after, another man came in and told us it would be 5 euro for the both of us. 5 euro for 2 people to ride first class is ludicrious, but we didn't argue one bit. We paid, he left, we laughed, my stomach hurt from laughing, we laughed again.

Then, once we crossed the Czech border (hours later) a different man came in and told us that our previously purchased ticket was only valid for Poland and we had to buy a new one now. We figured that we would need to move to 2nd class so that the ticket would be cheaper. Then he told us we could pay 10 euro and stay in our seats. Again, we were confused by how cheap this was, but we accepted it and agreed. I looked in my wallet and realized I didn't have any money (and if I had had any it would have been in Zloty since I had exchanged my euros). Erica looked in her wallet and sighed with relief; she had exactly 10 euro. We paid the man, laughed again and Erica asked, "Is this some kind of joke? Why are these people letting us ride first class for so little money?". Also, we weren't actually getting tickets, we were just paying them small amounts to let us stay. We didn't understand it but we weren't really that phased, considering the strangely surreal weekend we had just had.

When we crossed the Austrian border, a different man came into our compartment and said our previously purchased ticket was only valid inside the Czech borders. We said we could move into 2nd class and buy a ticket there and the man told us that 2nd class was now full. Since both of us had no money, we asked if they would accept credit cards. They said no. Suddenly, a man in our compartment joined the conversation and offered to pay for us. He had a rail pass that was valid for up to 5 people, so he technically didn't have to "pay" anything. Erica and I thanked him repeatedly and couldn't believe that we had ridden from Wroclaw to Vienna for 7.50 euro a piece (first class, nonetheless). On our way there, for example, we had paid 20-something each for 2nd class.  This kind, helpful samaritan was also extremely frightening and super creepy, but I'll save that story for another time...

I have to say that before this trip, Erica and I were good friends, no doubt about that. After this trip, however, Erica and I became inseparable. We got back July 18 and for the month that followed, we spent every waking moment together - literally. We go to work together, we eat lunch together, we stop by the other's office during the day, we go home together, we spent every hour before bedtime together, we eat dinner together, etc. I am reminded of a quote from the 1st Harry Potter book: There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them. After this incident, Ron, Harry and Hermione are inseperable for the rest of the series. I liken this to Erica's and my rediculously strange (yet so fun) weekend in Poland.

We miss Poland. We can't wait to go back.

^^ beautiful views from the Katwoice train station....^^
Jan said...

Okay, that wasn't scary. Sounds like a fun trip. You're sure going to miss Erica, huh?

DiamondGirl said...

Jennifer my darling... People can go through a long life and never have one adventure like you enjoy on a regular basis! Good for you!! I am so happy that each day is an adventure for you. And how wonderful that you've created such a wonderful friendship with Erica. Years from now this will be a story that you girls will share and it will become friendship lore!

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