Tag Archives: Poland

From Krakow to Vysoke Tatry with an idiot in tow

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Poland’s been great, but it’s time to head off to the Democratic People’s Republic of Slovakia. It’s not an easy journey between Krakow and my resting place of Starý Smokovec, with three buses and a few hikes along the way, but it wasn’t long before I was in the charming village of Zakopane, close to the border. It was there, while waiting for my bus to leave, that I saw snow for perhaps the fifth time in my life – and was snowed on for the first time ever. In fact, I had more white stuff landing on me than a Japanese porn star.

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The strange man walks past me

I was feeling a bit playful, so I threw a snowball at a man who was walking by. He wasn’t in a playful mood and started shouting at me and gesturing wildly. Wanting to avoid any further conflict, I jumped back onto the bus and hid behind a seat, only for the man to storm onto the bus seconds later.

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Shit, here he comes!

He looked around with crazy eyes and spied me crouching at the back of the bus. He started yelling again, then pounded his way towards me. I closed my eyes, waiting for the inevitable pounding from the punchy Pole, but it never came. I opened one eye and looked up to see him standing there with a grin on his face and a snowball in his hand, which he threw at my face before bursting into laughter. Unfortunately, that was just the start of my adventures with this very troubled individual.

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The little bus of horrors

As the bus took off, the Polish plonker took the seat next to me and started yapping his fuckin’ head off. His name was Viktor or something like that, and it soon became obvious that he was smashed off his gourd. He was rolling around his seat with a can of beer in his hand, jabbering away at me in broken English and spitting like a camel as he went about it.
“You are very good man,” he spluttered. “I am very poor man. Alcohol very expensive. You give me 100 Euro.”

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I took time out to mark my territory

I politely told Viktor to go fuck himself, but the idiot just kept jabbering away, asking me where I was going and whether I could buy him a beer or suck his dick or whatever it was he wanted. I was relieved when we finally reached Lysa Polana – the border of Poland and Slovakia, where I needed to change buses – because I thought I’d get a break from him. Then I realised that Lysa Polana is nothing more than a couple of empty buildings, and I was going to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with Viktor, hoping a bus would show up at some point. That’s when things started going wrong.

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The perfect place to spend an afternoon with a fuckwit

Lysa Polana is actually quite scenic, with huge, tree-lined cliffs in every direction, but as the snow started coming in more heavily, all I could concentrate on was bloody Viktor, who was getting more aggressive by the minute. “You are small and weak, I am big and strong,” Viktor fumed. “You are lucky I do not kill you, but I am nice man. You give me 200 Euro, we stay friends.” To make it worse, he kept flagging down passing cars and trying to climb into them, returning angrier every time they drove off. While Viktor was close to twice the size of me, I was pretty sure I could take him in his drunken state, but I didn’t want to find out. Luckily the bus turned up and, after the driver spent 20 minutes fixing the engine (during which Viktor downed three cans of beer) we were off.

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Grand Theft Auto: Lysa Polana

Viktor kept babbling on about how poor he was until finally, mercifully, he passed out, and I was able to enjoy the glorious scenery leading into Vysoke Tatry National Park. The mountains reached for the heavens as snow fell all around us, and the bus wounds its way towards the village of Stary Smokovec, my final destination. When it finally pulled into the bus stop, I looked back to see Viktor fast asleep, and grabbed my bags and headed out into the freezing afternoon. As the bus took off, I looked back to see Viktor furiously banging on the windows, and flipped him a couple of cheeky birds. I was rid of him at least… or so I thought.

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Why does this shit keep happening to me?

As I walked up into the village, I looked back to see that the bus had stopped again. It sat there for a few moments, and when it took off, there was Viktor, ranting and raving and carrying on like a pork chop. He was screaming my name and looking around for me and, wanting to avoid any further confrontation with the dickhead, I charged in the opposite directing and headed to the place I’m staying.

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Lovely Stary Smokovec

Starý Smokovec is a wonderful little town sitting 1100m up a mountain, so it’s cold and snow-covered and lovely. It’s used as a base for skiiers in winter and hikers in summer, and I’m here in the middle of both seasons so it’s quiet. Very quiet. As I walked around to have a look, I saw no people, and it felt as if I was in a ghost town. It’s also very small, so it’s only a matter of time before I run into my old mate Viktor again…

 

 

Auschwitz

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The name alone conjures images of death and despair. Auschwitz is the most infamous of all the Nazi concentration camps, a place where one and a half million innocent people were brought to be gassed, shot or hanged by an insane regime. Today, the site stands a memorial to those who died, as well as a warning about the depth to which the human race can plunge. It’s a sad and moving place, and the main reason I’m in Krakow, Poland at the moment.

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As an all-too-brief history (trust me, you won’t have any trouble finding more information on this place), Auschwitz was a series of extermination and labour camps run by the Nazi Turd Reich from 1940-1945, in and around the Polish town of Oświęcim. Jews, as well as Soviets and anyone else disliked by the Nazi scum were transported from all over Europe to be slaughtered at Auschwitz as part of the worst atrocity the world has ever known. Hundreds of thousands were gassed within hours of arriving, their bodies burned and their ashes thrown into pits. It’s an evil place where horrible things happened, and a lot of it is still standing today.

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Auschwitz is a tourist attraction these days, attracting visitors from all over the globe. Because of this, I was a bit surprised by the lack of info on the internet regarding getting there. The official website suggests that bookings are necessary and, with all slots filled for today by the time I bothered booking, I thought I might miss out. I’m going to go into generic travel blog mode here and give you the info you need – bookings are only required between 10am and 3pm, and during those times you need to go with a guide. Don’t do that, because from what I could see they rush you through, while Auschwitz is a place that needs to be explored slowly, at your own pace, with time to reflect on the horrors.

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Don’t book a tour, either, because they’re expensive and waste of time. My advice is to simply trot along to Krakow’s main bus station and jump on the next bus to Oświęcim (the original Polish name of Auschwitz), which costs only 14 Zlotys and drops you off at the door. The fascinating Auschwitz II–Birkenau camp is free to explore all day, so take the free shuttle up to that and have a look around, returning to the original site at three to see it at your own pace.

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The Birkenau camp is an astonishing and heartbreakingly tragic place to visit, and certainly the highlight of the Auschwitz experience for me. It’s far larger than the original site, with the ruins of what were essentially holding pens for prisoners extending as far as the eye can see in all directions. Numbers can’t do the genocide of the Jewish people justice, but seeing this huge site really put it all into perspective.

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At the rear of this camp stand the remains of two giant gas chambers that were used to murder hundreds of thousands of people, before being destroyed as the Nazis ran like little girls from the advancing Red Army in 1944. Each was only a few metres wide, by maybe 50 metres long, but they usually held 2000 people at a time. When the innocents had been herded inside – under the promise of a shower – containers of the pesticide Zyklon B were dropped inside, killing everyone inside within minutes. It was no different to exterminating bugs.

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The more famous Auschwitz – I site didn’t have as much of an effect on me, but was still fascinating. Unlike Birkenau, with its bleak rows of shattered buildings, Auschwitz is largely intact, and looks and feels remarkably pleasant. The brick buildings, originally built by the Polish Army, look cute amongst the green trees and lush gardens. Seeing it today, with tourists being herded this way and that, it’s hard to imagine the nightmarish acts that took place there.

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There are plenty of reminders, though, including one that hit me harder than any other. Hidden away in a room on the second floor of one of the many buildings, is nearly two tonnes of hair shaved from the corpses of victims of the atrocity. The disturbing piles of fur are something tangible, a true link to the terror, and it’s a stomach-churning part of the museum that really affected me.

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The most shocking part of my trip was venturing into an intact gas chamber, where countless people died horrible deaths. I walked into the chamber behind a tour group, and when they were rushed out a few minutes later, I had the place to myself. It was weird, standing in that room of death, and when I touched my hand to one of the walls, I felt a brief but powerful wave of emotion wash over my body. It lasted less than a second, but some of the pain and terror transferred into my body for that moment, and I was left shaking and thinking it was an experience I never would’ve had if I was on a tour.

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A day at Auschwitz isn’t fun, but it is worthwhile. It’s impossible not to be moved by what happened there – both the disgusting nature and number of the deaths, but also the unbreakable spirit of those who somehow survived. The time I spent there will remain with me for the rest of my days, because Auschwitz is unlike anywhere else on the planet.

The worst way to spend three hours in Krakow

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Wanting to get a sense for Krakow’s long and tragic history during my time here, today I wandered into the centre of town and joined a free group walking tour. I was looking forward to learning about the ancient buildings, beautiful churches, and Jewish ghettos populated during the Second World War, and was pleasantly surprised when the guide started the tour by talking in Polish. It added an air of authenticity to the experience, and really set the mood.

Twenty minutes later, when the guide was still jabbering on in a language I couldn’t understand, I started to become concerned. I turned to the little bloke next to me, who was busy nodding his head and taking notes in a book, and said, “So when’s this dickhead gunna stop fucking around and start speaking English?” The little bloke just gabbled back to me in the same weird language as the guide.

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I was now faced with a conundrum. If I stayed with the group, I wouldn’t understand a single fuckin’ word the guide was staying, but if I left halfway through, she would be highly offended, especially as she makes a living off the tips people give her. Figuring the tour couldn’t last that long, I hung in there, nodding away at everything as if I understood what was going on.

Three bloody hours that thing ended up taking. Three bloody hours of hanging around with that group of grinning imbeciles, looking at stupid bloody buildings and learning not a lick about them. Krakow might have an interesting past, but I didn’t pick up on any of it, and to me it looks like any of the other cities I’ve been to. A fancy church here, a town square there, oh look, a bridge! Don’t get me wrong, it’s pleasant, but visiting so many European cities in a row is like watching 15 episodes of MASH in a row – fun at first, but by the end of it you just wanna smash Radar O’Riley’s stupid face in.

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We ended the tour by singing some sort of stupid song that I obviously didn’t know the words to (I pretty much just sang “Poo, poo, wee, wee” to the same tune) and I handed the tour guide a pile of Slotzkys. She smiled and said something in Polish, and I just gave her a wink and said, “Luv, I didn’t understand a fuckin’ word you said all day, but you’re alright.”

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Thirsty and in need of a drink, I headed to the nearest supermarket – and it was massive! Aisles of beer and vodka stretch to the sky, while the market stretches out as far as the eye can see. It took me half an hour just to walk from one end, then another halfa just to pick out which bloody beer I wanted. If there’s one thing Polish people really, really like to do, it’s shopping.

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On the way back, I stumbled upon a peaceful park that sits above the city, providing commanding views out over the river. People jogged along tree-lined tracks, or sat and ate from picnic baskets, creating a truly serene scene. It wasn’t until later that I realised I was walking through the Płaszów concentration camp, where thousands upon thousands of people were worked to death or executed during the 1940s. More than 8000 innocent people were marched to the nearby Hujowa Górka, hill, where they were shot, and their bodies tossed into mass graves. When the Red Army advanced on the site, the bodies were exhumed and burnt, with the ashes filling several trucks.

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Once I realised where I was, the signs of terror became obvious. The terrain shows signs of once holding mass graves, and there’s a giant stone statue commemorating the dead. I came across a gigantic quarry that still houses watchtowers, and scattered around the site are the remains of Nazi-era buildings. But the camp has been turned into something positive, that the locals (and survivors) can enjoy. Płaszów isn’t a sad place anymore, but is definitely somewhere worth checking out.

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Tomorrow, I visit an even more infamous concentration camp; Auschwitz. Well, that’s if I can work out how to even get there…

I ate a kebab the size of my head

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I spent most of today traveling between the Polish cities of Warsaw and Krakow, so I didn’t get up to much besides getting drunk on a train while watching a woman breastfeeding in the seat opposite me (she didn’t offer me a sip, in case you’re wondering). But I did get a mouthful of meat and, fuck it, I’m going to tell you about it.

When I booked my accommodation in Warsaw, I didn’t choose the shithouse Bed4City flophouse simply because it was the cheapest place I could find. I also went for it because the joint is located above a massive kebab shop. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was booking myself a date with tone of the tastiest hunks of beef I would ever wrap my lips around. I even ended up with the sauce all over my face!

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I wish they had a hole in the wall, so I could just suck the meat through that

I didn’t manage to stop in at the Amrit kebabery yesterday, but with a long trip ahead of me today, I made sure to stop in for a feed. And bloody hell, am I glad I did! A beef kebab cost me 18 Polish Slutzkies, which I thought was a bit steep, but it was worth every cent. The kebab I was handed was immense, with half a cow stuffed into a huge bread roll, with tomatoes, hot chips, lettuce, onions and plenty of other stuff. Under most circumstances I’d rather let a clown shove an umbrella up my urethra and flick the open button than leave food on my plate, but I had to be judicial about what I could stuff into my face, it was that big.

It tasted wonderful, and to anyone who says that size doesn’t matter, you’re a nuffie. Um, except women who want to make sex with me, it’s cool if you do.

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I would’ve had a post-kebab cigarette if they let me

I waddled up to the train station after that, and almost had to be rolled onto the carriage. The train trip from Warsaw to Krakow is pleasant, if uneventful. The scenery changes from the harsher and uglier landscapes and villages of the north of Poland to the rolling hills and quaint villages of the south. I haven’t had much time to explore Krakow yet because I’ve spent the evening drinking beer and being told to turn down my music by the no-fun-allowed German bloke in the room next to me (who’d better become a fan of Cold Chisel quick smart, or he’ll have a bad night – I’m in Poland, dickhead, do you think I have much sympathy for the plight of a bloody German?). But tomorrow, I’ll get out there and check it out.

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This is either Krakow, or Narara

But if I start the day with another kebab that size, I might have to get some little Polish bloke to cart me around in a fuckin’ wheelbarrow!

Kebab of the day: If you can’t work that out, you’re dumber than Todd Carney.

Beer of the day: had a great little beer called Wojak, which has a picture of an eagle on it. Maybe it’s eagle piss, I dunno, but it tastes good. If it is eagle piss, I’ll buy a bird and get it to urinate in my mouth at regular intervals.

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Warsaw Warrior

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I’m in Poland, but I haven’t seen too many poles – but then again, I haven’t hit the strip clubs yet! My journey through this Eastern European country with a tragic past has started in the capital of Warsaw, which has plenty to offer – especially if you like bits of meat wrapped up in bread.

I expected Warsaw to be worn-out and ugly, but that’s not the case at all. Like a pensioner with a fresh bottle of Viagra (hi, Dad!) it has a new lease on life. Massive steel-and-glass skyscrapers dominate the skyline, while wide streets are full of modern cars. I didn’t even see a single person shitting in the street, which was a bit of a disappointment.

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While nice and easy to navigate, the new part of Warsaw isn’t exactly inspirational. There’s not a whole lot to see and do, so it’s the Old Town, over by the river, that attracts the most tourists. And it is, uh, not really that interesting either. A bunch of old buildings, some statues (sadly, they were mostly up on poles [actual poles, not Polish people] and so I was unable to have sex with them) and lots of souvenir shops. Riga and Tallinn both did it better.

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I dropped into the Uprising Museum, which was full of info on Poland’s horrible history, and is worthwhile simply to get an appreciation for what these people have gone through. Like the rest of Warsaw, it won’t make you jump up and down on the spot and wave your arms around like one of those inflatable dudes who hang around outside used car dealerships, but give it a crack.

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With not much to do in this place, it’s no surprise that alcohol flows like a lesbian’s period, and there are hundreds of 24/7 alcohol shops. They’re called Alkoholes, so I decided to show off my own alkohole. Aren’t I hilarious!

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While Warsaw isn’t the most exciting city on the planet (that honour goes to Dubbo), it does hold one very special title – it has more kebab shops than pretty much anywhere else. Deadset, there’s a kebabery on pretty much every corner, and all the little Polish champions are wandering around with steaming kebabs in their hot little hands, stuffing them into their chubby little faces. It’s a kebab-fancier’s wonderland.

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The kebab servings here are huge, and unfortunately that means that some punters have to throw half their meal in the bin. It’s not so unfortunate for the local hobos, who eat like fucking kings after rifling through bags full of dirty nappies, used syringes and dog turds in order to find half a doner that’s probably been spoofed on by some drunken American exchange student.

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By the time I finished I was really tired and my feet were hurting – I guess you could say they were War-sore!

Kebab of the day: Look at this beauty!

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Beer of the day: This one was pretty good.

A journey of a thousand beers starts with a single can…

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The adventure is finally underway and I’m happy to say that I haven’t been bashed, stabbed, shot at or blown up yet. Of course, that’s not saying much seeing as so far I’ve travelled only 50km from Gosford to Sydney Airport, but it’s a start.

The trip down was very exotic – I sat between an Asian bloke who dropped his noodles in his lap and then slurped them up anyway, and a homeless bloke who was doing his best to slurp his noodle, but was unsuccessful. I’m gonna miss this place!

Security at Sydney Airport has been ramped up, with all sorts of X-ray machines that look like something out of Total Recall but don’t, sadly, allow one to see through the clothes of pretty girls (trust me, I checked it out). Despite the increase in security, and no matter how shady I acted, I didn’t manage to convince the big, fat, hairy dude really sexy and pretty security sheila to give me an internal examination. Oh well, there’s always hope when I get to the other side of the world.

Speaking of which, by the next time you hear from me, I will have travelled slightly further – another 15,000km, all the way to the ancient city of Riga, Latvia. That’s where the Drunk and Jobless 2016 World Tour of Europe: The Search for Beers, Kebabs and the Greatest Love the World has Ever Known will truly kick off. As the title suggests, I’ll bee stumbling through Europe with a can in one hand, a salmonella-encrusted wrap in the other, checking out thousands of years of history, while keeping an eye out for the girl who will become the love of my life.

It will take me from Lativia, to Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia… I’m struggling to remember them all here, but I know I’ll be finishing up with an epic week of so on the Greek Islands. It’s going to be like Acropolis Now, only with less Effy and more effing (I hope).

I’ll be reporting every day on the weird shit that’s happened to me, the freaks I’ve met, the wonderful things I’ve seen and other crap that will hopefully make you laugh. There’ll be photos (some where I’ll even be wearing pants!) and the best writing you’ve ever se read (that’s probably a lie). I’m gone for more than two months, so stick around because I might get lonely…

Awesome, they’ve just called my flight – one can of your shittest beer, please, Qantas!

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