Massive flooding in in Southern Poland… Roads flooded, closed and washed out.
And after 6 hours in a car to go what should have taken 1 hour, it turns out rain doesn’t only effect cars it also slows trains down and my train was 4 hours late…..
Fortunately the train from 3 hours before was only 41/2 hours late, which left me on the platform in the 40 degree windy rain for a mere hour and a half. Finally I got on a fairly empty train for the 3 hour (uneventful) ride.
I arrived in Warsaw about 8pm and went to the Taxi queue, and when I went the the first cab the drivers directed me to the one at the back of the line, “odd”, I thought, but maybe it was his turn, or the other were busy drinking vodka and such, so I jumped in a gave him an address and he started driving. Then I saw the meter start to climb VERY quickly. It probably should have been a 3 or 4 kilometer ride, but we hit that really quickly, so I started watching it and it was just rolling up really fast and we definitely didn’t seem to be travelling quite so fast. Then at a stop light I finally saw what was up when the meter went from 7.1 kilometers to 7.5 kilometers WHILE stopped… he had a little switch by his leg and was adding distance!
I said “HEY HEY HEY” and I pointed and he said “no, no, no, its ok, were are there!” he turned a corner and stopped on the beautiful square where a hostel was supposed to be. The meter said 31zl, but I got out and grabbed my bag, then handed him 15zl (what I think the ride should have cost), he start to raise his voice, but I looked across the square and saw two police officers and said “Police?” questioningly. He said “no, no, no” and jumped in his cab. Freaking shadies…
I walked around the square looking for a hostel that was in the Lonely Planet, which of course was full. But I asked them for a recommendation for somewhere nearby that was nice, and they called some place and told me 86zl for a private (about twice the cost of the dorms at the hostel). By this point I said “sure, whatever, tell them I am coming”. When I got there the woman at the front desk was extremely rude and told me the bathroom was in the hall and handed me the key to what might go in the running for the dodgiest room I have ever been in (and that’s saying a lot). At this point I just don’t care and ask one important question “Do you have internet? WiFi?” (I wanted to give the wife a call)
“No! Pizza Hut down the street!”
Fortunately though, I did manage to make a reservation to move to a proper hostel in the morning… As long as it doesn’t rain I am looking forward to this very awesome looking city tomorrow, but with my luck…..
The next day turned out MUCH better, the weather was great, and I met up with a local, Isha, who reads my blog and gave me the most extensive tour of Warsaw I could have imagined. We wandered and wandered, the entire time she told me all about this city which has changed hands and rulers over and over throughout the last 1000 years. It has a very intense history and the people here, just in the last 20 years, have control of their country once again. It was the perfect way to end my time in Poland and am uber-thankful for all the touring, company and spicy vodka that Isha provided!
Outside the presidential palace. Honoring the president who recently died in a plane crash.
Of the entire wedding day, I was probably most excited for the Polish wedding reception, which I’ve heard can go on until the wee hours of the morning.
But before you think it’s all fun & debauchery, there was also a lot of tradition in the Polish reception.
In the picture above, it’s not an accident that resulted in broken glass, but the couple toasted with a pair of glasses joined by a ribbon, and they then smashed them. They were then given a broom and a dustpan and worked together to clean up the broken glass: I guess a symbolic gesture to show them working on their domestic life.
I have to say, the Poles know how to party: 60 bottles of vodka for 50 guests (including children), all drank neat in shot glasses. Nope, no mixers necessary here. Does everything degenerated into crazy drunkenness? No, not at all!
The Poles have it down to a science: You do some shots while one course of food is served, dance to your heart’s content, and about an hour later, another course is served. Wash it down with more vodka, dance some more, and repeat for 14 hours.
You will find that the well-timed food plus dancing means everyone’s on a good buzz but never distastefully drunk! (although this depends on your version of “distastefully”)
Besides the overall happy vibes celebrating Lena & Tomek’s wedding, it was also pretty cool that the guy who caught the groom’s bowtie (instead of a garter) actually proposed to the lady who caught the bride’s veil (instead of her bouquet) that night! [They're a couple who have been dating for a good number of years.]
I had a GREAT time, with awesome food, vodka and uber-friendly people. Know anyone else getting married in Poland that need a photographer?
Lena and Tomek’s big day took place in an old wooden chapel (probably 200 years old?) on the grounds of the Polish President’s summer residence. The sky was ominously overcast, but the fact that we were amidst the worst flooding in Poland in 15 years – and it wasn’t raining – was enough the keep the smile on Lena’s face.
The couple, together with their Best Man and Maid of Honor, sign in at the register. It is interesting to think about the numerous occasions – weddings included – that have taken place at this venue over the years, isn’t it?
Part III coming soon!
This will be the first of three posts about the wedding I just finished capturing in Wisla, Poland. It rained almost the entire time I spent there, yet we miraculously still had sunshine and blue skies for the first half of the wedding day. Lena and Tomek were up before I arrived at 8:30am and already hanging out with guests and eating breakfast before they had even started getting ready. I had been warned on multiple occasions that this would not be a short day, So I joined in for a few cups of coffee and a European breakfast of bread & cheese before I got to work.
More to come.
A super fast couple of days flew by as soon as I met up with Tomek and Lena in Katowice, Poland. We headed into the Wisla region, bought a large supply of vodka for the wedding day (yes, that is 60 bottles for 50 guests!), did some scouting for wedding day photo spots, and began starring skyward hoping the rain would clear for the big day. The days were packed and I could already feel the excitement building.
Today, whilst I was somewhere over the Atlantic on my way to Poland, my father in law passed away. So instead of telling you my tales of getting lost wandering in the rain looking for a hostel in Poland, I just wanted to share a few pictures of this man who was only in my life a short time. Thank you Arthur for getting to know me, sharing your happy outlook on life with me, and raising such a wonderful daughter who is now my wife.
Arthur and I
My Father and Father-in-Law
You will be missed.
Another wonderful day in Krakow, I am pretty sure everyone out there in blog world is getting tired of more pictures of this spectacular city. On my sixth day here I really didn’t have any huge plans, except see if I could motivate myself to move on tomorrow.
The day went according to plan, or the lack thereof. I spent the morning just chilling out in a café reading with a coffee for a couple of hours than ordered a beer and salad for lunch, without ever getting out of my seat. I enjoyed another beer and all the people walking by and before I knew it was running on 3 pm. I hadn’t showered yet today so I made my way back to my hostel for another afternoon nap and a shower. I had been hoping to do my laundry here but of course their machine is broken! After I cleaned up and settled down from my exhausting day I meant Johanna who had just arrived and had a Polish friend here who was taking her out for a night on the town, she invited me to join and we set out to find some dinner before we had to meet her friend.
Now, with full knowledge that if I had another night on the town with no pictures, I would hear it from my brother, so I grabbed my camera and 50mm lens as we headed out. I went to take a picture and it wouldn’t auto-focus… funny. I played with it a little and it looks like my lens is jammed. Damn. Now I had no pictures of the evening and I can’t get it fixed (it is under warranty) until I get to a major city.
The night on the town was like a vodka tasting session (the Polish being vodka coinsurers, and the place where the drink originated). Drink after drink of different flavors and colors kept coming. At one point the Poles we were with brought out a tray with 30 shots (for the six of us) and called it the White Death. While I think they were accurate in there appraisal, because soon after the White Death, I don’t really remember much of the rest of the night.
I don’t know what it is, I can’t get enough of this little city in the east of Poland. I keep thinking about leaving but ever time I convince myself of another day of sitting in café’s and watching movies, or just strolling around the main square. This beautiful little city has got a grip on me. It may not make for the best stories but I can tell you all that if you ever have a chance to make it here you won’t regret it.
For some reason I was slightly worn out this morning, so after changing my hotel to a hostel I took a walk to try to find a barber (at my sisters urging). I searched high and low and all I came across was a fancy salon. I headed in for the longest haircut of my life. The barber (I am tempted to call him a stylist, because I think he’d prefer it) took 40 minutes to cut my hair with attention to every detail of my scalp. I would have been happy if he just ran his clippers across my head. After a couple of hours of walking I just made my way back to a bed that actually fit me and took a nice long afternoon nap. When I woke up I meant James, Laura, and Katie, three Aussies who just arrived in Krakow. They wanted to take a walk and look around so I decided to join them. We walked for a couple of hours until we made it to the river south of town, nearby there was a shopping center so I followed them in. After taking a look at what felt like any mall in America the girls thought we should see a movie (and since I love the movies who was I to decline). We watched Match Point then made our way back to the hostel.
Laura headed off to bed but James and I were hungry and when we headed out Katie decided to come along. We wandered around the old town until we found some Kebab’s and had a late, cheap dinner. Back at the hostel we shared a bottle of vodka and sprite and promised that tomorrow would be a better party night (being Thursday I was told).
Here a list of what I spent today and how weird prices seem.
50 zl (15.50) For a night in a hotel with my own room.
7 zl ($2.17) for 2 bottles of water, a banana, and an apple.
14 zl ($4.34) Round trip bus ride from Krakow to Auschwitz.
23 zl ($7.13) For a 3 ½ hour guided tour of Auschwitz and a 20 minute film.
23 zl ($7.13) A pizza and a beer.
17 zl ($5.27) For an ice cream sundae in the tourist part of town.
9 zl ($2.79) For a cappuccino in a café on the main square.
5 zl ($1.55) For a movie, Broken Flowers, in a movie theater.
4 zl ($1.24) For a 500ml can of beer in the movie theater.
Now I find it uncanny that I have to pay almost twice as much for a cup of coffee as to go see a feature film in a theatre.
(I guess I could have told you about concentration camps today, but thats a downer and the pictures say a lot)
Not really, I wanted to see the castle, get some good pictures, have a few killer meals, sit in a café and drink cappuccinos, eat ice cream and see a movie. I am not really in the mood to write out the specifics of the day, yet I managed to accomplish everything on my to-do list except go to the movies. I did actually get to the Theatre, but when I arrived I realized that the movie I wanted to see started at 18:15, not 8:15, Bummer for me and not reading better. I will give Europe one point for outsmarting me with their crazy military clock. Oh well I just wandered the city with the sun setting and got some great night shots.