What do you do when your travel plans fall through in Poland? Eat your feelings worth in pierogies? Learn some Polish curse words? Crawl into your surprisingly comfy bed and hope it all works out?
Two days ago, after a great week spent in Zakopane and Krakow, I was ready to trundle over to Poznan for a two-week work away stint. But alas, alack, I hit a snag. Due to a miscommunication, I found out that I won’t be going to Poznan anytime soon. This, of course, was quite stressful at the time but after considering the pierogi/Polish curse word/crawl into bed option, I decided to buy a bus ticket to Warsaw instead.
I’m not exactly sure why I chose Warsaw, especially since many Pols in Krakow seem to have a severe allergy to the nation’s capital. But with no clue where to go next, I boarded a very crowded Polski Bus yesterday and made my way to one of Poland’s most underrated cities.
And I soon found that even at random rest stops outside of the city, there are many morsels of inspiration to be consumed and recycled.
When I got to the bus station in Warsaw, which isn’t quite as centrally located as the one in Krakow, I realized I had absolutely no idea where my hostel was. I spent the next twenty minutes sparing with some spotty WiFi until I finally figured out my metro route. However, post-metro, I walked back and forth on a very crowded street in search of the ever-allusive Mazowiecki Street.I tried to enlist the help of some friendly looking Brazilians only to find that Spanish is not Portuguese and terrible Spanish is just plain unintelligible.Although the Brazilians had absolutely no idea what I was asking, I think they still wanted to help because they continued to follow me around in my frenzy.
Eventually, a mother and son came to my rescue and soon enough, I was at my hostel, fully zombified and ready for a long, restful sleep. But first, I watched a Nicolas cage movie in Polish which was surprisingly relaxing.
The next day, I relocated to a hostel situated near Old Town Warsaw. The hostel is called Dream Hostel and it is indeed a dream.
The bunk beds have curtains, the breakfast is delicious, the clocks are set to Hogwarts time, there is communal basil for my soup, and Frank Sinatra and the Beatles playing overhead to satisfy my oldies-wired brain. I love this place enough to spend another night here. And I have to say, I feel much the same about the city itself.
Wandering around Warsaw yesterday was an unexpected gift. I walked around a serene castle outside of Old Town and learned about the Hillsborough disaster of ’89, the worst disaster in British sporting history, thanks to a sticker plastered on top of the castle wall.
I found out this morning that these stickers were made in protest of The Sun, a popular British tabloid magazine that published a story called, “The Truth” a day after the event. This article alleged that after 96 football fans were killed because of overcrowding in central pens within Hillsborough Stadium during a football match (fans where crushed by a large influx of people flooding an already overcrowded pen), “drunk hooligans” pick-pocketed and defaced victims of the disaster. This, of course, lead to a huge boycott against the tabloid as many believe the police force and the press were looking for a scapegoat and publishing extremely offensive inaccuracies. As you can see, this 17-year-old boycott is still very much alive today.
I realize this has nothing to do with Warsaw but this sticker gave me my first real chance at some investigative journalism. Travel is an active search for knowledge, and Warsaw, so far, has satiated my undeniable need to learn more about the world and it’s history.
After the castle, I wandered around Old Town where some newlyweds were taking a picture by an old water well. This was actually hilarious to watch. The groom pumped water from the well while the bride stood at an awkward distance so as to not get her dress wet.I’m not sure if that photo will make the mantle.
In the afternoon, I had a pleasant run in a park behind the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. I ran by a Tai Chi class and a woman walking four Scotties. Both of these encounters made me smile. Both of these encounters, for some unbeknownst reason, were deeply comforting.
I finished my run by the park fountain and let the water send me into a meditative trance.
Later in the evening, I went to a small, inviting cafe close to Old Town with a girl I met at the Hostel. I drank the world’s most amazing hot chocolate (New Hampshirites, imagine Burdick’s hot chocolate three-times thicker but half the cost.) This mug of pure,melted chocolate was the perfect end to a lovely day in Warsaw.
I have one more day left in Warsaw before I take a train to Lebork, a city near Gdansk. I’ll be staying with a family for a week or two, helping children learn English, and then….who knows?
Warsaw has helped quell any uncertainties I’ve had and will have while traveling. My plans are vague and subject to complete dissolution but when I start to feel overwhelmed by the looming uncertainty, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a British bloke back at my hostel (named Okay Hostel haha) in Krakow. We were munching on some coco puffs, staring up at the map of the world hanging above the dining table. After he finished giving me a list of all the best places in Europe to drink and throw stag parties (Sunny Beach in Bulgaria was number one of the list), he said that even though he’s had the privilege to travel to many different places, there’s still so much left in the world to see.
I couldn’t agree more, British bloke. There is so much in this world to see, to discover, to experience.
Back in the beginning of September, the plan was to spend a few months, maybe a little longer, in Poland. But as old plans fall by the wayside and new ones start to form, I realize there is indeed so much more to see. So maybe Gdansk will become Berlin, or Lithuania, or Slovakia, or some other corner of the world. Maybe I’ll find a job or maybe my job right now is to learn about all the stickers stuck to castle walls and take pictures of every fantastic sky that nudges me towards the next unknown destination.
I may be prone to Traveler’s Hiccups but as long as there is still so much to see, as long as there is still a grand collection of stickers and skies and friendly Brazilians pushing me forward, I have the cure: Travel blunders are fixed by more traveling and the world’s most delicious hot chocolate. Seriously, you have no idea how delicious this hot chocolate was!
Uncover Every Sticker,