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PS20 - Poland: Travel

As I said in my presentation, "There was time for travel?" =) Unfortunately, our busy schedule meant that we had to turn down a lot of invitations and opportunities. However, I certainly enjoyed what we did get to do.

Przemek (left) and I on a little impromptu outing to my host brother Karol's studio located in a small city outside Torun. (Shh, don't tell Marcin!)

Speaking of Tourn, we got to visit Torun again for a reggae festival! Afrika 15 I believe it was...

Magda, Cedrick, Sophie, and Przemek.

This was pretty cool. While the band took a break, people would come in the back halls and start drumming out their own beats. It was sweet.

It was a fun night. I met all kinds of cool people. I wish I'd collected e-mail addresses... =)

We had a very interesting van ride home, I will say that much. I wanted to take a picture of our driver, because he was driving with his feet while having a snack, but my batteries gave out. =)

My host brother Przemek took us around the countryside one day:

"Hey, it's my turn to pose dla Kanady idiot!"

One of the "Polish Death Tunnels." Those big, old trees have a way of gripping the mind. =)

This is part of an old communist cat food factory, now derelict.

Hockey? Here? Wow.

More of the cat food factory.

This was the manager's house. Notice that it's a little different from the apartment blocks you see on the other pages. =)

I guess we were having camera problems, as you might interpret from my gesture to Czarek. =)

We also went to visit Paulina's grandmother.

Andrzej and Krystynna took a bunch of us to Malbork one sunny Sunday to see the great Teutonic castle:

This sanctuary was heavily damaged during World War II and restoration work is slowly underway.

Andrzej, Krystynna, and me. Thanks for such a great day!

We tried to have a tour here, but this place was closed. =)

Our Valentine's Day outing to Chelmno was highly serendipitous:

We missed the parade, but we did catch some of the special Valentine's Day mass. Legend has it that this was Valentine's hometown, and that the box of bones held at this cathedral belong to Saint Valentine.

Vendors outside in the square, waiting for the concert to begin.

This fellow was a hoot and a half. He started telling me po Polsku about the buildings he had worked on (using this car hood as a slate for a road-grease diagram) and he even took me to a nearby cafe and bought me a beer. It turned out that he thought I could get him and his mates a job. =)

I was suddenly resuced by Kinga's boyfriend, whom I had never before met. He recognized me in the cafe and brought me to see Kinga, one of the English teachers back in Lisewo. It's really funny how things work out sometimes.

Back at the square, the concert's still going on.

A few minutes before we leave, Jen shares some of her cotton candy.

We left Pluznica about a day or so earlier than scheduled so that we could see some of the rest of Poland, including Krakow and Warsaw. On our way to Krakow, we toured the concentration camps in Oswiecem. You may know the place better by its German name, Auschwitz.

I was so shocked and stunned that I took only three pictures, all outdoors, and they all look like this:

I didn't want to place my own documentation or my own point of view onto what happened here. The horrors are quite unspeakable, and I wanted to assume the responsibility of properly absorbing the impact of what we could see.

The brutality that took place here is just too much for my limited skill to describe. I will say this: You ought to experience this place, and then you probably won't casually toss around words like "brutal" and "inhumane." Often when someone says something is "brutal," I say, "yeah, brutal like 'My stupid mother got me Gucci shoes, even though I told her I wanted Versace!'"

We arrived in Krakow that evening:

Here we are in a cafe, where Przemek is enjoying a special and totally non-alcoholic dessert. There was a no-alcohol rule in effect for debriefing, and the supervisors followed us around like clingy ex-girlfriends.

Wawel castle, a famous Krakow icon.

Pictures from the following morning:

Wawel castle.

In front of the Krakow dragon.

Vogue Optical? In Poland?!?! Sheesh, they even use the same font! I don't see "your second pair is free," though. =)

I've got no idea what this means, but there's a swear word on it, so it must be making a statement of some kind.

You probably saw this scene a lot on TV after John Paul II passed away, except by then the sky was blue and the grasses in the parks were green. =) "Go with CWY and miss out on history or anything remotely controversial or dangerous!" It's kind of funny in a sense because we also just missed the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which would have been really fascinating.

The market building we were inside the previous night.

Dima, the Terror of Krakow Youth Hostel.

Czarek enjoys a coffee during a rest stop on the way to Warsaw. We actually drove through the town of Warka, which made me momentairily excited, because that's where my favourite Polish beer of the same name originally came from.

Roma, knitting something up for Yulia back in Ostroh. I eventually lent the poor guy a flashlight. =)

Ah, it's all about the back of the bus!

In Warsaw, we had a lunch invitation at the Canadian Embassy! We met with the Ambassador again (such a plesant fellow!) and we gave a few short wrap-up speeches.

We* actually had a big debate about what was appropriate to wear. Polish culture dictates that we all must wear suits; Canadian culture says, "hey, he just invited us to come over for a snack while we're touring Warsaw." So we kind of ended up with a hodgepodge of standards, but I'd say that wearing a Team Canada jersey is highly appropriate either way. I chickened out and wore a suit, which I changed out of as soon as we got back on the bus so that I could walk around Warsaw in the ongoing blizzard in street clothes. The Ambassador put the punctuation mark on it by leaning against the table while wearing a suit, while his Polish interpreter stood stockly rigid. It's an interesting juxtaposition. Anyway, we really enjoyed ourselves, and if the Ambassador ever reads this - thank you for making us feel so important, welcome, and special! On behalf of the group, I want to extend my sincere appreciation.

(* - Or maybe just me. You know how I get.)

All roads lead to Warszawa!

As I said, we then toured Warsaw in a blizzard. I was really impressed with Warsaw, and I had another one of those "I could live here" moments. It's such a great city - it doesn't have the richness of Krakow, but I like places that are a little bit more spacious and busy and clinical. All through the cold, cold blizzard, I could barely keep the smile off my face, except for a few unfortunate moments in a Pizza Hut later on.

The Polish National Museum.

And, back at the hostel, it was time to say our goodbyes:

Olesya's famous socks.

Dima and his amazing packing job. They fit six people and all their luggage into Marcin's parent's little Mitsubishi for the drive to Ukraine. I couldn't believe it!

So Jen was going with Marcin and Dima and Roman and Olesya to see Eduard, while we were leaving from Chopin International Airport.

Some things never change.

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