Poland: When the Unexpected Happens.

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View of Downtown Warsaw from my friend’s flat.

There was very little that interested me in Poland. Actually, there wasn’t anything that I could immediately think of doing that would cause me to want to visit Poland. I basically went there to visit with my friend Amanda aka Gramanda (’cause she has grandma tendencies). We hadn’t seen each other in four years, since she hopped across the pond and laid down some roots. So, although I didn’t have any desire to visit Poland, I still wanted to get a good visit in with my dear friend.

Amanda and I met when we both took a class at GVSU, Desert Southwest class, which took art and photography students out to the 4 corners area for 5-6 weeks to journal, explore, draw, paint, photograph, hike, and live for much of the time off of the grid. It was a wonderful time in my life, one that I remember and revisit pretty much every day. That area touched my soul and I made some really great friends.

Arriving in Warsaw was kooky. Iceland and Ireland both had a familiarity to them, where Poland did not. I had zero expectations for what Poland would be which ended up being a good thing. Warsaw seemed to look like it was 20-30 years behind, buildings and surroundings looking like it was straight out of the late 80’s or early 90’s. It wasn’t pretty, or clean. Everything was in Polish. Yes, I know I’m in Poland, but up until that point there had been an English translation accompanying the other language. Thank goodness Amanda picked me up…not sure I would have been able to figure out how to find her without having some sort of meltdown. It was almost jarring stepping into this Polish world, one that left me feeling completely alone and craving home for the first time in 3 weeks.

We had a nice lunch before going to her apartment. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it had eggs, cheese, and marinara sauce? It was good whatever it was. Over the next few days we were very chill…walking around to Downtown Warsaw, taking the “tramalam” (the name given to the train by Amanda) to look for an outfit for her upcoming exhibition opening, having a horrible experience with a disgusting and very offensive Polish man, losing my passport…Yes. I LOST MY PASSPORT.  One of my worst fears for this trip came true. I believe it fell out of my wallet when I was paying for a cab…whenever it fell out, it was gone, along with my international drivers license (which I haven’t used so far even though I’ve rented cars twice), and my list of immunizations.  I freaked out, cried a little, and then called the US Embassy. Very calmly the woman on the phone told me I’d need to fill out some forms, make an appointment, and pay $125 to get an emergency passport issued so I could continue travel. This must happen pretty frequently since her responses to my questions were monotone. I printed the paperwork and filled them out, went to the Embassy the next day for my appointment at 9 am, and got a passport issued to me by 11 am. I felt so much better knowing I’d be able to leave Poland in a few days. It scared me to think it could have delayed me getting to Italy and creating a huge headache in the way of logistics and added costs.

I had to bring all of my luggage with me since we were catching a train to Krakow after my appointment and I was flying out of Krakow to Venice in a few days. There isn’t a place to store stuff like that, at least at the Embassy in Warsaw. My friend was with me and stayed with it outside. I went in, showed my printout of my appointment and my paperwork, as well as my ID. I went through security, very similar to TSA, and had to leave my cell phone and iPod there. I was then directed to a general area where my appointment was to take place, but asked the man in uniform to verify I was where I needed to be. There weren’t any signs or anyone at any of the windows, so I waited. Eventually, a woman showed up to the cashier’s window and I paid the fee and gave her my paperwork. After more waiting, I was called up to another window to verify my information and describe why I was there and what had happened. I then waited some more and was called up one last time to be presented with my emergency passport. I saved the paperwork and receipt I was given in case I ran into any trouble and since I needed it to get the emergency passport replaced with a regular one. The emergency passport is good for up to a year, but they recommend replacing it as soon as possible. I will say that it caused some hassle and delay for the remainder of my trip, but never in an extremely big way. Moral of the story: hang onto those things, put them  in a very safe place, and keep a picture of it on your phone so you’re able to answer all of the questions on the paperwork as thoroughly as you can in case you do lose it or it gets stolen! Keep spare passport photos with you as well. That will make the whole process a little less stressful if you have that taken care of already. Also, keep your cool and remember that it can be fixed. It may cost you, but it can be fixed. One last word of advice: report a lost or stolen passport ASAP! If stolen, file a police report.

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Later that afternoon we took the train to go to Krakow after Ubering it to the station. **Helpful tip: in Poland the Uber Drivers don’t always make a huge effort to find you, and sometimes just give up and park.  It is then up to you to find them.** The train was really nice. They provided a drink and snack like you would get on a flight, which was very unexpected. The seat was pretty comfortable and the train was clean and quite new looking. Not what I was expecting, although I think the cheaper option would have fit my expectations in my head (late 80’s/early 90’s decor/cleanliness/experience).

I booked 2 nights at the Park Inn by Radisson for my stay in Krakow. It was a really nice hotel that was updated and clean. My room was spacious and the bathroom was big and bright. I opted to get a  pedicure a few hours after my arrival and get my toes ready for Italy. They had a small spa area in the hotel which was super convenient and I didn’t pay anymore than I would have if I was back in the States. It was a nice way to relax after having some pretty stressful days. I was without my friend, as she was working on last minute preparation for her exhibition, so I decided to get room service which was also priced pretty decently. I was extremely tired after a very long and uncertain day, and fell asleep listening to polish tv.

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I woke early the next day to take advantage of the continental breakfast. Hands down, the best one I’ve ever experienced. Fresh pastries that were very well done, multiple kinds of granola, oatmeal, sausage, bacon, cold meats and cheeses, fresh juice, yogurt, and a very fancy coffee machine that made some serious coffee/cappuccino/mochaccinos. I was super impressed and satisfied!

I spent the day visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau, which gave way to a lovely and sunny walk into town to catch my bus. Krakow gave me a better feeling, the city being more aesthetically pleasing, and I felt fine to wander by myself. It was actually quite pretty walking along the Vistula River with the rising sun. I returned to town around 5pm, had a bite, and got ready to attend my friend’s opening. I stuck around for a bit to view her work and attend the after party, but had to leave early since my flight was really early the next day. I was happy to leave Poland, it turns out it wasn’t a place for me, but I loved seeing my friend and having some quality time together. I am super proud of the work she produced and that she had her very own exhibit to showcase her talents.

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