Wednesday, 22 February 2012

My visit to Krakow, Poland 17/02/12 to 20/02/12

Like most of the flights that I've taken in my adult life; the flight out to Krakow began at the airport; with a Burger King Whopper with Cheese - super size. Obviously, with flying being possibly my worst fear, I say to myself; "might as well have a nice meal"; because consciously; I'm thinking it's my last meal. Anyway; the outbound flight was good; I was calm, relaxed, and I tucked into "The Long Way" - by Bernard Moteissier. I was daydreaming out of the window, looking at the North Sea below, the salmon and pink explosions within a pastel blue sky; just as the sun was coming up over the horizon, wondering if I'll be seeing such majestic sights when I become an officer in the Merchant navy. Everyone else around me on the plane didn't seem in the slightest bit interest in the stunning views, but I was fixated. I was sitting there in a trance; seemingly unaware, well, not unaware; but ignorant to the fact that there's loads of other planes up there; the skys are very busy. I was looking down on a tiny speck on the sea; and when I looked up, I was suddenly startled by another jet flying below us- just how close; I know not; due to it's speed; and the fact that there's no point of reference in the sky. I'd never landed in snowy conditions before; and was really appreciative, if not apprehensive at the thought of it. The landing was smooth, unlike my experience landing in Tenerife; high head/cross winds meant that it was like a roller coaster! When I finally got to the door; the air literally tasted different- and instant bite of cold. I think it was -7; which a week before, over there it had been -20! After an unfriendly welcome from the border control; it was time to find the bus stop; and only then did I remember that I don't actually know one single word of the native language!  Thankfully, outside the terminal, there was directions to the bus stop, which was a meagre 60 meters away from where we were standing. We managed to get ourselves a seat on the bus; which I had been warned got busy; sardines; say no more! I heard some girl, obviously a student, talking English, so I monitored her for a while; and as it became obvious we were in Krakow; I asked her if the next stop was the train station. Abrupt as you like she stated "no"- The second Pole I'd encountered; after the border control man, and I was becoming aware of the pattern, which would be a feature throughout the trip. 


We arrived at Krakow's main train station; and prior to leaving for the airport; I was on google earth; familiarising myself with the area. To cut a long story short; I took us straight to the hotel; which was a good 15 minute walk. I was quite impressed by navigational skills; although there was a time where I thought; I've possibly gotten North Mixed up with South; and we were going the wrong way; when one of those unexplainable feelings I get; told me the hotel was around the next corner . . .and it was! The Hotel Alexander 2, was very impressive. Our room was a loft conversion room, on the fourth floor. The facilities were very modern, and the hotel was exceptionally clean! First order of the day was to get a toothbrush; some deodorant, so we went to the main shopping centre in Krakow; which like the hotel was very modern, and very clean. Much more impressive than Liverpool one; where we found a Polish version of Wilkinson's.   

First meal there was in a lovely Pizzeria called sycylia pizzeria; which was excellent. I had a tropicana pizza (italian style) and I was quite shocked, almost appalled to see kiwi fruit on it! But, it was tasty all the same. Very affordable, and my first experience of friendliness from a Polish person.   I'd initially ordered what I thought was Lemonade; but it tasted like horrid bitter piss; at this point, Paul, the guy I was away with was tucking into his Lasagne, and Polish beer Tyskie(sp) - Monkey see, monkey want. 

 After the tasty Pizza, and a little walk around Krakow; we went back to the hotel, where Paul decided he'd sleep. Me, not being content to do so; decided to go for a wander back in the old town; where I found an Irish bar. My advice to anyone going to Krakow, is to avoid these "irish" bars, because they're quite frankly, a pile of toss.  On my way back to wake Paul up, to begin our pub crawl; I noticed a cosy looking Shi Sha bar just right by the hotel. So when I got back to the hotel; I sold shi sha to Paul. After an amazing shower; we headed to the shi sha bar, for some Apple flavoured stuff. It was lovely; really relaxing, and washed down with a cool desperado all for about £8.00. We went there the next night as well, and he told us that he'd only been open a week, and it had not been advertised; it's a bit off the beaten track; but it's on the same road as the alexander 2. Highly recommendatory!

The only real place of interest that we actually visited was the Castle; the views were stunning; as was the architecture in general. I loved all the little underground pubs and clubs that Krakow had to offer. There was that many there; it would be impossible to visit them all in one trip (over 300 apparently)  The first night ended up with us meeting some lads from Newcastle; with one of their cousins, who was from Scotland.  We were chatting away for a good hour; they were on a stag do. They eventually got us sitting down with a gang of what I like to call "Literally, Blatentlies" - these are basically generic people, the kind you find in most universities; it's impossible to guess where they're from because of the featureless, and rather infuriating "accent" - if you can even call it an accent. One of the girls took an instant dislike to me; asking me, who I was, and why I was sitting with them. I think I eventually, after trying to be as nice as I could to her; asked her if she was born a horrible cunt, or if it was something she became proficient at in later life; then, one of the girls; who's hen night it was, took one of the lads who's stag night it was, and casual as you like, went in the toilets for sex. I asked the girl who was being funny with me, if her mate did things like this often. "Who, Amber?" - "Yes, Amber . . .is Amber her name?" I enquired. "Yeah" she replied - I said "With behaviour like that; she should maybe change her name to green, rather than amber" - She was clearly a moron, and my traffic light simile was wasted on her. I'd had enough for the evening and we retired back to the hotel. Well, tried to; it took us an hour to get back; because of being inebriated; and all of the streets being pretty much the same, a quick visit to the shop that was open, and I bought some chocolate nuts, cheesey crisps, and some Kabanos, which are one of my favourite foods. When in rome, and all that.

The next day, I got up for breakfast; and it was to be the last time I bothered. Continental; eurgh. Stale bread, full fat milk, mad flavoured tea; and I'm not a fan of coffee. I made myself from toast, and put some of the horrid looking scrambled egg on; and two sausages that had been swimming in warm brine for probably a lifetime. I could sense the pending heart burn. We spent the second day finding the Jewish district; which had some very interesting buildings; just before we entered it; I seen "All coppers are bastards" and I thought, "Ahh the 4skins, are responsible for this" - good old bad punk rock. Although, I'm not sure if the perpetrators were lefties; or right- they like the "ACAB" abbreviation on both sides of the fence. It was a bit of a recon mission for later that evening- I'd heard the Jewish district was full of "cool" bars. After a visit to the castle; and some pan fried chicken, chips, and salad- we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the evenings transgressions.

I knew that my travelling companion wanted to go to a "titty bar"- as he'd been repeating it, over and over. . . . "titty bar....titty bar.....titty bar.....But I was quite adamant that I wouldn't be going. After a beer or two in the hotel; we stopped in for another shisha; and I decided to have a pancake- "A smoke and a pancake" washed down this time, with some strong lager; that was incidentally called "strong" - we went to the Jewish district; starting off in some expensive pub type place, just off the square. I didn't really like the attitude of the bar staff at all; so I asked Paul if we could move on. The next pub, was some fruitmachine/pub thing. It was dire. I had my Tranmere Rovers away shirt on, and some MASSIVE steroid pole asked me if it was a "Vest Ham" shirt, on the count of it being claret and blue; "no" I answered him, then he frowned, and said "Villa", to which I replied, "No, and it's not Scunthorpe United either; it's Tranmere Rovers" and he mumbled something and then shouted "Cracovia" at me; notifying me that he was a Cracovia fan. I left him to his own devices and went and sat back down with my two vodkas.  Miejsce Bar was next on the drink-a-thon. It was a pretty cool place to have a drink. The DJ in there was a particular highlight. I heard this song in there, and thought it was great! After typing the lyrics into google the next day, I was unhappy to discover it was Mark Ronson; because I don't really like the Cubase raping twit!

Go on, press play! After eventually drinking up there; we staggered around the corner to Alchemia which was really fucking cool. I hate the word cool, but it's the only word that I can think of to describe it. Paul ordered some chocolate cake, that was out on the bar; and I ordered a white russian; which cost me 23zt; which was possibly the most expensive drink I'd had up until that point- It went down well; and we then moved on- I asked the bar staff if there was any "punk rock" places; and he directed me to it; I can't find what it was called, but it really does not matter, because it was shit. I talked the ear off the one bar man who was working; asking him if he likes this, and that - they had a computer linked up to the sound system, so I logged on to the hard socks myspace, and showed him my band; but he wasn't impressed. It became apparent, that he was a "crust" punk - D-beat and all that shit. It really is the worst type of punk; but he probably thinks that about my poppy polished punk. After leaving there; at about 2am- the white russian really kicked in; and I might have had a few more vodka shots, because the next thing I can remember, is sort of looking up, and seeing Paul being led into a room by some girl. He'd dragged me to a titty bar! Then I became aware of me being hounded by a girl, "Daniel, you can buy me a drink" - I don't know what happened before, because I was out of it; Paul later told me that I was sleeping, and that the manageress hit me over the head with a wooden menu! I was talking to this girl telling her that I wasn't interested in a dance; or buying a drink, and that I just wanted to get my friend, and go. She wanted me to pay 100zt for her to get a drink. I said, "no, I wouldn't mind buying you a drink at the going rate, if you promise to go away and leave me alone" - she dismissed it, and asked me "why don't you want to by me a drink" and I said "Because I don't. It's not happened. Why do you do this for a job? Why don't you head over to England and work in ASDA or something!" I said. "It doesn't have to be like this" - hahaha! Then, the bar staff brought over a drink for her, demanding that I pay for it. It was time to fold the arms. "No, no, no and also, no" I said. Paul came back from his dance, and I said "Here you go . . he's stupid enough to pay for it. I'm not" - shortly after, the door staff, came over and politely asked us to leave. It was a relief to get out of there! Then more cold air aided the catalyst effect of alcohol, and I can't remember anything! According to Paul, I was getting really depressed and going on about how ugly and disgusting I am; and then some Polish girl somehow ended up involved; and  I supposedly pushed her over! I'm guessing she was shouting things at me!  Paul reckons two or three polish lads came over and told him to "restrain your friend" - I'm not sure if this happened or not though. I mean, I've gone wild off booze in the past; but it's been a long time since I've ever gotten violent, per se. I reckon Paul was winding me up.

The next day; the hangover was diabolical.  We headed straight out to Subway; which is located in the main shopping precinct. We were ripped off by the Subway staff; they charged us for individual small subs, and separate drinks,  rather than the footlong deal that was on their menu. I couldn't even be arsed to go up and complain. I knew the security would be over quicker than you could say pierogi! I just left it; sitting there getting looked at left right and centre, from the surrounding diners. It wasn't nice at the time; but that was probably on the count of the hangover! We headed back to the hotel; and had a sleep. I woke up about 3; and we headed in to the old town; for some steak! Grande Grill was excellent. I had an iced coffee for the first time, which was really enjoyable, and I was close to ordering a mixed grill that cost 125zt! I opted for the Grande Burger; which wasn't really that nice to be honest. The venue it's self was amazing, as was the service. That's what you notice about Krakow- all the places you go are decorated to the highest standards. As someone who has done a little work in construction; I know shoddy workmanship when I see it; which is often in clubs in Liverpool - however in Krakow, it's all to a really good standard and very very clean as well.

After the Grande Grill experience; we headed back to the hotel; stopping off at a bar we'd gone to the first night. It was shite, and full of singer sewing machines for tables. Rude staff (watching football on a laptop) - after this we headed back, and seen that the shi sha bar was closed; the one we'd gone to on the Friday, and Saturday. Paul went to sleep; where as the hair of the dog bite me! I headed out and took in two pubs on my own; and then went to make a phone call and getting the news from mother that I'd been offered another cadetship, this time from Clyde Marine; which I was over the moon with! "Fucking get in!!" I shouted; at the top of my voice in a dark, dingy, underground dungeon doubling as an internet cafe/phone box. I was probably getting some strange looks; the unfriendly looking lady on the desk cast over a  perspicacious glance of disapproval; to be honest, I think that might have been her default setting. 

I went back to wake Paul, and dragged him to a shi sha bar on the main square; it wasn't as good as the one near to the hotel. More frosty customer service; and glancing looks of disapproval, and well jacked up in the price. We left there; after a beer and another white russian for me; went to a Kareoke bar. It was full with Americans, Germans, and Polish. We stayed there all night; and met some young lads from Liverpool. I bought 10 shots for 30zt; and I think I drank 6 of them; I gave one each to the lads from Liverpool; who we sat with. I sang quite a few songs there! Paul said he wanted to go back to the hotel, so I gave him the key; then the lads from Liverpool left; so I just stayed there on my own, getting up, having a laugh, and singing songs; the guy who was running it was good craic. I left my bloody hat there as well, and it was closed the next day when I went to get it. Few scenes missing, then I remember going and getting a large kebab and a bottle of coca cola, from a friendly Turkish guy. I remember it being 12zt, which was really cheap; and I remember it being really really nice; although, anything tastes nice when you've drank that much! I then tried to navigate my way home; and after about an hour; I was hungry again, and went to a different kebab place, and this time got a small kebab and coca cola! What a fat bastard! Thankfully, it was the fat and carbs I needed to realize where I was; and then that was it; krakow's visit had had it's last night!

The hang over the next day was another train wreck. I was shaking to hell! All the way down to the depths of hell! We checked out of the hotel, and went to find someting to eat. But I was that hungover, I was being an indecisive scatter brain! We ended up walking into Les Couleurs, a French cafe. We walked in, sat down, got glared at by the waitress; sat there for 5 minutes, after which I just said, "fuck this, I'm off". With service like that; I'm surprised they're in business; she actually blanked us! We went somewhere else and by the time we'd sat down to order, we were already pushing it, for getting to Airport! I was starving! But I'd learnt one thing about Poland. Everything takes a long time. There's always massive ques in shops, and people are quite slow to do things. So we just decided to get a smoothie; which took 25 minutes to come to the table! After asking for the bill, another 20 minutes went by! I was beginning to panic! Thankfully we got to Airport, and eventually boarded the plane. Little did I know, what a horrible situation was awaiting me..... 

Oh yeah, I don't think bummers are welcome in Krakow; see below.

Now, I hate flying. The flight out was relaxed, and enjoyable. The flight home, however, was HELL. I couldn't get relaxed; my palms were sweating; I was sort of constantly in a sort of panic/anxiety attack phase! I put it down to smoking shi sha, and three nights on the beer! Note to self; never fly with a hangover EVER again. Infact, never drink EVER again. Oh, hilarity. 

In conclusion; I think I would go back to Poland; now that I know what to expect. At the time, it wasn't very nice, all too often; we were looked at like we were shit, and served in places like it was a big inconvenience, us being there.  I suppose British people don't have the best reputation; but what ever happened to giving people a chance; on an individual basis. 

I think my next weekend away will be Belgrade; or Sofia; on the count of their affordability! 

Travel writing isn't my forte. 

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Predictable old me.

January, and it's resolutions pretty much went up in smoke. I drank 3 times in the month, after planning not to drink. I didn't lose any weight; but didn't put any on either, and I only managed to get 270 miles done on the bike; which I guess can be excusable because of the weather, and I didn't really advance my maths knowledge as far as I'd liked. We're in February now, and I am still a maths retard. I was doing linear equations, and quadratic (sort of getting, but not quite); but I've realised after doing one of the level 2 papers, that I need to swat up on the more remedial stuff first, before I press on. I have until mid June to get up to speed; I've never been confident about getting the B in Maths; but it's the only option that I have, so I must go with it.  If I don't get a B, then I don't get the position it's as simple as that.  If I keep procrastinating, then it's my own damn fault if I'm moaning on here about not passing, come August.  I had my third English language assessment back, in which I got the top band; so that's 3 in the top band so far; next week's controlled assessment, is the 'rant' - I have a feeling I will get maximum marks for that. So, I'm ticking over nicely for an A in English, and I'd like to think I'm ticking over nicely for an A in Literature as well. The sciences, maybe A's, possibly B's. I've felt so sorry for myself today, and yesterday. What's passed is past.

I had a tax rebate last week, from 2007;  and I also had a few winners on the horses, so I went in to spontaneous spending mode; and as I type this, I now have little money left. But I'm pretty happy with my purchases:

1: Seaworthy; adrift with William Willis in the golden age of rafting - T.R Pearson
A novelist, pretty much summarizes my HERO; William Willis' adventures. I've been meaning to get this for a few years now; I guess it was on my wish list. I look forward to reading it.

2: The Real Heroes of Telemark - R Mears
Not really a fan of Ray; I think he's a pompous scrotum; but to be fair to him, this book is fantastic. I'm interested in this, obviously, because of Knut Haugland taking part in the raid, before his exploits on the Kon-Tiki.  I've read it, but it was that good, I felt I should buy it. The gripping account 2 Norwegian resistance operations, gunnerside, and grouse; just about sabotaging a heavy water production plant at Vermok.   Heavy water is instrumental in getting a nuclear reactor going; so the stakes were high! Although it has recently been shown that the barrels that they "sank" didn't contain enough of the stuff to be a danger. Still.

3:  I'd recently watched a cracking documentary called Deep Water, on the none stop around the world Yacht race, in 1968. I was particularly interested in Donald Crowhurst; who essentially, went mental, and pretty much killed himself, but we'll never know. I have the book to read, I've had it for a while; Tom Mcnally, the fearless atlantic crossing record holder gave it to me. I was also interested in Bernard MoitessierThe Long Way - Who essentially, was about to win the race; and decided that he would turn his boat around, and carry on sailing around the world. I'm very eager to read this book.  I've also purchased Robin Knox Johnsons' A World of My Own: The First Ever Non-stop Solo Round the World Voyage - I guess he won the coveted prize by default. I'm sure it will make for some good reading.

4. I purchased "The best of: The Kingston Trio" on CD

5. Had my mudguards fitted on my winter bike, and I also purchased a pannier, and a rack bag; so my winter bike looks like I'm a right "tourer" - I guess you've got to be into cycling to know what a "tourer" actually is. My definition is "Middle aged/Elderly male, with a bike fitted with lots of baggage; slow travelling, and probably carrying NOTHING AT ALL"  I'll basically be using it for my long rides, so I can take food/water/waterproofs. I also purchased some new electrolyte tablets as I've ran out of my SIS GO. I was doing 70 mile rides last year, and when I started on the electrolytes, I was getting about 20 or more miles before getting totally drained. These one's I've bought have fewer calories.

Fucking Christ,  I'm starting to bore myself now. To be honest, I was bored when I started writing this.

I also spent £200.00 on a weekend in Krakow, Poland. Last week, I was kicking a can; moaning to myself about not having the money to get away; the next day; BAM- tax rebate. I am going with my friend from my days at secondary school, Paul. It should be funny, with my volatility, and his OCD; it should make for an odd weekend to say the least. I will try and borrow a camera and take some pictures of shitty old buildings and such. There's the option to visit the concentration camps; but, I'm really not sure this is something I want to do; I will decide when I get there. So, In just 2 weeks time, I'll be leaving for Poland. I'm still scared of flying; but, I need to face the fear, because, when I become a deck officer, I'll be flying all over the show.  I wasn't supposed to pay that much, and I'm pretty much as cheesed off as I can be. If you book via, be sure to do some background checks on the company before you even ring them; my company, "Deal of the day holidays" - part of "jetline" are absolute cretins, and should be avoided at all costs.