It's time to share some hilariously terrible moments. Like that time we were stuck in Poland for an extra day because our bus didn't show up and the mixup cost us an extra 60 euros just to get home. Or that time we went to the Aran Islands by ferry and spent the day looking like wet dogs and trying not to puke.
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Had to make a quick weekend trip to Poland to check out Krakow, eat a few Polish dishes and visit Auschwitz. We took an overnight train which was a new experience for all of us. Despite some serious body odor issues with a fellow passenger, the trip was altogether enjoyable. Starting a weekend out well-rested is a must when time is limited. For any trip, but especially a shorter one, I can't recommend a free walking tour enough. Not only are they free, but you get the highlights of sightseeing accompanied by a history lesson, if you're lucky the guide will even throw in some info about local hotspots for eating, drinking, and partying. This time we did the Old Town Tour by freewalkingtour.com and it was great!
Let's talk food. First of all, pretty pleased with all the food in Poland but the highlight was of course pierogi and, surprisingly, a lesser-known street food creation called a zapiekanka.
First, pierogi. I had the boiled dumplings stuffed with meat at a little place called Marchewka z Groszkiem and absolutely loved it. The price was great and it was the better of the two I had during the 48 hours.
But now for zapiekanka.
Who doesn't love sandwiches and pizza? Clearly not Polish people because they made this amazing street food that's a hybrid between an open-faced sandwich and a pizza. The foundation is a crusty piece of bread the length of my forearm, topped with all kinds of delicious things - mine was mushrooms, cheese, and bacon with a garlic sauce on top. We got it at one of the stalls in the market around the Jewish Quarter and I have to say it lived up to all of my expectations. Also, it was super cheap! This scrumptious bite was only 7.50 zloty which is about $2.
On the few occasions during this trip that we weren't eating, we were doing the second most productive thing possible - shopping. We spent a few hours wandering the shops in the market on the square for amber jewelry. If you check out these shops, remember that there's so many, you have to shop around first. The stalls frequently have similar items and you can most likely find a stall with a better price if you just take a look around the entire line. We bought a lot of amber jewelry ranging from 20 to 85 zloty, mostly small items like stud earrings and rings.
On a different note, I can't forget about our intense day at Auschwitz. I won't say much other than we did a tour that picked us up in Krakow, brought us to the camp, and provided a group tour guide throughout Auschwitz I and Auschwitz - Birkenau. I think words would fail here if I even began to describe what we saw and learned that day, but I will say I'd recommend going. As George Santayana wrote,
We tend to skip over some important parts of living and traveling abroad. The not so beautiful, maybe smelly, and often upsetting parts. It's in our blood to fade out the bad and focus on the good especially when it comes to traveling. I happen to be guilty of this on my first experiences outside the USA. In Ireland and the UK, I basically blocked out the weather of the entire trip. The rain and cold was hell. It sucked. I hated it. And occasionally it made both Anna and I less than pleasant. Ensued a few moments of near tears after terrible sleep in dirty hostels coupled with wet clothes and not a dry spot in sight.
So let's talk about it.
Let's talk about the not so great, and downright terrible parts of traveling and expat life. First off (of course), I miss my family. I wouldn't call it homesick. I'm not missing Missouri really, just the people there. Thank God for FaceTime and WhatsApp but until we can send hugs and licks from my dog I'll forever doubt our technological advances. But another part of missing my family and friends that's important is that I want them to understand what I'm experiencing.
Also, the language. One of the worst feelings I've had so far abroad is with my lack of understanding of Czech, and other native languages. I not only feel like a complete idiot when I try to order my morning coffee or buy a bus ticket, but more than that I feel like an asshole. The last thing I want while I'm here is for the locals to think I'm a naive, disrespectful tourist and I tend to get that feeling when my one language mind fails me and I resort to hand gestures and less than a handful of words. I definitely have a great appreciation for non-native speakers of any language living in a foreign or new country. Not only is it not easy, but it's slow going. You don't learn a language in a week, and from what I've heard about Czech, you don't even learn it in a few years. So I guess, I should just get used to this feeling and learn to say "sorry, Im trying".
What about the daily stuff- the daily trials and tribulations of traveling like late buses, dirty hostels, grocery shopping in a different language and dealing with the weather? It's all a part of life, half of it would be happening on a daily basis even if I was back home in Missouri. It sucks and is occasionally capable of starting a near breakdown but one thing is for sure- I'd rather be dealing with that here than working an 8-5 back in the states. I get to travel and have time to do what I love - write, read, and make art. What they say is true, the bad days make the good days that much better. It's about the days when the only English you hear is in the evening when catching up with your friends because then it's that much more exciting and day changing when you meet an older couple on the metro who bump into you and after you say "I'm sorry" they strike up a conversation with you because they know "you're not from here". So here's to the rainy days running around Dublin with a suitcase and no umbrella, the fines on public transportation, and drinking away our sorrows with some 18 crown wine.