Friday, May 27, 2011

No cutting corners!

So I spent the last day in Warsaw, Poland with some wonderful hosts that treated me like family. The hot shower and being able to wash and DRY my clothes (WITH A DRYER!) was awesome.
I spent yesterday touring the city of Warsaw.  Particularly Old Town as my hosts suggested.
It almost brought a tear to my eye thinking how it was all destroyed and remembering back to the films like Saving Private Ryan where there were families stuck in all of that hell.

So after seeing the NEW old town (it was rebuilt in about 10-15 years after it's destruction) I decided to call it a day. I went to McDonalds, my favorite Wifi spot and sent some requests before taking a tram to the edge of the city.

TRAVEL TIP: If you aren't a student don't even THINK about getting the 50% off tickets for public transport!

I figured I'd just take a short tram ride and be out of the city. But about 2 stops from my destination a guy came in checking tickets. I didn't have a student ID nor could I pay the 80cl which is a $22 fine so he took me off the tram and told me that he was going to take me to the police.  Uh - Oh!  Think fast.  So I told him the truth.   I was pick-pocketed two days earlier and have just the $20 I had stashed in my backpack. I actually had $40 stashed but that would have been able to pay the fine. They asked where I'm staying..I said I hitch-hike and I have my tent..or if people let me stay in their home I do. So he just shook his head and wagged his finger at me and said "this ticket is for STUDENTS only..if you haven't started your semester and don't have an ID you can't buy this ticket. Don't do it again."    I'll take his advice.   Crisis averted.
I should have really interned for a crisis management was my favorite communications class.

Anyways...I took a tram to Odecia which is the last stop. From there I ended up walking for 8km, stopping now and then to try and hitch but to no success. After I finally made it past 3 towns and found a place with a very nice shoulder and far enough out of warsaw and definately on the way to JUST Krakow..I stopped. It took me about 30minutes and 2 cars. The first was a car full of guys and children...gypsies I presume. He put a golden ring in my hand and asked if I spoke English or Deutsch and then said  "Muuuhhney Muuuuhney" in the most childish voice I ever heard."   Holy hell did that piss me off.   I was like..."YOU have a car..I don't. Why do you think I'm hitch-hiking?! Because i don't have money."  I gave him the ring back and they left.

The second car was a couple and their baby. Luck woudl have it that they are also affiliated with couchsurfing and have hitch-hiked themselves. In fact..the girl who is Polish met her husband who is Lithuanian when he showed her around his city during her studies. haha   They were such a funny couple to observe. When they argued they'd Kiss...then say "no no no" (about who would drive or whether he/she should have a bite/etc) and then kiss again and then the other would say "yes yes yes."  It was the sweetest thing ever..what a cool way to argue :)
We had some dumplings for dinner and they went to a store and bought me a small sack lunch for the next day. They then contacted the person in Krakow that would host me (we were going to be arriving after midnight) and she came to the car and it was just..What a lucky car to hitch with!

Monika, my current host has been really cool. We chatted a bit and she showed me her house which is currently being renovated. We chatted about music and life before going to bed as she'd have to work in the morning. This morning she prepared some food from the sack lunch, gave me a map and public transport ticket (just in case).
I didn't do much today. I walked around the main square and observed all the many people and events going on. Taking in the history of the old buildings and the frescoes and gargoyles that were on them. I found a nice shaded spot as it was really sunny and sat around chatting to two locals.
Tonight I'll spend a relaxing evening with my host..over some good music and great conversation.

It's supposed to rain tomorrow so Im' thinking I'll stay in Krakow until Tuesday so I can visit Auschwitz on Monday and then head for Worclaw on Tuesday.

Note: Sorry for sending that message on facebook, I should have sent some private messages first. My thinking was if I received a dollar from some friends then I'd be fine. I finally did contact family as many people thought I was being hacked and I'll get an early b-day advance that will see me through until I get my replacement card and my trip will resume with adequate funds. So friends don't worry as I'm not in dire straights..I should have thought of more avenues. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Virtual Prison and Living on Little

I'm finally in Poland.

I thought the trip by hitch-hiking would be easy. gave directions but I happened to miss the last line which had a link to a warning about the border I was traveling to.


Oh boy. After arriving to Lviv in the early morning by bus from Kiev, doing some photowork and doing some reading I went in search of the highway to Lublin, Poland. Highway M09 to be exact. I got some help from a gas-station for some cardboard and some Ukrainian locations written.
However, I was not able to find anybody to pick me up in the blazing sun after around 30 minutes. Well..except for a taxi.
I decided to take the taxi for his price of 100 UKR ($12) to go to the highway on the opposite side of Lviv. But as he started off I remembered that I had just paid 120 UKR for a trip of 540km!!!!  I was being Severely ripped off. After just one or two kilometers I told him no this is too much. He took 50 from me. The exchange rate is 7.97/1US  Still a lot considering I didn't want to get any more Ukranian money and just had 50 left for the day. I got out and began walking, stopped for some breakfast. I had chicken and scalloped potatoes. really Delicious actually.   I then walked and walked until I made it to the center of the town.
When i asked if I was heading in the right direction I was told "no no, take this bus"  So I listened...however where does this bus take me?  Back to where I started in the morning.  GAH!  haha.  There are two Bus stations in Lviv..Number 1 and Number 2. I wanted Number 2.
However while on the bus I met a guy in the military who decided to really help me out. He got a map and called some friends and found that there was a bus that comes to where I was and would take me to the other bus station.

I arrived to the other bus station around 6:30pm or so. I then decided I would try hitch-hiking to the border as it was only 56 or so kilometers. After a bit of walking to find a good place where a big truck could pull over I put out the thumb. I got the same reaction from many drivers though. Throwing up their hands. Sometimes almost as if they were angry. So I decided to put my hand out as if I was seeking a lift from a taxi..palm up and straight out. I got a response almost right away. A man took me all the way to Ravaruski which is the border town.

He dropped me off and I began walking through the town. I was a bit hungry by then as it was now about 8pm. The sun was still up surprisingly. As I came to a part of town with some food places I went in to browse. I didn't see anything that would fit a 50 grivna budget so I went outside. That's when a guy approached me in plain clothes and asked to see my passport. He showed me an ID that said he was some sort of official. I told him sorry, but have I done something wrong? Is there a reason you need to see my passport?  He just kept saying he needed to see my passport. However I wasn't about ready to show my passport to somebody in plain clothes as I've heard about similar scams. I told him that he didn't have a uniform and if I wasn't under arrest and have done nothing wrong then I am free to go. I called my last host in Odessa and asked for some advice. She told me it was actually normal to be asked so I finally relented and showed him. He said..okay and then began walking away. I decided to get out of the area as I could and try to find a car quickly. wasn't long before that guy and his friend were calling for me. I pretended I couldn't hear them and kept walking down the road towards the border. They caught up and said they were going to get a car to take me to the border. I was thinking..hmmm NO. I said, "No thank you but I'm okay."
However they kept insisting again and I told them I would not go anywhere with them as they were NOT in uniform. Well..finally two people showed up that were in Uniform. One was a woman which made me feel a bit more at ease. I let her see my documents and she asked me questions about my travel. Told me I wasn't in trouble and that she'd have another guard drive me to the border.

What she didn't tell me is that once I got to the border I would have to sit at the median infront of the huge line of cars and semi's and wait..and wait..and wait some more because they would ONLY allow me to ride witha  bus or mashrutka..which kept declining because I didn't have a ticket. So I asked to be able to return to Lviv and I'd go to Poland another day.  They said I could not leave.  So..I was a virtual prisoner left to watch car after car get through only because he shook the hand of a guard by lubricating his wallet. I arrived at 8:30 to the border and a bus finally let me in at 11:30pm. Then that bus was stuck in customs for another 5 hours. Long story short, I didn't get to Warsaw until 10:30am this morning.  WHAT a DAY!  Whew!

Oh..and I seem to have lost my debit card yesterday leaving me with just $42 until I get a replacement.

This is where the real adventure begins...I guess the positive thing that comes from this is I can't splurge on beer now. All this money will go to eating and getting public transport to the edge of cities so I can hitch-hike to the next. I'll be traveling like a real poor traveler now.  I think this will last me for the time it takes to get my Debit card back so don't worry yourselves too much. I'll just rough it for a bit and can't dine out so much or go to hostels. It IS why I got a tent after all.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Time to start again

I haven't posted on this since I first started treaveling despite traveling being the reason i opened the blog.
I've been traveling a lot, sometimes semi-settling down in places.
I'm going to do my best from now on to update here and also no longer try and settle down anywhere. Just keep moving.

I'm currently in Kiev, Ukraine at the chillout hostel.

I had a whirlwind time here with almost no sleep since I arrived on the weekend.
Now I'll be heading for Lviv to spend a night there before going to Poland.
I'm looking forward to Poland but I definately have my sights set on Berlin.

I'll update more later. It's 2pm here and I want to hitch-hike sooner than later as it'll take atleast 6-8hours to get to Lviv today.

Pictures will come soon as well as stories from my travels done so far.