Monthly Archives: June 2009

Poland – Part 3: Our Day in Warsaw

Note:  Like my last few posts, I’m not yet done processing my photos, and so these posts will probably have more and more photos attached to them over time.

We had arrived in Warsaw around noon, and only had this day to really do any sight-seeing.  So, while some of us may have wanted to clock out and sleep our way into jet-lagged paradise, instead, we made a quick clean-up stop at the hostel, and then hit the pavement and started walking around.

The streets of Warsaw
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The streets of Warsaw16-Jun-2009 09:08, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 
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16-Jun-2009 09:09, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 
Random palm tree in one of the roundabout thingers in Warsaw
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Random palm tree in one of the roundabout thingers in Warsaw16-Jun-2009 09:12, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.68, 17.2mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 64

 
It's raining.  Linn is pumped.  Alexi is drained.
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It's raining. Linn is pumped. Alexi is drained.16-Jun-2009 10:41, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 64

 
Can't sleep yet - have to explore Warsaw...
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Can't sleep yet – have to explore Warsaw…16-Jun-2009 10:53, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 

3:55PM Local

One of the first things we saw was a statue of Copernicus outside of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Copernicus!
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Copernicus!16-Jun-2009 11:01, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 
Good ol' Nick.
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Good ol' Nick.16-Jun-2009 11:03, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 64

 
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16-Jun-2009 11:04, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 

According to Tamara, there’s a copy of this statue in Montreal as well.  Neat.

Learning about Warsaw from Tamara, while we try to stay conscious
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Learning about Warsaw from Tamara, while we try to stay conscious16-Jun-2009 11:06, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 

Embedded into a pedestal was also a copy of Bernardo Bellotto (known here as Canaletto)’s painting, entitled “The Church of the Holy Cross“.

Here’s the painting:

Canaletto_Krakowskie_Przedmieście

Not a bad likeness of current Warsaw, either.  Just remove the horse and buggies, add some pavement, and update the clothing.  Smack a coat of paint, and boom: present day Warsaw.

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16-Jun-2009 11:34, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.88, 11.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 
I love the colours of the buildings here.
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I love the colours of the buildings here.16-Jun-2009 11:39, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 
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16-Jun-2009 11:42, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 64

 

The Info Boxes

Walking down the streets of Warsaw, we kept running into these boxes on the sidewalk.  Not small, dinky boxes – but large boxes for walking into.  We’d go inside, and they’d be like small museum exhibits.

Info-boxes, teaching us about worker uprisings
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Info-boxes, teaching us about worker uprisings16-Jun-2009 11:17, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.007 sec, ISO 64

 

All you Poland history buffs out there, feel free to correct the next few paragraphs if I’m wrong – I’m going on what I read, and haven’t done any independent research on this stuff.

Poland seems to be celebrating 20 years since the fall of communist rule, and that’s what these info boxes seemed to talk about.  They’d talk about significant events, like the Lenin Shipyard strike of 1980 in Gdansk, which seemed to birth/galvanize the Solidarity movement.

Other info boxes had titles/themes, like “Imposing Martial Law” (happened in 1981, thanks to one communist General Wojciech Jaruzelski, which squashed the Solidarity movement).

These boxes were followed by “Help From the West”, and “Giving Back Power”, but we didn’t stay too long to read into them.  We had lots of other things to see on this day.

Embedded in The History of Poland

One thing that Poland seems to have a lot of, is history.  You don’t even have to open a book, or Google it to know that.  Just land in the city, and take a look around: some of the buildings are pretty ancient, and reek history.  Warsaw was devestated during bombing and raids by the Germans during WWII, but the city has done a pretty good job of bringing itself back together.

Typical Polish church
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Typical Polish church16-Jun-2009 11:05, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.71, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 
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16-Jun-2009 11:18, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.17, 7.1mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 64

 

What else to say about Warsaw…. the style of the buildings, according to Una Ruud, is “Neo-Classical”.  There are also a plethora of churches in the city – every time we’d turn a corner, there’d be another big church.  Lots of devotional history here.

Poland is very devout.
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Poland is very devout.16-Jun-2009 11:37, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 8.0, 17.4mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 
PJP is a pretty popular guy here in Poland.  Probably because he was Polish.
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PJP is a pretty popular guy here in Poland. Probably because he was Polish.16-Jun-2009 11:33, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.71, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 
Lots of monuments and statues in Poland.  They're everywhere - I eventually stopped taking pictures of them.
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Lots of monuments and statues in Poland. They're everywhere – I eventually stopped taking pictures of them.16-Jun-2009 11:19, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 

We also saw a monument for Adam Mickiewicz, a Polish Romantic-era poet/playwrite.  According to Tamara, he was a pioneer of Polish Romantic-Nationalism.  You can read up about him here.

Adam Mickiewicz!
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Adam Mickiewicz!16-Jun-2009 11:26, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.34, 8.1mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 
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16-Jun-2009 11:27, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 64

 

Every now and then, while walking along some wall or another, we’d see these white signs, covered in Polish scrawl.  Tamara told us that these signs are indicators that some tragic event took place on that spot.  For example, one of the signs we stopped at was apparently on a site where some huge shooting took place in WWII.  I didn’t really catch much of that particular history lesson – I was dragging behind at that point snapping photos.

Here’s a shot of the sign:

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16-Jun-2009 11:40, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.8, 10.6mm, 0.009 sec, ISO 64

 

Other Impressions of Warsaw (5:35PM Local)

The whole day, the rain had been on and off.  It’s like it couldn’t decide.  It’d spritz a little here, and then back off…and then spritz a little there, etc.  There were some storm clouds threatening us the entire time we were out, but we didn’t get caught in any torrential downpour.  It was humid out, and the sun would come out of the clouds sporadically.

Two things that suprised a few of us about Warsaw:  the low density (I expected more cramped quarters), and consequently, the massive spaces.  There was a really huge square hidden away in the recesses of Warsaw where we stopped for some coffee/tea.  I tried capturing the size of it with my camera, but no luck.  Peter, a more experienced traveller, told me that he had seen even bigger squares throughout Europe.  I can tell you I haven’t really seen anything like that in Toronto.

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16-Jun-2009 11:47, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.71, 5.8mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 64

 
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16-Jun-2009 11:49, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 64

 
My first Polish square!
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My first Polish square!16-Jun-2009 11:51, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 

Warsaw’s square seemed oriented around this mermaid statue:

The Mermaid - symbol of Warsaw, I believe.
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The Mermaid – symbol of Warsaw, I believe.16-Jun-2009 11:53, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 64

 

According to Tamara, the mermaid is Warsaw’s symbol.

Jiv’s Massive Cat, and Ryan Leaves a Bad Impression

Eventually, we found ourselves at what I believe was the outer wall of the old city.

Outer wall of old city.
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Outer wall of old city.16-Jun-2009 12:46, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 
Patrolling the wall...
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Patrolling the wall…16-Jun-2009 12:46, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 64

 
Jiv swears that the cat he saw was massive...
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Jiv swears that the cat he saw was massive…16-Jun-2009 12:46, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 5.8mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 64

 

The wall had various ports for viewing, and perhaps aiming a weapon through.  While glancing through one of these posts, a cat caught Jiv’s eye.

“That cat is MASSIVE.  It’s huge!  It’s like the size of a tiger!  Get a load of this!”

We all gathered into the small alcove to see what Jiv had spotted.

“Jiv…that’s just a normal sized house cat.”

“Are you kidding me?  No way.  That thing is OUT OF CONTROL!”

“Jiv…I could carry that thing in my arms.”

“You guys must be blind.  Look at that thing!”

I didn’t happen to take any photos of the cat, but the general consensus was that this was without a doubt a normal house cat, and Jiv may have started hallucinating.  I don’t blame him.  I think he’d been awake for something like 30 hours at this point.

Still, it was good for a laugh.

Also, while walking past a wall, some lady banged a stick against her window, and pointed at Ryan.  Maybe she was a Degrassi fan.  Or maybe she didn’t like the gait of his walk.  Either way, she seemed upset.

Here’s a video of Alex describing the incident immediately after:

We hurried along.

6:12PM Local Time

The exhaustion was really starting to get to me.

Half-dazed, I followed the group into an absolutely massive theatre in Warsaw (it’s called Teatr Narodowy).

Massive Polish Theater.
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Massive Polish Theater.16-Jun-2009 13:09, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.71, 5.8mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 64

 
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16-Jun-2009 13:10, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 6.45, 11.3mm, 0.007 sec, ISO 64

 

This is a state theatre, and hosts shows from groups like the National Opera and National Ballet companies.  We didn’t get much farther than the lobby (I believe there was a show that night, which we didn’t have tickets for), but I snapped some photos of the interior.

They even have a red carpet!
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They even have a red carpet!16-Jun-2009 13:15, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.4 sec, ISO 100

 
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16-Jun-2009 13:18, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.164 sec, ISO 100

 

The Monument of Warsaw’s Ghetto Uprising (6:58PM Local Time)

Poland was in bad shape for WWII.  I’m no buff on WWII/Polish history, but it seems pretty clear that things here were really rough back then.  This monument was for an uprising in a ghetto in Warsaw – and eventually I figured out that we were more or less in the location where the ghetto had originally been.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising monument
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Warsaw Ghetto Uprising monument16-Jun-2009 14:00, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 78

 
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16-Jun-2009 14:00, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.32, 13.8mm, 0.137 sec, ISO 100

 
The other side of the monument
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The other side of the monument16-Jun-2009 14:02, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.047 sec, ISO 100

 

According to Tamara, 500,000 Jews in Poland were forced into this ghetto, and routed here or there – some sent to death camps, some kept here to govern over other Jews, etc.

Here’s a Wikipedia article on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

It was a pretty somber moment, anyhow.  Alex, who is proudly Jewish, took it particularly close to the heart, and lit a candle at the monument while the rain started to pour.

The Rainbow

After seeing the Ghetto Monument, we started heading back to the hostel.  We took a subway ride on the Polish metro (which was, to me, very similar to the TTC).

Hitching the metro back to the hostel
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Hitching the metro back to the hostel16-Jun-2009 14:30, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 100

 
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16-Jun-2009 14:32, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.233 sec, ISO 100

 
Waiting for our metro...
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Waiting for our metro…16-Jun-2009 14:32, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.476 sec, ISO 100

 

Chatter had been stifled since our stop at the Ghetto Monument, but was starting to pick up again.  By the time we got out of the metro system, we were back in high (yet exhausted) spirits.

And wouldn’t you know it, a pair of huge rainbows came out to greet us when we emerged:

A rainbow was waiting for us!
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A rainbow was waiting for us!16-Jun-2009 14:38, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.18, 12.8mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 64

 
Rainbow!
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Rainbow!16-Jun-2009 14:39, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 
Two rainbows!
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Two rainbows!16-Jun-2009 14:40, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 3.57, 9.3mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 

Along with a pretty cool brass band:

And some brass-playing buskers!
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And some brass-playing buskers!16-Jun-2009 14:38, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.26, 13.3mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 64

 

Not a bad end to our only day for touring around Warsaw.

I liked Warsaw.  I wish we had more time here.  But it was time to go back to the hostel, get some food, clean up, and go to sleep.

8:43PM Local

The showers in the hostel were clean, but the temperature was really random.  Alex and I were in separate adjacent stalls, and the whole hostel got to hear us alternately wail, scream, laugh, and curse at the water.  It was apparently pretty funny.  It was also the shortest shower of my life.

The shower got my travel grime off, and also woke me up.  At this point, I began to feel somewhat adjusted to being in that time zone.

We also met Yev back at the hostel, who had gotten chills during the walking tour, and headed back by herself.  Some of us started worrying about getting sick.

10:52PM Local

You’d think we would have gone to bed.

Instead, we went out to a local pizzeria.

At first, we had some difficulty getting in – we’re a large group, with a variety of dietary preferences, and I think we freak out restaurants when we show up all together.

Eventually (thanks to some no-nonsense British lady who translated for us), we were able to squeeze ourselves into a restaurant and order some pizza.

We clinked our glasses together:  first night in Poland.  Pretty good.  The effect of the shower had begun to wear off though, and exhaustion was starting to creep back.  After paying the cheque, we got out of there, and headed back to the hostel.

And conked out.  Hard.  Falling asleep was easy.

June 17 – 4:30AM Local

They told me this would happen.

4AM rolled around, and for some reason, I woke up.  Fully rested.  Bleh.

Luckily, the hostel had free internet access and a PC.  I checked my email.  I wrote some email.  I wrote a blog post.

Then I went back to bed.

It’s a familiar feeling…as I write this, it’s June 20 at 5:25AM, and I’m wide awake.

Oh well.  Something to pass the time.

Click here to go to Part 4:  To Wroclaw

Click here to go back to Part 2: Dazed in Warsaw

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Poland – Part 2: Dazed in Warsaw

Note:  More photos will be added to this post over time, so keep checking back.

June 16 – 6:51AMEST, 12:51PM Local

We had just arrived in Poland (Warsaw, to be exact) from our connecting flight from Frankfurt.  After we landed, we walked out of the plane onto the tarmac, and caught a bus to the airport terminal.

We're really tired.  And Alex needs a smoke.
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We're really tired. And Alex needs a smoke.16-Jun-2009 06:11, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 88

 
Peter is diggin' Poland
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Peter is diggin' Poland16-Jun-2009 06:11, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.068 sec, ISO 100

 
Poland!  Sooo tired...
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Poland! Sooo tired…16-Jun-2009 06:18, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.357 sec, ISO 100

 

Once we got inside, we had to somehow find our checked luggage.  There was some concern that our luggage may have been lost in the shuffle when our original flight from Frankfurt was moved forward, so we were a bit worried.  If all of our luggage magically showed up, with no fuss, or missing bits, then we were in business.

So we went down to the carousel…and waited…and waited…nothing was moving, no luggage had arrived.  We waited…and then, finally, the wheels started moving.  Bags started pouring out of a chute built into the floor.

Would any of our bags be on the carousel?

It took a few rounds, and some people lost hope – but then the first bag was sighted.  After that, one after another they poured onto the carousel.  There was much rejoicing.

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16-Jun-2009 06:53, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.278 sec, ISO 100

 

Now that we had our luggage, we had to find Tamara.  And here was the tricky part: as far as I know, nobody had contacted her to tell us that we had taken a later flight.  So, she may have been waiting around for an hour, and then left when we didn’t arrive.  So, we started patrolling the arrivals area…

I love these things...
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I love these things…16-Jun-2009 06:53, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.051 sec, ISO 100

 

And immediately found Tamara.  Bless her heart, she hadn’t left, and had been waiting there the whole time for us.  She’d even brought a big green bus with her to take us to our first hostel.

It’s amazing how weary us travellers can get – especially since we don’t do much, physically, while we’re being transported.  All it is, is an exercise in sitting still.  Still, somehow it’s exhausting.  Also factor in that at this point, I’d probably been up for almost 24 hours.

While we were riding the bus, Tamara informed us that the original train trips that had been scheduled into our itinerary had been too difficult to set up, and that she had arranged for the green bus to transport us to where we needed to go.  We officially had a tour bus!  Awesome!

We flew down the streets of Warsaw.  My first impression?  The license plates sure look different.  And most of the advertisements were, understandably, in Polish.  The Stop signs were still in English though, which I found interesting.

It was rainy and gray out.  Traffic flew by.  We were all exhausted.  To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t paying too much attention to the road.  I was really tired.

When we got to the hostel, we all piled out of the bus and unloaded our luggage.  Tamara apologized because we had to walk up 3 flights of stairs with our luggage – but it wasn’t that bad.  At first, the smell of the stairwell discouraged me…it smelled funky and musty.  I was prepared for the worst.

I was pleasantly surprised.

The hostel was awesome.  Freakin’ awesome.  If you’re about my age, think about your ideal apartment.  Now add lots of free food just lying around.  Now add the awesome reunions with Una Ruud and Linn Farley, two other UCDP students that had come from elsewhere around Europe to meet us.  Like I said:  awesome.

If you’re ever interested in staying in Warsaw, I recommend the place that we stayed at: New World St. Hostel.  Very clean, friendly staff, great bunks, great location.  Here is the hostel’s website.

And here are a few photos:

Our first hostel!  Loved it.
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Our first hostel! Loved it.16-Jun-2009 07:44, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.192 sec, ISO 100

 
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16-Jun-2009 07:45, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.303 sec, ISO 100

 
We were spoiled at our hostel.
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We were spoiled at our hostel.16-Jun-2009 08:01, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.278 sec, ISO 100

 
Tom, Linn and Una make their first appearance on my camera!
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Tom, Linn and Una make their first appearance on my camera!16-Jun-2009 08:01, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.25 sec, ISO 100

 

We didn’t have access to the rooms at first – we had to wait about half an hour. But that was OK, seeing as how there was awesome free food just lying around for us to eat:  cakes, freshly picked strawberries (very common at this time of year here, apparently), crackers, bread, etc.  After our long trip, it was heavenly.

While we were chowing down, Tara Gerami and Tom Davis walked through the door, which whipped us into another hyper frenzy.  Tom and Tara are two other UCDP students who had been in Berlin, and were meeting up with us like Linn and Una.  We were exhausted, hyper, dazed, and kinda grungy. I won’t lie – even though I hadn’t done anything physical, I really needed a shower.  I wasn’t alone.

Ever played Monopoly?  Sure you have.  You know how when you pass GO, you get $200?  That’s basically what happened to us.  By coming to this hostel, we had apparently passed GO, and so Tamara dished out 200 z (zloty, Polish currency) for each of us.  Nothing wrong with that.

Finally, our rooms were ready.  I looked inside our rooms – grey bunk beds, foot lockers for personal storage, and nice big windows.  The bunk beds were nice, and were the exact same type that I have at my own apartment. A very comfortable room.

Where we slept in the first hostel.  Really nice room - very clean.  Familiar bed.
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Where we slept in the first hostel. Really nice room – very clean. Familiar bed.16-Jun-2009 15:54, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.192 sec, ISO 100

 

2:52PM Local

After we had settled, we realized that (despite all of the free food) we were hungry for a full-sized meal.  We all trooped out of the hostel, and went to a restaurant just down the street.

Good food.  I had a macaroni, chicken, broccoli, and cheese casarole.  I also took this opportunity to send very short emails to my parents and my girlfriend Em with Una’s iPhone (the restaurant, despite looking like the Three Bears’ cottage, had wi-fi).

Eating at our first Polish restaurant.  Very rustic...Three-Bears-ish.
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Eating at our first Polish restaurant. Very rustic…Three-Bears-ish.16-Jun-2009 09:16, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400

 
My first traditional Polish meal.  Brocolli, chicken, cheese, macaroni cassarole.  Nice.
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My first traditional Polish meal. Brocolli, chicken, cheese, macaroni cassarole. Nice.16-Jun-2009 10:16, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 

The effects of sleep deprevation were really taking their toll.  The jokes were non-sensical.  I couldn’t tell if I was hungry, but I ate anyways.  In my opinion, we were all (understandably) burnt out.

While it would have been nice to just curl up and go to bed (awake for over 24 hours at this point), Tamara advised us that it would be wisest for us to stay up as late as possible so as to not completely screw over our sleep cycle.

So, instead of going back to the hostel, the lot of us hit the pavement, and we started checking out Warsaw.

Click here to go to Part 3:  Our Day in Warsaw

Click here to go back to Part 1: Departures and Arrivals

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Poland – Part 1: Departures and Arrivals

Note:  As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a hostel in Warsaw.  It’s 5AM, and the cable to connect my camera to a computer is buried at the bottom of my backpack.  So, while there are photos to go along with this story, they’re going to have to be added later.

June 15 – 2:45PM EST

I’ve been to Pearson Airport in Toronto a few times before, but only ever to pick up some passenger after they’ve come back from a trip.

I’ve never been one of those “departure” people.

Well, today was my day.  And man, it was confusing.

It started off smoothly enough.  My Dad, girlfriend Emily, and her sister Cassie, had brought me to Pearson to see me off.  I was able to get my boarding pass from a machine (which was nice and easy), after finding fellow passengers Reid, Anj, and Olya.  What a relief to see those three, because I honestly had no idea where I was in the airport, and had no idea what was going on.  Pearson is huge, and I was only in Terminal 1.

After our goodbyes, I stood in a line to get my carry-on bags scanned.

That was my first mistake.  Wasted 20 minutes getting to the front of that line, only to find out that I had to go to another line somewhere else in the airport to check my stowed luggage.  So there was some momentary panic while I raced around the airport, trying to find the right place.

So, lesson one:  it’s always OK to ask when you’re way out of your element, and it usually makes things go faster.  I knew this already, but this was a clear-cut example.

3:20PM EST

After some more running around, and a trip along a few moving sidewalks, I made it to our departure gate, where Olya, Reid, and Anj were already waiting.

Waiting in Pearson to take off
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Waiting in Pearson to take off15-Jun-2009 16:15, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.026 sec, ISO 64

 
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15-Jun-2009 16:16, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

 
Not our plane, but it was my first time seeing a double decker, so I thought I'd take a picture.
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Not our plane, but it was my first time seeing a double decker, so I thought I'd take a picture.15-Jun-2009 16:37, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 7.67, 16.0mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 64

 
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15-Jun-2009 16:38, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 17.4mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 
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15-Jun-2009 16:39, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.71, 5.8mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 64

 

Eventually, the rest of our comrads showed up.  And now, for your edification, here’s a list of the UCDP people who were flying with me that day:

  • Anj Mulligan
  • Reid Linforth
  • Olya Ryabets
  • Jiv Parasram
  • Ryan Cooley
  • Chantelle Hedden
  • Alexi Marchel
  • Yev Falkovich
  • Peter Freund
  • Alex Rubin

After a lot of sitting around and waiting, we board our flight.  After even more waiting, the plane begins to move.

Take-off:  6:00PM EST

Our plane took off at exactly 6PM EST.  We were half an hour behind schedule.  Already, my companions were taking bets on whether or not we’d miss our connecting flight from Frankfurt (not Brussels, sorry!) to Warsaw.  We only had 50 minutes once we had landed in Frankfurt, so it was going to be tight.

Anyhow, we’re in the air.  And I’m excited, of course.  I haven’t been in a plane since a flight to Toronto from Miami in 2004, and I sure as hell haven’t flown outside North America.  This was going to be a new experience for me.

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15-Jun-2009 19:06, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 4.7, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 64

 
My inflight entertainment console
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My inflight entertainment console15-Jun-2009 18:35, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.385 sec, ISO 100

 

It didn’t take long for three minor disasters to happen:

  1. I had packed a bag of mixed nuts/cashews in my carry-on.  To my dismay, when I opened my backpack, I found that the bag had exploded and that my carry-on was filled with loose nuts.  A bunch spilled on the floor, and immediately I began worrying about other passengers who might have nut allergies…all it takes is a whiff, and bam – out like a light.
    Trailmix disaster
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    Trailmix disaster15-Jun-2009 19:30, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

     

    Anyhow, Ryan Cooley helped me clean/conceal the mess as much as possible, and I did my best to clean up the mess inside my bag.  Reminded me a bit of this story I had written earlier in the year…

  2. The pen I’ve been keeping my notes with started leaking.  Ink all over my hand, and some on my shirt.  Yech.  Luckily, I brought spares…
  3. The instructional safety video, which was supposed to be broadcast to the screens in front of each of us, did not work in my row.  It looked like scrambled cable.  Had to crane my neck to see it on someone else’s screen.  Not too bad, but it’s a bit discouraging when the mandatory safety video doesn’t work.

The flight was mostly eventless.  Besides some minor turbulence (which freaked out one of our more sensitive flyers), there wasn’t much to do.  My Dad had let me borrow his noise-cancelling headphones, which were awesome.  I listened to classical music on XM radio while I wrote my notes.

6:37PM EST

Food started making its way down the aisles, and it smelled pretty good…

But then we hit a patch of turbulence.  One of my companions is really not into flying, and so we consoled them while the plane shook around us.  The calming thing was that the flight attendants looked calm as ever, and kept handing out food.

I chose the pasta.  And a Canada Dry ginger ale.

Dinner!  Tasty.
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Dinner! Tasty.15-Jun-2009 19:44, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 141

 

I hear a few of my comrads are already taking advantage of the free beer/wine/spirits on board.  Hilarity ensues.

6:52PM EST

Great meal.  Pasta in tomato sauce, a bun, some veggies in dressing, and chocolate mousse for dessert!  Felt very pampered and content.  Was reminded again of this Louis CK video.

And it’s even better knowing I haven’t paid a cent for it!  Free always tastes better…

7:00PM EST

Around this time, I figured out that the in-flight mapping system wasn’t working, and I had no idea where we were.

I trusted our pilot knew where he was going.

Also around this time, Yev started saying that the shadows were getting longer…the sun was going down…the shortest night of my life was coming.

I’m reminded of a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey – the scene near the beginning (after the ape fights), where a character is flying to a space station.  Our flight feels futuristic.  Maybe it’s the lighting.  Maybe it’s all of the video screens winking at me.  Maybe I’m just over dramatizing it.

Night-time on the plane
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Night-time on the plane15-Jun-2009 21:38, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 

Or maybe it was that Phillip Glass music I was listening to…

At this point, I’ve decided that I’m bored, and that I’m going to watch an in-flight movie.  After some deliberation, I choose The Watchmen, which I had already seen, but didn’t mind watching again.

8:10PM EST

It was pretty dark outside our windows at this point.  Yev seemed to think that we were over Greenland, but how she could tell that through all the cloud cover, I have no idea.

I kept watching the movie.

9:15PM EST

At this point, I decided to get up and walk around a bit.  I stretched.  Our trip to Frankfurt is about half over.  So is The Watchmen, for that matter, but I decided to try to sleep instead of finishing it.

11:00PM EST

I had no luck sleeping at all, despite amazing noise-cancelling headphone technology.  I rolled about.  I chatted with my travel mates.  I listened to music.

It was starting to get light out outside.  The sun was coming up.

I don’t think anyone slept that much during the flight.  I saw a few people dosing, but that was it.

Rubin clocks out.  Jiv is not amused.
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Rubin clocks out. Jiv is not amused.15-Jun-2009 22:51, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 

I knew that I’d have to stay awake for as much of the following day as possible, so it was a bit discouraging to be unable to sleep.  I pretty much figured I’d spend most of the next day in a daze.

11:20PM EST

Breakfast arrived, and according to Yev, we were flying over land again!

It's getting late, and we're over land again.  Greenland?
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It's getting late, and we're over land again. Greenland?15-Jun-2009 21:15, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.417 sec, ISO 100

 

Breakfast is a muffin, yogurt, and orange juice.  Nice.

Breakfast - muffin, orange juice, and yogurt
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Breakfast – muffin, orange juice, and yogurt16-Jun-2009 00:26, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250

 

Muffin was good, but non-descript.  No idea what flavour it was, but I liked it.

When they brought the food, I asked the flight attendant what land we were flying over.  He said he had no idea, but that we would be landing in about an hour.

Maybe if I knew how fast we were going, I could figure out where we might be.

I found it strange that the captain never really addressed the passengers.  Never told us the route, altitude, speed, etc.  Things are changing, I guess.

11:45PM EST

It was almost midnight back home, and the sun was rising where we were.

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16-Jun-2009 00:40, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.81, 5.8mm, 0.085 sec, ISO 100

 

I had no idea what time it was.  My body felt very confused and disoriented.  I felt like I’d been up all night, and I guess I had been…all 3 hours of it.

June 16 – 12:25AM EST

We began our descent around here.  Phase 1 of our journey was about to end.

Why do all pilots sound the same?  Always with that croaky voice… or maybe it’s the microphones that they use.

Lots of turbulence going down, but it was a smooth landing.

June 16 – 3:15AM EST, 9:15AM Local

I still hadn’t adjusted my watch yet, and that was starting to freak me out.

So, the main event was that we missed our connecting flight from Frankfurt to Warsaw.  We were about 20 minutes too late.  50 minutes is not even close to enough time to get processed at the Frankfurt airport.

Alex explains:

Missed our connecting flight?  You bet!
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Missed our connecting flight? You bet!16-Jun-2009 03:02, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.182 sec, ISO 100

 
Yev is so meta
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Yev is so meta16-Jun-2009 03:02, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.094 sec, ISO 100

 

So Frankfurt airport was my first taste of Europe.  My impressions?  Honestly?  Not that different.  I didn’t feel like I was in a foreign place, really – except I couldn’t read any of the advertisements.  Everything else had English attached, so that was nice.

After some chit-chatting with Air Canada, we were booked on a later flight.  There was a lot of running around, lots of in-between-destinations stress, and we almost missed that flight too.  But we made it.

Getting our new flight
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Getting our new flight16-Jun-2009 03:34, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.11 sec, ISO 100

 

A couple of casualties though:

  1. Ryan Cooley left his windbreaker on the plane that brought us from Toronto
  2. Reid Linforth lost his watch during the security check in Frankfurt.  That really sucked for him.

At this point, I could really feel how tired I am.  My body was buzzing.  I had been awake since 9:30AM EST, and it was 3:22AM EST at that point.

The plane we took from Frankfurt was much, much smaller than the one from Toronto.  It was only going to be flying for an hour, and it looked like a lot of the passengers took this trip every day.  I tried to nap on the plane, but no luck.

4:08AM EST, 10:08AM Local

We were on route to Warsaw.

We were served some kind of cheese sandwich for our in-flight meal, which was good.  Really wasn’t sure what was in it, and sure didn’t take a picture.  Why?  I was starving.  Scarfed the thing right down.  Hadn’t slept, hungry, grumpy.

There was lots of turbulence in the smaller airplane.  Pretty shaky.  Kinda scary.

I wiped my face with a lemon scented wet-nap to wake myself up, and had a cup of tea.

Eventually, I got into a conversation with the lady sitting next to me about theatre.  She was a Bulgarian business-woman going to some sort of seminar.  We talked about Poland, sight-seeing, and Bulgarian theatre.

And then we landed.

And we were in Poland.

Click here to go to Part 2: Dazed in Warsaw

Click here to go back to the Prologue

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Poland – Prologue

Did I mention I’m going to Poland?

If I didn’t, well, now you know.

On June 15th, at approximately 5:30PM EST, I will be hurling through the skies at absolutely tremendous speeds with a collection of fellow University College Drama Program folk.  We will be traveling to Poland, where we will meet other UCDP folk who are already there.  We will be there for 15 days, doing tours of Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, and Poznan, and seeing plenty of theatre – including shows that are part of the Malta Festival.

Oh, and did I mention that the UCDP is footing the bill?  That includes flights, train trips, lodging (European hostels, here I come!), and food!  Wow!  Thanks UCDP, thanks UofT.  Thanks.  What a way to cap an undergraduate career.

Oh yeah, by the by, I got word back from UofT – I’m good to graduate.  I’m scheduled to convocate on the 16th of June…unfortunately, I will be in Europe.  Single tear.

So that’s that.  I’m pretty much all packed.  I’ve got reading material, notebooks, my camera, and an exciting itinerary.  No laptop.  No cell phone.  I will be mostly out of touch.

But who knows – if I do happen to stumble across an internet café while I’m out there, I might write up a blog post recounting some adventures,  and upload some photos.

Either way, it’ll be business as usual when I come back on the 30th.

Do zobaczenia wkrótce!  (Thanks, Google Translate!)

Click here to go to Part 1: Departures and Arrivals

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Sorry about that…

WordPress 2.8 came out yesterday.

I clicked the update button, and all hell broke loose. I glanced in the directory that held my blog, and it was empty. My heart sunk.

Luckily, my database survived. So, my posts are here. My downloads, sadly, are not. This will be rectified eventually.

Give me time, and this thing’ll be back to normal soon.

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