Ok, so I might be pushing it a bit much with that title but I have reached the point in my trip where I am becoming adjusted to daily life. The daily activities like shopping, asking for directions etc are becoming second nature…………. using hand gestures. I am struggling to get a grip on the lingo here, especially with different endings of words depending if the subject is male, female or neutral. There is nothing for it but to keep practising and hope that they can understand what I am saying.
I did have one win last week with the language, I managed to order from the bakery, and despite the woman behind the counter cracking up at my pronunciation, I got what I wanted. With this action able to be understood coupled with the stunning bakeries they have here (even the ‘corner stores’ are better than our posh bakeries at home) I think I am going to be a regular visitor there.
I have reverted back into my classic Dunedin eating routine of making a huge meal every 3rd day (ish) and just eating the leftovers in between. I am lucky that I enjoy simple food because with the state of my cooking abilities that is all I am eating!!
Last time I left off this blog I was heading to bed before a trip to Wroclaw (pronounced VROTS-VAV) after managing to make it through 6 hours of class and 90mins of swimming (during which I inhaled half the pool) all on 3 hours sleep. Needless to say I had a good sleep on the bus the next morning which helped to pass the time well.
Wroclaw is the 2016 European Capital of Culture and so I was keen to find out what set this city is western Poland apart from the rest.
This was my first weekend trip away by myself in my life (I think) so I was pretty keen to see how it went. My lifestyle tends to be a bit different to that of a classic student traveller, preferring to get up early and run for an hour or two around dawn and then spend the rest of the day exploring before a dinner at a ‘local favourite’ and an earlyish night.Travelling by myself this was something I would be able to do at liberty.
I am making it sound like I hate being around other people, which is far from the truth and so I did look forward to meeting lots of people in the hostel I was staying at. Unfortunately when I arrived there was only one other person to be seen and I was the only one in my room so that sort of put pay to those plans. others did turn up during the night (early hours) but only met a few of them as I was out and about most of the day.
Apart from the weather Wroclaw was a neat trip. It was overcast for on Friday and raining on Sunday with Saturday fine but it was the day I was out of town visiting other attractions. Some shots of the typical tourist places (old town, cathedral etc):
The city centre square is a bright and colourful affair, which stood out in the break in the clouds when I got the photos.
I did a HUGE amount of walking and biking over the weekend and that started the moment I got there. Friday I orientated myself with this reasonably compact yet still surprisingly tricky city to find your way around. The waterways and multiple bridges must have done that and I am glad that I had a map with my on multiple occasions!!
The northern part of the city is built on a river and so the waterways offered so good views.
I got to the Raclawice Panorama which is a 100+m painting 15 meters high housed and displayed in a specially built circular room. Like most attractions the photos don’t do it justice and the 30 minute audio guide talked through every scene involved.
After a night of multiple interruptions as people turned up, got away for a hour run around the town on a foggy morning. While not the most picturesque areas I ran through I ended up in the suburbs and so got an idea of what it is like away from the tourist traps.
Taking full advantage of the free breakfast offered I managed to suss a ticket on a train to Swebodzice, a small town an hours train ride away. I was here, in the middle of nowhere close to the border with Germany to visit the third largest castle in Poland and explore the mountains it is located on.
(Swebodzice town square)
After quite a sizeable walk (only the start of my walking I would find out) reached the castle and had a look around for a few hours.
As usual the kiwi came with me.
The interior of the castle was pretty stunning and having a chequered historical past made it even better. It was apparently being developed into a residence for Hitler during WW2.
The ticket price included entry to the stables nearby and so spend a while wandering around there.
It was nice to be out on some tracks that half resembled hiking tracks in the bush and the sun made it a nice place to wander.
The ticket also included entry to the Palmiarnia, a glasshouse and gardens that a previous owner of the castle had built for his wife. It was a few kms from the castle and so I wandered there from the castle. While I didnt take many photos it felt like I was in a rainforest, with lush trees, palm trees (not rainforest like) and overhanging vines. I also felt like I was in a sauna, despite being only 20c. I think that I have become very adjusted to the cold here so it will be interesting to see how things go as it heats up.
Leaving there I wandered toward the buildings and town centre I could see in the distance not realising that this was not the same town I had caught the train to, it was the next city over. This was Walbrzych, a town recently famous for supposedly having a Nazi Gold train discovered in tunnels beneath it. Remembering that meant that the men with metal detectors in the fields suddenly made sense. To get back to the station however require 10 km walking (according to google maps) next to the highway, which was the fastest way back and made sense as it was the most straight line there. However google maps made a mistake, apparently thinking that there was a footpath of some sort next to the road, which there was for a few hundred meters but it quickly disappeared.
This is what the rest of the ‘footpath’ looked like, with this section being the easiest walk of the whole trip. There was far too much ‘motorway crossing’ for my liking but I got back in one piece somehow!
My fake Converses managed to survive the snow, mud, drainage systems and the 30 + kms of walking so have a bit of respect for them now.
The day ended at pizzeria margherita, a place where a 4 time world pizza champion (what ever that means) works. It defiantly lived up to its reputation!
There had been two things I had really wanted to do in Wroclaw: rent a bike and see the town and hire a canoe and explore the water ways. Unfortunately because of the season (lots of things closed in winter) I couldn’t do the latter but did manage to find a place that would rent me a bike. Sunday was spent, in the pouring rain, riding the cobbled streets of Wroclaw and visiting some of the bigger attractions around town as well as revisiting the old areas to get that different perspective.
First stop was a local flea market which I had heard good reviews about from multiple sources. Unfortunately it was not quite what I expected and was mostly row after row of fake goods with a few little blankets of trinkets that I was there to see. With the rain however most of the goods were destroyed, including books which I found odd.
As I left, I noticed a model train exhibit and, being a child at heart, had a look at that. While not the grandest or biggest model I have seen it had been recreated in the style of Poland and Wroclaw pretty week and included a model sex shop, like the many ones around town.
Next stop on the city tour was Centennial Hall a rather impressive structure a bit to the east of town. By the time I got there after hiring a bike every man, his family and the dog were there with a queue of at least 500m to get in. The presence of multiple banners made me think there must have been an event on so not wanting to waste half the day in line I was restricted to seeing the outside only.
You can see the start of the queue in the bottom left of the above photo!
(Above two from my run as there are less people in them)
Next door to the centennial building was the zoo and so of course I went for a visit. This zoo featured a huge indoor area with a tropical rainforest, aquarium and cafe all under the roof.
My initial perception was that it was small and I would be round it in no time, yet ended up running out of time and had to take the bike back to catch the bus home.
Yep again NZ was on show with a Kea. It is hard to see in the photo.
The rest of the zoo was pretty varied.
One attraction I have noticed as being very popular here are seals and penguins! There are always large crowds around them (particularly the seals) and they normally have a central spot in the zoo. It makes me realise how much I take for granted having wild seals so close in NZ and penguins part of our wildlife.
The zoo signalled the end of my trip and I was quite relieved to get on the bus and close my eyes for a few hours on the way home.
Wroclaw is a very cool city and I think would be even better looking if the weather wasn’t so grey! In spring or summer it would be packed and being the capital of culture I feel like there would be lots of concerts etc.
One of the quirky things about Wroclaw I enjoyed is their Dwarves. There are over 300 small bronze(?) dwarves located around the city all in different acts and recognising different things. They are located EVERYWHERE, especially in the old town and make a little amusing side attraction. I managed to see a few (didn’t manage to catch them all) but found out that you cn get special city maps that have the location of all the dwarves on it.
Here are a few other random photos from around the place;
Back home now, life is still as busy as ever. I have entered the Warsaw Marathon on April the 24th so have a goal in mind that is coming around faster and faster! I am also looking for another thon a month or so later somewhere else in Europe to experience a race in another city. There is one near Amsterdam that is looking likely at the moment.
In preparation for the race yesterday I had planned to do a 20km run at 4min kms as a bit of distance training however got a bit lost and ended up doing 28km at 3:50kms. A bit lost is probably an understatement, I only realised I was lost when I ended up under the motorway in fields headed to a city 300kms away! I ended up running along a muddy road (no footpaths this far out) following traffic to take me back to civilisation. I eventually found a landmark I recognised from another run and got home.
In Dunedin I took part in parkrun, a weekly 5km run that is free and is run all over the world. I discovered that there are 4 such events in Warsaw every Saturday morning so went along to one this morning. Despite my legs having nothing in them from the run yesterday it was still a good experience and something I will regularly do when I am here in the weekend.
Classes are still interesting as I am able to take papers that aren’t offered in NZ and so actually have an feel motivated to learn when I enjoy them! There are some long hours in class but all part of the experience. It is an awesome way to meet people too.
Finally Easter is coming up (2 weeks away) and so missing one day of class I have 10 days to explore wherever I feel. Being in Eastern Europe I am keen to explore around here more so am planning to going to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, dropping in at the main cities but spending most of my time by the sea and national parks soaking as much of the wildlife up as possible. There is an island off the coast of Estonia (Saaremaa) that I plan to explore and am really looking forward to! I plan to end my trip in Helsinki before flying back to Warsaw to get back into the class routine.
The next two weeks don’t look too eventful with exams and presentations needing to be completed before Easter but you never know what can crop up. More marathon training and Warsaw exploring probably.