Sunday, February 15, 2009

An Incredible First 3 Weeks- Part One: The Landing

Like I said in my previous post, I'm not very good at this blogging thing, hence the long delay in an update. Although, the craziness that i've come to learn is Poland, hasnt helped my chances at getting to a computer long enough to write. But HARK! I finally have time to write! Ohhh where to start, where to start!? As you've all assumed, I did arrive safely in Poland but not without a small taste of what i would soon find out was the 'usual', the 'everyday', and the 'what should be expected' (or not expected in my case). The flight from JFK to Gatwick, England was flawless. I sat beside a girl that was also studying abroad in Spain, so we had much to talk about, and i had someone to talk during the long flight. The plane from Gatwick to Poland was on time and before i knew it, i was on my way to the beautiful city of Krakow....or so i thought..... Beginning to feel the effects of jet-lag, i doze in and out of conciousness, until i heard the cracky sound of the plane intercom kick on followed by a language that sounded as if someone was desperatly trying to speak with a mouth full of chewed saltines. Lucky for me, English soon followed, although the news wasnt promising. "We are experiencing severe fog coverage of the Krakow airport, we will be circling the runway for approximatly 15 minutes to allow the fog to clear, thank you for your patience." Around this time i fell back asleep, waking upon the shaky impact of landing. Finally I was in Krakow! A place i've only read about in guide books and tourist pamphlets, a beautiful city that is highlighted in every book on European countries, a hotspot for European travelers, and I was finally here....if only it were that easy. Upon landing, again the intercom cracks and the same speedy voice airs over the seats of the plane. I was imagining what he was say, " Welcome to Krakow, enjoy your stay in this medieval city and be sure to try the peirogies, again thank you for flying British Airways." Instead, the same voice, now in English informes us of just the opposite. Apparently while i was asleep, the fog never cleared from the airport. Due to the circumstances, they closed the airport and redirected all flights to Warsaw. Warsaw! The capital of Poland. Although in any other time, this would have been okay, but there were a few things that did not make this an enjoyable situation. Let me explain:

#1- I have a friend that lives in Krakow, Jon, who was also flying to Krakow the same day i was from JFK, on an earlier flight, and the plans were to meet at the airport. Keep in mind that i do not have a cell phone.
#2- I was becoming slightly delusional at this time, the amount of travel and time difference of 6 hours was beginning to take its toll.
#3- Warsaw is in NORTHERN Poland, Krakow-very much SOUTH.

Before leaving the plane, we were told to retrieve our luggage and make our way outside, the airline had arranged for "surface transportation" back to the Krakow airport. This, i came to find out, would be a 7 hour bus ride...i should've known, i reallllly should have known. "Okay Leah, pull yourself out of this coma, get to a pay phone and let Jon know whats going on".... again, not so easy, the payphones were beyond my understanding and the crowd was hurrying outside to wait for the buses. Once i joined the crowd outside, i noticed a large group of young people being instructed by 3 adults, they seemed to be part of a tour group, and upon noticing one of the ladies using a cell phone, i decided to ask if i could quickly use it to phone my friend in Krakow. It turns out, that the lady was very friendly and more than willing to help, AND she spoke English. The group was a history class from a prestigious girls school in London. They were traveling to Krakow to do a weekend World War 2 tour. On of the lady's was their tour guide, an expert in European history, specializing in WW2. When they heard that this was my first time in Europe, and already things were a little hectic, they took me under their wing and i offically became part of their group. I got ahold of Jon, and it turns out that his flight was also redirected so he was also on his way to Krakow, so i spent the next 7 hours talking with the tour guide lady and somewhat sleeping. The ride wasnt so bad, but about 6 hours into the trip everyone was pretty irritated. Finally, we arrived at the airport, along with other buses that have been shipping people all day, so the result was many people scattering everywhere at once. After hours of traveling i finally am able to find Jon in the airport, along with his aunt who greeted me with a warm smile. And just like that, we were on the move again, this time catching a van to the nearest train station. Wanting to catch the next train, we were all running through the station with months of luggage on our backs and in our hand. Jon had the pleasure of wheeling my 60 pound bag everywhere along with his hiking pack that was the size of me. We made it just in time to jump on the train (almost literally), but we werent heading into the city, no no no, we were on a 3 hour train ride to a small village outside the town of Rzeszow, east of Krakow. At this point, i couldnt remember what day it was, what hour, or even where i was, or who i was for that matter, all i knew was i slept. Im one of those people who can sleep anywhere, car, train, bus, van, boat, parking lot, park bench... anywhere, so falling asleep wasnt a problem. We met Jon's uncle at the train station and the four of us drove into their village very late, or early, im not sure. It was a beautiful house with mostly wooden interior which looked great with the abundance of plants that they kept inside throughout the year. Shortly after arriving, Jon and i were served my first authentic Polish meal: soup and peirogies! and they were absolutely amazing. I dont think i can ever eat frozen, boxed peirogies from Wal-Mart ever again. After dinner was finished, and our eyes wouldnt stay opened, we all finally slept. It was my first day, night, and meal in Poland, and as my friend Jon often says.... "ah yes, This Is Poland."


  1. A land overflowing with meet and vodka...I would say that apperances can be deceptive but apperance of this guy from the train (aka "The beer hunter") made me quite anxious about that... Have a good time at Opole!

    Waiting for the next part!

    Mr. Wanna be a good english speaker ;P