I love the logic of airports…. And how Brussels airlines are, well, so Belgium with their adorable security video and being late all the time…
The the flight from Warsaw to Brussels was pretty uneventful, owing mostly to the fact that well it was still night and I craved sleep. However, with the bad weather we left late and also had to get into one of those holding patterns when we got to Brussels because of the weather. On the plus side, I met the most irritatingly stereotypical yet fascinating French man I know.
Snooty accent? Check
Total disregard for other nationalities? Check
Moustache and stubble? Yes
Did we speak? Well, it was more just an exchange of grunts and looks. This could have been love (as in married couple fast forwarded 40 years where their primary means of communication was spite).
My flight to Malaga from Brussels was a little strange, I shall no lie. I sat next to a Belgium couple and for some reason I decided to say something in Flemish apparently (Hallo, goemorigen) and the lovely older gentleman proceeded to speak to me throughout the flight in Flemish…. (It seemed as though they were glad they weren’t sat next to some foreigner) I didn’t want to disappoint the kind gentleman so I nodded along, smiled, looked little things up in the dictionary (screenshot) throughout the entire flight… until the last forty minutes when he asked me (I think) where in Belgium I was from. It was at this point I told myself that the charade had gone on long enough and explained that I was actually an Australian living in Poland… and that I didn’t speak Flemish.
It was at this point that he pointed to his wife and said neither had she before they’d got married! So for the next 40 minutes or so we conversed in a mixture of Flemish, English and French, sharing stories and jokes (badly translated naturally). They offered their granddaughter if I were ever looking to be married, to which point I said that she must be a bit too young for me. Contrary to fact, their son was 55! Once we parted it was as if this man had become my favorite uncle, and she my oddly Gaullist auntie.
Once we landed I was in my game – that is, getting lost and pretending I know what I’m doing. Found the train station. Easily, and the confidence was just oozing out. This was quite adamant due to the fact that I was soon approached by random English people started asking if I could help them buy tickets for the train (apparently I speak English well for a foreigner…). And so I made use of my three years of Spanish (gracias Profesor Luis) and procured their tickets, directed them to the (hopefully correct) track, and was on my way to the BnB. Naturally, I had to grab a beer to soothe my traveling feet 🙂
My goal for the trip was not to use English at all when I needed to get something from the locals… and I can see that five odd years of not using it has impeded certain areas of my Spanish…. Which means I had to be creative 😉
I walked around, got a bit lost as I insist on not using google maps (went in the wrong direction completely, which compelled me to get a map… unsuccessfully). Walked around a lot of the city, stopping now and again to refill on sangria or cañas (small beer often served with olives). I ended the day quite early as barely any sensible sleep the night before had turned me into a slightly amoebic state. Case in point, I was so tired that I didn’t register that I ordered a plate of fried anchovies from the lovely waitress….. not wanting to disappoint her in any way, I ate the whole damn plate. Thing is, I abhor anchovies -_-.
However, truth be told, it was a little cold in my apartment and when I decided around midnight to turn what I though was a space heater…. Which of course the Andalusians had never heard, because it turned out to be a fan blasting out arctic temperatures all over the room. I quickly got my wits about me and Amundsen up my attire, turned off the Ice-Wind-Maker 3000 and tried to get some shit eye, hoping that the icicles would melt by the morning.
Day two. Ah yes, this was my ambitious day. I got up bright and early (my Spanish was not so great first thing in the morning, I responded to questions that did exist apparently, and mixed up married with tired. Don’t ask) as today I was going to see as much as possible in the morning so that the afternoon I could bathe in the sun doing nothing else that people watch 🙂 Even though it was only 8 degrees outside I said said no to the sweater, donned my shirt and backpack, and proceeded to amaze everyone on the street with my nipples until the sun came out. It was a teensy but chilly, I will admit.
My first port of call was Castillo de Gibralfaro – a gorgeous Moor-era fortress, from which you can see the entirety of Malaga and nothing but see across the way (check out the photos naturally). He place is usually free after 2pm on Sundays to get in, however, avoiding the droves of people that will plague the area by that time, it’s well worth just spending the 3.55 Euros for the Castle and the citadel (Alcanzaba). I spent hours walking around the fortress (which is up a steep hill, but seeing as I’ve conquered Adam’s Peak… I did not heed the warnings of “comfortable shoes,” regrettably). Afterwards I went down to Alcanzaba – the citadel. These two were once connected internally, many years ago, however at present, you have to go round to get to the entrance (and I suggest you to the Castillo first and Alcanzaba, it’s just nicer). The citadel is gorgeous, with explanations on how everything was built hanging around (in Spanish, though you can grab a pamphlet from the information desk – I preferred to suffer a tad and use my Spanish:)). A quick coffee to recharge my batteries and then, off to see that little abodethat Picasso grew up in. I think.
Malaga is just filled with these dazzling little side streets that you just can’t help going down – it’s like this amazing labyrinth of cafes, shops, musicians and street art that before you know it, you have no idea where you are (I was forced to use google maps… twice, then ask the locals, many times. How on earth do I still have both my kidneys?).
After spending some time just walking around, I decided it was time for a drink (it was literally afternoon, I deserved it, no matter what you say!). As luck would have it, at the square I found a sunny spot, musicians playing jazz manouche in front of me, beer and tapas (Eggplant with honey will become a staple of my diet from now on, it was gorgeous). It truly was an enjoyable few hours of bathing in the sun, beer and a little food 😉 I got up when I saw three older ladies looking for a place to sit down, offered them my table, paid my tab and decided to go off for another wander.
I got to Picasso’s museum, but unfortunately it turned out that there were some kind of renovations going on in the permanent exhibition, so instead there was (once again – on a Sunday free entry) to another artist: Torres. And I must say, having never heard of the man before, but reading his story and looking at his artwork – he wasn’t too shabby. Not my cup of tea, but still, damn interesting.
(We’re currently landing in Brussels – I can already feel that he cool air that will knock me off my feet once I get out of the airport).
After that, I once again just walked around the city taking in the sights, practicing my Spanish (my hola! And Perdón! Are basically at a native level now…) and finding another place to get this story down.
And as for the sunset, I decided to go back up to the castle, specifically from this hotel actually, to let Bambi take in the beautiful sun setting over the hills.
The being I spent in a bar called Pimpi, as well as a few others. And I managed to track down that clarinet player that at the beginning of the day played La Vie en Rose. Had him round off my night on the town with a personal request of it 🙂
After coming back to the apartment, I ended up chatting for a few hours with a lovely graphic designer who lived there. Turns out my Spanish ain’t half bad after a few wines and beers.
Sri Lanka – Day 3 (Our first bus ride, a temple, shady restaurant, and a lovely evening)
You know find us on day three of sweltering humid heat. No, I am not complaining. At all. I swear. Well today we set off for Dambulla after a lovely breakfast at our favourite place. A Tuk Tuk ride that only broke the laws of physics/the road several times took us to the bus station, and knowing how hopeless we would have been, we asked Shehan to get the Tuk Tuk driver to show us the correct bus to Kurungewala, from which we would then get a bus to Dambulla. This was necessary, as if it were just me, getting lost is fine. Me and Glowa? Sure, it’d be an experience. But with Sabina… well we fear her, much like each one of us fears his mother. She doesn’t have a temper per se, but it’s easy to imagine her with a wooden spoon whooping our arse into gear. Now in Sri Lanka there are different types of buses apparently (from what I’ve read), and the red one (SLTB) are the everyday ones – they run on time, are slow, and stop everywhere…. then there’re the express ones that go a tad faster, have fewer stops, and can get you there a bit quicker for a bit more cash. Guess which one we got? That’s right, the Red One – 3 hours to drive 75 kilometres. Yeah – trust me, it was a loooong but interesting trip. It’s always quite informative to see how local public transport works… and here you could see some European mentality coming out. I wanted ot but the tickets before we got on, so I asked the bus driver, he pointed to the little man with the book, so I got off and asked me, he told me to go to the bus, I asked the bus driver again, he pointed to the man with the book, and so I went back to him… He proceeded to lightly nudge me onto the bus. I was a bit worried at this point that we would be swindled for not having tickets. However, it soon turned out that once we got moving, the little man with the book moved up and down the bus and got everyone tickets. Btw, for 90KLR (about ummm, USD 0.60), this was a very convenient price… though 3 hours of fearing for your life didn’t really help. But on the plus side, gave me time to practice my ukulele – which I plan to actually be able to do well after this trip! Sabina and Glowa may have been less thrilled, but it was great to see how things functioned. At the bigger bus depots men come on the bus peddling food and sometimes booklets of some sort, people come an go. It’s nice. Towards the end of the journey a man sat next to me, startling me out of my sleep, and we had a bit of a chat. Nice guy, and once we got to our stop in Kurungela he helped us find the bus to Dambulla (trust me, no easy feet… there’s a certain type of hecticness here… but we found the ‘express’ bus (they differ by the fact that they wait around to get as many people as possible, yet they still stop fairly often to pick people up). Nevertheless, the 65km journey (78 LKR – 0.50 USD) took another 2 hours…. but was even more terrifying than the previous 75 kilometres had actually been very calm. This guy was calamitous – often going the wrong way, overtaking on the wrong side etc., all just to get a little bit ahead and then…stop to let some people off.
We got to Dambulla somehow with relative ease (thankfully). And then, we made it to our gorgeous little hostel, by the name of Dambulla City Hostel – the lovely Vicky saw us in with the jack-of-all trades (insert name here), we settled in… and after a few hours (or rather minutes) Mr Glowa delegated our duties… by delegated I mean it was the kind of suggestion you don’t refuse – like you wouldn’t refuse Mussollini if he said he wanted your kidney. We went to see the Golden Temple, a short little walk away. I may be overusing this word, but Sri Lanka is in all sincerity gorgeous – just in a different way you could say. Visiting the temple from the outside is free (and we were very tired by this point… and I was hungry – Glowa and Sabina were starting to look like a rice and curry for LKR 290). A Tuk Tuk to town was in order to find a place called Mango Mango to grab a good eat (as Vicky had suggested). Now, the problem was that we knew it was somewhere on this street… and that it started with an M – so after we saw a bakery where you could buy an assortment of things (as suggested by the host), we backtracked to what I thought was the place – Mani-J (it started with an M right?). Well, once we entered this place, which was enourmously shady to say the least, we were greeted by a smell of cigarettes, devious looks, and that pleasant aroma of cheap liquor. I thought to myself that this must be one of those places that the ‘locals’ go to and has amazing food – oh how wrong I was. The food, though granted it was cheap, horrible. We ate quickly, avoided the gazes of the shady characters around the place and left with impetus. We walked around Dambulla for a bit, found the aformentioned great restaurant, and mossied on home.
When we got there, we found that we had acquired a few new residents (soon to become the Sigiriya troupe, later renamed the Kandy Squad and after a few substitutions and additions, the Adam’s Peak Compatriots). We spent that night exchanging stories with an Australian, American, Tanzanian and a few Brits, finally deciding that we all would set out for Sigiriya together in the morning. The hostel had this wall where you could make your mark (and so we did) and it turned out that Vicky wanted a uke lesson, which I kindly provided.
After an exhausting day, we finally laid our weary heads on our beds, covered ourselves in mosquito netting and dreamt strange things.
Till next time,
Adam’s Peak, a 2,243m tall mountain in Sri Lanka, a pillgrimmage for a wide variety of religions. At the peak you find a sacred footprint that the Buddhists believe is the footprint that Buddha left behind when he touched upin Earth, for the Hindu’s it is that of Shiva, and for the Abrahamic religions, Adam (hence why in English it’s called Adam’s Peak).Thus a place of huge significance, however, for the average traveller you scale the 5,200 steps in the dead of night to see the sun rise over the gorgeous and endless terrain.
But before we even got there, we needed to pick up a ragtag group of compatriots to scale this beast of a lower-body workout (my butt hurt three days, and let’s not even mention my calves). The best place to find them? Ah, let me introduce you to a bar in Kandy (see previous post). We had the American, Tanzanian, Brits… and well it still seemed a bit short. And thus, at the train station, unbeknownst to us, we prowled through the crowd to find our next victims that we would snag on the train to come join us on our perils. That’s how we managed to ensnare a lovely South African (Matt) a Czech couple (who decided that the best way to integrate the groups was with a decent helping of 72% Sliwowica… that knocked us to our feet) and a little later on after the train journey, some gorgeous Australians (it was the beard that convinced me that they were necessary. Well just Leigh, his girlfriend lacked this necessary feature).
The train itself, well it was our first in Sri Lanka, was not all that interesting (reminding us of the Inter Region trains in Poland). The journey however, with the gorgeous views and dazzling assortment of people, was brilliant (unfortunately the photos don’t really convey the vastness of the landscape – it truly is an amazing place). Once we reach the train station near the peak, we have a small council in order to determine who is going where… and somehow in that momement Glowa, Sabina and I decided that our hotel was uncomfortable and needed to change it immediately… to the one where the larger part of our ensemble were spending the night (an apt decision trust me).
After a quick meal (and I think a beer – it’s been a while), we got to bed early. We needed to get up at 2am in order to climb the daunting thing in front of us (as Glowa kept insisting he would die during it, he would much prefer to be well rested). To tell you the truth I was just glad I wouldn’t be spooning Glowa for a night.
We get up slightly groggy at 2am, prepared ourselves (I don’t even remember if there was a coffee drunk at this point, so I may have been slightly short with the guys. Again, I do apologise) and headed out. Unfortunately at this time of the year the path wasn’t lit yet, so let’s just say we stumbled about a lot, using our mobile’s flashes as flashlights for the most part (we weren’t prepared… well Glowa as usual was but Sabina and I are odd optimists about such things as 5,200 cut steps over cliffs during the dead of night). After passing through the little village that preceeded the start of the trail, composing ourselves, making the odd nervous joke, we began. Now, Sabina and I kind of know how Glowa feels about stairs – he absolutely hates them, and when I mean hate, I mean the kind of hate you have for your roomate that eats your food, doesn’t wash up and honestly believes that Posh Spice was the best spice girl (come on, we all know it was Ginger Spice, right?). So in order to withstand the enourmous amount of complaining that we would hear on our way, we decided to leave Glowa with the rest of the troupe (we’re not mean you know… he’d known these guys for at least two days, they’d take care of him right?). The German (Sabina) being a German set off on a quite stiff pace, which she intended to uphold the entire trip. I being me, well I wasn’t going to let the fitness freak of a German beat me, the slightly flabby AusPole whose main nightly ritual was going to the local bar five nights a week and downing a few whiskeys). And so we stepped, and stepped, a few more steps, and stepped until… Sabina asked for a break, and then another, collapsed on the ground claiming she would do not one more, swore and imagined stabbing me with an ice pick at the back of my head. You may ask why she felt this need to maim me… well it was my cheeryness throughout the whole trip. Talking to people barely ought of breath, making jokes, playing my uke (which I had decided to play atop the mountain) challenging her to little races, telling her that she can’t let this insult-to-adonis of a man beat her… Yeah, I think she was well within her place.
Once we were just a few steps away from the summit, we ran into the Czechs and the South African at a little waypoint where you could have tea (they too were cheery, yet Sabina felt no need to stab them. Maybe it was due to the fact that by this point her will had been broken). And slowly but surely the rest of the group trudged in, oddly, without Glowa. One had said he was just having a rest about 2000 steps down, another that he’d given up a little while ago (claiming that this was not made for white men) and yet another claimed he’d died whilst chasing after a silver hippotamus that was calling him names (caused by exhaustion of course… not that Glowa had taken some LSD before the trip, nope, definitely not that). After a while the gates opened and we went out to the peak to wait for the sunrise. Glowa showed up at this point (slightly disgusted by our faces, telling us that we had insulted the memory of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind policy whilst at the same time managing a slew of insults at the Ginger & German races). However, this was all worth it in the end, the sun rose and my, what a sight it was to behold. Only a few writers could put it into words, and I am not one of those. So I shall let the photos do it as much justice as possible until you find yourselves there.
Lifelong goal of playing the uke at an amazing sight: complete.
After spending an age looking at the gorgeous view, we slowly proceeded down the mountain. And it was here that Glowa found some second wind and blew right on by us (he reached the hotel almost an hour before us, showered and was waiting with an enourmous smile on his face on the balcony restaurant). We took a little longer, sharing the odd joke and remark about the trip. We got to the hotel, breakfasted and made our way to the train station in order to get to tea country (Haputalle and Ella).
Till then my dears,
Now, there are not many things that make me squeal like a little girl with joy. Seeing a Backstreet boy, merry-go-rounds, finding 5zl in an old pair of pants all fall into that category. Yet last Saturday a special plane from Rome landed at Warsaw Chopin Airport with a a precious package: my shaggy-haired Matt. Here is our story 🙂
So for the past few days one of my best friends has been visiting, Mr Matthew (see pictures attached, and girls feel free to swoon to your heart’s content – it’s worth it). On Saturday I went to pick him up at the airport with my friend Karolina – though, seeing as she insists that she won’t speak English, well in hindsight it was an odd choice. Nevertheless, we got to Warsaw, and waited…. for a while. It turned out the Italians had misplaced his bags (I make no jokes here about Italian efficiency, honestly) so perhaps not the best start to Poland. Nevertheless, we made it out plan to feed the boy (he’d been living on pasta, cheese and wine for the past month in Italy the poor man!). A quick burger, and then it was time to truly show him some Polish culture, i.e. take him to a bar and pour vodka into him (yes, he did make a lot of friends).
After having a gay old time checking out the pubs, sights and my eclectic collection of friends, we decided to pop out to Krakow to garner in a little bit of culture.
After a short train journey, involving some seating difficulties which resulted in me sitting next to quite possibly the funniest Nigerian in the world (will check rankings, but he must be up there), we stepped out into Krakow – two bachelors ready to take the city by storm (needless to say, neither parents nor husbands felt the need to lock up their daughters or wives for some strange reason). The entire afternoon was spent feasting on great food, taking in some of those fabulous sights and of course… walking (Matt’s neck got a bit sore from looking at the pretty girls).
This was, however, a slightly different trip for me too. I had never explored Krakow to such an extent before, finding out now how little I actually knew. Thus, yesterday I experienced Kazimierz for the first time in my memory – and I must say, combined with the Jewish quarter this could quite possibly be my favourite place in the city. Dotted with many a cute road and cafe, bustling with tourists and locals going about their everyday duties really made me smile.
Kazimierz is this gorgeous district of Krakow, located south of the Old City (about a 20 minute walk, if you dont get overly excited and keep stopping every 30 paces to look at shop fronts and musicians). Once you get there, well you’re in for a myriad of winding streets with more cafes than your caffeine obsessed brain could handle. It was around this point that Matt began to get peckish, and if he’s anything like his sister, well a hungry Newton is not something you’d like to have on your conscience (or near you – they tend to get quite short and punchy). And this way we wound up just beside the Jewish Quarter, at Plac Nowy (New Square). After a lovely meal and replenishing liquid carbohydrates/minerals (read: beer) we went further into the Jewish Quarter. It is fantastic and believe me, you’ll not waste a single hour walking around here. It’s a treasure trove of culture and food (I may have pudged out a bit over these two days due to Matt’s incredible taste in food). Afterwards, we rejuvenated ourselves with a dash of coffee, whilst I gleaned some information from the lovely barista who recommended that we go to a suburb just over the river called Stare Podgórze (trans. Old Underhill – made me think of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbitses). She explained that it was one of those up-and-coming districts, cheaper than Kazimierz yet still quite nice to wander around in (plus there’s this awesome park there).
Seeing as we got this far South in the city, we decided that taking in the view from Krakus Mound would be a great way to settle down the day. When we made the peak, well, the sun was slowly starting to set, a lovely girl was gazing over the city and we sat down, passing 90 minutes just enthralled by the moment (photos courtesy of Matt and his talent).
Upon coming back down, we proceeded to our hostel (and I would recommend these guys – the Orange Hostel, located at the beginning of Kazimierz. Lovely staff, decent price. Though you may be woken up by a stampede of Spaniards just going out for the night at around 1am… not shocked about their economy at this point). Matt showered, I had a beer and worked on my abstract, and then we went out to take Krakow by storm!
Ok, maybe more like a light breeze and minute precipitation (we’re close to our 30s you see). A nice meal and a beer, ranted about absurd conspiracy theories, what a terrible death being locked o death by a thousand kittens would be, the mistake that is the Trump candidacy and naturally Game of Thrones.
The next day we rushed out of the hostel like a stampede of confounded guinea pigs… That doesn’t make sense I know but so wanted to make you guys think of what that would look like – weird huh? We breakfasted, caffeined, and made our way to the Old Synagogue… Though along the way we encountered upon something that truly put a damper on our getaway: the Galicja Jewish Museum and it’s photo exhibition. Some of the photos were truly harrowing to say the least, as were their historical descriptions. We left that place with our spirits slightly dimmed, and proceeded to the Old Synagogue. Here we learnt a bit more about the Jewish culture (needless to say, very interesting to actually know what certain terms I’ve been using actually mean).
But all good things must come to an end – the train awaited (I booked the wrong tickets, don’t ask) and we mossied on home to Lodz.
The day began with some trepedation – well that’s a lie, in reality we were quite happy. Our little group of 7 was going on an adventure!
So, I know it’s been a long time. And for that, I really don’t have any excuse. I’ve been slack, I know it; I’m sure that no amount of apologies can make up for it. However, perhaps a tale or two about my past two years will make it up to you? I do hope so. Ah, it’s probably worth mentioning to you all; Bambi shall be in Aus in July 2014. Your faces better be there at the Pig n Whistle. Or else, the wrath of Bambi shall come down upon you like a thousands kittens licking your face and rubbing themselves against you. Maybe this might not scare some of you…. But those with severe cat allergies will be more than understanding :p
Right, as a warning, I am on a 3-5 hour train ride from Katowice, Silesia to Lodz ( I say 3-5 hours, as this is just a suggestion provided by the Polish State Owned Railways), on an iPad, and with many ideas about what I want to say and very little idea about how to structure it. So please bear with me (or is it bare with me? Dammit).
Actually, that brings to a very good point. I teach English now! Yeah! Ok, maybe you guys got a chill down your spine imagining me, the butcher of the English language in Australia, teaching in Poland… But I’m not that bad at it I swear! Although, as Matt or Esther will tell you, when they came to visit I did have some problems with speaking English. It’s funny actually, there a came a point where I was living in Lodz, and barely ever had the opportunity to speak English. Thus, instead of saying icing sugar I believe I said something along the lines of ‘sweet cocaine that you put on your cakes’. Trust me, I haven’t changed a bit.
Well, ok, that was a lie. I’m no longer as ginger as I once was, and am quite pudgy…. Thus I must actually do some,thing with myself. I hear eating disorders are quite fun 🙂 (because my reactions to the word diet usually consist of disbelief, and the sudden urge to eat everything that is not fungus or mucus). But getting back on topic – Bambi in Poland: a two year review.
I guess I best start my story where we left off: Budapest. After I came back from Budapest I unfortunately got caught up with the whole university thing. I’ve graduated from one of my masters by the way 🙂 one to go. However, the idiot that I am I decided to stay on to do a doctorate; although, let’s not run before we can crawl… Or rather roll out of bed gracefully in the morning. So where was, right the uni thing. So yeah, a year past by so quickly that I could barely notice what was going on around me. However, on New Year’s Eve 2011, I did meet a lovely, gorgeous girl, with whom I’m proud to say I’m still with. Sylwia.
Oh, someone just got into the carriage with me. Give me a sec – small talk about the weather and the local football team must ensue…
Right, back. So yes. Well, 2012 was filled with a lot of interesting events. Although, now that it comes to write them, I seem to have forgotten them all in an effort to remember. Man I’m bad at this. Well, ok travel wise, it was pretty meek. Although I shall have to look at my journal to find the truly interesting or funny stories, I’ll merely say that it’s always too little.
The highlight of my stay here is and will be when my two best friends came to visit me. Matt and Esther. Of course, as is my luck, they just so happened to come during a period of absolute craziness in my life (exams, getting a new job, exams, loosing my boogying ability). But, as always, they were ridiculously ok about it and proceeded to enjoy the high roller life in Poland 🙂 sufficed to say, they didn’t go hungry I don’t believe. Of course Sis and Mum came to visit this year, but once again, straight in aerodynamic of absolute craziness; my thesis was due. I just don’t understand how this keeps happening… So I do hope that July is ok with everyone in Aus. If not, I will understand.
Anyway, I’m going to finish up for now. Be prepared though, I’ve put this blog at number two on my resolutions list… So I will be coming back to it 🙂 but for now, a little picture of your beloved or maybe hated Bambi traveling home 🙂