Page 16 of sapere18 Travel Blog Posts

Europe » Poland » Lublin Province » Lublin July 13th 2005

Poor Adam, with whom I have shared a compartment on the ride from Kraków, is still hung over from a night out with a few Scots. He has slept just about the entire way, having decided to forego a night’s sleep at his hotel and head for the station for the 6:20 a.m. departure directly from the nightclub. Adam, who is from Bath, England, is in town for private Polish lessons. He is among the very few foreigners in Lublin. What an adjustment this is from the international flavor of Kraków. The largest city in Eastern Poland, Lublin’s perimeter does not impress; it is an ordinary mix of mediocre apartment buildings in shabby neighborhoods and abandoned warehouses. The center of town is much more eye-catching. It has a bustling commercial zone of large businesses, hotels, banks, ... read more
Lesson Learned
Plenty To Do
Beer Gardens

Europe » Poland » Lesser Poland » Kraków July 9th 2005

Today is the one day when I have come to appreciate the kindness of others, no matter how bizarre the situation. Before heading out for a final stroll about the Kazimierz, I grabbed my towel for a quick shower, soon to be on my way for a quiet evening without too much hassle. The bathroom is a windowless, narrow chamber with a ceramic tub and toilet; there is very little room to maneuver. The only door in and out has no window. The door is of solid wood and very heavy. Everything took its normal course: turn faucet on, get wet, apply soap, rinse, shave, etc. Nothing major to report. However, events took a sharp turn for the worse after my shower when I turned the door handle, only to realize that the lock malfunctioned; the ... read more

Europe » Poland » Lesser Poland » Auschwitz July 6th 2005

I awoke this morning to what must have been the most brilliant day of the year, if not the decade. The sun shone bright; it was warm and breezy and floral perfume floated in the air. What a great day, the kind of day you remember come winter. However, with train ticket in hand for Oświęcim, is there ever a fine day to go to Auschwitz? Do you roll out of bed look outside and say, “Gee, this would be a splendid day to see the camps, so much better than yesterday?” But, what of people who live in Oświęcim? They must travel a bit and see the world, right? The remnants of the camps must be but a minor distraction for them, as they lead normal existences; they go to work, have families, and root ... read more
No Doubt
Gate of Death
Railway Swithcback

Europe » Poland » Lesser Poland » Kraków July 6th 2005

Poland’s premier urban attraction, Kraków’s beauty and style live up to its reputation. I dare say, with reluctance, after having come from Lviv that it is anti-climatic, almost a disappointment. Only here a day now, I can assure you Kraków is a marvelous place: modern, vibrant, and aesthetically pleasing. Poles are overtly proud of their city, as well they should be. Yet, having arrived from Lviv, I cannot help but feel that John Paul II’s hometown (his image is all over the place) is but a playground for the armies of visitors it hosts from around the world. Where Lviv is yesterday, or many years ago, Kraków makes it absolutely clear it has both feet planted in 2005, and looks in no direction but forward. Multi-flagged electric golf carts shuttle tourists from sight to sight within ... read more
On the Vistula
In High Demand

Europe » Ukraine » Lviv July 5th 2005

little more on my mind than to be on my way, I called a friend of mine in Lviv to inform him of my arrival the next morning. For the past few days, we had been exchanging mails; each time he reminded me that he was waiting for me to call and let him know when I would be in town. I called him from the post office in Odessa, the only place phones are consistently reliable, and all was in place. The advantage of train number twenty-six is that, while it arrives in Lviv at first light, is that it pulls out of Odessa around 6 p.m. This affords me to peer out the window and absorb some of the scenery, people, and landscape of Ukraine. Between intermittent stoppages, the train sped north, splitting bountiful ... read more
Home decor
Lviv Opera House
Are You Kidding Me?

Europe » Ukraine » Odessa July 1st 2005

It becomes very clear that second-class train travel in Ukraine is worlds apart from being hauled around the country in plaztkart (плацкарть), or third class. The wagons’ hallway windows are decked with burgundy drapes and embroidered valences reading the city of origin, L’viv (Лъвïв), however framed with cheap plastic flowers. In spite of a torn radio knob blasting the latest Ukrainian hip-hop, I managed to turn the “music” off and discovered the reading lights work wonderfully on each of the four couchettes in my private compartment. Mrs. Doubtfire’s evil twin runs the car like a drill sergeant, dishing out tea and separating passengers such as myself from the local currency to satisfy some mysterious supplement not paid up at the ticket window before departure. Toilets are certainly an improvement; the escaping foul odor is only half ... read more
More Presentation

Europe » Ukraine June 30th 2005

At first glance, it is easy to observe a sharp disconnect between Ukrainians’ understanding of the world and the means by which they live. Their comprehension of history, geography, and particularly technology, does not correspond to their inferior surroundings. Ukrainians are seemingly denied the chance to prosper in a society lacking in the basic ease in which Western Europeans thrive. Electrical engineers accept jobs as taxi drivers. Mechanics toil daily on unwanted second hand vehicles from Germany dating back to the days of Brezhnev. High-level skills abound, but there is nowhere nearby to apply them usefully. A walk around the neighborhood unveils the state of disrepair in which ordinary people carve out a living. Suburban residences consist of mammoth, nine story rectangular eyesores, the first floor of which in some areas serves as a modest (read: ... read more
Where's the bathro--

Europe » Ukraine » Kyiv June 29th 2005

No one ever cares for stories about transfers in neo-modern, faceless terminals, which beer I had for breakfast after deplaning, or the various looped repeats of BBC World I had to endure before boarding for Kyiv. However, my proverbial five minutes while connecting in Finland did indeed reveal a few points of interest. I used to think Dutch to be an utterly useless language. I always claimed that in its written form in was the result of a fat woman sitting on a typewriter. I still feel this way. Now I have been exposed to Finnish. Envision the Swedish Chef tripping on LSD while walking over a bed of fire blown chards of glass, and then explain how to cook the chicken. That’s Finnish, unintelligible both spoken and written. Any language whose words attack the reader ... read more

Europe » Ukraine » Kyiv June 28th 2005

A great number of people choose to travel where bad news is a rare occurrence: Las Vegas, Yellowstone National Park, South Beach, and San Francisco. When was the last time you read about a tourist-induced riot on The Strip or a coup d’état on Hilton Head Island? Others make for those destinations so obscure from where only bad news escapes. How long has it been since you read an in-depth exposé about the new opera house in Sierra Leone? Or the brand new species of orchid discovered in Rwanda? Ukraine, other former Soviet republics, and the emerging countries of Eastern Europe, pertain to neither category. Rather, they belong to an unfamiliar abyss from which practically no news reaches the pages of The Times of London or The Boston Globe. Recent political change aside for the moment, ... read more

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