Journeys end

Well, Twizzles and I have been Home for a day now. Having had time to sleep and reflect on our adventure I’m ready to write my concluding post.
It feels like we were away for months but in reality it was 12 days.. 304 hours.. It sounds so small but this time last week we were flying back to Poland from Kyiv. I worked out that we covered 3304miles in 304hours which means our total average speed was 10.86mph lol. I’m rather pleased with that score :-)

So to sum up for anyone who wishes to follow us… Auschwitz is incredible (lonely planet is a bit wrong here, it takes 2hours to get there from Krakow by train and you can easily walk to the museum and to Birkenau… Allow a day). Wieliczka salt mines are an absolute must (20 mins by train from Krakow but check times coming back. If you come out of the ‘miners entrance’ afterwards head down towards the square and head left, if it’s hot there’s an ice cream kiosk on the edge of the square, allow a day if you want both tours). Kyiv is amazing, definitely a must see. Make your life easier and learn how to translate Cyrillic letters to Roman letters but make sure you learn Ukrainian not Russian as there are differences in the two alphabets just as you find in European languages.
Finally my beloved Gdansk…. Take a few days, wander the streets, visit Hel and Sopot, take a boat around the shipyards… Go and see the monument at Westerplatte and at the shipyard gates. You will never find hospitality like you find in Poland.

This has been the most amazing experience and Twizzles and I are already planning our next.

I’ll finish by thanking everyone who helped make this journey for us. Firstly, and most importantly, let us all give thanks to the Liquidators of Chernobyl, without their sacrifices the long term effects of the disaster would be far far worse than they are today, Twizzles and I saw their work first hand and they deserve the highest honour. They truly did save the world.

Thank you to the staff at the hotels and hostel we stayed in. The people at the restaurants, particularly in Kyiv who were so patient with me whilst I butchered their language into some weird Polglishrainian. The friends we made who shared little slices of our lives. To my family near Gdansk and once again to our readers and followers.

We wish you all fair winds and clear skies

Дуже Дякую
Zombie & Twizzles
Xxxxxxxx

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Travelling up the country.

Today was much of a quiet and trains day. Due to a slightly restless night we jut had breakfast in the hotel then packed up our things watching Dr Who. We did find out that after my stomach’s wrestle with yesterday’s chicken nuggets I’ve pulled a muscle so it’s a wee bit hard to move more than an inch. But luckily that pharmacist’s understanding of “deep heat” has got us some muscle cream that’s doing its job slowly.

Anyway we found some snackables in a mini supermarket with a grumpy cashier and what did we find but two bottles of coke next to each other with the Polish spelling of Zombie’s full name! As a side note Coke have assumed that there’s a lot of Pawels in Poland alongside the odd Stephen and Nathan.

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Shopping gotten we went and waited on our platform for the train. Now I’ve never travelled British first class because it’s hellishly expensive compared to normal but in Poland it’s another 30PLN which is about a fiver so we decided to give it a go. The train which turned up was really long so we had to walk the entire length of the platform to even get on. Polish platforms are a but crazy as they’re not standardised in the least, some you have to go down steps to get on, some you have to go up steps and some have a gap that’s easily a foot across, the steps on the side a tiny bit closer than that.
We found our seats and hoped nobody else would join out 6 seat cabin, unfortunately an Israeli guy did however he proved to be a bit of amusement for us. We got underway and once out of the city you can see green for miles, we even saw a tiny baby pony and lots of very thin cows!

As you always have a nice chap with Zombie’s Uncle’s name comes round with a tea trolley, drinks, crisps etc and our new companion thought he’d buy a bag of crisps, with a 100PLN note, now that sounds excessive to anyone but its pretty common to have them here as it would be about £20 but the crisps were 5PLN (£1.20~). Also as we were first class we were the first customers for them so the poor lad didn’t have any change or enough English to explain so. Luckily Zombie Translator to the rescue and he managed to tell the passenger that they trolley man would come round again and should have change so the guy can pay then.

Continuing on we took some pictures, watched the country go by, played some games and about half the journey had gone by, it took just over 3 hours overall. It was hot and sunny but there’s large windows on these European trains so we had it pulled all the way down.

Now, having the window open caused the curtains to blow about a fair bit, mine even went out the window at one point! But our cohabiter thought he’d tie his out of the way in the EMERGENCY BREAK PULL! Good thing Zombie noticed quick enough!

Here’s some panoramas Zombie took out of each side of the train.

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We’re going to have a quiet night in as there’s not much to do here other than a restaurant so we’ll eat in the hotel and we have an early morning tomorrow because we have to pick up our tickets 3 hours before our flight to Kiev, so early D:

The weather is still gorgeous, I hope it is there.

DFTBA
TWIZZLES & ZOMBIE.

Wieliczka

So I’ll preface this with why a blog wasn’t posted yesterday, I got light food poisoning from chicken nuggets I had for lunch. It’s the only thing we didn’t both eat and boy do I regret them now. Suffice it to say that I was not a happy bunny at about 8pm last night and now I’ve got a pulled muscle in my tummy that’s making is hard to do much of anything. Luckily Zombie thinks I’ll be fine for Chernobyl on Monday.

Anyway back to the story of our adventures, this was written on the train back and then where I left off Zombie’s writings from the evening will carry on.

There’s been a lot of waiting on this trip; for the plane, for busses and trams, 2 hours on a train to Auschwitz (we’d assumed it was closer than that) and now an hour to get back from the salt mines. The train timetable is completely incomprehensible at times, there won’t be one for over an hour then three leave in a 20 minute window! So we’re chilling in the sun on the platform of Wieliczka Rynek-Kopalnia.

Wieliczka (v-yea-leech-ka) is home to the biggest salt mine in Poland (though they can no longer fully mine it due to floods and the fact that there’s not much left). Just to get to the first of the three levels we visited it was 380 steps, 64 m! Overall I think we walked about 3k through the caves and halls and went down to 130m deep. We saw 10 chambers of varying sizes from about 50 feet wide to the two biggest there at 6 stories, even that was just 5% of the chambers and 10% of the tunnels.

Most of the smaller chambers were much the same but were set up with many salt rock carvings by the self-taught miners and different exhibits to tell the history of the mine from the recent history of flooding and water evacuation then going back to the two explanations of how the salt came to be there.

Zombie will now take over to tell you about the two biggest chambers and the explanations of how the mine came to be, let us know which you like best!

So here I sit on our last night in Krakow. I have to tell you about the salt mines of Wieliczka.

As we passed out of the chamber demonstrating the use of horses to work the massive rope lift we passed through one of the 40 chapels carved out by the miners. Incredibly the wood for the alter is Limewood (I think) which rots so easily on the surface but the high salt content of the atmosphere has held the wood in perfect preservation for 300 years!!! My god! You struggle to remember that the first celebrity to visit the mine was Nicholas Copernicus in the 1400s! This beautiful mine seems to be held in some kind of time sink where time moves at a fraction of the speed on the surface! But this was nothing, NOTHING! Compared to what awaited.
There are two theories as to how this salt deposit formed:
1: Science
The land that became south Poland was in fact a sea some 13m years ago. Due to the high temperature the waters evaporated leaving this massive salt deposit.
2: Legend
The Duke of Poland was to marry Princess Kinga of Hungary. Whilst she knew Poland was a rich land they lacked in salt (vital for preservation of meats etc). She asked her father the king to give one of Hungary’s many salt mines to Poland as a wedding gift. The king agreed and she went to visit the mine her father had gifted the Poles. During her visit she took off her engagement ring and threw it deep into the mine where it vanished into the depths. She then journeyed to Poland where she made a brief stop over in the town of Wieliczka.
She asked some of the men of the town to start digging where they discovered a salt deposit where before there had been none. In the centre of the first rock of salt they pulled out, there, held inside was Kinga’s ring. They continued their excavation and discovered the huge salt deposit, brought to them by Kinga’s magic ring.

I prefer the legend myself :-) during the time of Pope John Paul II he visited the mine and canonized Princess Kinga. Now the reason for the preamble is because we were brought next to St. Kinga’s Chapel…

It took my breath away! The mighty chamber held sculptures, dioramas and beautiful chandeliers, all crafted from the very salt around them. An amazing representation of the last supper that gave the illusion of great depth but was barely 15cm deep. A perfect nativity scene with the baby Jesus in salt from another Polish mine where the salt is high in iron oxide creating an orange glow from the light behind him. And this vast expanse was created by 3 men working for over 60 years! My words cannot do it justice, no ones can, this must be seen to be believed. (internet pics won’t do it either, you have to see it for yourselves, it gave me goosebumps).

Moving onwards we passed by a massive lake, now whom amongst you spots the problem of water in a salt mine… Yes you at the back!

Correct! Salt dissolves in water, which is a little unnerving when you are 100m underground and surrounded by salt. However this water (like the Dead Sea) is saturated with salt. Throwing salt into it is no different than throwing a rock in, it won’t dissolve (phew).

We finally came to a chamber second only to St. Kinga’s because of its size… Easily 6 stories high!! During the war (lol) the bloody Nazis (yes, them again) used it to make plane engines, clever really because no matter how much it was bombed, it was secure. So we brought some tat from the gift shop in there (yes, the most amazing gift shop to work in! (Oh yes! Must buy some stamps for the post cards)). They also had a lift, clearly liberated from a shopping mall, to take you up to a viewing level… It was pretty great but to be honest it was almost like looking up… Just from the other direction lol.

Oh by the way, this was the end of our tour, I’m sure the guide to take us out said 500 metres to the lift. LIES!!!! we walked for ages to the lift but eventually we got to the lift that’s all over in 30secs (it’s damn fast). Just a note for anyone who decides to come to Krakow and the surrounding locations. There is no clear defined route back to the station.. Head down the hill and head left.. But get an ice cream from the good looking polish girl at the counter in the wall, they were epic.

So Twizzles told you about waiting for the train home but once we did some shopping in town her tummy was really hurting so we made our way back to the hotel for a siesta. Five minutes after getting off the tram we heard an almighty screech and a SUV comes hiring down the street, over the central reservation across the oncoming traffic (luckily they had been stopped at previous lights) up the pavement, clipped the back of a parked car and then rammed into two further parked cars narrowly missing a tree. It looked like the guy was alright and there were plenty of locals on the scene so we left them to it but the car was clearly going about 100mph! Imagine if we’d been walking faster or the tram hadn’t been stopped at so many traffic lights, it was just 30 metres in front of us. Nothing on the news yet we can find but Zombie went out for dinner in the evening and the 4 cars were still there banged up. Crazy!

You’ll have to wait for photos from inside until we get back home because you had to pay for a photo pass so we just used Twizzles’ DSLR camera and we have no way of getting them off the SD card.

It’s a few hours before our 3 hour train journey to Warsaw, you’ve been good to us Krakow we must do this again some time.
Peace, love and DFTBA.

Twizzles & Zombie.

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OMG we’re in Poland

Day 1 13h 25m AET
First of all I’d like to apologise for the title, Twizzles wanted it like that.
Wow, what a first day!
The smiles started as soon as we got on the flight. It was very crowded and this rather lovely conversation took place as soon as almost everyone was seated
Steward (Karol) gets the attention of a lady and this happened:
Karol: Excuse me, I have a question I’d like to ask you.
Lady: Yes?
Karol: we’re the tray tables down when you got to these seats?
Lady: Yes
Karol: Did it have one of these “Reserved” signs on it? (Holds up sign)
Lady: Yes it did (holds up the one from her seat)
Karol: Can you tell me what the picture indicates?
Lady: Yes it shows someone sitting down with a line through them meaning you shouldn’t sit here because it is reserved.
Karol: then can you please explain to me (getting louder and more patronizing) why you decided to sit there?
Lady: Yes I have a reservation for this seat
Karol: oh my god I am so so sorry…. (spouts of platitudes)

I love Ryanair sometimes

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So at Krakow airport we were told it was a brisk 2km walk to our hotel… Nooo we caught a 20 min train into town and then a bus back out of town lol,

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I have realised how much I have missed Poland.. Such a beautiful friendly place and everyone seems happy to help. Exquisite food too, so far we have only had a sandwich and a Precle (pretzel) but OMG how tasty and fresh?!?
Now the plan is fro Twizzles and I to snooze off the lack of sleep and then head into the old town

I’ll probably post again tonight but sleep may call so if not I’ll post over breakfast

Much Love
НЗБД
Zombie

T-6 days 16 hrs

I love this countdown clock on my phone, it’s even programmed to count up too so I can record the time of any significant event :-)
Some might call that a bit silly ~ I would agree, which makes it worth doing ;-)
In a couple of days were going to unpack and then repack (yes Twizzles has already packed) to make sure we have everything… I’m still all in favor of flinging stuff in a back ans trusting our luck… It’s worked out for me before. But saying that, before I was always alone but now I have Twizzles to look after and so I’ll defer to her way.
I’ve just realised that I need to check the bus to the salt mines in Krakow and the best way to our hotel when we arrive in the city… Even I research that sort of thing
Much Love
НЗБД
Zombie

Getting there

Ok so its the middle of January, we are leaving in the middle of August; Twizzles has already made a list of what to take in the cases. Speaking of, we picked up a Radley Case for £50!! how cool is that? 

Got some advice from Mama Zombie, she gave me some useful info for Krakow and Warsaw. But we were on the phone talking over directions on a map, we had two different maps and the Lonely Planet pocket map clearly didn’t have the same level of detail as hers because she was listing every street name not shown on my map. Fortunately she’s going to lend me that map so we won’t get lost. 

The Lonely Planet guide also has a small section about Auschwitz-Birkenau. Not sure how I feel about visiting this place. Of course it deserves our time and needs to be witnessed but even the few pictures (or even the street map of Oswiecim (which is the polish name for the town)) seem almost scary. I have an odd fascination with things that scare me but I have no idea how seeing this place of mechanised horror will affect me. I would like to post from the camp to try to articulate how I’m feeling in the moment, as it were. Would this be disrespectful? I’m not sure to be honest but I want this journal to include true feelings of the places we visit and I get the feeling that somewhere like that will generate feelings which should be logged and not allowed to be diluted by time.

I’d appreciate any posts with opinions on this. If we agree I shouldn’t (or its simply not possible) I promise to write my feelings down in my notebook and post them upon our return to Krakow.

Enough of such a depressing subject. Everything is booked now, the only thing outstanding is the long haul train travel within Poland, we’ll pick that up a little closer to the time.

The reality of this trip is starting to settle in, I have wanted to visit Auschwitz and Chernobyl for so long and this year I’m finally going to get to do it. As long as I’m planning to go places I might hit up out Chernobyl tour provider for a trip to somewhere totally batshit crazy… North Korea. 

On that note I’ll bid you goodnight

~Zombie