Saturday, April 30, 2011

Leaving Poland

Had to do a few practical things today, some shopping for Kath's gran. Apparently she told Kath that as there was a man in the house he could help carry several litres of her favourite yoghurt drink from the shop upto the flat. Which I of course obligingly did. I had a huge laugh when I saw "Power fist" cleaner.

After shopping Kath showed me how to make spicy tomato soup. Which we ate with Desperadoes beer with lime and a garlic baguette.

Having upgraded my internet connection with Virgin I had a spare Dlink 615 router which I gave to Kath. It's wireless N with multiple in multiple out so should provide better connection. I got it up and running cloning the MAC address of the old one and setting up the Wifi.

Wanting to enjoy the last of the good weather we went for a walk to the Cathedral then another beer before heading back to the apartment for a long cuddle.

We had planned to go for a nice meal out at a restaurant, however we decided to go and pizza and a beer instead. Taking a taxi to the American pizza 66, and ordering there awesome quattro pizza where you get to decide on different toppings for each quarter.

When we got back to the apartment Kaths gran wanted to say goodbye. She doesn't speak English so Kath had to translate, it was very touching she even gave me a kiss goodbye. Made me feel very happy to have met all her family and be liked by them.

In order to get the flight I had to take a bus from Białystok to Warsaw airport, leaving at 11.30pm. We arrived at the Airport about 2.45am in the morning. Time for a coffee and a cuddle before I headed through security and Kath headed back to Białystok.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Visit to the lake

Today Kath and I decided to visit White River reservoirs at Zalew Dojlidy. Stopping first at the local shop to get a little picnic for lunch.
Heading out there were a few drops of water in the air but the sky seemed clear so we took a risk. Riding the bus out of the city to the more rural zone, Arriving at the lake we sat down to have a bite to eat. No sooner did we eat the first sandwich, the weather turned and wind and rain started down. We hid out under the roof of a nearby shop (which was closed due to the time of year).

Instead we decided to head to a shopping mall for a coffee then a film. There wasn't a lot to choose from so we decided to go for Limitless. A film about a man who stumbles upon a drug NZT which increases his mental capacity many fold. It wasn't a bad film, quite an interesting take on the idea. I suspect drug companies are already working on drugs like this.

After the film the weather had turned for the better so we went for a walk round the park then stopped at the jazz bar for a drink. Then to an Italian for dinner. The Italian had an awesome backwards clock

Deciding to get and early night, we watched then new Woody Allen film "You will meet a tall dark stranger". Following the lives of a family, and the influence of a fortune teller has on them. Almost the antitheses of the American, the characters explain virtually everything going on. more of a play than a film really. I don't think that it is his best film the ending left everything to the imagination of the viewer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fountains in Białystok

After a nice lie in we took a walk around Białystok. From Kaths apartment around the Branicki palace gardens. Since I was last there they have and are doing an awful lot of work. They have been renovating and restoring the gardens, including the fountains.

I found out that Białystok has a community wireless with free WiFi in large parts of the city. It requires only a simple signup. Result!

After the walk we met up with Kath's colleagues Paul and Joanna. We met them at a Mexican restaurant, which had featured in the Polish equivalent of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares.

Paul and Joanna were both very nice, bringing Kath her insurance form for her upcoming surgery and her timetable. They seemed like a force of nature trying to sort out there little business.

Paul told us a funny story about Kath trying to get her expenses repaid. Back in their early days of medicine they were working at a hospital out of town, they had basically no money but were supposed to have their bus tickets refunded. However as with most bureaucracy the money didn't appear. Paul goaded Kath to call and complain, so she rang and delivered a speech down the phone to the shocked women on the other end of the line.  The women seemed terribly shocked and took a minute before she responded, "I wish I could help but this is 66 Pizza!". Apparently Paul didn't stop laughing the entire bus ride home.

After Dinner Paul arranged for us to take a tour of the anatomy department where he works. It was very interesting for me to see all the anatomical exhibits, sections of brains, lungs, and various body parts pickled in formaldehyde. It must have taken a long time to section out the various parts, not to mention the drawings.

We had to get back to Kaths apartment, for 3.30 as her gran was having physiotherapy. After which Kath and I went to the awesome African Coffee house. They have coffees from all over the world, different blends and types. I took an expresso and we tried a cold coffee, with mint and coffee ice cubes.

In the evening Kath and I headed out to meet Goofy and Ella. We started in Bierhalle. Its hard not to  like Goofy, he is the life and soul of a night out. Funny even in English, and more fluent than I remember. He reminds me very much of Matt Woller. We ate and drank, chatting and laughing, while the Barcelona, Real Madrid game placed out on the TV screens. It was a fun evening we even went to another bar for a nightcap.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gąbin to Białystok

Another day of travelling beckoned as Kath and I left the parents house and headed to Białstok. Wojtek was also heading to Warsaw back to university. The weather was hot and sunny again, the sun shone hard as we waited for the bus to Warsaw. Unfortunately the world and dog had the same idea, the bus arriving full of people.

After some debate we decided to head to Płock as there was a direct service from there to Warsaw and our train. Technically we could have taken a bus directly to Białstok. However it would mean 6 hours on a bus, so changing to the train in Warsaw seemed like a much better plan.

Kath's dad was good enough to give us a lift to Płock, where we picked up an autobus to Warsaw. Wojtek slept most of the way, so much so Kath was worried about being able to wake him up. The autobus took a few hours and dropped us all off in the Centre of Warsaw. We said goodbye to Wojtek, and narrowly missed one train. So we enjoyed a coffee and a muffin at coffee heaven. Our enjoyment only slightly dampened by the little girl begging.

After coffee we went for a wander around the weirdly shaped department store next to the central station. Killing time before the train arrived. I wanted to get a magazine so we went into a shop which sold magazines around the world. I took a copy of the economist, Kath got a copy of a womens magazine. I noticed the times on sale for 68 złotys, about £15!

We took the train to Białstok finally arriving about 9.30 in the evening. We felt pretty tired after all the travelling so ordered a pizza then had a early night.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Today we decided to go and see Kath's cousin and her boyfriend. We took along Karolina, Wojtek couldn't get out of bed.

Płock was about an hour away by bus. Briefly the capital of Poland 1079–1138, so has some nice buildings and architecture. The current source of wealth is the nearby oil refinery.

First stop was the Zoo where we met up with Kath's cousin. The zoo is fairly new and very well done. With a range of animals, Penguins, Kangaroos, Lions, Snow Leopards and a really nice butterfly enclosure that you can walk through and watch the butterflies close up. I enjoyed the Zoo, especially the Meerkats and the Pengiuns.

Karolina, got a chance to go in the petting zoo part to see the goats sheep and rabbits. She seemed to have a fun time.

After the zoo Karolina went off with her cousin while Kath and I went into the town. The weather was gorgeous and it was a nice walk from the Zoo past the Cathedral then down into the old market town. We found a nice bar with its own brewery, we tried out several of the beers. The wheat beer was really nice. Then we had a lunch, I had a highlander special, a kind of pancake filled with meat and sauce served with cabbage, it was really tasty. While we were sat we watched people playing in the fountain and squirting each other with water. Apparently it is Polish tradition to throw water over young women on Easter Monday, it ensures that they get married apparently! 

After lunch we went to see the cousins flat they had decorated. It was quite a nice place however, I found it very difficult as they spoke no English so it was a very awkward time.

We all left an attempted to get the bus back to Gąbin, unfortunately it being Easter Monday the bus we had been trying to catch wasn't running. Instead we had to wait for a while and goto a different place to get a city bus. Killing time at McDonalds, where I was able to get online. My mobile plan doesn't have roaming data so I was reliant on free WiFi. I was stuffed and just had a drink but Karoline and Kath shared a McFlurry with smarties, yummy!

After a long wait finally we managed to get the bus back, as we alighted and walked back to Kath's parents a car drove past and someone sprayed us all with a water pistol, nice!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter in Poland

Poland is a fairly religious country, following the Catholic faith so Easter is a really big deal. There was lots of preparation, the table was dressed. Wanda even said a prayer before we ate. The preparation took a while, there were loads of different things to eat, different meats, salads, and lots of eggs.

It was a really incredibly spread, so much so that I ate my own body weight in food.  After Easter breakfast Kath and were so stuffed that we decided to go for a long walk through the forest. This time about 5km to a nearby lake. We had a beer at looking out over the water, it was beautiful.

In the evening we watched a film with Wojtek. The American starring George Clooney as a hit man. He hides in a Remote Italian town on the run from other hit man. It had a good rating on IMDB however I didn't think it was deserved. I found it a plodding drama, with far too many silent shots of Clooney brooding. In what I felt was a vein attempt to build up the tension. I never identified with his character at all, given in the first moment he guns down a potentially innocent women.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Arrival in Poland

My dad picked me up bright and early, at 5am. I was feeling somewhat sleepy and a little achy after spending the previous day helping my parents re-roof their shed.

Everything was on time and a few hours later I walked out at arrivals to find Kath mesmerised by a pet raccoon who was waiting with its owners for someone arriving.

We had a coffee and a sandwich then headed to the bus station. Kath warned me that is was a pretty awful station and while she wasn't wrong. I looked like something out of a 70's era Soviet station. It stank, and looked more like Stalag 17. What was more interesting was part of the station includes a hostel. It looked more like a horror film, next to the bus station and railway lines, grey, ugly and dirty.

Fortunately I had Kath to keep me company. I was a bit afraid that we would end up on  one of the 70s era bus, fortunately ours was a more modern variety.

Our eventual destination was Gąbin, a small city where Kath's parents live. Easter is a big thing in Poland so Kath and I were to join them for a few days. I had never met Kath's dad before and am unused to big family gatherings so was a little apprehensive.

We arrived in the late afternoon, the weather was beautiful. Met up with Kath's mum Wanda, sister Karolina, brother Wojtek and dad Marek. It was a little overwhelming at first, so Kath and I went for a walk in the forest. Luckily they all speak English so I wasn't totally at sea.

After the walk we sat down to a traditional post Easter meal. There was no meat on Easter Saturday so the meal had lots of herring, and salad. It was tasty and different for me. 

After the meal we had  a gin and tonic and some Lithuanian Vodka in celebration of Wojtek's names day. Polish celebrate both birthdays and names day. It was very nice family time.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Blogger mobile

Just visited pets at home to buy food for Cocoa. Mum came with me ostensibly to buy food for storm only she decided the the 20kg bags are too big. Playing with my phone I found the blogger mobile app so I thought I would give it a try. So far its pretty good, though I prefer a real keyboard over a virtual one any day.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Under cover of darkness

I just finished reading The Road of Bones: A Journey to the Dark Heart of Russia

Inspired by the painting Vladimirka Road by Isaak Levitan  Poolman and his friend Max decide to embard on a trip down the Vladimirka Road from Moscow to Siberia. Tracing the route taken by millions of unfortunate people purged by both the Tsars and the Soviets.
Max dies of cancer before the trip, so Poolman embarks on his own, and the book recounts his journey across Russia, interspersed with harrowing accounts of the dissapeared people, and the horrifying stories of lives destroyed by the oppressive regimes in Russia. Interspersed with the history his journey is interspersed with meetings with Russians each of whom has their own story to tell.
It was a really depressing read, though cathartic and moving. It made me feel glad to live in a country which doesn't persecute and march its people off to gulag simply for telling a joke at the expense of the generalissimo.