Monday, September 17, 2007

Lithuania: Kaunas, Vilnius, Klaipeda

After meeting Rox in Warsaw we caught a bus to Kaunas in Lithuania. Kaunas is pretty cool, best part was we found the town square full of locals almost fighting over free beer and a spit roast cow! Due to our lack of a desire to elbow old ladies to get any chance of a piece we settled for sitting back and watching... boy the meat looked good though.

From Kaunas we hitch hiked to Vilnius. Yep, we hitch hiked. We have decided to hitch hike all around these Baltic States as we heard it was the easiest place in the world to do so... and it has turned out really well actually. We got our first ride in less than 20 minutes, in fact, it took me longer to make the sign than to get the ride! The combination of Hitch Hiking and couchsurfing is lethal... we have pretty much only met local people, which I think is the travellers dream.

In Vilnius we destroyed a castle on a hill (read destroyed as went to/saw/appreciated) but the retreat was marred by a fence...

... so we used all our skills and analysed the situation, elicited the requirements then came upon the required solution (on time and on budget):

There is also a district in Vilnius which has declared Independence and has a constitution which was rather interesting, made for a good photo opportunity.

We also did a day trip around the south, went to a cool castle next to a pretty lake..

..and to a theme park dedicated to the old Communists Statues that were everywhere... whose this guy you ask? The dude that gave Warsaw its prettiest building.

From Vilnius we hitch hiked up to the Hill of Crosses which is quite cool, worth the 300km deviation to have a look at.

8 rides and a sneaky bus ride later we arrived in Klaipeda which is right next to a national park on the Curonian Spit which is good for a spot of hiking.

So we are now in Latvia, and Rox is beside me looking at whether hitchhiking all the way to Paris is a good option or not... hopefully it is. Hitch hiking is the new awesome thing we have discovered, the best part is getting stuck in the middle of nowhere and thinking all is lost, having to see views like this till you see a car with there indicator on... is there a sweeter sight?.

Poland: WARSAW

I am so fickle. I have fallen in love again. My first impression of Warsaw came in Wroclaw where a resident of Warsaw told me it sucked and was not worth it... so I went there with an expectation of a pretty average city, and this expectation was spectacularly exceeded!

How about I refrain from my usual poor commentary and visually stun you with some cool pictures and small descriptions?

My walk from the train station to the metro station afforded me my first glimpse of the Palace of Culture and Science.

Its frickin' beautiful. A gift from Stalin to Warsaw (which Warsaw had to pay for and build).

The old town. Completely rebuilt from scratch recently as it was utterly destroyed after Hitler ordered Warsaw off the map in 1944 after the Uprising.

A new street from the old town.

The old phone exchange building with the Warsaw Uprising logo atop. There was a big battle here during the uprising.

An old Vodka factory.


A fantastic market in an old Stadium. Got me some cheap socks.

Graffiti. If you can translate please let me know... I hope its not too offensive.
And last and least, Pierce Brosnan. He was everywhere man, massive billboards across the whole city. Made me feel safe knowing he was watching over us.

Ok, so perhaps one story.... First up, Rox and I met up on my last night in Warsaw and we then met up with the students I met in Wroclaw. We started out evening with some sheesha and beers then Kris, the main man, suggested we come to some VIP function his dad was involved with... turned out to be far more than we expected. We were in the same room as the Mayor of Warsaw, the Mayor of Budapest, heaps of free food, and free wine! The last two I was most excited about. Saw some really cool live Polish music too.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Poland: Wroclaw, Krakow

Gen Dobra. Here is an run down on my adventurous 2 weeks in Poland. I have adopted Poland as my home country in Eastern Europe, and Warsaw as one of my top favourite cites of all time... up there with Cairo and Genova.

So I started my adventure in Wroclaw (pronounced vro-shlav... or something, I am still working on that). I actually stayed in a hostel there as I hadn't organised any couches or anything, but it turned out for the best (as everything always seems to) as I met a student from Warsaw and we went out for a drink... he also introduced me to two other friends of his who we went out with the next night as well... more about them later...

This is the Museum which was closed, but looked real cool. Wroclaw is neat, 3rd in the world for number of bridges in a city (120, behind Venice and St. Petersburg). Its a nice town, good for a few days, and not too many tourists. No one likes tourists.

Lots of art and crap too, which I am increasingly beginning to appreitiate. This is the anonymous pedistrian.

From there to Krakow. Krakow is the main tourist destination in Poland and has a heap of stuff. I spent a few days here (perhaps 5?). Lots of castles, old towns, history, Sheesha, art, beer, new friends, old friends, everything really. Rox and I managed to be on the same connecting train in Poland somewhere where we caught up and then parted ways again, it was an incredible display of timing really.

This is a view from the window of the apartment I was staying in, all very socialist, heaps of apartments in this part of town. From Krakow we went for a day in Aushwitz which is the largest Nazi concentration camp... pretty intense. Also off to the Tatras for a few days hiking with a new friend.Unfortunately the weather wasn't tops so we couldn't spend the night up there, but it was good to get about and about and see some of Poland.

The Tatra Mountains were really cool, and cold. And like German hiking there were pubs with beer scattered threw them... oh well.

Back in Krakow I got to play some real street ball with the same guy in the Tatra photo on this ghetto hoop. Man it was cool, the back board was solid steel, the net was made from a massive chain and the hoop had absolutley no give so all my triples seemed to miss...

Ok, I was going to tack Warsaw on here but seen as its one of my top cities (and Cairo got 4 posts!) I think it deserves its own post... so... off to Warsaw!