Praguedise

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Spring holiday break was coming and I had no plans for it. I was thinking about visiting Prague, with some friends to accompany and by the cheap cost. But eventually the group of friends split, some of them resigned cause we were waiting too long and prices increased. The Prague has fallen. However, some personal issues, daily cases and other etceteras decided that the Prague has been reactivated, but by hitchhike and in a two people team. It was completely spontaneous and unprepared. We didn’t actually have any experience in hitchhiking so we went without any itinerary, map, any weapon like pepper spray, only the backpack, aim and no experience! In the morning we got the tram to get to the borders of the city, pulled out a board saying ‘Prague’ and were just walking down the road. We were extremely lucky, the longest we have been waiting for someone to stop was half of hour in Krakow where we were departure from. Right in the beginning of our journey we had the first results of our lack of preparation. One nice man told us to go to Chyzne instead of Cieszyn, cause it’s more people going there and that was the truth. Although in the next car we realized that Chyzne is on the border with Slovakia, not Czech Republic. Let’s say it’s just cause it was our first time. On the next stop we bought the map and re-planned our route.

We had a lot of luck and on our way we met plenty of really nice drivers. We reached Slovakia in four cars, I mean – with four transfers. Young couple gave us a lift to Liptovsky Mikulas, and then we realized that we have to get from the centre of the city that we completely don’t know to any motorway on the outskirts. So we were following the road signs to Zylina but we couldn’t find any motorway. We stopped to catch any car but nobody wanted to take us. Finally one nice man told us that the road is quite close. And apparently it was but going on a relatively big bridge. My friend climbed on that bank among the bushes and branches and checked which way should we pick, and then it was my turn to join her. It was another stroke of luck when just after 3 minutes one man stopped and gave us a lift right to the border with Czech Republic in Trencin and helped us to plan the rest of the route. We were meant to catch a car to Brno and after some time we managed to, but what is almost unbelievable, after a short talk the driver found out that we are going to Prague and he declared that he is going there as well and may take us directly there. He was incredibly nice, talkative, offered us to show the hill in Slavkov (Austerlitz) where the famous Battle of the Three Emperors happened, and when we finally reached Prague, bought us tickets to underground and explained how to get where we wanted to get. It was long but very nice and a little bit adventurous way.

Apparently we didn’t really know how we want to spend time In Prague. After 12 hours of travelling there through Slovakia we manager to get to our host whom we fund on Couchsurfing – site that enables meeting people from all around the Word when travelling and staying In their places (or opposite – host other people). We went with Jan to very nice old pub in artistic area, where I have accidentally invented a new way of drinking beer. That time I was a big fan of Radler (or Shandy however you call it) – beer with Sprite. Unfortunately they had neither Radler nor just Sprite. In Poland it is popular to drink beer with syrups like raspberry or ginger, what is similar to British blackcurrant beer but the syrup is a little bit more thick. Although I forgot how to say ‘syrup’ in English and asked for the beer with juice. Then the barman asked me if I prefer apple or orange which was quite surprising, but I didn’t give up and choose orange. Then barman asked me in what proportion do I want that ‘one to one?’. My eyes grew bigger and then I realized what I ordered, so I just nodded to confirm. But what was the most surprising is that this beer was pretty good! 🙂

We spent our first Day In Prague on exploring Vysehrad with our host Jan. After that we were straying around Andel district to find the work place of our next host – Italian Francesco. As we found out later he was working in Ferrero, so all the time he was sharing with us those amazing chocolates. During the rest of the day we had some time so see Hradcany and in the evening we hit to conquer night clubs, including famous Sasazu which is apparently one of the biggest clubs in Europe or something like that. We had such an awesome company with our host and his friends that we didn’t really see the city – only the old town.

After three days spent in Prague we wanted to go back although, we set off a bit too late. It was rainy Sunday, and we were standing in that rain wet waiting for any car to stop by the entrance to the highway. After quite a long time we decided that it won’t work and came back to our Italian. We wanted to go by train to Ostrava next day and catch any car there to Poland, as it’s pretty close to the border. We were exhausted by this stay in Prague and no I know that returns by hitchhike are very hard and depressing. Thanks to the nice old lady we got a lift to the motorway already on a Polish side. From there, again luckily, took us an English man working in Poland and going to Rybnik. And there was the most depressing moment of our journey. We were waiting for hours until one lovely student gave us a lift closer to the motorway and told us that in any case we can spend a night in student houses nearby. Again we were standing for hours freezing and finally we were so desperate that we decided to climb to that motorway. And then in the middle of our way I spontaneously decided to keep showing our board AND A CAR STOPPED THEN! It was so unbelievable! We were so excited and enthusiastic that the driver loved us from the very beginning. And this is how we finished our journey in Krakow thanks to lovely Sir Artur 🙂

Potatokraine

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The trip to the Ukraine was the beginning of the short period of travelling with my friend Ada. Everything started with the Erasmus recruitment. We asked in International Office how we can earn some additional points for the Erasmus exchange and one of the ways was to take part in short term student exchange. I didn’t really know that our University offer such kind of stuff. We got qualified for the trip to the Ternopil in April 2012. The agreement of that exchange is very good idea – student needs to pay 100 PLN (about £20) on the account of University and pay for the transport to the place of exchange, the rest is paid by University.

 

Before the trip the biggest problem was how to get to Ternopil (Ukraine) the cheapest way. Most of the people in our group who has already been on such exchanges wanted to go there by car, but there wuldn’t be enough space for us all. Our supervisor informed us that apart from us there is another group of students from another University in our city that is going for that exchange as well. Supervisor of that other group offered renting a bus which was supposed to take us to Ternopil and back for 200 PLN (about £40). Actually everybody agreed for that option and it wouldn’t probably change if not the fact that when I asked that supervisor for the invoice for those money, he started to explain that not all of those costs are able to be invoiced (like bribes in Ukraine an stuff…) and he would not be able to give the invoice for all the money we would pay. That was very suspicious so we decided to resign of his offer and get to Ukraine by ourselves by train to Przemysl, and from there take the ‘couch’ to Ternopil. But the supervisor of the other group held his own and kept calling me every time giving the lower price from the previous one…

 

All in all after a small before trip party we got onto the train station almost losing half of the group which wouldn’t be on time in the train at 4 am. During the transfer in Przemysl, lovely dirty post-communist city, we treated ourselves with underdone scrambled eggs in dingy bar neraby the station. Right after that we found our ‘couch’. So that ‘couch’ turned out to be a dilapidated per city bus ‘Ikarus’ (old, but I mean really old Hungarian model of a bus), filled up to the roof with different food, meant, vegetables, fruits packed even into the holes of air condition regulators, very well camouflaged to confuse the scary boarder agents. Despite the Spartan conditions in the bu our trip was not that bad, after all everybody survived. It was my first time when I travelled to the east of Europe and I must admit that just after getting a stamp in the passport I was shocked by the culture differences. This time the border was actually a border. Right behind the borderline I got punched in the face by a total different world. On our route we were passing only fields and little towns with the domination of fields. Like if there were no villages, suburbs or anything – void and then couple of blocks and again and again. Situation that I will probably never forget – our trip was in April right before the Euro 2012 (in Poland and Ukraine) – we are driving peacefully on the riddled road and then on the horizon there appeared something big and grey. That construction or whatever it was started to grow as we were getting closer. After some time it seemed to be even something nice and… pretty? Next to it there were two massive hills of sand and a couple of blocks of flats, but apart from that all around fields and nothing. I got really confused so I asked one old lady in the bus what is this thing and what response I got… ‘stadion, Kiev’. Didn’t ask for anything else 🙂

 

How about the Ternopil by itself. There is a big lake inside of the city dividing it into two parts. It’s really useful thing especially in the summer, I guess. Unfortunately we in the April had no choice but wearing jackets and coats. The University we came to visit offered us some kind of educational-cultural programme. About all those more formal meetings like conference and stuff our group was not really positive, we did not really attend these. We have been on a couple of trips around the area, in Zbaraz, Krzemieniec and … BEER FACTORY!. Ukrainian students turned out to be really nice company and took care of our entertainment. Well, the stereotypes about drinking are really true. I had to be really assertive in that situation cause I am not the biggest fan of alcohol, and their propensity to drink is insane. I guess Polish have the same abilities, guys from our group were delighted by the drinking company. I am not the fun of clubbing as well however, Ukrainian clubs are probably the best I have visited so far (even better then Sasazu in Prague!). Long kilometres of dance floors, plenty of people, good music, charismatic DJs and other good stuff and good fun.

 

Of course very important part of every trip is the cuisine. Well, in our case it wasn’t great. We had dinners in the University’s canteen but every after we had to eat up some more because of the tiny portions, but even there it was possible to notice the characteristics of Ukrainian cuisine. Considering the portions of food on the plate it was more or less like this: meat was about 1/8 of the plate, some kind of poor salad ¼ and finally ¾ if not more was potatoes! Yey for potatoes, they are EVERYWHERE! Every single thing in Ukrainian cuisine might be connected with potatoes, it’s simply the base for that cuisine. We went on one city trip to the bakery to have a snack, my friend took a filled bun, you know like those normally served with cheese and ham or something sweet like jam. He got bun stuffed with… yes, potatoes :).We went to Italian pizzeria, the speciality was the Ukrainian pizza – with potatoes and onion, mmm yummy! Voda, of course made of potatoes as well :). So gourmets without excitement :(.

 

We had with Ada very ambitious plan of making a reportage about mass murders of dogs in Ukraine before Euro 2012 however, we didn’t have enough time to collect the material, but when we finally had some, our translator was busy. We were meant to prepare this after the trip but the enthusiasm went down and it didn’t happen. And that was pretty much out week in Ternopil. For some in our group every day ended with a party, other were a bit more exhausted so they were falling asleep before 9pm. Last day we even managed to get lost getting into the wrong bus, unfortunately that was the only one rainy day, but really rainy. Farewell was sweet and lovely. We met fantastic people but then the time came to get into the same old Ikarus bus, hide some illegal extra packages of cigarettes into underwear to be able to take them through the border and get back. We are so lucky people so to have some more adventures we got a flat tire and missed the last train to Krakow. We spent a lovely night on the train station in Rzeszow then and in the morning finally got back home. Very nice trip :).