Aug 5, 2008
Scandinavia is no adventure. Not even the Baltix are an adventure. Arriving at 6am, after a torturing night in the bus, to an unknown place, suburb-looking, where almost everything is closed, nobody speaks any language you might understand, the local language has nothing to do with anything that might sound familiar, you have no map, no Lonely Planet, no Marco Polo Guide, nothing, it’s just you and your huge luggage, alone – THAT is an adventure.
The bus from Vilnius stops at Warszawa Zachodnia. What it means, I have no idea. Maybe “bus station”. I didn’t know that the international bus station is somewhere in the wild. Everything is grey, reminding me of the grey parts of Bucharest, and of the Warsaw Pact.
I go to a counter and ask – “how do i buy a train ticket?” The lady answers in Polish – “you go out and buy from there”. Or, at least that’s what I understood from the body language – “out” there is however only a closed hot dog stand.
I go back, and speak to the youngest lady I find, betting on the Baltic principle “all youngsters speak English”.
Not this one.
After a while, I find another girl who manages to signexplain to go down to the subway and get a train for 2 stops. So I go, look for a train. I see one that’s leaving in 1 minute. Quickly, I ask a “Western”-looking biker if this goes to central station – confusion. I try in German – he seems to react better, and shows me: “2 stops”. I infer that it is “my” train, and hop on.
With no money, as the cash machine at the station was not working. No ticket either, but enough tension accumulated to face a control without fear. Luckily, there is no need for that, and we reach the second stop, Warszawa Śródimieście. Now how on Earth would a foreigner dream that “Śródimieście” means “central”? On the other hand, I think of home – nothing is explained in English there, either, if you go to Bucharest as a foreigner, you must be feeling pretty similarly. Ouch.
Upon exit, I have again no idea where I am, but I see a familiar building, what in Bucharest is called the Press House, built to look like the Lomonosov Palace in Moscow – you see one in each ex-Warsaw Pact capital. Mhmm, so – this must be fairly central.
With a sudden resolution, I ask a young blonde lady with an ipod – I thought, this one speaks English for sure – where Kopernika Street is. Very kind, she stops, takes earplugs out, and speaks for a minute or so, in Polish, then raises her shoulders and leaves.
I don’t even know if I should go left or right.
However, just in case I want to shorten my trip and go home directly, I know how I stand:
(RZYM, pronounced… no, i cant spell that in English, in Romanian it would sound something like RJÎM, means “Rome”)
People are very friendly. I ask a guy at a kiosk, and he kindly replies: “wyzydow srtrzwyzwznyzw wyowidazwzycia przjzwznjzw”. From the signs I figure “left, and then right”. Ok. At the corner, I stop the first person I meet, a gentleman, and ask, again: “Kopernika?”
YES!! ULITZA! The first word I understand! It means “little street” in Romanian, “street” in Polish! But then:
“Priwizdywzyie zrwawjawjowie wyzwyjania zwesizwuwiec.”
So I follow him.
The poor guy is in a hurry, he asks me something, I don’t even know how to say “i don’t understand a single sound you are making, not to speak of any word you are saying”, so I just raise shoulders and keep walking, silently and fast. He asks a cab driver, no answer. We move on. Then he suddenly attacks like a hawk a young lady whom we met on the sidewalk, and – she speaks English! With a big smile on his face, he leaves me with her and hurries on. I am truly grateful for his efforts.
The girl says “go straaaaight and then right”. She didn’t say when to turn right. I didn’t ask.
Luckily, I meet an elderly gentleman who answers my question with “je ne sais pas”. Ha! So I quickly ask in French, and he tells me when to turn right.
So I turn right, and walk… and walk… till I say – “I can’t stand this any more”. It’s getting hot, and i am dressed for the… Arctic Circle. So I stop, take the jacket off, ask an old man where da hell this kopernika ulitza is, and he energetically answers – przjzwznjzwiec poieswzyuwijec przewrjezwsywiec and shows me – the street was right there, 20 meters away.
I quickly find the Helvetia hostel, the guy at the reception tells me that he liked Romania, especially Brașov and Mediaş (!), but Bucharest not so much. “Too bad, it has a lot of potential, but…”
In the meantime, it’s already 9am. Time to discover Warsaw.