Dream trip Day 92 Plane, bus, hello Edinburgh, hello UK…

Travel day yet again! Couting all the flights, this would make lucky 7:

DFW to London

Bordeaux to Lisbon

Porto to Madrid

Barcelona to Brussels

Brussels to Barcelona

Barcelona to Budapest

I flew easyJet, Ryanair whatever was cheapest, really. I knew having a backpack and a satchel, both qualified for carry on. So no surprise fees as long as you remember to eat  and fill up your water bottle before boarding.

I mainly used skyscanner.com a site that shows you the daily flight costs for any route out of any airport by month. I had the luxury of waiting for the cheapest week or day for a flight to my destination.

I’d also check flights on hipmunk.com where you can select flights based on agony, or a combination of transfers,  flight time, layovers etc.

Edinburgh came up really cheap from Warsaw. I think the flight was really just had a layover in Edinburgh en route to London.

I’d also taken into account hostel check out time this trip so I wouldn’t walk around aimlessly for a couple hours.

I had time to pack up and hit up the corner coffee shop one last time. Free wi-fi, too. Had to update my family so they’d know where I was, so I dropped them an email with pics.

This was my last chance for moderately priced food as well so I picked up a sandwich and apple for the trip.

I opened my Uber app and had a car take me to the airport. It was accessible via public transportation. 2 buses and at least an hour, mainly waiting on the transfer bus to the airport.

Only 20 min via car so why not go out in style?

The Warsaw airport was a bit confusing, it had a lot of gates, over 50, but for some reason the block to my flight wasn’t along the main walking route.

My routine is to walk as far as I can throughout the terminal before boarding, in an effort to tire myself out a bit as well as explore airports.

It was down to about 15 min before my board time before I realized I may not find my gate in time.

One more pass and there it was, down a hall and some steps, to the basement, were 10 other terminals for smaller flights, I guess. Not sure why they did it different, but I was happy to see it was going to be a pretty empty flight.

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I selected an empty row and was rewarded by a guy who sat along the aisle, no one in the middle. Score!

No close inspections on my entry date. Nor when I landed in Scotland. I correctly stated I was ultimately en route to Dublin, but I had to see Scotland, since it was along the way and all.

The passport girl smiled, “You’ll luv it here. Welcome to Scotland!” She stamped my passport and waved me through.  I was the UK’s problem now.

Luckily I still had some £ in my bag so I was able to afford the bus from airport to my hostel.

It was raining here too! Confounded rain, always following me!

I understood people here! English and with great accents, too.

Our bus turned and stopped, people got in, people go off. No matter if I remembered the name of my stop, I compulsively checked my map app to once again verify. Like, 10x while the bus was rolling.

My stop was doubly easier as it was also the final stop so I don’t know why I was so concerned about missing it.

Bonus: my hostel was maybe 2 blocks from the bus stop, something I didn’t plan for but due to sprinkling rain, I was quite happy about.

It was cold, actually cold here, even with my long sleeve shirt and raincoat on. I was going to have to do some shopping.

I was warmly greeted by the hostel receptionist who had dreads wrapped up like a crown on her head.

No one in my room but I do see bags. I’d see them later.

My hostel was next to a pub so I decided that was best option to end the evening. I am not sure why travel, flying makes you so tired, but it does.

A couple pints, light conversation with a few people asking for another pub. At least I understood them though I couldn’t help.

Hearing different languages does mess with your mind a bit. It takes some time to adjust but then you start picking out a word or phrases soon.

It’s strange, I don’t know any languages well, but hearing a couple words, context, tenor of the conversation I was able to figure out the gist of what people were talking about in each country.

Conversation is the same wherever you go: weather, girl problems, funny story, what’s up with our government?

I finished my pint just as the rain began the fall harder. Night rain is the best rain and best way to fall asleep.

 

Beer: Edinburgh Gold

Song: Mogwai   Travel is Dangerous

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Dream trip Day 91 Burger, beers, Mastodon

I woke up in a daze, I couldn’t wait!

Throughout my trip, I checked local venues for rocks shows. I also checked out many of my favorite band’s tour dates to see if I could see a show. Finally towards the end of my EU trip, things aligned.

Mastodon was playing tonight in Warsaw! That was pretty much the thing that took me to Warsaw.

I’d seen them before so it was going to be extra cool to see them in a foreign country.

I tried to buy an advance ticket but it was a little complicated. Or maybe I just didn’t want to do it their way.

The venue wanted me to go to a bank, give them cash and to deposit it to this account #. At least all the money was going to the venue, bands. No 3rd party ticket guys.

I spent the morning at a local coffee shop, where I stared at the ways to drink coffee chart: flat white, espresso, cappuccino, and so on.

Since this was a coffee shop, they had free wi-fi so I took advantage by listening to some Mastodon.

While I did like their newest record, on this trip I really got into their cover of a Fiest song, A Commotion. Very intriguing vocals, crunchy guitar tones, nice solo. Well that describes most Mastodon’s songs haha.

What to do with the day? Old town stroll then a nice meal before the show. I decided after my 2nd cup of coffee with a little milk. Americano with milk this time, but sometimes a flat white.

I wanted to go back to have more time to really look at the mermaid and walk around the bell for good luck.

My walking tour group scrambled a bit due to a wedding that was going on at a church across the courtyard on this part of our tour.

Since there was a lot of us, we were getting into their wedding pics.

Here goes nothing! I circled the bell 3x and repeated my wish into my head.

There is a large plaza in old town, filled with performers. I stopped by a large marionette band playing ‘Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ by the Stones.

The puppets just when up and down in time with the tune, it looked hard as it was 2 puppet masters, but 5 Stones for both to puppet.

It’s been my experience that cities with mermaid statutes aren’t worth it, they are underwhelmingly small.

Maybe I just expect a huge mermaid statute, not like doll sized. Like everyone I’d seen was the size of a Cabbage Patch doll size statue where you think, “Man, I could hold that mermaid!”

There was also a section on the road to old town of WWII memorials mixed in with blown up photos of battles, marches, and other scenes of war.

Warsaw had taken a beating several times. Always the case when Russia is next door.

I stopped off at my hostel to shower up before the big show.

I left very early for the show as I planned on dinner plus train to get there. I still had to buy a ticket and wanted to see the other bands.

Through my searches I found a burger, beer joint that was based on an auto garage.

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On my trip I had done well to limit my french fry intake both for my health and wallet. I had to face the fact that I was getting older so burger and fries shouldn’t be a meal.

This place took me by surprise as it was a reasonably priced I presumed fries would be more, served separate. Nope, 1 price for burger, fries and pickles that was the equivalent price of just a burger back home.

I really went all out with a bacon, jalapeno w fried egg on top. This place had about 12 burger and topping selections.

It was so good! Multi napkin good and juicy.

Now I was ready for the show, but less enthused about negotiating the tram routes.

I called for an Uber and waited along a busy road until a car arrived. Driver spoke English too, said it was taught in Polish schools.

We talked as we made a few turns, the entire time we followed the tram tracks. Seems it would’ve been way easy to tram it. I just figured it was too far and would require a couple routes.

I arrived at around the door open time posted on the website. I saw a line and duly filed in it.

Everyone already had tickets so I searched how to say ticket in Polish. It is bilet, similar to Spanish billete. Isn’t that something?

My turn came and I held up a zloty note, “Bilet, proszę?” I inquired.

I was directed to a separate lady who took my note and gave me a ticket. I was in!

Just follow the crowd to the stage was the plan when you’re in a new venue. Up some stairs when we stop for several minutes.

Even in August, you need long sleeves or a light jacket here, so we waited for coat check. I had my long sleeved shirt with another long sleeve shirt under it so I continued up the stairs.

The 1st of 3 bands was on stage. I cannot recall their name, I just remember they had a pretty skinny, pale bassist with floppy hair, his bass slung low.

The 2nd band was pretty good. They were Steak Number Eight. Really groovy metal plus they looked like regular guys in jeans. I tend to prefer that vs. the face painted metal I expected to see this close to Scandinavia.

Soon it was time for Mastodon. It was now really hot due to no ac and a lot of people so I went down to 1 shirt. Smoking was outside too which is always appreciated in Europe.

They played great! A similar set to when I’d seen them on the same tour several months ago in the US but they added/subtracted songs.

I was stoked when about 3/4 of the way through the show the bassist said they were done with this tour and were going to go home, celebrate the holidays, then record a new record.

“We will see you back here in a few months.” he said before they tore into another tune!

Like a flash of lightening, they were done, playing a Thin Lizzy tune as their closer. Bad ass dueling guitar solos ensued!

I slowly wound my way via long line down the stairs, passed the coat check and bar, then out to the street.

It was lightly sprinkling again so I again selected the Uber option. It was shockingly affordable.

My ride a few mile cost about 5$. I figured since it was still early, I may as well have a pint at the beer hall, PiwPaw, I’d been to a couple night before.

My Uber driver this time wasn’t into talking so I just sat and watched the city pass by while it drizzled rain.

A  few more people were out tonight plus I was able to talk to the bartender a bit. He enjoyed Warsaw, said people here were friendly, and loved the food.

We were only able to talk for a few moments in between customers needing a beer or bag of crisps.

It was soon late and I had a flight in the afternoon.

American’s get 90d in the EU,  or Schengen Area which consists of 26 countries, without a visa, I was very close to that timeframe at this point.

I wasn’t sure how or if Poland would perform a detailed account of my time in the EU considering I’d spent a week in the UK, a few days in Andorra, which technically isn’t in the EU.

My math put me around 80 days so I was tempted to fly to Amsterdam, one of my fav places in the world.

I figured it best to get out vs. trying to argue and count days with someone who speaks a different language. Especially considering my previous policja experience.

The penalty was lifetime travel ban to EU countries if you over stayed your alloted time.

I walked a bit slower on my way back to my hostel. This was it, last moments in country.

I paused at the cathedral that housed Chopin’s heart.  What music he made! What a story how his lone body part returned to the country that inspired his work.

So much history I’d experience on my trip. Lots of pics in history books that I saw in person.

I’d done some research and had determined that one of the most reasonable airfare out of the EU was to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Plus, my British friend had said August is a good time to go there as there was some sort of festival going on. Little did I know how much fun it would be.

My trip had taken another turn…one for the better. I needed to be near the UK in a couple weeks. I was going to meet someone there special soon.

Beer:  Mustache Ryeder

Song:  Mastodon  A Commotion

Dream trip Day 90 Mo rain, Indian food, Irish pub

Only 1 of my friends had been to Warsaw and when I asked for a food recommendation, it was Indian. Curry it up brother.

It was just as well, as rain was again forecasted. I needed an indoor option anyway.

The route did have a green path through a lovely green park plus I passed a Polish war memorial.

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All too soon it began to sprinkle, thunder. Due to construction, I had to take a circuitous route to cross the street but I had made it just as it really started to rain.

I was at Bombaj Masala and it wasn’t too crowded, to my delight. Table for 1. Bring   some naan!

I sat at my table and watched heavy rain pelt cars as they sat at a light, waiting for it to change.

Overall a good, hot meal on a cool rainy day. I had to linger a bit with a cup of tea to fully wait the rain out.

I was in the downtown business district, full of tall buildings, car rental companies, not a lot of fun or very scenic.

At least I had the park and memorial to check out on my way back. I took a bit longer to fully take in the freshly watered trees and foliage

I suddenly had a strange urge to walk along the river, it was the Vistula here, too, as it’s the longest river in Poland.

I walked a bit past the restaurant area where I see a bridge off to the left a ways, so I figure that should lead to the river as that, too, was visible in the distance.

I walked about a half mile to the end of the bridge occasionally seeing stairs leading below to neighborhoods, but no river.

The strange thing is there was an entertainment area with a diner, bar and grocery store, but there wasn’t stairs near here.

Sometimes I would pass by a person walking the other direction and would have a small moment of panic that I was walking the wrong way on the bridge. or maybe I needed to be on the other side?   This time I should have known better and off to jail I’d go.

I was soon out of bridge so I took the next set of stairs down. There wasn’t any lights on my path down, which made it scary for many reasons.

There was another major road with concrete barriers blocking my way. I didn’t see any sort of crossing path. I was trapped.

All that walking and no river to show for it. I did see a large part of the city, the neighborhoods so it wasn’t really a total wast of a trip.

I knew to wait for the little green man when crossing the street to old town. I passed by the Chopin church too. I’d walked past it several times already and not known.

Tonight I would check out an Irish pub only a couple blocks from the hostel.

Live music tonight too, full band rocking out some sweet, sweet CCR, Creedence Clearwater Revival tunes amongst other 70’s rock gems!

A rowdy bunch out tonight, mostly older couples. They were singing along at top volume as well as dancing.

This one couple especially was getting down, he spun her all over that small dance area. He wasn’t a fit bloke either, had that old may beer belly that was more pronounced as he tucked his shirt tightly into his pants.

There was no room at the bar so I would come in for a new pint, then sit outside near a window and listen to the band. The smokers provided some outdoor entertainment.

Soon the band ended and last call was made.

I sauntered back to my hostel, stopping to admire the moon. Don’t forget to look up at night, always a good view.

Beer: Belfast stout

Song:  Chopin  Nocturne C sharp minor

 

 

 

Dream trip day 89 Chopin’s heart, walking tour, policja warning

I learned why this hostel was so inexpensive: no food or bevs provided.

That was ok, there was a breakfast only spot next door. Omelette time.

No jalapenos, no assortment of hot sauces on the table, just salt and pepper. Perhaps you could get some Hungarian paprika, but that was it.

I was seated facing the walkway so I had to make eye contact sometimes. If I was sipping coffee, I may nod my head to them, but not whilst eating.

Weird being on display while eating, like I need extra pressure to eat properly. I often drop a fork full of food or miss my mouth entirely.

Back at the hostel, I scoped their pamphlet rack for tours. I found a free one close that was starting soon.

I cannot recommend enough to go on a free walking tours if you are in a foreign city. You get a nice walk as well as local history. Just give them a tip for their time.

Look for the red umbrella ella ella ella. They were near a large statue of a bearded guy, King Sigismund III Vasa, which was the 1st thing we learned on our walk.

Soon we were near a bell inside a small square. Legend has it that if you walk around the bell 3x you get a wish.

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We soon passed by Marie Curie’s laboratory, mermaid statue before being shown another square.

We looked left and right, nearly the entire city had been leveled in WWII, but they had architecture maps and completely rebuilt everything exactly as it was.

The old city was now one of the most sought after places to live in the city. So much so that someone build out the air in narrow alleyway and made it into a house. A space as narrow as a door slowly grew from a hallway into a  small, livable area.

A fascinating part of the tour was about one of the gates into the city.  Built at an angle that forced anyone entering to have to pass through a narrow alley, which is where they were assaulted by arrows.

This plan was great until you had to get back in and the city was fought over several times, each one using this gate to their advantage.

We went through the Jewish ghetto, an all too common place in most European cities. We paused at one of the standing parts of the wall.

The KL Warschau was in the city and was used as a detention place as well as an elimination camp first starting with the Jews, then Polish resistance fighters.

We paused at some benches that our guide told us to sit down, enjoy some Chopin, which played as you sat.

“Nobody loves Chopin like the Polish, well except the French, they kept his body! Haha, but some brave Poles cut his heart out before they buried him. So his body is in France, but his heart returned to Poland,” our guide explained to the sounds of a Chopin sonata.

We were instructed to visit a church down the road where Chopin’s heart resides to this day.  Read up on it here.

For the rest of my time in the city, every chance I could get I sat on a Chopin bench.

Dusk was falling so I walked the restaurant area in search of  food options.

I don’t know what I thought everyone ate, but a lot did seem to be influenced by the US. Burgers, pizza, coffee shops, all seemed to be trying to emulate a US chain.

Then again, I was in the tourist side of town, so perhaps they were catering to us?

Dark clouds formed, soon it was pouring rain. I was still over a half mile from my hostel, I needed shelter, fast.

Fortunately I was near a beer hall so that’s where holed up to wait out the rain.

It was a nice, old wooden hall with a long bar and many taps. It was a beer menu type place with lots of taps and bottles.

Since it was a weekday, there was hardly anyone there. The bartender did not seem too excited to even wait on me so talking to him was out. He was on his phone already anyway.

I sat down at a table and took off my wet hoodie. Rain beat on the windows, I was in for awhile it seems.

Rain didn’t let up so no one else came in.

After a couple hours it was merely sprinkling so I felt it best to head back to the hostel.

I got to a normally busy intersection, but due to the late hour, I saw no cars on this road.

I see the light favors the road and not me so I look both ways, other lights flashing, no cars, yet this one is on.

Why not cross? I thought as I put one foot in front of the other.

I was soon descended upon by 2 Polish army guys in green fatigues and black Berets. One holds an automatic weapon across his chest. Faster than I could perceive it, this guy could shoot me as close as we are to each other. He stands about 6’4 and has a scowl on his face.

His partner to my right pulls out a pad of paper and begins talking in Polish. I shake my head left to right, no. “English?” I venture.

“Ah yes, English? Why did you cross the street?’ he asked.

“Because it was clear, no cars, I knew I would make it, ” I replied.

“Yes, but the lights were flashing, this is a prohibitive action. Do you realize I can and should take you in?” he said sternly.

I now had my hands up and stated I would pay any fines while apologizing to them.

I think they got pissed because I did it in front of them but I didn’t see them until it was too late, I was halfway. They were in the dark to my left and had to cross a street to stop me.

“Passport, papers please,” came the terse response.

He seemed surprised I was American and briefly glanced at my passport before handing it back to me.

“Yes so we are allies, Poland and the US. I thought you were British. They do that a lot when they are here. Illegally crossing the street and so on. So…we are all done here.” He said with a big grin, matched by his gun wielding friend.

We talked about the city, what I had seen. They seemed pleased I had been to Krakow, which is a nice city but, Warsaw that is best Polish city!

I am still not sure if they were messing with me, taking a piss, having a go. Whatever their reasons, I was scared for sure.

Jail for a simple offense like jaywalking is crazy but that’s how some places roll. I thought it as simple as I am adult and can handle my own safety.

I was also a visitor here, they didn’t have to let me into their country, for sure not for free. I was lucky.

A bit of a restless night but I did wind up falling asleep eventually.

Beer:  Pale Blue Dot

Song: Frederic Chopin     Prelude no. 15 ‘Raindrop’ op. 28

 

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