Something a little different for this post: here are my journal entries from the next few days on the road. There’s a little commentary for context too.
Before I set off from the UK I was gifted a very special. It’s a book called My One Line A Day. As opposed to a fully-fledged journal or diary, it is a five-year memory book. Every page has a date written at the top, i.e. September 2, October 5, and the page is broken into 5 sections with a space for each year in the left margin. It’s perfect for me: someone who has always wanted to write a diary but always starts writing too much and never keeps it up.
So here are my entries in their completely honest form:
- minus a few typos and some dodgy handwriting
+ plus a little context if it only made sense to me
italics for my additional context
Thursday 22nd September - Centrum Szkoleniowo Konferencyjne, Warsaw, Poland
Up to the Chinese Visa Centre – got it!! Straight off to Warsaw. Arrive in really good time and booked a hostel in BK. Hostel in outskirts and weird! Twin room for peace but it’s like an old peoples home with a clay tennis court. Started watching The Wire – 3 eps and sleep.
Friday 23rd September – Angloville, Kuklówka, Poland
Off to Angloville Warsaw walking tour. Late start and wrong turns meant I was late. Walked myself instead and had a Subway/Costa Coffee combo. Met for lunch at Portretown with other natives. Lunched and drove – arrived loads earlier than others so chilled. Started with team natives – Kirsten, Emily & Jessica (a Canadian/American mother and two daughters on a 2 year slow travel round Eastern Europe), Hilaria & Tony (a retired Canadian couple on holiday and teaching English as part of it), Joy & Jenny (a couple of Americans hitting Europe having done South America), Chris (a Brit starting his adventure of teaching English as a foreign language), Jim (a Portland, Oregon native doing something different) and David (a serial English teaching geologist doing one last Angloville before a teaching year in Italy). Awesome Polish – Asia (Joanna :), Zuzanna, Marcin, Michal, Lukasz, Piotr and Aga. The wonderful coordinators – Ralph and Krzysztof.
The Angloville team
Saturday 24th September – Angloville, Kuklówka, Poland
Up for breakfast, just. First 1:1 with Joanna – so cool. Negotiation with Michal; 1:1 with Marcin. Really enjoying. Breaks with write-ups and The Wire. Group session and entertainment hour with game of Paper Telephone. A beer & pool in the common room. Early to bed.
Sunday 25th September – cemetery near Kuklówka, Poland
Breakfasted with hot dogs and scrambled eggs. One 1:1 with Lukasz. Then 4 hours chill. Bit of route planning, The Wire and a run! Finish up and presentations were very enjoyable. Photos a plenty. Parked next to cemetery near conference centre. Wild poo and The Wire.
Sunset near the cemetery
Monday 26th September – metro servicing workshop, Warsaw, Poland
Arose lazily & into Warsaw to Neon Museum. Shut on Mondays :( Soho was a cool area. So much hipster in the world. To KFC & Starbucks for internet. Flat whites while Chinese flight cancelling. Parked next to Metro place and interruption by police. Spoke to Alis on the phone – her grandma has died :(
Tuesday 27th September – apartment, Krakow, Poland
Got up not feeling great. Drove before I’d planned. Just got worse & worse. Almost expired before stopping just outside Krakow. Arrival at apartment was magical. Wioletta just lovely. Urged to Aviation museum & it was awesome. 163 planes! Hip-hop odyssey continues – podcasts, Notorious film and tunes. Latest podcast is Hip Hop Saved My Life with Romesh Ranganathan.
Wednesday 28th September – apartment, Krakow, Poland
Casual lie-in. Walk to shop while washing on. Picked up food & huge chicken breasts. Helped Dad with Excel while chilling watching The Wire. Totally involved but only got 2 series. Not done any writing. Not sure whether ill or lazy. Cooked scrambled eggs with rogue sausages. Red Thai curry home cooked :)
Thursday 29th September – apartment, Krakow, Poland
Got up & headed to Wieliczka Salt Mine. Wanted to go since November bender to Krakow. Was pretty cool – felt like a proper tourist. Back to apartment to finish The Wire, watch Notorious (may have been yesterday). More curry.
Central church in salt mine - everything grey you see is carved out of rock salt
Friday 30th September – apartment, Lviv, Ukraine
Up to pack & clean. Left to Auschwitz. Had coffee and apple cake @ Pantograf tram café 1st. Drove & managed to vacuum car on the way. Couldn’t get in for tour so went to Birkenau. Sobering. Drive to Lviv was fast. Doing ok & then… 5 ½ hours at Ukrainian border. Arrived at 2:30am – Vira the maid still up!
Railway at Birkenau - main entrance to larger area of former concentration camp
Saturday 1st October – apartment, Lviv, Ukraine
Lied in after late night. Walked a little round the block. Watched so many scenes we’d like to see (Mock the Week). Bacon sandwiches. Went for cash and stroll at dusk – chilled out lots more in city. Not much done today – felt bad.
Sunday 2nd October – apartment, Lviv, Ukraine
Met Vira at 10 – gave all my money for taxi (arranged with Irina the host after Friday late night entry debacle) Staying in Lviv @ new apartment. Walked around centre, lunched at Poshta na Drukarskiy (Post Office restaurant). Pasta and weird pork fat spread mezze board. Up tower. Met Nata – sweet apartment and a nice smile. Photo processing all afternoon. Searched for colourful cow burger joint on Nata’s recommendation. Back for a beer and The Martian – good :)
Mezze board with 3 flavours of pork fat spread occupying the middle - it's a Ukrainian speciaility :s
Monday 3rd October – apartment, Lviv, Ukraine
V. lazy wakeup over 4 hours! Sat down to write blog while finishing photo load. Lots of writing done – still no post! Met Sami (from the Baltics having spotted him on the street) for a drink and dinner. Great decision! Went to a communist speakeasy. Password and shot on entry with a shooting gallery in-house. Great dinner of dumplings and baked beef quiche. Back for The Hateful Eight while he went on a date.
The best menu descriptions I've ever seen in a restaurant - Communist bar
Tuesday 4th October – apartment, Lviv, Ukraine
Another lazy wake – set multiple alarms for the next day! Wrote and finished main text of Baltics – enjoyed and hated the laptop time. Out into town to hunt chocolate museum. Picked up chocolate truffles. Burger at Blackwood. Back for more laptop. Ordered pizza – never came. Cereal for dinner. Magic Mike XXL. Torrential rain all day! Cold!
Then the pizza arrived!
Wednesday 5th October – apartment, Lviv, Ukraine
Up early – woohoo! Straight on with writing & cracked on. Stepped up social media activity, which was needed. Really quite cold at 5 degrees – I could see my breath as I walked up the top of Lviv’s High Castle: it’s a great place to view the city. Nailed writing for once and got up to date… really need this rest and sweet to catch up on some films I’ve wanted to see. The Big Short tonight (this never happened as I wrote before not watching it!). Time to get back on the road with Pico.
So as you can see, I’ve had a lazier period of travelling. It was needed. 2 months on the road my body was screaming to be settled for a period to rest up. That’s been achieved and I’m thankful I’ve done it.
A fair amount of fast food seems to have balanced the wonderful cultural dishes tasted. I feel that may have been due to the long distances travelled between cities and it's consistent availability at service stations. I’m not sure why the fast food made it into the diary – a bit of disappointment at myself probably!
The effect is that I won’t see as many countries in the Balkans as I wanted. Chasing visa entry/exit periods definitely ties you down. However, it’s just an excuse for another road trip in the future :)
Next time out comes a trip to a Ukrainian workshop, more border adventures and some delights with locals in the Balkans.