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Torun, Poland

Monday, July 9th, 2007

For my last stop in Poland I head northwest toward the Baltic Sea but stop halfway in the beautiful little town of Torun, part preserved Gothic town and part university town.  If you´ve ever dreamed of studying in arched nooks with stained glass windows by candlelight, this is the place.  Think Hogwarts.

I meet Magdalena on the train, an English philology grad student, and she gives me a lift from the station into town.  She loves her hometown and gives me a tour later on. 

Torun is much smaller than Krakov but the feeling is great.  The droves of tourists are replaced by students, and instead of the touristy shops selling Polska t-shirts there are cool little clubs and bars in basements and some of Europes oldest buildings.  I could have spent more time here and I can understand why Lech says he spent the best year of his life in charming little Torun.

Oh and Copernicus was born here too!  This is his house although Magdalena says he was born in the house next door.


Kayaking in Poland: I´m sunk

Monday, July 9th, 2007


My buddy Lech grew up in the half rural, half Warsaw bedroom community of Sochaczew.  We spend the Summer Solstice weekend near here kayaking an unrunable river, the raging Rawka.  When the 12 of us set out our goal is to make our way down 21km of the river, but soon discover our river is really a slow moving creek with literally hundreds of fallen trees blocking our progress.  Since we celebrated the midsummer until 3am the previous night with plenty of beer and vodka you can imagine how this also slowed us down.  

Then there is the small detail about our leaky kayaks.  Not long into our journey a couple kayaks start taking on water, mine being one of them.  Since a boat full of water doesn´t steer very well I get pretty pissed off bouncing my way down the river.  I mean I´m the professional here and the boat makes me look like a rookie.  Embarrassing. 

As me and my copilot Magda are lifting the boat over yet another log I tell her to jump to the front to shift the water weight but as soon as she does we hear the unmistakeable sound of cracking fiberglass.  We both get back in but now our pesky leak is a full-blown hole and things start going titantic fast.

We unload our waterlogged bags and Magda gets into another boat.  I manage to paddle to the next waterfall portage and as I bring it into shore the last centimeter of deck vanishes under the murky brown water and the whole stern of the boat goes under.  No more kayaking today.

When we call the company to come pick up their shitty boats it becomes clear who we´re dealing with.  Lech calls and the woman has to run around to find a sober driver because Kowalski is already drunk and Novak just started.  This is redneck Poland where white socks and sandals aren´t just a fashion statement, they´re a way of life.

Europe: A different travel scene and a night out in Krakov

Monday, July 9th, 2007
I think Midori, one of the many Japanese travelers I met in "the ´stans" said it best: "Central Asia is for dreamers."  The healthy sprinkling of people I met in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Oh woe is Warsaw

Monday, July 9th, 2007
Poland´s had a rough century and nowhere are the scars more visible than in Warsaw.  The town was reduced to a bombed out shell by the Germans, then rebuilt by the communists and now capitalists to form the schitzophrenic city ... [Continue reading this entry]