I recently had some troubles both with my tablet and with wifi connections, so I was unable to write for a few days. I’m going to try and recap as much as I can over the past week. I’ll start with Saturday, July 11th. It was my last full day in Prague. I had a huge lunch about two blocks from my hostel – goulash and crepes for dessert. I met up with Erik one last time in a beer garden at a huge park north of town. He was there with a few friends, and after a few beers Erik and Toby and I split off and went to the center of the park, where there was a carnival. This carnival consisted of about six different rides and about as many visitors. The three of us boarded a very sketchy roller coaster that lasted all of 30 seconds. Apparently the park (and therefor carnival) are owned by the Russian mafia. We were going to ride the bumper cars afterwards, but instead just observed and laughed at the one person already driving around – alone. That had to have been depressing.
I returned to the hostel for the free dinner and later the toga party. I probably drank too much but was still able to check out and catch a train to Trutnov. Trutnov is a small town in north Czech. It served as a way-point for two reasons, which I will address shortly. I arrived without any plan whatsoever, but luckily I still had intermittent internet service on my phone. I couldn’t seem to find any hostels, but eventually discovered that “pension” stands for “guest house.” Luckily I was across the street from one, so I checked in without comparing prices (it was hot and I was tired of carrying my backpack). The “Usvit” was more like a hotel, and the prices were cheap, but the hot water was out for a few days. I found out later that the whole town lacked hot water, as they do for a week every year while the pipes are being inspected and fixed. But I checked in for about 500ck and spent the first night wandering the town and relaxing. I found only two people while I was there that spoke any English: the guy at the kebab shop (where I actually ate frequently) and the hot blonde girl at the gas station, Magdalena.
The next day I took the train to Adrspach. Adrspach is a very tiny town in the middle of nowhere known for its giant rock formations. The whole attraction is pretty awesome, and also a grueling hike. I never actually researched the area, but from what I can intelligently gather there used to be an ocean nearby. The ocean left but the sand didn’t, and when giant rocks were formed they crushed the sand together between the rocks. Then the rocks were exposed to the elements that eroded the sand but not the rest. So I left the main trail and wandered back between several boulders until I found a very secluded area and scraped some sand that was still holding together between two rocks into a jar for Angie (to give to Dwight). Between here and the sand I collected from 2km deep in the Krisna Jama Caves he is going to have a very exotic collection.
I made it back to Trutnov late in the evening. I ate more kebab and had a few beers and went to sleep. The next morning I needed to catch a bus to Jelenia Gora, a town in south Poland that was close (relatively) to my next destination. Well, turns out the buses there only run on weekends. So I needed to formulate a plan. Over lunch, of course. Right near the town square I found a restaurant (with an English menu!) and ate chicken with mushrooms. And for dessert, more crepes with fruit. I was supposed to meet a fellow couchsurfer, just for drinks, at 1500. However, something came up and she couldn’t make it. But after explaining my predicament her friend offered to drive me (and I offered 500ck).
Michaela met me at 1600 at the train station, and we were off to Poland! She said she had never driven through the mountains before, so we took the scenic route. The conversation was quite enjoyable, and we stopped a few times for pictures. In Jelenia Gora we parked and walked around for about an hour, which included gelato of course. We found a weird statue and tried to find out from locals what it meant, but we couldn’t get a straight answer. I’ll post the picture on Flickr. After walking around a church that had many murals of death we found her car, and she let me drive the rest of the way. I haven’t driven a car in two months! We somehow found our way to Nowy Kosciol, a very small village in Poland. She dropped me off at a bus stop and I waited for Dawid and Julia.
These are my workaway hosts. They both work in neighboring towns at cultural centers. They have a huge farmhouse with a bunch of crops growing outside, a dog named Sara and a cat named Pushkin. By the time we met up it was fairly late, so we went back to their house and had some beer and moonshine and I helped Dawid can some apple butter that was simply delicious. The next morning we were up early and I helped weed the garden, mostly around the corn, then pick apples to make more apple butter and apple juice (which is more like water flavored with apple, but delicious nonetheless). That evening when they returned from work Julia had a friend with her. The four of us had dinner then Dawid and I went outside to chop wood for the winter. He built a little storage space for it while I chopped. Then the girls came out and helped stack it. We worked until late in the evening, then all went inside for snacks and Icelandic vodka. After a few drinks Dawid and Julia sang us a few of the Polish folk songs they know. The four of us sat around the table talking until midnight, then it was time for bed.
This morning I accompanied Julia into town where she works. I explored the town for half an hour while she checked on the activities at the rec center. Then we each had huge ice cream cones with fresh fruit and drove to the next town. Now we are at her friend’s eco-tourism farm where she is giving a presentation to kids about insects. I walked around for about an hour, and now I’m sitting in the dining room eating tomato soup. I’m constantly surprised by how much tourism this area gets. The villages here are so small – smaller than Marion (my home town in Pennslvania). Yet people come here to see the small farms and such. I guess that is similar to what I’m doing, but I’m not staying at a hotel. Even the towns around here, where people go for things they need in their villages, are only about 2000 people. There are still very few tourists here, but the fact that there are any at all is still surprising. And more people in Poland speak English than I was expecting.
Anyway, I will be here for probably another week, then head to Krakow. Oh, Angie and Mom: I bought you post cards from Adrspach, filled them out, stamped them, then couldn’t find anywhere to send them. Then I saw a tiny little postal box alongside the road and dropped them in, forgetting I had crossed an international border. So, you may or may not get them depending on how the Polish feel about Czech stamps. Don’t hold your breath.