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Michael’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 21 Jun 2006

Location: Warsaw, Poland

MapEntry 39 - Warsaw, Poland (11th-13th June)

Before we start - video links are in for this entry, as well as:
St. Petersburg - Entry 37 (June 11th)
Moscow - Entry 38 (June 16th)
So go back and look at them all!

Also, our car is massive - sports wagon, so if you're in the area we are in (check previous entries for dates) feel free to get in contact with us and we may have room for ya!

After our one night in Minsk we left early for another long drive day, with a particularly long border stop. Our first stop though was at the Belarusian town of Brest, the first Soviet town destroyed by the Germans in WWII, and later acclaimed as one of the 12 Russian 'hero towns', awarded by the Russian 'government' after the war. The small town actually stalled the German army for
a month, which gave time for the rest of the Russian army to prepare to defend the rest of Russia. There were some great monuments, including the guarded eternal flame, and a massive obelisk type construction, but most amazing was the HUGE statue of the head and chest of a soldier, looking ready to into battle.

Next stop was almost 3 hours of sweltering in a bus which was off, so no air-con, at the border crossing. Apparently the Polish and Russians still have border tensions, and there is no easy, or quick, way to get through. Thankfully the huge investment in Russian vodka did not get found, and we were not forced to tip it out (or drink it all) at the border!

A longer drive into Warsaw, and finally we arrived at the hotel around 6pm - and didn't we luck out with this joint! The place can simply be referred to as the best place I will stay whilst I am away (except maybe the 5-star couch I'll be crashing on in Paris).

The comfiest beds I've slept on all tour, and the first that have been 6ft long in weeks - although I could have slept anywhere, even on a concrete slab the second night, and been comfortable! A television with movies, including porn, and speakers in the bathroom so you could hear what was being played on the TV
whilst in the shower! Plus they had an awesome restaurant where we had a chicken dinner, and two all you can eat cooked breakfasts!

After dinner a bunch of people headed out for a beer or two down the road, kicking us out a midnight - my birthday! Highlight of the night though had to be the overflowing toilet in the pub, and Clints reaction after walking through the overflow in his thongs! We ended up back at the hotel where Clint tried
everything to clean his feet and thongs, even pouring some of our Russian vodka over himself.

After a good sleep, and a grand breakfast the tour group contemplated how to celebrate my birthday the best - okay, not really, we were contemplating how to best watch the soccer, the second most important event of the day, after my birthday!

We started the day with a bus tour of the city with our local guide, making a couple of stops on the way. The first was at Lazienki Park (Polish L with a slash through it makes a W sound), to visit the Chopin monument, then the Warsaw Ghetto Monument. The small monument was dedicated to the Jewish people who lived behind a walled in area erected by the Nazi's, in order to keep track of them, and then exterminate them.

After driving past the apartment that Lee Harvey-Oswald lived in whilst in Poland, we drove down the Royal Way and into the old town. From here we walked around aimlessly, going into the St. Anne's Church (free... Always do free stuff), covered in Ornate gold decorations, and visited the Monument to Sigismund III Vasa and Copernicus Statue. We also wandered around the main
square in the old town. Eventually we wandered into the monument to the Warsaw Uprising, a collection of big bronze statues. When the Nazi's had the cornered, the people of the uprising descended into the sewers to try and escape. The
Nazi's put flammables down into the sewer and burnt them
all alive. Their bodies have never been removed.

Eventually we stumbled across a huge market in what appeared to be an aircraft hanger, and I picked up a 2nd hand phone! You can all call and text me again now.

At 3pm we all settled into a makeshift place to watch the Aussie soccer game, and proceeded to get the birthday trashed - unfortunately I was the birthday boy. I drank a liter of beer for each goal we kicked, finishing two 1.5Lt jugs of beer in 90 minutes. It was an awesome game, sorry for those at home who
switched off at the 75 minute mark! Despite being in what looked like a bomb shelter with a projector on the wall, we had an absolute ball, with Aussie flags and an almost all Aussie crowd.

As soon as the game was over, we jumped on the bus and went to the Chopin recital. It was at this stage that I was all cultured out, and found the quite boring, and not worth the ¤20 that it cost to see... Having said that, it was doomed to fail after having just drunk ourselves crazy watching the Aussie's win. The highlight had to be young Aimee running out of the room with her hands
over her mouth in a wild dash to the toilet for a vomit. Apparently a Contiki first at the Chopin recital - and there can't be many of them left... Definitely something to be proud of!

After the recital Clint and I jumped in a taxi back to the hotel where Clint had another of his patented power naps, and we started getting ready for my birthday bash.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qELzM_ptBo

Joey (the tour manager) had done some recon and found a bar that would hold 80 odd people on a Monday night. He also managed to get the other Contiki group in Warsaw to come along as well.

Woke up the next morning and ran to the bus to get to Berlin.

What?

Oh, can't tell you about the party, cos I don't remember it. I know my camera got broken. I was sick of taking photos of other people, and wanted to be in some, so was handing it to other people... Stupid, but innocent, idea. Clint thinks someone sat on it, but either way the lens got bent and wouldn't retract. In trying to straighten it (while drunk, rather than in the morning) I broke the LCD screen and then decided it was better as a soccer ball than a camera - soccer fever. Okay, so the soccer bit ain't true, but all else is. At least I salvaged the memory card and battery.

What else? Clint believes I was with 5 girls, but I can only think of two - probably cos the girls then kissed each other as well. We left the pub (short one camera) at about 3am (I think) then at about 4am, the pizza I had for dinner obviously was bad, and caused me to have an upset stomach! Then a few hours of much needed sleep - no holds bar diary, giving you guys nothing but the (mostly) unedited truth.

The following morning I was about to jump on the bus, without my pin stripe jacket, figuring I'd lost it for good. Sudden brain flash told me it was in a room on floor 2... So I ran up there, saw a door that looked familiar (even though they were all the same), knocked, and knocked again, and eventually a guy just wearing jeans answers the door... What was I doing last night? I managed to
actually find my jacket in the room in the dark, and later realised the two guys were from the other Contiki group, and a couple of the girls from our group and I were in there after the bar... Luckily I went back for the jacket, as it had my camera memory card, and credit card, still in the breast pocket... Time to
slow down I think... Yeah, after Amsterdam.

So Warsaw was awesome, and we left in the morning for another long drive day, feeling rather sorry for myself, with another border crossing, this time crossing from Poland into Germany, and the EU. This one was longer than usual too, with plenty of soccer traffic flowing into Germany.

Next issue - Entry 40, Berlin and soccer fever...

Boar (and my mate Clint!)