(((Again, Keyboard problems with the letter "I" are not my fault!!)))
After realisng that I was gong to have to drop the Ukrane completely due to lack of tme,and that t wasn’t worth the effort to try and go to Lviv for a couple of days, decded to head West nstead, and have a look at another couple of cities i had long been tryng to fnd a few hours at least to stop off n nstead of always passng through, namely Wroclaw (pronounced something a bit like Vrats-vrov) and Poznan.
It was Wroclaw frst and I can confrm that t is a lovely cty, and bzarrely untouched / touristed (except a handful of Germans, vstng the place they once called Breslau) when you consider the fuss made about Krakow. If anything, i thnk its even nicer. The central square is a buzz wth street cafes and surrounded by wonderfully multi couloured Flemish style buildings, whch really worked well. The river Odra (also known as Oder) has been dverted several tmes over the centures, meanng that there are several tributaries of the rver (7 streams), and a handful of small islands wthn the city whch were great to walk around, and make the central area surprisingly large A large number of churches were dotted across the whole city (virtually all of whch had weddings gong on as t was the last weekend n a month lucky for weddings – I forget specifics, but n Poland t seems to be lucky to marry on months wth a certain letter in it, which June had and July at least, didnt), but n almost Bucharest style, they were dotted at random and interspersed amongst houses and other modern concrete structures etc. But the big difference in that sense was that none ever looked out of place.
My great host in Wroclaw, Ala and her friend Ivana
I was stayng wth Ala (and her amazingly friendly mother), a friendly CSer who i‘d sent a speculatve message to a couple of days previously and had been happy to host me. Together with her frend Ivana, I was given the full tour of the cty and resolved there and then to come back at a later date f at all possble and spend some more tme in the city. After consuming a fantastc soup and the frst of ahuge quantity of strawberries i was to consume n the the following few days (it seems that n summer, strawberries are drt cheap n Poland, so everybody buys a kilo or 2 a day and uses them for everything possible – mlk shake, juce, jam, ce cream, sauces, cake/pie filling, and of course on there own. I ate more strawberries n 3 days than I thnk I’d even seen in the previous 10 years!) we headed out to the new Oder rver in the north of the cty to meet up with a load of their friends, and sit by the rver havng a BBQ (read: being eaten by Mozzies) where I showed off my near flawless Polish (ahem), and then retired to the City centre to have a drink sttng on a knd of brick pontoon in the mddle of another of the streams.
Barbequeing by the Odra river, Wroclaw
The following day, and on the recommendation of some people the previous night we took a trp to the Jewsh cemetery. A strange place, manly consisting of graves of German Jews from the pre war Breslau days. Many of the tombs were of impressive scale, although large numbers were overgrown or damaged (storm, vandal or both), whch seemed a bit sad, as the cty suffered considerably durng the war due to ts large Jewsh communities.
After lunch with Ala’s mother, Aunt and Uncle, we were invted by the aunt/uncle to visit their new house n the country, nearing completion after 8 years of construction (in Wroclaw, huge numbers of buldngs were covered in scaffolding, but lttle work seemed to be being done. Scaffold supplier n Wroclaw can be added to concrete suppler n Bucharest, VW Golf importer n Bosnia and ‘arm doctor’ in Croatia, as unexpectedly lucrative careers…). When completed, t wll be a lovely place to live/retire, n the woods away from the cty, but close enough to not be rmote. The vllage tself s odd because lots of people had seemingly bough plots ofland, but there had been no planning to the construction, leadng to a rght htch potch of shapes, sizes and styles of house. The evenings entertainments didnt go qute to plan, as the famous (and who’s name i‘ve forgotten – Al di something?) Amercan Jazz Guitarist and his international support group who were supposed to be playng n the main square of Wroclaw were a good 3 hours late arriving….
The following day I headed for Poznan. Another place i had been through but never had chance to stop off in and even though I could only manage a few hours on this occasson, I couldn’t turn down the chance. And besides, another really friendly CSer, Ula, had responded to another speculatve message and invted me to vist, and even though i was unfortunately unable to stay the night, she was happy to meet up and play tour gude for a few hours.
Poznan Town Hall
Whilst I didnt think (i know, i know) it was quite as attractve as Wroclaw, Poznan is nevertheless a lovely cty and well worth exploring for a day or so. Despte its larger population, the centre is more compact and the central square is smaller, but almost as attractve and desgned usng the same style of multi-coloured Flemsh buldngs and grid style of streets around it. Spent a happy few hours wandering around with Ula, her housemate Ania (who in the mddle of a scary trend here had both just failed their Englsh oral exams) and a Venezuelan-Pole friend Pamela who was visiting from Warszawa.
The guiding girls - Ula, Ania and Pamela who's name i have forgotten, in Poznan
I headed back to Warszawa in the late afternoon, although in typical style, a combinaton of delays and problems meant I was later arriving than i should have been. Was met by Andrzej and a couple of other guests he had – Dominika, a girl from Lublin who i already knew online and her Kiwi friend Jay (they originally met in Croydon, poor people) and spent a couple of happy hours in a cellar bar in the old town (which, oddly and flying n the face of logic, is cheaper than places further out of the central core).
Pictures from Warszawa from my two visits combined - The centre, the view across the semi-surreal University Library roof gardens, the Statue of King Zygmunt Waza at the entrance to the Old Town, The Theatre and satue in the Park, Dominkia and Jay and group photo with Andrrej, Me, Dominika and Jay
I’m being followed. That was an inescapable conclusion I had reached. Often felt lke I’m beng watched or followed – paranoia is a wonderful thing – but n ths case i knew it was true. In the week or so since i had last been n Warszawa, the cty had been flooded wth cows, in huge numbers, and now seemingly on the way to world dominaton.
Selection from the numerous cows in Warszawa who mysteriously appeared in the week I was away, seemingly intent on following me or world domination. I'm not entirely sure which yet.