and now, for the continuing saga of cynthia’s polish odyssey. after pulling ourselves away from the wonderful tatras region, it was time to move on to bigger and busier places. and the best way to do this: polski bus. i’d heard a bit about the quality of poland’s roads and was eager to find out for myself first hand. polish rail is pretty affordable, but polski bus tickets are half the price of the train, sometimes lower. with comfortable seats, a toilet and free wifi on board, the decision was made.
what i didn’t expect was the mad rush that occurred when the bus pulled up to the station in zakopane. the normally mild-manner poles were doing everything they could to (in the most polite fashion) storm their way to the entrance of the bus. people streaming in from all directions, all hope of an orderly queue dismissed. this was my first polski bus, and arriving fifteen minutes early still wasn’t good enough. i was at the back of the queue. then i realized this is happening because there are no seat assignments like with the czech bus company i frequently ride. get it together, polski bus! seat assignments would’ve been a world less stressful. that was almost the only thing generally wrong with the bus travel in poland. (photo via)
the ride was comfortable, the wifi network holding steady… then after several hours i realized how bad traffic can be on polish roads (i actually barely noticed because the wifi on the bus was so good). for the record, the road quality is quite good and not at all the bumpy ride i had been anticipating. the issue is that there are too few roads and traffic (especially in and out of cities) can be awful. we arrived shortly after 8:00pm in wrocław, over an hour and a half longer than it normally takes. and i realized my first mistake: relying on these arrival times while making my bookings.
if you are planning bus travel in poland: i would highly recommend to get to the bus early. fifteen minutes wasn’t enough, i’m talking twenty-five to thirty. when the bus arrives it’s best to have one person take the baggage to check, and the other person stake out a place in line near the front door of the bus. all you need is your confirmation number to board, so a print-out isn’t necessary (i just showed them my phone). do not assume your bus will arrive on time. it may be late (or early, as i experienced next). plan accordingly.
wrocław (pronounced vrots-waff) turned out to be one really quick turn around, which was a shame because the hostel we stayed at was one of the loveliest ones i’ve ever been to and gave us a room to ourselves even though we’d booked a dorm. we strolled around wrocław after dusk and got a bite to eat at a japanese joint that also does korean. bibimbap and a nice cold tyskie helped to make this looong commute day a little better.
the next morning i got to see wrocław in the daylight.
originally called breslau, the city was part of prussia/germany for hundreds of years before finally being reclaimed by poland after WWII. and though it was almost entirely rebuilt after 70% of it was destroyed in the war, i still noticed hints of germanic influence in the layout and the streets. they were so neat and orderly, and how can you tell me this town hall doesn’t exude a bit of prussia?
and gnomes. wrocław is all about the their gnomes. a gnome scavenger hunt around the city center would be so much fun if you go in a group! i was fascinated by the gnome hole i found. and then i started watching tourists rub the gnome’s head. every single person was doing it. is there an unwritten rule about rubbing gnome heads i don’t know about?
the city’s been named european city of culture for 2016, which means tourists will likely be flooding in soon. why not discover this oft forgotten western polish city while it still belongs only to the poles? i would’ve liked to stay a day longer, but there were more pressing matters at hand: getting to warsaw…