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September 28, 2016

Freedom Bus Experience - Krakow

I have to condense the experiences of around 5 days in just one post.

***

So after three hours spent next to a religious man who prayed the whole trip, I arrived in Krakow. I stepped down from the train and right into a shopping centre. Cool. I had no idea where I was supposed to go, the name of the hostel, the address, the name of the people I was supposed to meet. Nothing.

I managed to find an old email with a phone number and I called desperate. The voice on the other end had no clue either, which annoyed me a little, but I was tired, I just wanted a bed. Eventually I received instructions on a sms and I carried my suitcase around Krakow for half an hour.

I've passed the city centre in a hurry and exactly when I was about to go into a park I turned around and started taking pictures. "Damn the experience and everything, I might leave Krakow tomorrow so I have to enjoy it."
I arrived late at the hostel and I was pointed towards a room with bunk beds and the only free place was on top of someone else's. No way. I refused and took a bed in a room with a young couple. "If they behave, I'll behave" I thought and opened the room door. It was empty, but just minutes later the couple came into the room. They were Polish and they were also participating in the Freedom Bus Project.

We started talking and my first question was "Are you artists?". The answer satisfied me and I payed no attention to the details. They were sociologists, studying something within our group. "Let them study" at least they were two and had an idea about their role within the project. I had no clue who my other colleague from Luxembourg was, and I started to think that I was in a wrong place, in someone else's place. That troubled me, but there was nothing I could do, except enjoy Krakow and make my way back to Luxembourg once I would leave Poland.

The young woman was Ukrainian actually and she pointed that out immediately after we started introducing ourselves. They were not a couple ("Thank God!"), whey were just working together. She helped me get around the hostel, she showed me the fancy toilet and taught me the ways of using the communal showers. "First one has a hole in the door, I don't know what you could see, but I'm not using that one". I thanked her. I liked her and I've started to feel less out of place.

"I don't like people. I'm not into meeting new people and I have enough new friends." That was my thought during the introductory speeches that evening. "I have nothing in common with these people" "what am I doing here?". I barely composed myself to look like I was paying attention. I was horrified, actually.
We were handed sketch books to draw our experience. "I have no artistic talent, I don't know how to draw." The dinner made no sense and then I've heard the magic word: "beer". "I could handle beer. My husband drinks a lot of it and we live in Belgium."

We talked, we laughed, no one cared about my beer knowledge. It was fun. Great fun, considering my initial thoughts.

We arrived at the hostel at about 1 a.m. and in the lobby we met him. "Hi, my name is Ben, do you have an empty bed in your room?". I don't remember my answer, but we had an empty bed our room.

I took a shower and went to bed. At around 3, Ben came already into some sort of a pajamas. "Ben, where is your luggage?" I've asked and the other started laughing. "At least, I'm funny", I thought and fell asleep.

***

The next day, as instructed by me roommate, I went and bought a ticket to visit the Krakow Castle. I took the last visit of the day and went to the University. We had a lecture about the WWII and concentration camps. I've stayed for the beginning and then went to the castle.
It was ok for the amount of castles I've visited recently. I walked around the castle and found a guide, an English guide, who allowed me to join his group. I really liked his explanations and at the end I gave him my last 5 euro bill. He considered it to be too much and offered to take me out for beer. I refused (hopefully politely) and he walked me to the university. We chatted. I liked his knowledge about the city and the way he talked about it. "He will never leave it", I thought. "Lucky guy!"
My colleagues were having dinner when I arrived. Something nice which I gobbled fast to join the other activities. And the other activities were a visit to the Jewish area. I really liked it. Again I took hundreds of pictures until we ended up in some sort of a bar. An old house transformed into a bar. Interesting. I liked the light inside and took more pictures as I chatted with my colleagues. "Krakow is nice, I have to come back with my husband, he would love it".

***

The next day started with a lecture about Warsaw and Krakow's architecture and how it had changed after WWII. "I swear they are obsessed with WWII. That and the Pope." That being said I liked the lecture which was followed by a guided tour. I liked it and I would have liked it even more if I haden't done the other tour the day before. The guide was not willing or able to answer my questions.

At the castle, I went to the toilet and they left me there. Thankfully I met the other girl from Luxembourg University together with a girl from London. They were funny. They showed me the spitting fire dragon, and the river and somehow the tour with them was more pleasant then the guided tour. I remember visiting a lovely church and the main square and going back to the hostel and then back to the university.
After lunch, I went to visit the Ethnographic Museum of Krakow. I didn't know it existed, just one guy told me about it when I told my sad story about the Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw. I was pleased. I really liked it and made again hundreds of photos of the costumes until someone came and we started talking about traditional costumes from Poland and Romania. It was a lovely talk and I thanked for having this moments in my trip.

She pointed me to an album about folk habits from Poland which I immediately purchased, despite costing 10 euro. She was amassed and she must have though that I was the ignorant westerner who doesn't watch money. I'm not. It's just that in Luxembourg an crappy book is from 20 euro up and an album like the one I just purchased would cost around 50 euro, so 10 euro was actually a small amount of money. It was not the last time someone considered me the ignorant westerner in this trip.
After the museum I had some spare time before dinner so I went to the shopping mall to buy slippers, an essential thing to have when you share showers in hostels. I didn't know that. On the way I spotted some lovely scarves, traditional ones, 19 zloty, about 4-5 euro. On Etsy I would find them at 30 to 40. I bought 3. Again the seller had in her eyes the look at an ignorant westerner, but they were too nice to leave there.
I went to dinner and then the funny times in our trip started. Me and my roommates stayed in the hostel. My thought was to take a shower and enjoy my recently purchased folklore picture album. The plans changed when the London girl decided to give a haircut to my roommate. He accepted. I laughed so hard and we had so much fun. Then I presented my purchases to my new palls, the scarves. I inspired my roommate to draw me and laughed some more, despite the 8-9 hours long journey we had to take the next day.

***

As usual at about 3 a.m., Ben came into the room already in his pajamas.

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