Yesterday we went to Kazimierz Dolny, which is a small town along the Vistula. It's touted as one of Poland's hidden jewels and is anything but hidden (the problem with hidden jewels is that everyone wants to go to them.) Swarms of tourists. Swarms. Big, fat men, taking off their shirts or just rolling them up to allowing their grotesque pudge flop out for everyone to see. (Horrors.) Did I tell you how much I hate tourists? I despise them. Families with screaming brats and crowds of recently retired, old women who waddle about and get in my way.
To get there we needed to go to a bus station near the National Stadium. The stadium is ringed by an open-air market which is largely stocked by the entire population of Poland's minorities. Vietnamese vendors sell mostly clothes, bags, shoes and stuff, but also fake documents and most anything else like that. All the stuff is amazingly cheap and there's a definite "third-world" feel about it. At one stall I saw shirts being advertised as "American T-Shirts" which most certainly came from some impoverished Asian country. The bus station is in the midst of all this and is rather run down. The tickets were around 20PLN, so there weren't bad. The buses are a tad old and lack amenities, but I wasn't complaining (I was on the way back, believe me.)
For some reason all the bus drivers here are total assholes. They're all so gruff and grumpy. The bus ride took about three hours, and it stopped quite a bit on the way there. In the country things aren't exactly roaring like they are in the cities, so many decrepit bus stops haven't seen any renovation in their entire existence. On our way back, we took a 'bus' which was actually a van with a bus style seating. The day was incredibly hot, and the bus was so full two people had to stand the whole way. There was a hatch at the top which provided some relief until some lady closed it because it was mussing up her hair or something. The rest of the ride was sticky and hot and uncomfortable. When we got to our stop, since we were at the back we had to make our way up to the front. The sliding door was stuck and couldn't be opened from the inside so we couldn't get out. The cocksucker driver, who had been talking on his cellphone (illegal) and smoking (illegal) while driving, said, "We need to leave, you've had enough time to leave." Aga snapped at him and the total jerkoff got out and opened the door and we went on our way back home.
Kazimierz Dolny is actually rather quaint and has a charm of its own. It's an old town, and not much has changed since it was founded. The roads are true cobblestones and I'm surprised that cars were able to navigate them without suffering multiple punctures in their tires. There are ruins of a small castle overlooking the city and further up there's a lookout tower which provides a nice view. Both of these place, the tower especially, were mobbed. Climbing up the tower proved most difficult. There was a steady stream of people going both directions, but the tiny stairs were inadequate. At one point an old fat lady (I would have thought she was nine months pregnant if she wasn't forty years past her prime) started flipping out and yelling about how the only way to get by her was to fly over her. I would have like seen if she, herself, could fly by tossing her out one of the windows.
The castle is small and nearby is the "Mountain of Three Crosses." We got up for free, but they usually charge 1 PLN to go to a clearing to look at three wooden crosses. They not only charge you for everything here, they overcharge you. There was an implements of torture "Museum" (I use that in the loosest sense) which cost about $2.50 a ticket to go see six torture devices. It was the biggest, the biggest, the biggest rip-off I have ever seen. Complete waste of money. We almost went to the Golden Arts Museum, but it was one room with a tiny collection of gold and silver. (When I say tiny, I mean that you can go into an antique store and see a greater variety for free.)
The day was oppressively hot, but a cool breeze did flow off the Vistula. A walk down the Vistula is not as great as it sounds, but it wasn't bad. The water may look blue from afar (and especially in pictures) but up close it's greener than the Charles. By the shore there's some trash and sludge, but we saw some people swimming in it a ways away and also across on the other shore. The main church is actually very nice and offered some protection from the relentless sun. Vendors everywhere sell bread shaped like a rooster which is made by a local bread factory. The bread is really good and soft, like a sweet bread.
There was a Jewish Restaurant which came recommended, so we decided to give it a try. Called, "U Fryzjera" (At the Barber's) it serves pretty expensive fine dining food, but you can get free pickles down at the bar (how sweet is that?) The service is slower than cold molasses. In fact, we watched group after group come in, get their drinks and order and then leave after waiting too long. I had pickled brisket on a bed of couscous that came with a portion of a spicy-sweet beet salad and an enormous serving of horseradish (about six times the amount that a person with even slightly working taste buds would eat.) Aga had beef-stuffed dumplings with really delicious sweet sauteed carrots. Afterwards we had sugar cake with honey which was burned at the bottom but soft and light throughout (even at the burned part on the bottom.)
After we had eaten we wandered about looking for an interesting place. There wasn't any so we went and waited at the bus stop until a bus came.
Kazimierz Dolny from the ruins.
Kazimierz Dolny is a haven for artists and craftsmen. There are shitloads of galleries and vendors. There are also a lot of terrible musicians. When I say terrible, I mean total crap (off-key, rhythmless, with squawking voices.) This town has the highest population and percentage of lame street performers of any city or town I've been in. One particularly bad guitarist was accompanied by her friend, who accosted passersby by standing in front of them and sticking out a hat, demanding money. It's enough to shove her aside and say, "No!! No fucking way!!" I sympathize, a little bit, with these new bohemians, but just because they sit outside and butcher chords does not entitle them to any reimbursement. Spend the money for some private lessons, then maybe you'll deserve to have a few coins dropped in.
Proceed with utmost caution - Warsaw's first proper snowfall of the winter. Fifth consecutive day of sub-zero temperatures, with an overnight low of -9C. Time for a first stroll across ...
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