We saw Warsaw…
Well, not very much of it to be honest. We only stopped for one night in order to make sure we got the train to Moscow on time. In order to ensure we had seats and at a reasonable price we’d booked our Warsaw-Moscow tickets a couple of weeks earlier and had them sent to our Warsaw hostel.
We arrived at our hostel in the evening in high spirits. We’d had an easy day (only 4 hours on the train from Krakow) and were ready to go and have a couple of cheap beers and sample Warsaw’s renowned nightlife, both of us looking forward to our arrival in Moscow. Our bubble was abruptly burst when the receptionist at the hostel advised that no tickets had arrived for us. Shit. We were in a state of panic, as we had to enter Russia on the dates specified on the visa, or it can lead to problems. – Also the tickets to Moscow weren’t cheap.
So instead of going out for a good time, I hastily emailed the booking agent, hoping they would pick up the email first thing to check the tracking – whilst the hostel told us they would nip to the local post office in the morning to check it wasn’t there. Realising we hadn’t eaten almost all day, and not feeling like partying, we went to the only food shop nearby, a KFC, and drowned our sorrows in saturated fat. To make matters worse, Polish KFCs don’t do chicken gravy – Amy was almost inconsolable. After our KFC comedown, we sat weeping into our box of stale chicken carcasses, discussing all the worst possible outcomes of this terrific ball ache.
In the morning I managed to Skype the travel agent (Real Russia), and they had already been in the case and phoned up the hostel, and were trying to get to the bottom of it. – Full credit to Real Russia for doing this as if they had their proof of postage they could of just said sorry, it’s out of their hands. Anyway, cut a medium length, and slightly dull story sideways, it turns out some cretin from the hostel had signed for it, not made a note on our booking as is procedure, and filed the tickets neatly at the back of a draw of junk. Cheers.
So, after a completely unnecessary night of chicken fueled of anxiety. We were ready for our sleeper train to Moscow. We spent the day (and some of the previous evening) seeing what we could of Warsaw, which as it’s pretty massive, and we didn’t want to stray to far, wasn’t very much. It’s a big, busy, bold and brash city, but feels like there is a lot going on. Despite all the concrete and glass and massive ugly billboards, when your actually there it feels buzzing and definitely warrants some exploring. It’s reputed to be a thriving hub for students and the arts, which I can well believe, and is supposed to have a famously good nightlife (Which we didn’t get to sample this time). With its post industrial, post communist, ugliness and thriving atmosphere, to us Warsaw felt like it shared a few similarities with Berlin. We’ve previously spent a long weekend in Warsaw and can confirm that the old town, although tiny, is very pretty and well worth a gander.
This train was itself an experience. It was slightly different to our last sleeper, as there were 3 bunks on one wall, whilst the other wall has a wardrobe/luggage compartment. As we crossed the border to Belarus, we were first checked by the Polish border guards who looked like serious militia, but were an amiable bunch of blokes and didn’t seem to take the whole thing that seriously – so far so good… Then, after moving what seemed like about 10 metres, enter the Belorussian border guards. These guys (and gals) mean business. We heard the marching of heavy boots come down the corridor and the carriage doors been aggressively slid open one by one. When they got to us, they gave the room a thorough search (presumably for any ounce of joy we may have be trying to smuggle in) and sternly demanded our passports. After checking Amy’s passport for what seemed like 10 minutes, our thunder faced border guard(ess) had a look at mine. Oh dear… She stared intently at every crease and hair follicle until she eventually decided that I was unacceptable. Shaking her head she left with both our passports, and no explanation. After about 30 minutes she returned, and seemed angry that we hadn’t filled in the requested immigration cards. All the info we needed was on the Passports, and when we apologetically explained this she seemed annoyed that we didn’t know all our details off by heart.
She eventually loosened up a little after we had to keep asking her questions about what we needed to fill in, and she couldn’t explain in English, and so we ended up in a long surreal game of charades with a Belorussian border guard. We eventually got our entry stamp, and all was well.
We got a decent nights sleep, and thankfully didn’t have to do Russian border control, which we thought we would. I guess that the Russians must trust the efficiency of the Belorussians – I certainly do.
Warsaw, Poland 13/03/12 – 14/03/13
– I’ve just done a Krakow post too. Trying to get up to date as per usual. We are now in Irkutsk in East Siberia, so have spent a few days in Moscow and done our first leg of the Trans-Siberian. We are getting back to nature and going staying in a hostel by Lake Baikal for a few days which has no internet, so I’ll hopefully write up the Moscow, Trans-Siberian, Irkutsk, and Lake Baikal posts whilst we are there. (At least the first three anyway). We hope everyone back home is well – we are on a ten hour time difference now so may not be as communicative. Keep in touch. Toodles.