Bumpy road to the Holy Land

When I traveled around New Zealand three years ago, I had this habit to write about new places I visited as soon as possible, while everything was fresh. This post was drafted in Tiberias, at the beginning of my visit in Israel, but later the schedule was too tight and in the evenings I was too tired to write anything, so I was just making short notes and going through photos from that day. This post will have more words, while the rest of them will probably be photo stories.

One year ago, exactly to the date, I went to Israel with an organised group, because I was too afraid to go on my own in that part of the world, well, at least for the first time. The trip was organized by my old Hebrew teacher (I used to study at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Warsaw), so I trusted her and I knew it would be an interesting and very informative trip not only in Biblical facts, but also in sipping the cultural background. The meeting point was the airport in Warsaw, so I had to go to Poland first. I decided to go a few days earlier to spend weekend at my parents’ in Masuria and then go to Warsaw.

I had a plane to catch from London-Luton on Friday, 31st January in the afternoon. Usually, trains from my nearest train station to the city centre went every 3-6 minutes. When I got there, I found out that trains were every 20 min that day. I started to panic and there was no announcement why they were so late. I took a bus to Wimbledon hoping that trains would stop more often at a bigger station. How unpleasantly surprised I was when I discovered that the problem was in Wimbledon! There was a fire near the tracks and trains were delayed, redirected or cancelled.

Luckily, trains did go to Victoria and I managed to get there early enough to get on coach to the airport, which even arrived 17 min before the scheduled time. I had a plenty of time to drink hot chocolate after the amount of stress I had been through. I didn’t know then, that it wasn’t over yet. When we got on the plane and took our seats and every hand luggage was in the compartments, a crew member announced that one of the passengers decided not to fly with us and wanted to leave the plane. So, we had to take all our luggage out, put them on our laps and they had to check if everything of that person was unloaded. When we finally got back to our seats, the plane started getting ready to take off. We were already speeding up on the runway when suddenly the pilot pressed the breaks and we stopped. Wind? Rain? We were told it was a ‘technical problem’. After waiting 15 min for the breaks to cool down, we took the second attempt to take off from a different runway, which was successful this time. Later I found out that it was because of a puddle on the first runway and our plane was too big to drive through it.

We arrived in Gdansk with one hour delay. It was a real winter in Poland and for a van, which was waiting for me and other passengers from London in a temperature below zero it was too long. As a result its batteries died. We had to wait hoping the drivers would be able to recharge them from a different car of the same company. After one hour sitting in a cold car we were finally ready to go. I got home by midnight without any more adventures. Never the less, I started to believe I was dragging a bad luck with me and it was all my fault.

On Sunday afternoon, I went to Warsaw, spent some time with my sister and her boyfriend and in the evening they dropped me off at the airport. I had no problems with checking in and baggage control and I found my group by the gate easily. After recognizing some familiar faces and getting to know new people, I told them about my adventures from Friday. Everyone was cheering me up, when I told them my concerns about my luck. Their opinion changed and they started to look at me differently wondering if I was really a Jonah, when we found out few minutes later that the plane we were going to go broke down and LOT – Polish Airlines would give another plane, but it was smaller and 9 people from our group could go that evening and the rest of the group – 22 people were asked to stay over night in Marriott Hotel near the airport and go the next day with ELAL – Israeli airlines. My ex-teacher and organizer of that trip said it was the first time that something like that happened to her. I could only tell, ‘I told you so’ and wonder if I should risk and continue my journey.

I was in the group that stuck in Warsaw. On the next day, after delicious breakfast we all went back to the airport, but this time everyone individually was sort of interrogated by an ELAL staff member before checking in, then after being approved, we got our boarding passes and our luggage went through a detailed scan, including opening the suitcases, getting out all the electronic devices, cameras etc. Everything was examined. I had heard many stories about that, so I was prepared and understanding. Besides, if not in Warsaw, then we would have been checked at the Israeli airport after the arrival.

It seemed like it was taking ages, but we managed to get on board on time. The flight was pleasant, but I was surprised they showed ‘Captain Philips’ with Tom Hanks. The film was good, but I wouldn’t expect waching a film about hijicking a boat or any other mean of transport on a plane to the Middle East. It made me feel a bit uncomfortable.

We left Poland after 10am, flew for about 4 hours, but because of the time difference, when we arrived in Tel Aviv and joined the rest of the group and our Israeli tour guide it was already 4pm. We had our first hotel booked in Tiberias, 150km from Tel Aviv, so all we did was just got on the coach and went to Tiberias. I was mad and dissapointed. I had hoped we would be able to catch up on lost time, but it was impossible. The first day, when we had scheduled travelling along the coast and the visits to Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Caesarea, Haifa, Mount Caramel, Nazareth and Cana was gone. The beginning of the trip was horrible and I felt I was the only person to be blamed for.

The only comfort I had after the return from the trip, was when I made a complaint to the LOT and I got a complete refund for the plane tickets, €400, but still, I would rather see those places we missed, than the money I got. I don’t know when will be the next time I go to Israel again.

The Guitar Festival in Szczytno, Poland

Initially, I was supposed to come back to London on Saturday. I even had a plane ticket. But my friend, who is a musician and was about to release his debut album, said that he was going to have an album release concert on that Saturday as part of the Guitar Festival in our home town. Luckily, Ryanair came through, because they changed the airport I was to depart from, so I cancelled my ticket, got my money back and then bought a new ticket for Sunday. And so, right after seeing Poluzjanci in Warsaw on Friday, the next day we were all three in a car to Szczytno.

We came late to the concert, so they gave us the seats in the front row.
fotograf
Photo by Marek Zawrotny. See more photos from that evening.

We were right on time for my friend to take the stage. The blue light was a killer to my camera, so sometimes you barely see him, but I hope you’ll enjoy his music. If you do, you can buy his whole album from his website.


One very annoying thing was, and I can even hear it in those videos, that the official photographer was allowed to take photos through out the whole concert and it was so distracting. Not only the noise of the shutter, but he was walking from one side to the other and if you were sitting in the first front rows, he was destroying the whole atmosphere. A big fail.

My friend wasn’t the only one who played that evening. He also invited a very promising young guitarist, Piotr Szumlas…

…and the star of the evening, Jon Gomm! It was his only concert in Poland and I couldn’t believe he came to our little town. I saw that that my other friend was recording official videos, so didn’t film anything from Jon’s performance. Unfortunately, nothing has been posted online from that show since then, so here’s a video from Gomm’s YouTube channel, a song he performed in Szczytno and is available on his new CD, which he was selling weeks before its release in the UK.

My sister’s boyfriend loved his performance so much that he went straight after it to buy the CD. That was a pretty good score – out of three shows we went together, he liked two. My sis liked them all.

On Sunday morning my tour ended when I went back to London to my regular ordered days.

12 October

360 degrees

This is the view from the roof of my block of flats back in my home town. I filmed it in September. Next time, I want to film something similar but from the clock tower at Town Hall. The view will be much more interesting: Teutonic Knights castle ruins, two lakes, main roundabout which you can’t see in this video.