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.

Poluzjanci at Palladium, Warszawa

Polucjanci, Palladium

Poluzjanci were one of my favourite Polish bands back in my twenties, but I hadn’t had the chance to see them live when I was still in Poland. What a great coincidence that was, when I saw they were performing just two days after Dylan and in the same place as him. Again, I went with my sister and her boyfriend. Poluzjanci’s songs are mostly about love and all that romantic stuff, so me and my sis loved the show while for B. there was too much sugar and he couldn’t wait until the concert was over. He couldn’t stand the vocalist (who was pretty handsome) and he hated him even more when my sister told B. he sometimes looked like him. LOL.

After the concert, Jola said she finally got the sense of living in Warsaw. This was a cool place to be and we were cool, because we were there. We were sitting in the 3rd row, behind us there was sitting Tatiana Okupnik, an ex-vocalist of Blue Cafe, another cool Polish band (by the way, my ex-housemate said she used to be in his old band as well) and she sits on the Polish X Factor jury and just a few seats to the centre, there was sitting Aleksandra Kwasniewska, the daughter of ex-President of Poland. She’s actually the vocalist’s wife, so her presence was justified.

Enough about the audience and gossips. Back to what was happening on stage. Poluzjanci played a lot of new songs, but I was waiting for the ones from their first album, which I love the most. Sorry they’re in Polish, but I hope you’ll enjoy them anyway.

One of the fun moments was, when at one point, the drummer sat down behind a mini drum kit and the bass player took out a home made bass guitar. How it sounded, you can check out in this video.

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As I had said, I liked the concert and it was worth the wait. But it wasn’t the only thing I was enjoying that weekend that I had to wait for quite a few years… t.b.c.

11 October, 2013

Warsaw / Warszawa, Poland

A month after my last post, I’m writing about what happened on the next day. The fact that I’m back blogging is a good sign, because since February I didn’t have a week when I didn’t stress out over anything. Now my days have settled down and I can finally catch up on my Internet stuff.

Just recently, I came up with this idea to see the capitals of Europe. I don’t know how I’m going to do that, whether it’s going to be one trip through Europe or if I should divide Europe into parts and see them in a few tours or take plenty of 2-3 day trips, every time to a different city. I’ll have to do some research.

In the meantime, I can already tick the capital of Poland off. Even though I had lived there for 8 years, every time I visit it now, I see the city in a different way. I miss Warsaw, but I think I miss it from my student years. The capital keeps changing and yet it saves its own character. My regular place I usually go to is E. Wedel’s Chocolate Lounges. I haven’t found anything like that here in London. It’s a great place to meet up and catch up with friends while having a wide variety of thick hot chocolate to drink. And this is what I did on the next day afternoon and then in the evening we took a stroll along Krakowskie Przedmiescie and Old Town. I noticed there were many milkbars with cheap, but very delicious home-made food – something I was missing years ago.

On Friday, the weather was beautiful and perfect to admire famous golden Polish autumn in The Park and Palace of King Jan III’s at Wilanów. Before the sunset, my sister and me headed to Praga quarter to have dinner at my friend’s restaurant Himalayamomo which specializes in Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine and then we went to the city centre, to the very same venue as two days before to see another concert… t.b.c.

10-11 October, 2013

Yeah, Yeah – Dylan Moran at Palladium, Warszawa

My apologies for this longer break: first the trip to Israel in February, then soon after that an emergency trip to Poland in family matters and now I’ve just taken up a third job, so not much time for life and posting about it.

My last entry was about how sick I was at Fat Freddy’s Drop concert. I lost about 3 kg during that time, but don’t worry, got them back when I felt better. I had to get back to form pretty quickly. The concert was on Saturday and on Wednesday the week after I flew to Poland to see Dylan Moran and go to two other concerts and all that I was to do in four days.

Wait… going to Poland to see an Irish comedian? Wouldn’t it be easier to see him in London or Ireland (he actually lives in Scotland)? Well, no, because he was touring Europe outside of the UK.

Since I saw his cult comedy show “Black Books”, I really wanted to see Dylan live and as soon as I saw he was coming to Warsaw, I bought tickets for my sister, her boyfriend and myself. That Wednesday was a crazy day. I worked from 5 to 9am in my shop, then went straight to the Luton airport to catch my plane to Warsaw. No delays there, luckily, so I landed at 5:40pm. Dylan’s show was at 7:30pm in the city centre. Plan A was, that first I would go to my sister’s, leave luggage and go together to the show, but she missed the last bus to the airport to pick me up (public transport in Warsaw is not that easy as here), I didn’t have any bus to her place, so we decided to meet up at the venue. I got on the next bus to the centre, but just as we managed to reach the first stop, one of the passengers had an epilepsy attack. Don’t get me wrong, I felt for that girl, one of my closest family members suffers from epilepsy, but it sucks when something like that happens when you’re in a hurry. The bus driver called an ambulance, told the rest of us that the course was cancelled, so we all had to wait for the next bus. To cut the story short, I got to the venue about 5-10 minutes before the show started.

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Dylan Moran was absolutely amazing. He quickly got our love when he showed appreciation for coming to see his stand-up, even though he couldn’t speak Polish, apart from few words. Then he made some jokes that Poles like travelling and making coffee in the West and he also showed he knew what was on the recent news in the media (Polish Catholic priest named Michalik blamed children, who didn’t get enough love at home for pushing priests to pedophilia, which was a good joke on its own).

The whole 90 min show was a lough out loud delight. Someone uploaded an audio of the whole thing, so if you find some time, have a listen. Or rather, you must listen!

I was wondering if I could see anyone famous in the audience and I did. There was Hubert Urbanski, a guy who hosts “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” Polish edition. He was much taller than I had thought he was! That was a nice welcome back to Warszawa.

9th October