Sunday, October 6, 2013

HHPF! #20 - The lost Poland trip, 2004

(HHPF intro here).

I have a friend who disappeared for a year to Poland - we went to go see him in Wrocklaw (and he just finished his first novel).  It was a dashed-off trip that became unique and indelible in hindsight.  A day before we left, I realized I was about to try to travel post-9/11 on my old replacement passport made at the Nepal embassy - it had a old cracking photo of me glued onto the first page, and my nose had chipped off.  It literally looked like a ten-year-old's attempt at cutting and pasting a passport.

At that point there was no other choice but to simply go.  Sure enough, at Schiphol the customs woman decided not to let me into Europe.  Somehow we got around that, and then we were on another flight to Berlin, where I was flooded with old memories of when I was seven, when there were tanks and soldiers everywhere, and I cried because I couldn't go to East Berlin.  This time, we got on a train, zipped by the Brandenburg Gate, and I wondered where all the time had gone.

We found Ian, and he took us around to see the local sights.  I expected to settle in for a few days of this, but instead Catherine made motions across the map and soon we were hiking across the Tatras:



Each little lodge was more beautiful than the last, and each time we went through the same routine - the warden would be convinced we were German, refused to accept that we didn't know the language, and was then astonished to find we were actually American.  We would then devour large amounts of bigos and try to figure out where to go the next day.  We didn't want to show my passport again, spent a day or two hiking through snowdrifts, and then eventually by some guys in jeeps with guns on either the Czech or Slovakian border(s).  We ended up in the Czech Republic in a town called Harrachov that had hot showers, a huge ski jump, and several restaurants that serve pig knuckles.

It was all wonderful, and it should have been a jump off for a dozen similar trips - especially because it had been basically free.  Instead, it became a one-off dream, at least until last summer, which, in retrospect, makes it seem even more special.

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