the people square

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Things We Learned In: The Eastern Block

  • Don’t rely on the inter-city train system in Poland – the trains are always late and if changes are made over the P.A you are only notified in Polish by someone who has their mouth much too cloose to the microphone. Take the bus – even the train station ticketing attendants will tell you to do so when you complain.
  • You can find some of the cheapest and most accomodating hostels in Eastern Europe. So far, the Art Deco Hostel in Krakow was the best hostel we’ve ever stayed in. Possibly better than most hotels. Squeaky clean, free breakfast that included a sandwich for lunch, one free load of laundry, free internet and Wifi, a large common room that is nicer than my own living room complete with a TV, Dvds, a gaming system and a book shelf where you can swap your own books for something better you find there, and the best part – saloon inspired rooms. The only thing you will need is soap and a towel, they aren’t provided in any of the washrooms. We paid 16 euros each.
  • Validate your metro cards. The Ticketing Police will fine you for not franking your card in the Czech Republic, Poland and Austria. Be careful of the smaller stations where travellers aren’t in abundance. These are typically where they prey.
  • Do not exchange your money in train stations. Go to the city centre and look for a Kantor. These places will give you the four Polish Zloty for your one Euro and won’t rip you off.
  • All public noise is forbidden by law in Prague. This includes singing, or any excessive noise. Bars can call the police on you if you are deemed “too noisey”.
  • There are people that walk around Prague calling themselves “Currency Inspectors”. They will show you their “ID” cards, and ask to inpect your money. These people are scammers so you are fully encouraged to tell them to F— Off.
  • In Poland you can be arrested for being over the drinking limit on a bike. If caught you will pay a fine of several hundred Euros, be imprisioned until you do pay and then you will also loose your driving license for a minimum of one year.
  • The best places to get hearty, no frills Polish food for super cheap are called (bar mleczny) or Milk Bars. They are communist holdovers and are much more of a cultural experience than anything else. The babooshka scoooping your mash doesn’t speak English and neither does her menu. Expect to eat standing up. 10 pierogies you an find works out to about $1.50, Canadian.
  • There is NO tourist pampering in Poland and the Czech Republic outside of a good hostel.
  • Try a langos. It’s like a pizza, but the crust is a puff pastry that is topped with ketchup, garlic and parmesan.
  • If you’re thinking of moving to Prague and becoming a waitress, it shant be easy. The waitresses in pubs use what looks to be the first computer ever made and type in all orders. It’s no surprise they never smile.
  • Two of the best look out points in Prague can be had for free. Vyšehrad is a church that was built in the 10th century on a hill over the Vltava River. The Prague Castle is the largest coherent castle complex in the world. Both offering breathtaking panoramic views of the city.
  • Auschwitz is the German name given to the place in Poland called Oschwim to make it sound more Germanized during Nazi occupation.
  • The sign at the entrance to Auschwitz that reads: “Work for Freedom” is not the original sign. It was stolen in 2009 and found in peices in a forest in Northern Poland.
  • Canada 1 and 2 were the names given by the residents of Auschwitz Berkenau to the houses where all the memorobila was taken from the concentration camp victims. Working at one of these two houses was seen as the best job to have in Berkenau, a wonderful place where people wanted to go, and was thus crowned, Canada.
  • An Auschwitz tour guide took a German group out one day and had a guidee recognize his father in a photo of a selection on display. His father was one of the Nazi guards who selected who would stay and work or go to the gas chambers.
  • Shizercommando – the name given to the person who cleaned the latrines at Birkenau. It was considered one of the best jobs to have because you had all the time you wanted to clean yourself. Dysentery was one of the leading causes for illness and death in Auschwitz.
  • Burger King is the most reliable source of Wifi in the Eastern Block. McDonald’s may be, but we’ve quit going there for one year. 10 months and counting.

If you liked this post or have anything to say, please leave a comment! I love reading them. You don’t even have to write in English! I will reply to all comments in any language :)

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This entry was posted on November 6, 2010 by in Czech Republic, Eastern Europe, Krakow, Poland, Prague.
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