Bialystok. That would be the destination for our spontaneous trip. Since a few free days were ahead of us, Jun, Yi and I decided to take the train to Bialystok. We had been to all large cities in the neighborhood already and this Polish city close to Belarus seemed like it could offer us something new and exciting. We took the afternoon train on Friday and crossed many small Lithuanian villages. I recognized some of the venues near Marijampole and Kalvarija since I had been there last summer during the hot air junior world championship. It looked totally different now though. It was around -10 and the soil was covered with a blanket of shiny snow. In Sestokai we had to change trains since the size of the railway in Poland is different from that in the Baltics. We were wondering how it must be to live in such a small place with around 750 inhabitants. It seemed nothing was going on there, except a lively transport in wood. I wonder how people who live there and who never travel look at the world. Do they form a proper world image through the TV series they watch or do they just mind what’s going on locally, in Southern Lithuania? When thinking about this I always feel privileged to have the opportunity to travel and discover new places, cultures and people.
Without any sign we crossed the Polish border. It was Yi’s first time to be in another European country than Lithuania. Still, everything seemed to look the same. The only difference was that the number plates of the cars turned from LT into PL. At Trakiski, the first stop after the border, two policemen stepped in the train. They were walking through the wagons but didn’t check our passports. What a difference with only a few decades ago. Crossing European borders is a delight nowadays. Suddenly two men showed up in our wagon. They were both a bit fat and looked like construction workers. Both carried a small bottle of soda in their hands and they really could have been random travelers going from one deserted village to another. They looked at us and stopped walking. Our passports. They didn’t speak any English but it was clear they wanted to check our identities. Hindsight we should have asked them to identify themselves too but we were so stupid and overwhelmed not to. Especially the passports of Yi (from China) and Jun (from South Korea) were inspected carefully. Luckily we all got our passports back right away but we were left a bit confused when we were the only ones being checked. A friendly Lithuanian woman who happened to be a teacher in Klaipeda showed her sorrow. She said that it looked quite mysterious why these men without any signs of authority only asked us to identify ourselves and stressed we should stay alert and watch out. After this I couldn’t sleep anymore and observed every movement in our wagon. At least all our belongings were still there.
After a six hour train ride we arrived in Bialystok where it was already dark and where we realized we travelled into another time zone. It felt good to walk on the streets there. I honestly expected I would feel a bit more unsafe. Without too many problems we managed to find our hostel, a sweet little house in the middle of some Sovietic looking living blocs. We were welcomed by an old men with glasses like jam jar bottoms. Since we didn’t withdraw Polish zloty’s yet he send us away again. No check in without paying. Ok. After we had taken out the desired amount the receptionist had to go through all of his paper work to check us in. It was almost like he was reinventing the wheel every single time another one of us had to be subscribed in the big, sticky, old hostel book. Furthermore his thick glasses obviously didn’t provide enough help, since his eyes had to be supported with a supplementary magnifying glass as well. His English was not that wonderful so he didn’t understand any of our questions posed out of interest or little jokes which were meant well. When discovering my last name he looked at me through his glasses with enlarged eyes stating ‘Bos… like in chief?’. No, like in forest. Even though I tried to explain, he didn’t understand. When I handed over my money to pay for the three nights we would stay at the hostel he investigated the 100 zloty bill (less than 25 euro) extensively. ‘Hm, nice job you did’. As if I faked it. At least we managed to confuse the man one more time by the similar birth dates of Jun and me. We are born on exactly the same day in the same year. When the man gave us a wondering look I told him Jun and I are twins. Then the registration fun was finally over and we left the man alone to think about his three new, strange, foreign guests.
Jun slept on the first floor while Yi and I occupied some space on the second floor in a room with 16 beds. There were a few Polish girls already there and it smelled like ‘the day after the big drinking alcohol day’. Beeeh. We prepared our beds and then set off to the inner city in search of a place where we couldeat something. Each time we left or arrived at the hostel we said hello and goodbye to a poor white dove frozen to the ground with its back. The little fellow didn’t survive this winter. At a place called Hokus Pokus I ordered a plate of French fries and ‘chicken fingers’. It was quite tasty but a little bit too greasy. It was at least a good preparation for my stomach to handle some more unhealthy food that weekend. On our way back to the hostel we quickly dropped by at a small supermarket where we were amazed by the low prices. Poland seems to be even more affordable than Lithuania. The wind was freezing cold and we decided to put on all the clothes we brought the next day to keep ourselves warm. After seeing a taxi driver driving backwards against a tree and not even caring about the damage we finally set off for a good night sleep. Sleep well white dove.