Friday, March 18, 2011

More rain, butterflies and a moment of fame.

After staying at the bar for probably too long after a long day I was understandably exhausted and slept in for far longer than I had planned. It was gone 1100 before I left the hostel.
As it was still raining heavily and quite cold I decided to go Poznan Parmiarnia, a huge botanical garden and aquarium. I had a list of Poznan attractions to see, kindly supplied by Agnes' best friend Monica who is Polish and who's family come from Poznan This place was on her list so off I went. Also the thought of spending a few hours in tropical heat was quite appealing!
After some initial confusion with the trams; there seemed to be two number fives going in different directions I found the place and paid my 4zl to get in. I thought my PoznanCard which I had bought yesterday would get me in but it only got me a discount.
The place was very good indeed. Naturally I headed to the aquarium first and stopped by a carp feeding pond. Some of the carp were huge and there was a wide variety of carp in there and they were so used to human contact it was possible to stroke them, which I did obviously.
I walked around the very impressive aquarium looking at many different species of fish from over the world, they were all very well presented in large tanks with very clean glass that made viewing the fish very easy.
Agnes had texted me earlier to tell me about a live butterfly section so when I wandered into a room full of dead butterflies on display I thought maybe I had misunderstood something or they had changed the day or something. I was wrong and after she had text me the exact pavilion they were in I found them! Typical I thought, I couldn't find them despite being in the same building and Agnes 500 miles away knew what room they were in before I did!
The butterfly section was great, in a kind of air locked area to prevent them escaping and becoming food for the many kinds of animal that call this place home.
I had a butterfly land on my top and walk up to my head, I suspected it was a White Stripe from the Philippines and the sign proved me right...
I became aware of a man with a large camera taking photos of the butterflies then of the one that had chosen to land on me. He introduced himself as Peter, a journalist from the Gazeta Poznan newspaper. He asked me for my permission to put the photo in the newspaper and on the website! This made my day and I readily agreed. I had only been in town for just over a day and I'm in the paper already!
Having seen enough I left and took the tram back to the centre and to another Bar Mleczny. Totally bewildered again by the menu I resorted to a trick I have tried with success here. I stood looking as confused as possible at the menu trying to pick out things on the menu from the book. Of course I am really trying to make it look as obvious as possible that I need some help and for an kind english speaking person to offer some assistance. it worked a treat and I got a lovely chicken meal with bacon sauce for the usual bargain price.
After I'd eaten I headed to the Museum of The Wielkopolska Uprising of 1918-1919. A notable and crucial period in polish history as this victory, described by Jacob as one of the only Polish military victories in recent years, granted Poland additional territory and allowed the Polish state to be reborn.
I got to the museum at 1630, half an hour before it closed and had to really persuade the old lady to let me in. She wrote down 1700 on a piece of paper to which I pointed out that it was only 1630 and begrudgingly she let me in. She needn't have bothered to be honest as all the displays and interactive exhibits were in Polish only and I wizzed through the small museum in 20 minutes. Shame as I was looking forward to it.
I referred back to Monica's list and went in search of two traditional Polish restaurants. The first two on the main square were out of my league pricewise so I had a look at a Czech restaurant. This was was much more within my budget and I decided to return there later. Also on the list was 'an old communist style pub' called PRL. She had written " you'll like it" after the address, I suspect Agnes may have told her friend about my Cold War obsession! It was nice, typically dingy and dark and down a cellar. If you didn't know it was there you'd never know. It was great in there, not many people and I think I may go back one evening to check out the atmosphere when it's full.
After my very nice Czech meal with a very curious tasting beer- even after finishing the pint I still couldn't quite decide if I liked it or not- I went to the Blue Note Jazz Club for an" Irish Party" that Agnes had told me about. I didn't know quite what to expect but it turned out to be a huge screen playing various Irish singers and groups in concert. After nursing a beer and enjoying the atmosphere jumped on the last tram of the night back to the hostel.
Not sure what to do tomorrow but I have plenty of options, both within the city and some excursions so I'll decide in the morning. Time for bed now.

A gentle introduction to Poznan

Well here I am in Poznan on my last little solo jaunt around Eastern Europe slumming it in youth hostels before the serious work of being a student nurse begins in two weeks. My choice of Poznan raised a few eyebrows amongst a few but I had done my research and I thought it was well deserving of a few days of my time.
I had pre booked at the imaginatively named Very Berry Hostel. It seems to be a Polish practice of giving hostels seemingly non sensical names that seem very cheerful but do the crucial job of gaining your attention. This place was very close to the centre of town and was spotlessly clean and well designed inside with cheerful friendly staff willing to help with anything. I knew very soon I had made a good choice. I had to wait until 1330 to be free of my bags and to check in so once I had I just headed to the natural starting point and centre of the city, the Stary Rynek or Old Town Square. My first inital impressions of Poznan as I walked the 250m to the Rynek was not the wow factor of Gdansk or Krakow, which are quite simply in a league of their own, but that it is a very pretty town and charming in it's own right. I was determined not to compare it to more those well known cities and enjoy the city for all it is. One of it's charms for me is that it is clearly not on the major tourist route yet.
The Rynek is exceptionally pretty with old, albeit heavily restored townhouses lining and making up the square. Dominating the square is the Ratusz, the Town Hall. Running away from the Town Hall within the square is a beautiful row of old houses all of different colours. This was where traders have lived since the 16th century and are the oldest buildings in the square.
In the midst of this beauty lies two eyesores however. Two low concrete pavilions were built by the Soviets during Communist times and they really have no place in the square. One has become an important art gallery and the other houses an important museum but I feel no one would miss them if they were pulled down.
After meadering around the square I went for lunch in one of my favorite aspects of Polish life, the legendary Bar Mleczny or Milk Bars. Devised during Soviet times to feed the prelateriat when their place of work had no canteen, the tradition lives on even in these Capitalist times. They are very very cheap and offer good wholesome meals of traditional Polish cooking. The menus are baffling, nothing on the menu board corresponded with the menu reader in my Rough Guide, but I ended up with battered pork, mash, Strawberry milkshake and a coffee for under five quid.
In the evening I went to a sports bar recommended by my hostel to watch the Liverpool match on TV. The game was disappointing but the time in the bar was nice. I spent the evening chatting to the barman called Jacob and his friend Thomas. Jacob was a soon to be qualifed teacher and hoping to find work in the UK. When I learnt that even as a qualifed teacher in Poland he could only earn around 250 pounds a month here I can see why he wants to move to England.
Both Thomas and Jacob were full of interesting tourist advice, some I may take, some I won't but I enjoyed the evening and if at a loose end when here I will go back.
I walked back to Very Berry in the pouring rain more than a little pissed and content that I had a good first day.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Blog update

Decided to delete my previous post of annoying things as it was bollocks. Am working on something more positive and accurate...