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Two different nights with the locals

Posted: 2006-07-25 11:20:10, Categories: Travel, Poland, Hospitality exchange, Cycling, 1019 words (permalink)

I like traveling without advance reservations. While on the road I often don't know in the morning where I'll spend the following night. Usually it's easy to find a hostel, a guesthouse or a nice place to camp. However, sometimes everything doesn't go exactly as planned and that can add some extra spice to the trip.

Scene 1: Hospitality of an alcoholist

Last Tuesday I was looking for a hotel or guesthouse in a small town called Jozefow. According to my map there should have been one, but a quick tour in the city center didn't reveal any. I stopped at the main square by the pharmacy and asked two men if they knew the way.

One of the men was willing to help. He first seemed to have an idea of where the hotel might be, but then muttered something which maybe meant that it's closed or that he didn't know after all. Then he asked me to follow saying that he has a sofa and I could sleep there. Well, why not, I thought, even a place to set up the tent would be enough. It was obvious that the man had had a couple of drinks but it didn't look too bad.

Ten minutes later I was in his flat. If I'd make a list of the worst flats I've seen, that would have probably scored the top. Yes, there was a room with the sofa, plus a table, a chair, a TV and even a tiny bathroom. Besides that, the furnishing consisted of a few dirty plates and cups, beer bottles and cigarette stubs which were all over the place. The short corridor between the bathroom and the room was flooded — it later turned out that flushing the toilet would spill part of the water on the floor. At that point I would have rather escaped, but it was too late. All my bags were in the flat, my bike locked in the cellar storage room and it was already dark outside.

My host's name was Krysztof and he was more drunk than he earlier appeared to be. He offered me a beer and was clearly happy when I had working matches (his own were wet) and could help to light his cigarette. I accepted the beer but successfully refused remains of some unidentifiable foodstuff from the bottom of a jar. Krysztof did not want my bananas or oranges. He clearly wanted to have a conversation with me, but due to the language barrier we didn't get much further than saying our names and where I come from.

I thought it would work out best if he had some sleep so quite early I indicated that I was tired. Krysztof produced a surprisingly clean camping mattress from behind his bed and insisted that I'd use that instead of my own. I took it but replaced the offered moist blanket with my own bedsheet. I placed the mattress strategically so that he had an unobstructed path to the bathroom, my handlebar bag with valuables and bicycle helmet were next to me under the table so that he couldn't fall on them and started thinking about scenarios which could occur next morning. Fortunately Krysztof also soon crashed on the sofa.

I even managed to get several hours of sleep before around six Krysztof woke up and decided he needed more beer. There wasn't any left in the flat. I suggested the shop and he came to the conclusion that it's best that I leave at the same time. I was more than happy with that solution, so quicker than ever I had all my stuff out, my bike out from the cellar and I was on the road again. Krysztof headed towards the shop and I gave him 10 zlotys (2.5 euros) beer money. After all, although I didn't particularly enjoy the night, he tried his best to be friendly and offer his hospitality. Maybe my visit was a highlight for him and made a good story later in the local pub, or maybe it was quickly forgotten — I'll never know.

Scene 2: Camping at a meat factory

The Barczyk meat factoryTwo days later I was in a bit larger town called Wolbrom in the same situation as in Jozefow. I had planned to go a youth hostel which was marked on my map but couldn't easily find it and it was getting late. This time I chose a group of young guys and girls to ask for help. They had no idea about the hostel but knew about a new hotel nearby. However, they said that the hotel would be expensive and offered a safe place for my tent. Sure, I thought I'd give it a go and opted for the camping.

The guy leading the discussion turned out to be the son of a meat factory owner. Incidentally, also his name was Krysztof, but I knew it was going to be a different experience this time. The place to camp was in a guarded area on the yard of the factory. There was a large lawn which was perfect for the tent and even a toilet and washroom I could use. I quickly set up the tent and went back to the city center with my new friends.

That was a fun night. First we went to a kebab joint to get the biggest kebab I've ever had — one of the girls worked at the place and decided to make a special one for the crazy Finnish cyclist. Then a few drinks in a local bar, interesting discussions (Krysztof spoke good English) followed by a visit at his brother's place.

Next morning I was led through the factory to take a shower and treated to a sumptuous breakfast in Krysztof's father's office. Other employees were certainly curious about who on earth had first put up the tent in the front yard and then was accompanied to the executive section of the offices. :) During the morning I also met Krysztof's father, mother and his second brother, and got a kilo of different sausages as the farewell present. We'll keep in touch via email.

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