Sunday, May 11, 2008

nothing says poland like soccer hooligans

well, shopping was a dud. apparently poland is as capitalist as any north american suburban mall, and so are their prices. no tantalizing deals for cheap clothing. annie and i consoled ourselves with some traditional home-style polish food: cabbage rolls, potatoes, pancakes stuffed with mushrooms and onions.

krakow did not, of course, fail us, and we were allowed a truly polish esperience: football. to be specific, football hooligans. we were enjoying a polish pint on the patio in a cafe in the Old Town, when suddenly dozens of riot squad cops pulled up to the curb and began lining up. they faced against a rapidly growing crowd of young men waving red flags around and chanting loudly, filling up the square at an alarming rate. our waitress hurried over to us with the bill and told us to go home. we asked her what the heck was going on, and she said there had been a football match. her english was not good enough to explain the outcome of the game, however.

"is it good or bad?" we asked her.

"for you, bad. go home," she said. so we decided to go home.

unfortunately, by then the square had filled up with football fans, blocking the only route we knew to go home. we wandered around, dodging the crowd, the lines of police officers and broken glass, only to return back to the spot where we had started. there we met a man who spoke english, who told us that a police officer had told him that it was going to be a crazy night. the man's polish wife told us to go home, although it was uncertain whether she meant for us to return safely to our rooms, or to go back to our country. eventually we ducked through a side road and made it home. and we are alived! it was quite the adventure - we had half a mind to stick around and see what would happen, but we knew we couldn't blend in with the rest of the crowd.

our hostel room is pretty sweet - it's pretty much a furnished flat that we are sharing with two other couples. annie and i really are the only asians in the whole country though. and it's the first time we have been in a country where we don't speak a word of the language. we've tried, but polish is really hard and is nothing like the five or six other languages that we are familiar with. the people who work here don't speak as much english as we would have expected either. ah well, we are doing well despite it all, and will be moving on to Vienna soon, which is a bigger city where more people will speak english.

today i got a good fix for my jewish fetish, visiting the jewish quarter in krakow. it's got some pretty impressive synagogues, and before WWII, it used to be a thriving place with a massive jewish population until they were forced into tiny ghettos across the river and slowly decimated during the holocaust. tomorrow we visit Auschwitz, so we will learn more about that later.