Friday, 22 October 2004

The Westernisation of Warsaw

This must surely be the place that hostels go to when they die.

This entry comes to you from Nathan's Villa in Warsaw, the best hostel I have ever stayed in.

It's simply perfect - more like a hotel than a hostel. It's extremely modern and well designed with three floors, numerous common rooms, a great spacious kitchen and private bathrooms with showers.

There is no check-out time, a free laundry service, free Internet, free lockers and even a free breakfast. The staff are young and friendly and it's very central; the main railway station is just a stone's throw away.

I arrived in Poland on Tuesday after a two hour flight from London. It's nice to be back in Eastern Europe and to be greeted by friendly smiles. Poland is very westernised now and completely different from its neighbour, Belarus.

If you stay in Warsaw for long enough you can almost see the Westernisation (which, let's face it, is mostly Americanisation) taking place. Poland is embracing capitalism, and has been colonised by McDonalds, KFC, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Britney Spears.

This is a more than a shame, as I see Westernisation as a kind of evil, and I can only hope that the Polish people don't ever become like the British. If you've never been out this way, I would recommend that you visit Eastern Europe now, while it's full of decent and genuinely friendly people, before capitalism truly sets in and eats away at their souls!

On Wednesday I got to know two young travellers, Sharon from Australia and Chieko from Japan. I usually find Australians to be loud, brash, indifferent and unlikeable, but Sharon was completely different and I enjoyed the time that I spent with her and Chieko.

We visited the Palace of Science and Culture together (a large tower in the centre of Warsaw presented as a gift to the Polish people by Stalin - it's both loved and hated by the people) and for the first time since the summer of 2000 I made my way to the viewing point near the top and looked upon this fine city.

Later we made our way to the Old City, which I didn't even know existed. It's beautiful and well worth a visit. As we explored the churches and cobbled streets, I was accosted by a man carrying an axe who insisted that I either pose with him for a photo or let him bury his blade into my neck.

He's supposed to be a 'tourist attraction', but the axe man was just a little too persuasive, and his grip just a little too strong, and it was up to Sharon to come to my rescue. It's a good thing she did, I may have lost my head, and decapitated men generally don't write good blog entries.

Later we went for a meal and were approached by a boy who tried to sell us flowers. When we left the restaurant we were approached by a man who tried to sell us cabbages. Then a little later we were accosted by an old man who kept us talking for a while, which could have been nice, had he known more English than just three words, which, oddly enough, turned out to be 'Hitler,' 'fascist' and 'Liverpool.'

But it was all good and I enjoyed the company of Sharon and Chieko.

I find it difficult to approach people and often end up wandering around alone, so it was nice to meet some new people. Sharon and Chieko left Warsaw today and are probably in Krakow now. I will never see them again, so I will end this paragraph by wishing them well.

A week before arriving in Warsaw I said farewell to Exeter.

Exeter, in Devon, was my on-off home for two years, almost to the day, in between visits to Warsaw, Minsk, Riga, Miami, Detroit, New York, Nassau, Douglas in the Isle of Man, Paris, Cheshire and York.

Leaving was sad. I made some friends and met some good people in those two years.

On my final night in Exeter I visited the cinema with my friend Craig where we watched Code 46, a pointless film. At one point in the film there's a gratuitous, unnecessary lingering shot of a woman's vagina.

On the way home Craig and I had a lengthy conversation about whether the vagina belonged to Samantha Morton, the lead actress in the film, or whether it was in fact a "stunt vagina," employed by directors for times when the action becomes a little racey.

Only the vagina knows for sure.

My last week in England was spent mostly on my Mum's settee. It was nice to see my Mum and my brother Mark, after not having visited them for three months. We enjoyed some days out, visiting a nuclear bunker in Nantwich in Cheshire, built during the Cold War to accommodate local VIPs in the event of a Soviet attack.

Tomorrow I catch a train that will take me to the city of Poznan. I'll be staying for two days in Poznan, and sleeping on a stranger's floor, before heading to a little village nearby.

I'm thinking about doing a two month SCI project in the village in January of next year and this will be a chance for me to meet the kids and the other volunteers and get lost in the fields of Poland. After that I'm not sure. I got a one month visa for Belarus today - my tenth - and I will probably head to Minsk next week but nothing is set in stone.

The world is my oyster now, with roads going in all directions, all of them leading into the unknown, and all of them leading to a place that I will, for a short time, call home.

Some of the roads I am taking will lead me to many of the people reading this entry, and I hope that we will have the chance to meet again, somewhere on this crazy planet that is home to all of us.

Until then, this is me, making the most of the free Internet in Nathan's Villa in Warsaw, saying goodbye and wishing you well.

Let's see which way the wind is blowing.

Skyler Black

P.S. Hi Mum and Mark xxx.

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London, ENGLAND, United Kingdom
This is me. Read a few entries and they will tell you more about me than I can fit into these few paragraphs. Many of these entries started their lives as mass emails. That was before I discovered blogs. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for visiting my blog and reading about my life. Both a work in progress.