5/9/01 - 9/9/01
I think Poland is a very nice country. In terms of the number of people and building density it reminded me of Melbourne, although the architecture of the buildings is obviously different. Polish people are fairly religous and churches are everywhere. And the churches are typically large and ornate - having often been built many hundreds of years before.
Poland, being one of the eastern european communist countries, was a 'poor' country. The buildings are mostly old, the cars are old and the accomodation is basic. On the plus side, prices are generally fairly cheap (although Warsaw is expensive - £200 for a room per night). But if you have a Polish speaking guide, they know what to do and say so you dont pay too much. For example, if you catch a taxi directly from the airport you will pay roughly 6-10 times the amount of money than if you ring a taxi. Some Polish people like to prey off the rich tourist, and im sure that we were overcharged a few times because I spoke a few words of english. As a rough guide, prices for things we bought were around 20% cheaper than the equivalent Australian price (except motorbikes - see below). But keep in mind that we were in all the tourist locations.
The figure of currency in Poland is the zloty. When I had to pay for things that were a small amount (less than 10 zloty) I would grab a handful of change and let the person pick the coins from my hand (it's easier than fumbling around). I was told the average wage in Krakow is around 1,000zl (AU$500) per month - I dont know if tax is taken out of that, but I presume it's net wage. I guess it makes you appreciate what you have when you hear figures like that.
Motorbikes over there are few and far between. I thought I would see heaps, but I only ended up seeing 2 goldwings and a trailbike on the road in 4 days. I also saw a Harley, but it was parked (so it dosent count!). I thought it would be a good way to get around the cities, until I saw some prices. Try 52,000zl (AUS$26,000) for a Super Blackbird, ZX-12, GSXR-1000, YZF-R1. How about 43,000zl (AU$21,500) for a CBR600, ZX6, YZF-R6?. With these sort of prices, no wonder there was nobody riding bikes. The ones I saw were probably tourists.
Everybody in Poland seemed to speed when driving. And nobody liked wearing seatbelts. I always tried to put mine on in taxis, but soon discovered that the part than you clip the belt into would be pushed down into the seat so you couldnt use it. I saw 1 speed trap in Zakopane, which consisted of a police car parked on the side of the road (with no other cars near it) and the police standing on the road pointing the gun at cars passing by. I doubt they would catch anyone. The law says if your int he front you must wear a seatbelt, but I dont recall anybody wearing one in any of the cars I was in.
When traveling overseas, it seems it's the little things that stand out the most. For example, in all the places I stayed I didnt get what I would call pillow. I got something that was flatter and about twice as large. No resturants had napkins. Instead, they had cooking paper type stuff that showed up grease. The toilet paper was John Wayne style everywhere. Although, the toilet flush system was good. It would keep flushing until you stopped pressing the button, rather than a full flush each time (ala England) or full/half (Aus).