Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Saturday 9 March 2013: Sightseeing in Bialystok

What an early morning! Around 06.00 all people in the hostel started to prepare themselves for a long day of weekend school. At least it made us wide awake as well so we could enjoy Bialystok to the fullest amount of daylight, even accompanied by the sun. Even though I was a little too tall for my bunk bed I slept well. After a breakfast consisting of some Lithuanian pre-packed sweet bread and a small bottle of very tasty kefir we headed towards the city center. We took the same route like the day before but were amazed only now by the intense color of some uniquely colored houses, garage boxes and street art. Two years ago during my first trip to Poland the first thing that caught my attention was the enormous amount of commercials on the streets and screwed down onto basically all buildings. Also now during my second Polish trip I became aware of that. Another thing which amazed me is that there are so many banks to be found. On every corner of the street there are some Polish and even Dutch, Belgian and French banks located. The city center in Bialystok was quite calm on this Saturday morning.

The main street doesn’t really consist out of a long row of clothing, shoes and accessories shops like which is common in the Netherlands. Here they have huge malls for that, just like in the Baltic States. Jun, Yi and I took the time to observe the many churches around the main square and once finished visiting the last cathedral of the lane we were awarded with a dose of sunshine. At the same time it started to snow, not in a disturbing way but rather like millions of glitters surrounding us. This made me think of my first gasballoon flight above Germany during which I was baptized at the moment the sun was shining so bright and when we were flying through some star dust-like snow. That was a very special moment. 

Besides the churches Bialystok also has a beautiful palace to offer, the Branicki Palace. Back in the days it was called the Versailles de la Polonge. A well deserved title, It was a pity there was no trace to be seen from the blooming flowers in the impressive gardens yet. Everything was covered in snow. On the other hand, the soft winter sun also always shines a little special light on beautiful places abandoned from tourists during that time of the year. A black gazebo with golden details made a fantastic contrast with the blue sky that had appeared. Perfect for some nice pictures. Now we were quite curious what was to be found inside this majestic building.

One of the things I like so much about my South Korean friend Jun is that he is a very curious guy knowing that behind every door there is a story to be discovered. Without any fear he opens practically every door in order to meet people and to hear about their stories in places which normally stay closed for the masses. He has all the assets a journalist needs for a fruitful career. Also this time our curiosity was awarded after opening a difficult to open huge door. The medical faculty of Bialystok. The receptionist didn’t speak any word of English but understood we were more than willing to take a look in this palace. He nodded and let us go where we wanted to. Everything just seemed so freshly decorated. The whole building was in a good shape and even all the details had been taken care of. 

Suddenly the receptionist came upstairs and without any word he unlocked a door and let us in. It was a beautifully decorated room probably used for lectures or official ceremonies concerning medicine students. Back downstairs he pointed out we could also have a look behind the door stating ‘library’. There some smiling employees made some gestures just to continue walking and discover the small library being in a perfect shape. There were cute little reading lamps on the tables and the bookshelves were made out of dark, fancy looking wood. Also the other reading rooms looked like fairy tales for bookworms. Everything just looked so clean and fresh and even the handful of students walking around there were as handsome as the rest of the interior of this building. 

Time for a little break in one of the shopping malls. Since it was international women’s day the day before I got a nice discount on my food order. For 1.20 euro I got one chicken tortilla, some French fries and a coke which I could refill as often as desired. The shops themselves were not so interesting for the rest, apart from the fact a H&M could be found there, something which is not present in Lithuania yet. We didn’t buy anything though. Besides a lot of well known brands there were also many typical Polish shops selling cheap shoes with unfortunately not the best quality. In one of the supermarkets there was a little stand of Douwe Egberts (Dutch coffee brand) where we could taste some coffee for free. It was very tasty, of course. When I told the young man behind the stand that the coffee is produced not far from where I come from he started to talk about his Dutch friends and his wish to find a summer job in the Netherlands. I couldn’t resist asking him how Dutch people look at Poles from his perspective. He stated that Dutchmen always think Polish people are drunk, fight a lot and steal. Actually he could laugh about these prejudices. He didn’t seem to be bothered by it. I was however able to surprise him a bit when telling him about the ‘Polenmeldpunt’ (telephone line through which complaints are collected when trouble is caused by Poles in the Netherlands). 

One last tourist attraction left for that day. The zoo. Well, it wasn’t really a zoo but just a small park with some random animals like an owl, some bisons and a bear. On forehand I read that this zoo would look like a concentration camp for animals. In fact the animals didn’t look too pleased, however, the living circumstances looked a little better than seen on pictures found on the internet before. 

After a long day outside we decided to go back to the hostel and take a little well deserved nap. We were actually planning to prepare some pasta in the hostel kitchen and just take it slow during the evening. We are not the kind of travelers who have to party. Our plans were changed a bit when we were suddenly not the only foreigners amongst all Polish weekend students anymore. Two guys from Spain arrived that evening. They study journalism and medicine in Warsaw and just started their Baltic trip. Later that week they would go to Kaunas, Riga, Tallinn and Tartu. So, there we went again, into the cold in search of a hamburger and a Polish beer. For 3.60 euro my hunger was satisfied again, just as my daily dose of social activities. It was very pleasant to talk about traveling and cultural differences with the Spanish guys. Before 0.00 I was in dream land already again. One full other day in Bialystok to go.

Soon more...

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