TRAVEL UPDATE: We Crossed Poland and Half of Germany in a 24-Hour Bus for Absolutely Nothing!

Journal Entry 19

This is the pure definition of how tough travelling through COVID-19 is! A few weeks ago we took on a (VERY) long journey from Prague to Bialystok, with a layover in Berlin. The plan was to stay in Białystok for a few days and then move forward to either Belarus or Ukraine. However, because COVID-19 regulations change constantly (so constantly!), it’s tough. And in fact, just during the five days we spent there, in Białystok, both Belarus and Ukraine had put Poland on their red list – making it practically impossible for us to cross borders into any of the countries.

With no other viable option, we once again packed our backpacks with absolutely no plan in mind. At that point, we felt that our best shot was travelling south to Krakow in an attempt to sort out our next move from there. And we did! There, we moved in with a local family we found through Workaway, and we stayed there for a little over a week.

Re-visiting Krakow

Old Town Square

Since this was going to be our second time in the Polish city, we already knew some of the places we wanted to re-visit … and first up was the Old Town Square. Although it’s the same exact place as the previous time, we felt that everything had changed! The scenery was totally different – everything was covered in brown and orange leaves while two years ago it was white powdered snow. Oh … and this time, it was dead empty, no locals whatsoever let alone tourists.

Most definitely, the main attraction in Krakow’s Old Town Square is St Mary’s Basilica – a brick Gothic church surrounded by a flock of pigeons, some of which proved to be pretty photogenic indeed.

The District of Kazimierz

Known better as Krakow’s historic Jewish quarter, Kazimierz is a beautiful old neighbourhood perfect for a stroll around. We visited this neighbourhood in an attempt to find a popular butterfly-shaped graffiti, after being inspired by a fellow backpacker. If anyone would like to visit, it’s located right by ‘Bubble Waffle’.

But the butterfly is not the only street painting there is! Kazimierz is actually known as the bohemian part of Krakow, hence why it’s full of different murals. Some of them are connected with the history of the district while some are just graphic commentaries on world issues.

Auschwitz

The name Auschwitz is synonymous with the worst things human beings can do to each other. It’s rarely unheard of but this was the largest of the Nazi concentration camps, where over 1.1 million people were brutally killed!

One of the sickest things (out of the many) is the fact that the elderly, the ill, disabled or anyone who was seen as ‘unfit’ to work would most probably end up a victim of the nazi brutality. How hard was it to understand that everybody is as equally important in society?

Auschwitz-Birkenau isn’t somewhere you’d ‘want’ to visit, but it’s somewhere that you should visit, somewhere that is guaranteed to have an effect on you for a long period of time!

How Should We Play Our Next Move?

Within the few days that we spent in Poland, restrictions were being tightened nationwide, with locals predicting that something close to a lockdown was up next. Getting stuck in Poland would have been the last thing we wanted, as we had no place to stay for the long term.

Looking at our options, Belarus and Ukraine were both out of the question … and so were all Poland’s neighbouring countries. While trying to think of a solution, we felt that continuously moving from one country to the next was proving to be too difficult when COVID restrictions were at their peak. Keeping this in mind, we decided that the best move forward would be to settle somewhere for at least a month, hoping that by then things would become a bit more … predictable!?

But Where?

Good question! Settling down sounded a bit dull in our ears at the time. How boring would it be sitting in an apartment with nothing interesting to do for such a long while?!

First to decide was which country we were heading to. Out of all, the most sensible option proved to be Italy (yep, despite the alarming number of daily COVID-19 cases). The main reason was that we couldn’t afford planning our next move, and maybe a few days later some new law crumbles all of our ready-made (and paid!) plans. Italy was very safe, as the country was accepting visitors from all European countries. The only law in place was that from time to time, Italy could require passengers to be tested (for free!) if arriving from countries which at the time would qualify as high risk. Perfect!

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Up next was to find a place to head to, and out of nowhere, we found just the perfect thing we could have ever imagined. Out of the blue, Charlon’s face lit up at one point and he asked:

“How about we go live in a castle for a couple of weeks?!”

Honestly, I Just Thought This Was One Of His Usual Bad Jokes! 😂

Well … it wasn’t! In short, a young couple took hold of a 1,000-year-old castle surrounded by an ancient forest in the middle of Tuscany. The first official contract of the castle was written on a piece of animal skin in the year 900 and it’s now surrounded by huge olive fields, being one of the main sources of income for the family in the castle. The idea behind it is to have a small community of travellers living and helping around in the castle, in exchange for daily food and accommodation. It sounded just perfect, and after a day exchanging messages we got their confirmation, booked our flight and headed to the beautiful country of Italy.

I mean, what could be a better place than a castle on top of a mountain to get stuck in during a national lockdown?


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