Living Dangerlously Malbork

23 08 2008

Malbork, Poland

If you ever travel by train in Poland, please note that you should be ready to exit the train as soon as it stops. If you plan to exit at a small station, the condutor may stop the train for only a few seconds. If you miss that 3-5 second window, you may be tempted to jump from the train while it is moving, since it is traveling so slowly. However, the train is traveling faster than you think, and despite what your dreams may be telling you, you are not as coordinated or lucky as James Bond. For the record (and to protect me from being berrated by my parents), I am not saying that I or Gage jumped off of a moving train, but if we did, I would probably have suffered and injury like the one pictured below.

Malbork is a small city with a big tourist attraction. I mean big size wise. The Teutonic Knights’ castle there is absolutely huge and, after massive restoration efforts, still very entact. Being the only tourist attraction in the town, it also commands a high price for those wanting to go inside. For $15 per person you and a large group of people can wander the castle grounds for 3 hours while a guide dressed in some crazy velvet costume yells historic facts over your head. Luckily the outside of the castle is also quite interesting, so we opted for the budget option of walking the (free) grounds around the outside and across the river.

Not many people would opt to stay in Malbork for more than a day or two, but Gage and I are not most people. Besides we were lazy and had developed a sudden fear of trains. The first two days there we found some really inexpensive accomodation at a youth hostel in an old dormitory. We later realized that the bargain came with a high price in terms of a lock out. For those unfamiliar with a hostel lockout, this is when the hostel staff demands that you leave the hostel for several hours while they take the opporuntity to clean and finish other business in your absense. So from 10am until 5pm Gage and I wandered the now unbearably small town. On day one we endured a nasty heat wave and cursed at the door of the only cafe in town, which just so happened to be closed for the foreseeable future. Luckily we found solice in the gooey sweetness of ice cream dip cones. Malbork may think the castle is it’s best tourist attraction, but its real clame to fame may be that it is the only city we have visited so far that has dip cones. And true to the Polish tradition of fearless flavoring we enjoyed not only strawberry and chocolate dip, but also sour apple and ocean. I don’t know how to explain ocean flavor except to say that when you taste it, the normal response is, ‘Whoa, that does taste like ocean.’ And yes, that’s a good thing.

The second day of lockout we spent running from tree to tree trying to avoid the intermitent downpour. After playing frogger for the afternoon we decided to check into a nicer guesthouse south of town that was recommended by the tourist office. After two days of lockout we were prepared to make up for lost time by spending all day inside. For the first day it was absolutely amazing because they had a little mini kitchen where we were able to make our own food and an awesome ping pong table with which Gage and I realized all too late that we had wasted our talents on various other pursuits when we really should have been winning Olympic gold in table tennis. That night, though, things took a turn for the worse. And by ‘things’ I mean our private bathroom and by ‘turn for the worse’ I mean started to make me think that our bathroom could be renamed Bog of Eternal Stench. Amazingly enough our guidebook did not give us the Polish phrase for “I think there’s a dead, rotting animal located somewhere within the wall of our bathroom,” so I didn’t quite know what to do. I mean, only hours before Gage and I had been trading food with the guesthouse manager who was a really sweet guy and didn’t really speak any English. How could I lead this guy up to our room and point to the bathroom while holding my nose and acting out the possible consequences of oxygen deprevation? With our current Malbork luck, I’d probably be dealing with the one guy in Poland who had no olfactory senses whatsoever ever due to a freak gardening accident, and he’d be wondering what sort of weird tradition this odd American was performing for him. Besides the bathroom was spotless, so I didn’t know what he could do to fix it. We ended up skipping our final shower and only entering the bathroom while holding our breath. It’s amazing what one can endure when faced with a possible language barrier.

Malbork Suggestions:

  • If you want to try some eclectic cuisine, head to Andaluzja on Kosciuszki street. It has a kabab grill, but the menu is where you’ll find great pizzas as well as French, Algerian, Turkish, and Polish cuisine.

  • You can find the killer dip cones on the same street. Go ahead, get the ocean flavored. We dare you.

  • The tourist office has moved to Kosciuszki street. It is located on the north side of the street in a brand new building that looks strangely like an antibellum southern mansion.




One response

23 08 2008

“So other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the performance?”

Malbork is now officially off my list. There might have been a message in the train’s stopping there for only a few seconds (which could have caused one to feel the need to jump from a moving train, if one weren’t thinking clearly!)

When I saw the picture of you two with your dip cones I thought, “Wow! Gage must be in heaven; jalapeno dip cones!” Guess it was probably just sour apple. Sorry Gage; keep searching.

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