Journey into the unknown 2022, or on the perils of international travelling ;)

Well, actually, it was a journey into what we thought was very well known, after all we’ve lived in Poland for a long time ;). But in our post-COVID19 times nothing is as it used to be and the perils are very real ;). 

But first things first.

Our flights (various legs of it) had been cancelled several times, and in a couple of situations we were informed blithely that no alternative flights are available till late September. The last cancellation happened 5 days before departure, and I’m quite surprised I don’t have any white hair from this experience. The worst thing is that there wasn’t really a choice of airlines offering tickets! The ones that we used last time didn’t operate the route anymore (they returning to it in September, so at least there’s hope for the future). Lufthansa seemed a safe bet, all things considered, so I wonder how other people travelling from this part of the world went through with other airlines. That said, the hours spent on the phone with Lufthansa were many, and I really don’t want to count them because I might still develop a rash just from thinking about it. But, in the end, we did manage to get to Poland. The journey took only 72 hours, with a 16-hour layover in Hong Kong and two days (yes, 2 days!) in Frankfurt. 

Frankfurt skyline from the river Main.

The Hong Kong layover would have been fine if someone informed us beforehand (or just posted a notice on the airport website, or anywhere, really) that the airport is closed due to COVID restrictions. So, we landed there, couldn’t get out (you need special forms for that and even then it takes approx. 3hrs to get in line to get tested and wait for your results in a rather confined and closely watched space, and the return is similarly difficult) and couldn’t even buy a cup of tea or anything to eat. There was a water fountain. And half of the toilets available (the other half was only for the personnel, with people guarding the not-for-travellers toilets).

Next was Frankfurt, which was actually very nice. We turned the inconvenience into an opportunity and went for a sightseeing tour, complete with a lovely river cruise. Frankfurt has a great art museum, the Städel, with a wonderful collection of paintings of old masters. Absolutely fabulous Mediaeval art collection, plus gorgeous paintings by Boticelli, Vermeer, van Eyck, Rembrandt, Brouwer, Bronzino… There’s an online collection you can check out here: https://www.staedelmuseum.de/en/collection-highlights.

Frankfurt Old Town

Poland welcomed us warmly, with over 30 degrees Celsius, and with COVID. I guess the experience wouldn’t have been complete if we hadn’t caught it at some point. For 1,5 weeks of our stay we had to quarantine, but because we had already spread the virus to my parents, we were able to quarantine with them ;). Maybe it sounds bad, but it actually proved beneficial because we were able to spend some time together with them, which was great. Aand we were also able to go mushroom picking, which I absolutely love and wanted to do for the last four years :D. That said, despite three doses of vaccine the virus hit us with considerable force. In the worst period of it walking up a flight of stairs was an effort! Fortunately we’re fully recovered and don’t seem to have any lingering symptoms. Yay!

Kraków is as beautiful as always, very clean even though it is still in the throes of various roadworks and renovations. Of course, I was too busy meeting with friends to take photos ;). So the only one you’ll get is the gargoyle from Collegium Maius, the oldest university building in Poland (14th century and holding up very well!). I was pleasantly surprised by the city’s decision not to mow grass in public spaces – it must be a nightmare for people with allergies, but it looked very nice, with little meadows popping up in unexpected places. It saves water, too :). Summer is a great time to visit Kraków, even though there are plenty of tourists everywhere, because in the summer months the city looks so vibrant and lively, and has a more laid-back vibe. Autumn is also great, but because it’s the time of students coming back and flocking to the various academias located around the city, it all becomes a bit more rushed and there are plenty of people who know exactly where they’re going and will get there even over your body ;). The greenery looks amazing, though, resplendent in gold and crimson.

Collegium Maius’ gargoyle

We also visited Toruń, another great old town famous for being the hometown (more or less) of Nicolaus Copernicus. It’s also famous for the delicious gingerbread they make there, and let me tell you, it’s as good as they say :D. Everywhere you look in Poland you see signs of support for Ukraine. There’s also a lot of Ukrainians on the streets, and everybody seems well-disposed, if generally tired – unfortunately, from the stories of my friends and the news outlets it seems that the effort of helping the Ukrainian refugees was ceded by the government entirely to the regular people and a grassroots movement of volunteers. The government doesn’t help, and it seems a small miracle that at least it doesn’t hinder the effort. 

A facade of a theatre for children in Torun, Baj Pomorski.

Our return journey took us through Frankfurt and Singapore, and fortunately we had only 6h in Singapore and all the shops were open ;). Bliss! 😀 There are some cool installations in the airport, sculptures and tiny gardens, and it’s a very friendly place (for an airport). We were happy to get back home, even returning to the middle of an extremely wet and windy winter 😉 As always, I wish I had more time to spend in Poland with friends and family, but you know how it is 😉 Maybe next time, in another two years, the journey will be a tad easier!

One of the installations at Singapore airport (just the wings, I’m not a part of the design ;))

45 thoughts on “Journey into the unknown 2022, or on the perils of international travelling ;)

    1. Thanks! Yeah, one in a kind! 😅 Yes, it was a great trip even despite all those adventures 😁 but I do look forward to more predictable times…

      Like

  1. OMG! That first journey sounds like a nightmare! Sorry to hear it was so stressful for you. I’ve been worried about this and have so far been unable to travel to the UK due to restrictions and much more expensive flights. Air tickets seem to have risen by 50% or more since the last time I flew back to England. I wonder if it will ever return to “normal”?

    Glad you had a good time in Poland despite being ill. That’s tough, but as you said at least you were all together. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Wakizashi! It was unforgettable, that’s for sure 😅 and yes, the air travel go so much more expensive, unreliable and convoluted! I hope it will get back to the old normal within a year or so. But it’s become really unpredictable with wars and pandemics and stuff…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You know, I was wondering where you were…

    Oh, and hey, China has really severe COVID restrictions, so they probably wouldn’t have let you out of the plane even if you HAD completed all the forms. You didn’t go mushroom hunting while you were sick, did you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I’ve been mentioning it around the blogosphere but I didn’t make a post about it, sorry! 🙂

      Oh, I read all about China restrictions, that’s why we didn’t want to get out of the airport – though after security checks we couldn’t have done it anyway 😅

      Well, mushroom picking was part of the recovery plan 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You really should’ve come to America then! As far as I know, we’re getting rid of ALL of our COVID restrictions, including masking, distancing, and even quarantining when you have it, which is… a thing:/

        Liked by 1 person

        1. LOL, I don’t want to sound cruel, but there’s a reason I’ve been avoiding America these past few years… 😂 I really liked it back in 1995, I liked it well enough in 2007, but now? Nope. Sorry. I didn’t leave Poland only to go to a somewhat wilder version of it! (more democratic, too, but still ;))

          Like

  3. What a trip! It sounds like you made the most out of the Frankfurt stay, but what a horror to be trapped in an airport! Actually, I flew a lot when I was in college (I went to school out of state) and became convinced that one of the circles of Hell would be an airport (Probably Newark, New Jersey, if you care to know), populated only by the most annoying people.
    Unfortunate that you all caught covid, but I am happy to hear that recovery seems to have gone well. Lovely photo of the winged art installation!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, I’m totally with you on that circle of Hell! Can’t say I’ve been to Newark, but O’Hare must be a close contender 😁 The endless corridors of Frankfurt are something from a nightmare, especially when you’re in a hurry – they stretch for kilometers!

      Thank you, carol.! ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Travel is a nightmare right now. But if it all works out and you visit the places that you want to visit, then the bad times quickly recede in memory. That’s what I found when I flew in early July. I had booked a flight with KLM. In the weeks before my flight I saw that my specific flight number was getting cancelled every day, so I knew that when my day would arrive, it would get cancelled. The weird thing was that this flight was still bookable every day from the KLM website. I didn’t take the chance and rebooked it to another timeslot and that worked out. But then I also had to stand in line for security at the airport for more than 3 hours and I almost missed the flight, even though I was at the airport more than 4 hours in advance. Anyway, I’m happy to hear that you recovered from covid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jeroen!

      I do hope air travel gets back to the old normal sooner than later – though I think it will take at least another year or so. It’s become unpredictable and horribly expensive at the same time.
      We had to run through Frankfurt to get to our flight because our earlier connection was late… Not pleasant! But we did manage to get there and back, and had a great time in between, so all good! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, once you get to your destination it’s still worth it. The best bet would be to travel in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn instead of summer. And no transfers and only hand baggage. My next flight is in October and I’m hopeful that it will be an easier experience. I mean, the problems are all about employee shortages because airports don’t pay their security personnel and baggage handlers high enough wages. It should be fixable.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. Yeah flying halfway across the globe like you adventurers is a bit hard without transfers. I’ll be going to Nice, France, for a few days. It’s still an experiment for me how much I can do on one of these trips without getting too tired. I’ll keep doing them to get used to travelling again.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Good luck with your trip then! Sounds like a great idea, getting slowly back in the groove, and especially in such wonderful places! Haven’t been in Nice, but would love to visit it one day.

              Like

  5. What a journey! Traveling certainly seems to have become a !ot more complicated and Lufthansa has been one of the worst when it comes to cancellations. I am glad to hear, you still had a nice holiday and are fully recovered from Covid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks!
      Lufthansa might be in deep trouble right now, but I’m sad to say that they were one of the very few airlines who actually offered flights along this route… I think it will get better with time, things seem to be slowly going back to normal, but I would’ve spent even more time considering alternatives had I known how it would ultimately play out! 😂

      Like

  6. This, this is exactly why I hate traveling. Sadly, I’m the kind of person who the bad stuff of traveling would overshadow all the good times and I’d 110% miserable the whole time.
    I’m glad you aren’t like that.

    Sorry to hear you got hit hard with covid too. I can truly empathize 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a glass half full type of person but I did stress out a lot during that experience, that’s for sure 😅 Wouldn’t want to expose my parents to it, for example. Which means that I probably won’t see my family until we travel back to Poland again, probably another two years…

      Thanks, Booky! Yeah, I remember you and Mrs B had it too earlier this year? It’s one nasty virus. But I’m glad we all recovered!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m a glass all the way empty kind of guy, hahahaa 😀

        I’d sympathize except I don’t see my family more than 3-5 years at a time, and it doesn’t bother me. So I intellectually understand that people miss seeing their parents, but that’s what phone calls are for, right? 😉

        Yeah, we had it at new years bad enough to go to the hospital. Glad it’s over!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, glad to hear covid’s all over for you – hopefully for good!

          We’re very close to our families – it’s actually the main reason why we’ll be looking for some opportunities a bit closer to Poland (not that difficult, really, apparently even Antarctica is closer!) sooner or later. I guess in US the fact that the majority of kids leave their parental homes when they start studies/work (17/18 yo) generally nudges the family relationships toward more independence and distance 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Reading this makes me even more committed to keeping my trips relatively local (i.e., US and Canada).

    I’m glad you got through the outward journey, despite the challenges. I think I would have thrown a tantrum!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I tried to comment on your post this morning, but looks like it may have disappeared into cyberspace. Anyway, it sounds like a stressful beginning of the holiday – I am glad it all ended well!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jeez… 72 hours of dealing with planes and airports in all kinds of countries sounds torturous! I’m glad you guys survived all that though. I laughed when you mentioned mushroom picking though. With your obsession with mushrooms and fungi in fiction (and probably non-fiction too), it was only a matter of time before you went hunting for them yourself! Frankfurt is my first German country visit back when I was 12 but I barely remember any of the more cultural/historical elements there. I need to refresh my memory of all that someday. Did you meet up with Piotrek too? Poland sounds friendly based on what you describe and gingerbread sounds delicious out there! I’ve heard amazing things about Singapore and its airport, and you look so happy finally revealing your inner wings! 😀 Thanks for sharing, Ola! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, not pleasant, not at all 😉 But we did survive and that’s what counts! 😀
      Oh, tbh, my mushroom obsession started with mushroom picking ages ago, and the books came only later! I was taken on mushroom picking trips as soon as I could walk on my own! 😂
      Yes, we did meet up, and were too busy catching up to make even one photo, I’m sad to say…

      Thanks, Lashaan! 😀 Yeah, this type of wings I wouldn’t mind at all – much better than something black, spiky and leathery! 😂

      Like

  10. Words fail me, Ola, I’m stupefied by the amount of stamina, enthusiasm, hard work and creativity involved in getting you there and back again. But clearly it was all well worth it! Well done, and thanks for sharing it all.

    And I had intimations of a scene in Brazil, I think you may know which one, in the last photo…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Chris! 😊

      Yeah, in a way this whole trip was a life-imitating-art nod to Brazil, so the wings at the end at least signify a somewhat happier ending than the one in the movie… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Incredible post with mixed emotions, I am so glad that I stumbled upon your post.

    I am glad that you managed to somehow see the silver lining in all you had to face. All in all I guess it’s an experience and all of us stand to learn from yours.

    This also reminds me of an incredible journey I took with my wife in a small island nation called ‘Sri Lanka’ in South Asia in the beginning of this year.

    Trust me when i say this, it was truly the ‘pearl of Asia’ mind blowing wild life, culture, people, food and unspoiled destinations it was purely a one for the memory vaults for us. I made a post from my journal entries on the journey and you are more than welcome to have a look through here, https://wordpress.com/post/sachsattic.wordpress.com/362

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow, man! The journey to Poland was… wow. I’m surprised you didn’t get any white hairs from it too. But seems you had a wonderful time in Poland, and that’s great you got to spend time with your parents, despite the Covid.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hong Kong sounds nightmarish. Spending any time in an airport is always distressing but that number of hours without proper facilities is dreadful. Thankfully you had the wonderful time with your parents to recover.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, Hong Kong was an adventure! But all’s well that ends well and I was very happy to be able to spend time with our families, we haven’t seen them for four years…

      Like

        1. Yes! We do talk a lot on Skype and whatsapp but it’s not the same as being able to hug a person :). We do hope we’ll be able to see them more often, though – but looking at the state of the world right now, that might be a foolish hope 😉

          Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s