Tag Archives: Krakow

From Poland to Russia. That’s a domestic flight.

9 Sep

And, lift off! LOT – Polish Airlines – is in the air in route to Warsaw with final destination — land of Peter the Great – St. Petersburg, Russia.

Excitement. Apprehension. Wonderment. Those are the feelings right about now. I’m just relieved I made my flight because we’re off to a rocky start. I hate typing those words since my travel day has just begun. It’s 6:28 AM my time or 12:28 AM (EST).

My head hit the pillow around 1 AM and I woke around 3:30 AM. Taxi – Audi station wagon – wisked me to Krakow airport around 4:30 am. My taxi drivers is the same dude I bribed to drive me to DHL only weeks ago. It was nice to see his face. Safe hands… At least for the next 29 minutes or so.

Ok. So, my final destination is St. Petersburg, Russia so one would safely assume that I would be departing at Krakow’s international terminal. Makes sense. Right? I need to learn whenever I “assume,” I’ll wind up lost or screwed.

Taxi man drops me off. We wish each other “good life” and my feet briskly carry me to the international terminal It’s cool out. I have 2 t-shirts, jacket and scarf. Try to wear as much clothes as possible so they won’t charge me extra for baggage weight. Every ounce counts here.

It’s 5:05 am and the the place is DEAD. My flight is to take off in an hour. The only airline operating is Lufthansa – those folks are going to Munich. Hmmm… I don’t understand. I don’t even see a LOT kiosk or LOT gate. There’s no LOT.

I stand in the mini-airport and just look around. I inhale. OK. What am I missing here. I’m tired. Unlike Beirut, signs are in English. No LOT. There are a few stragglers hanging around – think homeless or old men up all night – and a few stragglers in line for Munich. I walk outside. Does LOT have their own terminal and in my haste of wishing Taxi man “good life” I walked in the wrong door?

Nope. No LOT terminal. I walk back in. This time my breathing starts to get heavier. I look at the time. My flight leaves in 50 mins. I spy some security dudes, lazily strolling around, heads down, in deep conversation. I walk behind them. The rollers on my bag echo off the walls.  They take no notice of the frantic hysteria on their tails…

“Oh, excuse me… English… do you speak English?”  They keep walking. I say it again, “only louder with a higher pitched tone.” They turn. “English?”

The taller, darker one says, “Yes.” I show him my flight itinerary.  He just stares and smiles at me. It dawns me he can’t read.  “Can you tell me where I check in for LOT? It’s going to Warsaw at 6 am. My final destination is Russia. Can you help me?”

He pointed to an office door with a LOT sign. I smiled. Good. Can’t imagine checking in at an office, but at least I know LOT exists. The sign said it does not open until 5:30 am. It’s 5:11 am. I’m clearly in the wrong place. I get in line at Lufthansa.  Airport people know each other. They know the system. Security – another story. Plus, they have to speak basic English.

I wait. Wait. And, wait.  People in front of me are going to the States and something is wrong with their VISA. Shit. It’s VISA again… I wait. Stare at the time. My eyes scan for LOT people. LOT badges. LOT anything. It’s 5:16 am. What happens if I miss my flight to Warsaw and then to St. Petersburg. I know what happens – but I’m still have time to fix this.

My hands start to swell. Mouth turning dry. These men line up behind me with 7 or 8 foot tools. Looks like they are carrying canoe paddles. Their loud. Polish. Speaking in constants. I can’t hear them. My eyes pour in the back of the family in front of me. Come on lady, le’ts move it. Do you have a VISA or not?

It’s now 5:20 am and the LOT door is still closed. The women moves. I smile. The Lufthansa kid smiles back. Thank you lord! I tell him my situation. Annoyance emerges. He said, “you are at the wrong terminal. Warsaw is domestic. It’s 500 meters.”

Flashback to High School crew days. Is 500 meters the entire race or the sprint? I asked, “can I walk?” He repeats, “it’s 500 meters.” Looks like I’m sprinting. The clock now says 5:26 am.

I inhale. Clasp by bags. And, haul ass through the vacant terminal. Out the door. Run into another security teen. I ask him, “Domestic?” And point. He nods. Smiles. Nods. Damn, he doesn’t speak English. He has that look.

Down the sidewalk. Keeping my head down, I start to pace my breathing.  I tell myself — no pain in shoulder or hand…there’s no pain… I notice the sidewalk is made out of the same bricks I used to pave the shed floor at Habitat.  I feel comforted by the bricks.

Stay focus. Around the corner, there’s a building. Is it? Nope. Cargo. I trot by. Next building is big. It has to be it. Nope. It’s security. The sidewalk is dark. No lights. No cars. I keep trotting. You have GOOOOT to be kidding me. Am I going to get friggin lost trying to find the domestic terminal in airport the size of Burger King. Prespiration. My stomach growls. Legs are tired. Heart moving to fast. Break it down to the obnoxious fast walk thing where the hips are bouncing back and forth. I’m willing my backpack rollers to turn faster and faster. I round the corner. There’s light. Stairs. And, the red lights “domestic.” Made it! Now, let’s hope the gate is not closed.

I see LOT. LOT exists. There are 2 people left in line to check in. I exhale. My throat is so dry that I begin to cough. Now dry heave. I’m dry heaving. Fab. The nuns look at me.  My eyes are watering.  I’m doing the controlled dry heave.  Where is my gum. I have no liquids for I’m about the go through security. Gum. Grab the gum. I pawn through my backpack, trying to control the urge to  barf. Clearly, I’m not in shape. Gum inserted in mouth and throat goes from sand paper to soft scrub. I step into line acting like everything is “cool.” Of course I didn’t just trot 500 meters to catch a domestic flight to Russia.  Who does such things….

I’m checked in. Gate guy wishes me a “good life.” Second time I heard it this AM, and it’s only 5:48 AM. The line for radiation is 20 feet. (Don’t know meters). I line up behind a nun. I look at the sign of “what not to carry on.”  They’ve listed kayaks,canoes and martial art weapons like brass knuckles,  nun-chucks and bayonets.  I sooo wanted to whip out my camera.  I mean a Kayak?  Did someone try to convince them that it would fit in the overhead space?   What is a nunchuck?  Of course, I read numb-nuts.  I could not stop laughing.  I mean out loud giggling.  I pictured the whole numb-nut and kayak scene.  Thank you God. My anxiety level is slowly resuming normalcy. Throat is secreting moisture on its own.

It’s 5:55 AM and my flight leaves in 5 mins. I’m next through the strip search of security. Two pilots and four flight attendants que in behind me. I make it through the pat down. It’s 5:57 am and I jump on the bus to take me to the LOT plane. I sit. It’s quite. One other late comer is on the bus. The bus does not move. Seriously. Am I on the wrong bus now?

It’s 5:59 am. I’m about to stand up, then the flight crew boards the bus. Please don’t tell me that’s our pilot. The bus lurches forward. We round the corner. I look out the window, searching for a LOT plane. We pass the security building, cargo building – the buildings I just trotted by moments ago. We head to the international terminal. Yep. You guessed it. Bus stops at international terminal only 60 or so feet from my launching pad only 30 minutes ago.   I knew from Poland to Russia was international.  Well, I got a quick jog on the way to the flight.   That’s all I can ask for.

I board the plane with 10 windows along with the flight crew. It’s not our pilots, just stewardess.  The ride along pilots butt in front of me and grab all the first class seats. I make my way to the back of the plane tuck my knees in. We lift off – the world is slowly waking up. I think about today – the people that will leave this world. The people that will come into this world. The people getting a promotion or the ones getting  terminated. The people who will go hungry another day and those who will embrace gluttony.  The people who want to be heard and those who are silenced.

Today is a beautiful day. Full of hopes. Full of fears. Full of life. I’m so blessed to be flying thousands of meters, feet and inches above watching God unfold this day to me. I’m gearing up for Peter the Great and Putin.

The cabin is quiet. The flight attendant hands me a 6:39 AM snack. Princess cookies! Love them. Today is going to be a good day.

I landed in Warsaw. We were welcome with another dose of radiation and a pat down.   I found a cafe that served hot sandwiches, across from my gate and started humming “Last Christmas” by George Michael.  I ordered a latte and a sandwich which I prayed was not drenched in mayo. I realized Warsaw muzak is playing an eight-track of GM for the next song is Careless Whispers. I smile.

As I sipped my coffee and stared, I tuned into the sophisticated ladies sitting next to me.  One woman is from Bulgaria woman looks like Olivia Bensen from Law & Order SVU. The other two are older – blonds – and are Lebanese. I believe they live in Beirut. A Bulgarian woman is asking them about Beirut. My ears perk up.

Bulgaria woman asks, “I haven’t been to Beirut. They wear regular western clothes, right?” They respond, “Why of course!” She goes on, “Well, I went to this party in Bulgaria. These Lebanese women were there. They had scarfs. But, then they were dancing on the tables. I was like, WOW!  WOW!  This was a Lebanese woman. When they moved fast the the scarfs came undone.”

Beirut lady, “The West side of Beirut is more progressive. You know in France they are doing a lot of questions about this. They are not letting people cover their face. And, the Muslims are upset.”   Bulgaria woman is silent. She is not going there – not giving her opinion. Conversation changes to weather.  I applaud her.

Bulgaria woman continues on…”They are educated in Lebanon, no? Women are educated. I met women in Kuwait.  They are not educated. They are covered but can’t read. In Lebanon, the woman are safe. They can work. It’s comfortable. They are safe. They have more freedoms than in other countries. Men don’t bother them.  They are safe.”

Bulgaria woman, “I did not like LA. I like San Diego. I like tan. It’s not good for the skin. But, in moderation. It’s good.”

Bulgaria woman, “Your husband is tall? That’s good. It’s nice to be tall. Tall is good.”

Beirut woman, “I was model. They come to my house to ask if I could model. I was tall. They come to my house to ask my father.”

Bulgaria woman, “ I was 16. This man comes to my house. I look Arabic you know.  He was Arabic.  Older.  I have curly hair, dark and the Arab uni-brow.  You know, the Arabic look…. He brings my father rice. He says he wants to marry me. My father got angry. Very angry. He angry with me. 16. Not married at 16. Nooooooooo…  I’m not married now. I’m 38. Yes, I look young. It’s because I’m not married, no?”

Bulgaria woman, “I have a cousin who is married to a rich Lebanese man. Very rich. Yes, she’s still married. Doctor of a very rich woman. My cousin, very beautiful woman. She has no choice. She has to be beautiful or husband gets mad.”

Bulgaria woman, “I want to have kids. But, it’s not so easy. When you’re older. But whatever the God Will. Whatever the God will. I need to find a prince… But, there are no prince. I look, but no prince. Maybe I don’t need a prince.  Maybe I just need a baby.  I’m a nurse.” Lebanese women agree.

Bulgaria woman, “I like different things. I communicate very easy with people. I like travel.”

I like traveling too. Listening. Asking questions. Curious…. So, curious…. Another George Michael song – You’ve Got to Have Faith. They’re about to call for my flight to St. Pete. Need to brush the tooth, apply lip gloss, touch the VISA and “load’em up.” We’re off. Next blog will about landing and getting to the hotel.  Wish me luck!

Hair Cut in Poland…NUBS

8 Sep

Israel left me irritated.  My quest for tranquility roosts in Krakow, Poland. Two days to R&R me.

Hotel Wenzl www.wentzl.pl is my new favorite place – fluffy pillows, down comforters and a TV hoisted high above the bed, playing Polish only programs – all consonants all the time.

Besides getting the VISA thing straightened out, my second priority involved beauty.  What we refer to as a hair cut.

The sweet Wenzl receptionist was little help for her sister cut her hair and she’s never been to a hair salon before.  She recalled passing a few salons on the way to work that treat hair.  She whipped out the map, scribbled this “fry” word next to a street and off I went in search of treatment.

I spied a salon selling L’Oreal products. Must be legit. I walked in. Imagine the scene… Been up since 2 AM from Tel-Aviv. Black stretch pants. Pink hiking boots standing over 6 feet tall. White socks. Two t-shirts. Blood shot eyes. Lips coated with Vaseline. Purple rain check. Matted hair in pony tail. I was in need of a good disinfecting.


A young Polish girl all of 14 greeted me. When I stared at her with expressionless eyes, she went in search for a random who spoke English.

An older lady appeared from a closet. I relayed to closet lady I just needed my hair trimmed about an inch. My hair was long, too thick and needed a little oomph. I thought I was being cute. I mean, look at me. Plus, the ticked-off Tel-Aviv airport teens were holding my luggage for reasons attributed to security.

Let’s call my L’Oreal-loving stylist, Evelyn.  She needs a name.  Evelyn appeared to “get” what closet lady was saying. She smiled, wiggled her head and touched my hair with earnest.

She washed the locks and pressed her fingers into the sides of my head in what she believed was a massage. She coated on some products and draped me an over-sized paper towel when finished.

Time to trim. Instead of reaching for the scissors, our Evelyn reached for an machine that buzzes. You know, those mechanical devices used on balding men or women with shaved heads. Yea. One of those. I believe they are called electric razors.

I thought she was kidding. So, I smiled big.  Started the laughing thing.  Nope. No, joke here.  She powered up this baby and started buzzing the long locks. I froze. What the fu–? My eyes darted around for closet lady. How do you translate – Scissors por favor?

I went from panic to high anxiety to disbelief. Is she really using an electric razor on my long hair?  I slowly calmed myself down with words like – “you don’t know anyone here…electric razor cutting of long hair just hasn’t caught on yet in the States…how many bad hair cuts have you seen in Poland…focus on the pony tail…just make sure I can get it in a pony tail…”

She first zapped an inch off the back. Cool. We are done. This was fast. Then, she grabbed a lock from the top of my head, turned it sideways and started angle cutting the hair down to the scalp.

I exhaled. Fine.  Short spikes with long hair are in fashion. I believe they are called mullets. I’m seriously looking uglier and uglier by the minute. I didn’t think it was possible.

I convinced myself that Evelyn does not like English speaking people. She must be an angry person inside…Abused. Hate blonds. Something…. I need something here.

Wait. Commercial break. As I write this blog, we are heading to Auschwitz concentration camp. We’re stuck in traffic. Traffic to a concentration camp. Should I laugh, cry or walk. I soooo don’t want to be here.

OK. Back to my hair.

You get the picture. Chunks fell. Eyes closed. Mind is validating the new mullet and thin pony tail look. Here it goes… Mullets are better for travel. Water pressure exists in star hotels, if you are lucky. And, besides the Hotel Wentzl and Days Inn in Amman, Jordan – Stars aren’t in my future. Mullets are cost savings – no longer need to buy shampoo and now I can wait until South Africa in December for a mullet trim. Ok.  I’m good.

Evelyn snaps the thing off.  Dead silence. Eyes slowly open.  How long have I been holding my breath.  She reached for the 150 voltage hair dryer.  Mullet or no mullet, drying will take a while.  Her hands force my head down so she can properly apply more products..

My eyes are open, scanning the floor.  The F bomb drifts soundlessly from my lips once, twice, five times… Mini-mounds of my $$$ highlights are piled around the chair. I stare in horror.   Ariz – my stylist back home – is going to shit a brick.  Evelyn forced my head up.  I looked in the mirror and welcomed an unexpected hair color – dish water delight – bringing out the paste in my skin and gray in my eyes. Gosh, I’m really feeling it.

For reasons I don’t understand, Evelyn continues to massage more and more products into my thinning hair. I focus in on the bangs. It’s always about the bangs.

She dries them. Tousles them.  Electrocutes them.  Tousles them.  With each zap they’re getting shorter and shorter and shorter.

I close my eyes. Why is this happening?  On the flight over from the US to Ireland, some rowdy youngsters sat behind me. When I arrived to Dublin, I noticed a patch of my hair is missing on the top of my head.   Cut down to the nub.  I don’t recall my hair getting caught in a turbine or a conveyor belt at airport security. I attributed to the bald patch to the teens behind me. Possibly, I was snoring and they thought it would be hil-ar-ious to cut loud snorer’s hair? I can’t offer any other explanation.  The nubs must have inspired Evelyn.

She wrapped up the blow dry. Fumigated the nubs.  They’re not moving anytime soon.  Evelyn appeared so pleased with herself.  And, here I was just hoping and praying the Tel-Aviv teen army would not swipe my baseball cap in the name of security.  I thanked her and walked out – feeling high – off the fumes.  Seriously, what was I going to do about it.


My hair is noticeable shorter but it will grow. It is noticeable dirtier looking, but rumor has it there are legit salons in South Africa or Australia.  It’s winter anyway – drab, pasty and mute is in. I still can get it in a solid, well bound, mullet-pony tail, so we are good to go there.  And,I’m happy to report the Israeli teens did not swipe my Habitat hat.  The latest is the nubs have sprouted new growth. It’s those little things in life that brings such joy.

Gettin’ plaster off the floor in an apartment in Gliwice, Poland. No stray hairs here…