When we booked our stay in Krakow, we had no idea it was the host city for the bi-annual World Youth Day (actually a week-long event) for Catholic youth from around the world culminating with a huge outdoor mass celebrated by Pope Francis.
|Nothing like rain and an invasion of teenagers to clear out a town.|
"I usually recommend taking a bus from the airport as it stops close by, but this time I think it will be best for you to take the train - bus routes have been changed in the area for the WYD."
Just to double check, I decided to stop at the information desk in the arrivals hall to get their advice. They heartily recommended we take bus 292 which would drop us off right in front of our apartment. Looking back, we should have followed our hosts’ advice and taken the train. The key phrase I ignored was “bus routes have been changed in the area for the WYD”.
Once on board the 292 I went forward, with map in hand, hoping the driver spoke English and he could tell us where to get off. That would be no. And no. Imagine the poor man driving a huge articulated bus with me standing next to him trying to “talk” every time we came to a stoplight. It became apparent using sign language and jabbing at the map that the bus was not going to take its normal route and he was very stressed out about it - and the closest we could come to the apartment was about a mile away! Oops.
Now we like to walk, but it had already been a long day and we had both our large REI suitcases plus day packs and no Polish SIM card, thus no Google Maps…just a paper map we got at the Information Desk which showed the major streets and landmarks. Our apartment was on a little side-street deep in the city.
That’s when a young man sitting next to Debbie on the bus overheard our distressed conversation and asked in English if he could help. If there is one constant throughout our journey, it is the abundance of guardian angels, apparently on standby that appear whenever we have a challenge. Turns out, this latest angel, named Matthew was a first year law student in Krakow not only helped us get off at the “temporay” stop closest to our apartment, he got off with us and helped haul our luggage for the mile-long walk to the apartment and left us at our front door. Once again we were reminded of the kindness of strangers.
|Our Guardian Angel Matthew and one tired Senior Nomad|
World Youth Day was a sight to behold. Thousands of young people from all over the world were waving flags, singing, praying, and exchanging badges and hugs with kids from other countries and their own. There were concerts on every square, outdoor masses and picnics. And nuns - lots of nuns in every sort of habit, as well as some pretty hip young clergy. Debbie even saw the Pope drive by in his Pope Mobile.
|Debbie just managed to catch the Pope driving by.|
|The atmosphere in the city was contagious. So many happy kids joined by faith.|
|We saw hip priests, backpacking nuns, and scenes like this everywhere.|
|A rare moment away from the crowds. Krakow is beautiful.|
|An American bookstore that served excellent coffee, brownies and apple pie.|
|The shop offered three rooms filled to the ceiling with English books. Heaven!|
While we were in Krakow, I needed to decide how to get 200 miles away to Lviv in Eastern Ukraine, our next destination. I searched and searched all over the site but could never find a bus or train leaving at a reasonable time - most left very late arriving in Lviv before dawn. Or they took a very circuitous route - I couldn’t understand why it would take 9 hours to go 200 miles. Mostly because there is low demand. Poles want to go to EU destinations, and Ukrainians cannot travel to Poland without a difficult to get visa.
|Thanks to Bla Bla Car we found a new transportation option for our travels.|
|Team Bla Bla. Artem and his wife Yulia who thankfully could bla English.|
Artem, and his wife went to work shuffling and stuffing things in various corners of the car making room for both our suitcases. Of course that meant that we had one of their small suitcases on the seat between us and we had both day packs and our red bag of snacks in the back seat with us but heck, for $40 USD and door to door service to Lviv I was feeling good about BlaBlaCar. Off we went.
|Road food including this hotdog in "tube" - and excellent invention!|
|Leaving Poland and entering the Ukraine. More on that fascinating country next time.|
We arrived safe and sound 6 hours later in Lviv thankful for the enriching, albeit cramped experience. I have already found another opportunity to ride-share in a few weeks when we go from Tbilisi, the capitol of Georgia to Yerevan in Armenia. From Lviv we will fly to Kiev, the capitol of Ukraine.
|It was fun to mix with the American kids. God bless them all.|
Stand by for the news from the Ukraine.
Thanks for following along,