The mad road from Karpacz to Jelenia Góra

Poland New  Year 2015

Holidays were over. It was new Years Day 2015. We walked down the icy snowy road to the bus stop carrying or partly wheeling our baggage on the last day of our Christmas break to take a bus from Karpacz to Jelenia Góra.

From there we would be getting a train on to Wroclav. It was a complicated journey, but certainly preferable to the excruciatingly stiflingly hot three hour bus trip from Wroclav to Jelenia Góra ten days before, when I honestly thought I would pass out from the dry heat and the constant din of eighties pop music the indefatigably affable bus driver seemed to enjoy so much. This trip I decided, would be smoother, more comfortable, and faster. There was one wrinkle to my naive idealizations. This was  a bus stop on new years day 2015 in Karpatch, South Poland and two men were talking and talking and talking right beside us. It was driving me crazy. They were clearly drunk. They were moving into that phase of drunkness and hung-overness where conversation and loud debate was the only way to presumably prolong the experience of New Year’s Eve festivities. One of the duo had cuts and scratches on his face. He was not saying much now, and was nodding and trying to interject even a single word. No use.Then he seemed to give up and listened with an occasional smiling nod to his friends loud over cheerful monologue. I had to stop them. Executive action had to be taken. I looked around in our bag and found the Solution to all of Life’s Diplomatic Difficulties: Ferrero Rocher Chocolates. I went over to the guys. They looked questioningly at this hairy man for a moment, and, after I offered them Ferrero Rocher, smiled in anticipation and took a couple each. Finally and might I say, blissfully, they stopped their incessant chatter. Then, to cover my tracks I offered a few more around and we all went back to our silent waiting. Ten Minutes. Twenty. Traffic was busy for a new years afternoon. The the bus came. And the thing was – it was small. Very small. I mean you might think a mini is small, but this was one small white bus. It seated no more than twenty five people. And it was full when we arrived. What was to be done? We discussed the possibility of getting a taxi to Jelenia Góra. Then we dismissed it as people began to disembark the vehicle. Anyway what taxi would want to drive to Jelenia Góra on New Years Day in the freeze and the snow?

Besides, we delusionally mused, we might even get a seat on the mini mini bus. As if. We got on and the bus driver enthusiastically squeezed as many on as he could. Ten more squeezed along the isle between the twenty five seated grimly gazing dozing poles. Then another five or six laughing travelling teenage girls who brought huge backpacks with them as they laughed at each other and happily handed their luggage down for to be piled on top of anything or anyone. This is insane I laughed. Stop laughing I told myself. The only people laughing were the teenage girls and they are obviously stoned, I decided. Stoned and under the influence of some weird gypsy curse. Either that or they are some type of super heroes in disguise invulnerable to potential death by car crash. My worst black humour was coming out to deal with this situation. The bus was chugging along now. I commented out loud about how someone driving this bus was disobeying all the laws of maximum occupancy. I received a stern look from Izabela. I decided it was going to be a miracle if this mini mini bus even arrived at its destination. Poles are experts at driving in the snow. Often they learn in winter, a time when they casually encounter and consequently learn to steer and drive up and down and around hills with black ice, packed snow covered roads and all kinds of potential sub zero death traps that would scare the living bejeepers out of lesser mortals. But this experience was something else. The bus was so overfull the driver might have to get out to make room for the amount of passengers he had allowed on.

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Two more got on. O god. With luggage. Dear Heaven. Ho hum, I thought. Perhaps they might have to sit on the drivers lap. Its times like this one wonders had one made a living will or had good health insurance. I had neither. We passed what looked like a military listening station, replete with huge choppers and trucks and ground vehicles. The teenage girls laughed as they made room for three people to get off and four get on. A lady indicated to the distinctly cheerful military looking young man in semi tactical clothing that the hard edge of a backpack was digging into her spine. I then understood she had been silently suffering this situation for twenty minutes. He moved it away from her. We drove on at speed through the ice and snow. The driver was chatting amiably to whoever was up there with him and the noisy girls had found seats for themselves. As had we, as the lady who had suffered the bag bruising had since gotten off with her friend who had been sitting with her. Her disembarkation was undignified. She practically had to climb over the tops of others. Nobody seemed to mind. Poles can be grimly fatalistically accepting of situations that would for instance have me reaching for my angry letter of complaint writing equipment. And so it goes. So we bounced and hopped along the road from Karpacz to Jelenia Góra at warp factor eight and arrived with no injuries, with a still smiling bus driver who made doubly sure everyone had their bags and waved us off. And save my shattered nervous system and a proportion of my body weight lost in sweat and nervous energy consumption, I was okay.

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