Saturday 25 October 2008

Milano, Warsaw and now Lubartow Poland

The 4am Monday morning bus trip to Milan from Reva del Garda was awful. Virtually none of us had any sleep prior to the bus trip and I think I and Carolina were the only 100% sober ones after the World Cup “after party”.

By 10pm I’d finished publishing photos to the website and then decided I should really back them all up in case my laptop died or was stolen. I’m paranoid about backups so backed them up to a portable hard drive which goes in one case and data DVDs which go in another. That took until about 2am while the laptop worked away copying the 7,000+ photos I’d taken during the tournament. The number of photos sounds more impressive than it really is as sparring comsumes thousands as you hold the shutter down when you anticipate an interesting “strike” or move and the camera rattles off 5 images a second for short bursts. Only about 10% are keepers.
While this was going on I finished a novel I’d been reading… it was a thriller so the last quarter of the book was naturally the most exciting.

Then it was a matter of getting everyone to the bus in a car park 100 metres from the hotel by 4am. I think Carolina and I were the only 100% sober people and it was a little bit of a mission. But we made it.

Everyone else fell asleep on the 3½ hour (I think) bus trip – but I couldn’t. The driver was awful, accelerating and breaking a lot more than he needed to and jerking us in our seats while we tried to sleep.

Toni and Christine were left behind as they had different travel plans. Toni was on another bus which didn’t leave until 6.30am. More on Toni later…

We arrived at one of the Milan airports in plenty of time for Carolina, Paige, Deejay, Luke, Richard, Carl and Kane to catch their flight to Zurich and then on to Shanghai then Auckland. We spent probably an hour and a half with them having breakfast and filling in time until they left.

After that we headed into Milan by bus. This took ages – the airport was miles from the city. Thankfully we took a bus and not a taxi.

Milan appeared to be a pretty dirty concrete jungle of a city to us. We were staying in a cheap (ie old and grotty) hotel within a 10 minute walk from the central railway station. By the time we got there and the uncaring unhelpful reception let us have our room at 1pm we were not interested in playing tourists and flaked out on our beds until about 5pm. Actually, I’m being kind. The Hotel was a dump and wasn’t cheap by our standards either. We didn’t even shower because of a lack of hot water and a bath with a hand held shower head only!

We walked the streets looking for somewhere to eat returning to a classic basic Italian restaurant right next to the hotel. There we chose classic hand made Pizza and loved it.

Tuesday morning we were up reasonably early for breakfast and to check emails before catching a bus to another airport at Bergamo – just over an hour’s bus trip.

While clearing emails from their reception wifi we rang Jan on Skype and had our first phone catchup since before the tournament started. That was really nice.

She’d just returned Monday night from a long weekend in Dunedin and is trying to have a week off work holidaying at home… not quite as glamorous as what we’re up to.

We walked to the central station again and found a post office to post Luke’s room keys back to the hotel at Reva del Garda – he found them on his when he got to the airport! Anyway, as we got to our bus Toni yelled out “Hi Mark”! This was a surprise to see her as she was supposed to be in Ireland by now. She’d had an awful time and was returning to NZ. She’d arraived at Stanford Airport, London and they asked her lots of questions about what she’d be doing in Ireland. She was planning to stay with her best friend who is living there until about Christmas time. Finally they agreed to let her in but by this time she had missed her connection to Dublin. So the buggers sent her back to Milan. When she got back to Milan she got in touch with family back home and by this stage wasn’t feeling up for another shot at going to Standford then on to Dublin so her Mum had arranged tickets back to NZ from Milan. We felt gutted for her but it was nice to see her and offer some support. Had we been 30 seconds earlier or later we would not have seen each other – how’s that for coincidence.

We passed away a couple of hours at the airport waiting for our flight to Warsaw. We had cheap tickets on Wizz Air. By cheap I mean 5 euro for three seats plus baggage fees and taxes of about 100 Euro. (A Euro is about NZ$2.20).

The flight was uneventful but the passengers clapped when it landed – a bit of a tradition on the cheap European airlines I understand. It was a modern looking plane (like a 737) and seemed fine to me.

When we landed we expected it to be quite a bit colder. We all had jackets at the ready in our luggage but it was 16 degrees and quite comfortable. We changed some of our money at the airport into the local Swatti so we could taxi into town. The airport conversion rate was really bad so pleased we only changed a little.

Next – a mistake – while I’d intended to organise a Warsaw hotel booking on the web during the tournament after meeting up with Master Jedut I hadn’t got around to it and we decided to take pot luck. We asked the taxi driver to take us to a cheaper hotel in central Warsaw and we’re at the Metropol at 105 Euro per night. They couldn’t do a triple room so we took two rooms. Rats – expensive mistake! On the web I am sure we could have got it for half this price and will plan better for our return here in just over a week when we fly out. However, our rooms are very nice and so roomy after what we’ve been used to in London, Rome, Reva del Garda and Milan.

What we have seen of Warsaw so far is really impressive. The central city is modern and upbeat. There is a huge amount of billboard advertising and many buildings, eg most hotels with a single ad on them that completely covers one side of the building.
Monday night we walked a way and found a restaurant full of young people eating huge meals. It was great and we filled our bellies. Mark said “anything except pizza and pasta please” after having this every day for the last two weeks.

Overnight it was really hot in our rooms but cool outside. It was hard to fathom why – there is no visible air conditioning or heating but it was sweltering. If you opened the window – which we did – there was a ton of traffic noise as we are right next to a 3 lane each way main intersection. Maybe the temperatures here are going to be more comfortable that we expected – time will tell.

Tuesday morning we spent a bit of time exploring the central city before we checked out and met up with Master Jedut who flew in from Milan. He guided us to Lubartow via the train and kinkdly organised our accommodation here.
We had our first training under Master Jedut tonight… that will be the subject of another post.