A story of how a kind local woman gave us a complete tour of Przemyśl, Poland...at 3:30 in the morning.
Another memorable night exploring Odessa, Ukraine.
A few years ago around Christmas time, Chris, a few friends and I were traveling in the Ukraine and we decided to head into Poland to ring in the New Year. After an hour of finagling with the train staff in Kiev, we decided that the cheapest option would be to get a train to Lviv, Ukraine, then take a bus across the border to Poland, and then continue by train to Krakow (where we were determined to celebrate New Years Eve). Not surprisingly, international trains usually cost much more than national ones; You can sometimes cut your travel prices down in half if you are willing to spend a little extra time and effort to make a switch at a country's border.
A map of our trip through Eastern Europe--we did all of this in a month and with only $600 per person!
After an uneventful train ride to Lviv, we boarded the full bus in the late afternoon and set off. The heater weakly sent puffs of warm air down the rows, but we were too entranced with the purple velvet seats, the mounted TV playing Polish music videos, and the curtains (with sashes!) on the windows to care. After several hours we arrived at the Ukrainian side of the border. With only one person working at the customs desk, time stretched out as we waited patiently in line. All of the papers were in order, continue on!
Everyone filed back into the bus and we drove thirty feet across the border. Stop, grab your bags, out again for the incoming customs for Poland. These customs would be more strict because this border marked the start of the European Union. We lined up in the tiny border control room, a whole bus-load of people and suitcases, waiting. The line inched forward one body, two bodies, the border control officers leisurely talking with the bus passengers--and then the line stopped moving.
After standing still for thirty minutes, we found out that while the border control office would remain open all night, the border control officers were off for the evening and the next shift would arrive (most likely) in a few hours.
I don't have any photos of the border control office (you're not missing out on anything by not seeing it), but this is a much more exciting photo of a street in Kiev, Ukraine!
During the late night hours spent hunkering around the small space heater, we made fast friends with a woman from Lviv who often traveled to Przemyśl for business. We continued to swap stories as we were finally shuffled through customs and back onto the bus. When we arrived in Przemyśl at 3:30 in the morning, she offered to give us the grand tour of the town before she had to leave for her morning business meeting. We grinned--of course we want a tour from a local at 3:30 in the morning!
She led us through the center of the newer downtown and then right into the old downtown. It was eery; the only sounds were her voice and the soft shuffle of our footsteps. The scene was brightly illuminated from the moon and the occasional streetlamp. She took us to Rynek, the main market square, which would be crammed with people once the sun came up. We marveled at the baroque-style Franciscan church and we were able to see part of a 14th century castle. As the horizon started to lighten, she whisked us back to the train station and we parted ways--she to her business meeting, us back on another train to continue on towards Krakow. We still have never seen Przemyśl during the day, but this was one of our more interesting and memorable impromptu tours!
Leaving Przemyśl on our way to Krakow.