Les gens qui ne rient jamais ne sont pas des gens sérieux

Be who you are and say what you mean, those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A few more details...

When the alarm went last Friday morning it was only a little past four. FOUR! We rolled out of bed and blearily finished off the bags, filled the thermos with tea and lugged everything downstairs to the car. I thought Marek was mad quite frankly to want to drive five hours after such a short night, but he was adamant that we'd make the most of the day that way and once we had set off, I too was strangely wide awake and excited about the next few days.

By late morning, we had made it to Korbielów, our new temporary home in the mountains, dropped off our bags, changed into our bulky ski-wear and got all kitted out with boots and skis. Now we just had to make it up the mountain.

I'm a pampered skier. I've been to French and Austrian resorts, where little cabins carry you steadily up mountain sides. Vast pistes provide you with space to parallel turn to your heart's content and interesting little mountain paths wind through beautiful forests. I deliberately kept my expectations low for Polish skiing. In terms of the pistes that was wrong, but first, the lifts.

Now, I've been on chair lifts (no problem) and I've been on button lifts (again, no problem) but when you have something in between the two? Er, well it's not so obvious. The majority of the lifts were for two people, in the style of a button or t-bar lift but the bar went between the two people. This made it slightly more difficult to balance, because you can't sit, you have to let yourself be pulled like on the button lifts, but you have to take into account the fact that it is pulling you and someone else. This is easiest when you're with someone who keeps his skis straight, who doesn't grab the bar and unbalance the whole thing, who doesn't point out interesting sights along the way which make you turn your head and totally freak out when the thing wobbles. Yeah, I fell twice. But only the first day and then we got into the routine. No sweat.

Apparently, thanks to the EU, the whole place is going to be upgraded very soon. That means new lifts (we-hay!) but already the skiing is excellent. You have to work a bit to get to the top of the mountain (freaky lift after freaky lift joined by little corridors where you have to get to work with the poles. Ha, poles, sticks not Poles.) but once you get there it really is great. It's not the Alps, but there's no place for snobbery, it's still bloody fantastic.

Everyone knows that one of the best bits about skiing is the sitting in little mountain huts eating and drinking . Oh come on, that's where most people spend most of their time. In the Polish ones you generally get a sausage and warm beer, or tea which has been topped up from a hipflask you have about your person. I had never had warm beer before I came to Poland but it's damn good. Who said you could only warm wine? Inexplicably, the one we went to most frequently was usually playing Cher or Ace of Base, but apart from the music it was a little haven.

That feeling, when all your muscles are beginning to ache, the cold is slowly penetrating your layers, and your stomach is grumbling a little, is best beaten by a sausage and warm beer while looking out over the mountains.

The weather was great most of the time. We got a bit of fog

and it snowed a bit

but mainly it was sunny and clear and gorgeous.

We were with a small group of friends, and met up with some others while we were there so for me the Polish practice was continual. I had hired these mutli-coloured skis

and got approached by some woman who thought they were fantastic. I know now how to convey the merits of these particular skis in Polish. Go me.

The rest of the weekend (which only ended on Monday afternoon) involved lots of skiing, lots of sitting about eating and drinking, hardly any sleep and full immersion in this kind of Polish culture. Culture here is a loose term; we saw the longest, most drunken fight in a local pub that I have ever witnessed. A huge group of young guys were staggering about, taking it in turns to hit out at someone or hold back someone else, or shout at yet another person. They all went outside at one point to cool off and then came back in the pub for more. All the while the waitresses were weaving between them serving tables and smiling at us apologetically as if this was a nightly occurrence which was out of their control.

Now it's March. I've survived the February low and I have two full months until the end of my EVS project and the need to focus on the direction my life is taking. It's all good.

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