Greetings rollers! Roxy and Madeline here to fill you in on our Polish adventures. First stop, Warsaw.
In order to get to Warsaw from Bratislava, we would have to take 2 trains. We almost missed the first one, as Roxy tried to explain to an old Slovakian woman at the station that she would need an accessible train accomodation. There was a lot of sign language involved in the process, and definitely a large amount of dignity was lost. Anyway, the message was received in the end, and we were met by three neon-clothed men with a gigantic elevator ramp to help Roxy (and an always eager rollerblading-rights-fighter, Madeline) up to the train entrance. The train was extremely accessible and for once it seemed like this train journey would actually be comfortable. 15 minutes later, when we had to switch onto our second train, which would last 6.5 hours, we were hit by reality as we remembered it: small seats, no where to place the wheelchair, and a tiny bathroom that even Madeline had to squeeze into. As Roxy’s smother would say, “You can’t even change your mind in there!”
We survived the trip and met Roxy’s friend, Vera, at the Warsaw train station. It was amazing to see her, but we all knew that one thing was missing: our third wheel lacked wheels! We decided we would love her anyway and would find wheels for her along the way. We took a taxi to our hotel and noticed a gigantic flight of brick stairs in front of the hotel.
Madeline carried the luggage up the stairs, blades and all, and asked the receptionist where she could find some strong betches in the mood for heavy lifting. The receptionist made a phone call and this is when a questionable old man ushered Vera and Roxy to a sketchy ally with dim – to no – lighting and finally opened an even sketchier backdoor. Vera and Roxy, feeling desperate and in a “Screw it all, I’m tired” mindset entered the dark room. As the old man shut the door, we couldn’t help but be reminded of that final scene in Saw when the villain assures, “Game over!”. Any awful fate one could think of could have been possible, but Vera and Roxy hoped that little eye contact and continuous momentum would preserve their lives. These techniques did the trick – or this entire nightmare scenario was merely in their heads – and the girls survived to see Madeline once more. Madeline had never looked more beautiful to Roxy.
The next day, the girls slept in and got ready for the big event of the day: the Orange Warsaw Festival. We went down the hotel elevator and were once again confronted with the sketchy man of little words. This time we all followed him and felt safer, as there was thankfully daylight involved and murder seemed to be a more distant possibility. But this was not the reason that we left the sketchy ally-way in tears of laughter.
When we followed the man to the first elevator, we found the most amazing gift we could have hoped for: A SHOPPING CART! Of course Madeline and Roxy were elated by the fact that their search for some sort of wheel-involved modus of transportation for Vera was finally over. Vera, on the other hand, was skeptical and weirded out by the fact that we could view a shopping cart as a viable object of transport comparable to a wheelchair or rollerblades. She was so young and innocent back then… Anyway, Vera had to get in the shopping cart. This was non-negotiable. After all, the cart had wheels and that was all that mattered. Vera got in the cart and Madeline drove her through the sketchy hallway all the way to the back-ally door, where the man had been holding the door. He had no idea that we had taken the cart, and was even less aware of the level of insanity we posessed that drove us to coax Vera to embark the shopping cart. There is a big chance that he is still standing in the same position next to that ally door, scratching his head, contemplating whether the madness he had witnessed indeed took place. Either that, or he has seen the light and has decided to use a shopping card as his main form of mobilization. We hope the latter.
Once at the festival, we bought tickets for half price (wheelchair card!) and were escorted to a van where Madeline and Roxy immediately spotted a randomly placed wheelchair accessible porto-potty. Whilst obviously being in a state of awe by the amazing facility, we requested for the porto-potty to be transported to the main festival area. We suggested that the toilet could be strapped onto the roof of the car that we would be taken in to the main stages. The guy who was going to escort us laughed this idea off and assured that there would be enough bathroom facilities once we got there. He was immediately blessed with the name, Toilet Man. He was slightly offended, but once we dropped our Globerollers name, he knew he was lucky to to be graced by our presence.
We were driven to the festival in a van by a man who looked identical to Einstein, and thus he will be further referred to as “Einstein”. He had a very accessible van equipped with lift for the wheelchair, and once Madeline saw Roxy being lifted in the van, she knew she could not enter any other way. Some may view this as ridiculous. We view it as a way of life.
We arrived at the alternative entrance to the festival, where we were guided to the main stages by the Toilet Man, who explained that the festival takes place on a horse racing track and that employees were to lay down hundreds of meters worth of hard rubber boards that people could walk on around the festival, in order to preserve the track’s grass. He also explained that the festival tried to take extreme measures in order to make it as wheelchair friendly as possible. Roxy and Madeline were extremely pleased with the Polish festival’s efforts and felt like they were treated like royalty after traveling in parts of the world where the word, “accessible”, seemed to be have been forgotten or even ignored. It is refreshing to return to a reality where everyone is thought of as being important. These people were kind to us and we were thankful to be around them. Thanks to these accessibility facilities, there was a greater opportunity for us to appreciate the amazing food, music, and people we found at the festival and we had a great time. Thank you, Toilet Man. And thank you, Einstein. Never change.
The next day, it was time for Vera to leave, but we had a few hours to kill before she would be late for her plane, so we decided to venture into the city and explore as Dora so elegantly does. We took a taxi to the city center and spotted a familiar “free walking tour” banner and decided to ask what the tour would entail. The tour guide responded in the thickest, loudest Polish accent we had ever heard and told us that the tour would be “very challenging” for us. We nearly fainted of laughter and, as usual, got gelato instead of engaging in any cultural activity.
After Vera left a few hours later, Madeline and Roxy left for the train station to travel to Krakow. This is where the ultimate dilemma presented itself: what happens when wheelchair cards collide? We stood in the wheelchair accessible line for train tickets for the train that was supposed to leave 15 minutes later (punctual, as always). We waited behind a classy, well-dressed woman in a wheelchair. Normally, in a situation that involved any waiting in a queue, we would play the wheelchair card and that would be that, no matter how classy and well-dressed someone may be. But in this case, we were restricted from crossing beyond the invisible wheelchair card border that had been placed between us and the ‘other’ (‘Lost’ pun) roller. We did not dare get in front of the sophisticated ‘other’ and knew our only fate would be to stand in line behind her.
The ‘accessible’ desk did not appear to be very accessible in this situation… We tried using a different desk to get tickets, but the guy behind the counter was unwilling to help us. It may have been because he was instructed to direct us to the accessible desk, or the fact that Madeline and Roxy had been laughing – to the extent of wailing – as a reaction to the stress they experienced on the way to the station. To others we must have looked like we had lost all marbles. Who knows if we ever even had these marbles people speak of…
Anyway, of course we missed our train and decided to find more gelato until our next train, which departed an hour and a half later. On our way to the station’s shops, Madeline suddenly began to run toward something. Roxy thought she may have spotted an e-cigarette or rollerblade store and followed her blindly. Soon, however, Roxy noticed that she was running toward the elevator at which a young, handsome dude in a wheelchair was waiting. She turned her head while running and frantically whispered, “this is what I’ve been wanting to find for you!!”, and continued to run like a gazelle in the wild, toward the innocent good-looking man.
Madeline quickly asserted a conversation and we noticed that the guy was extremely cool and even more good looking than the distance had offered us. But alas, the elevator doors opened and we parted ways to look for the fro-yo place we had been recommended as a substitute for gelato.
A few minutes later as Roxy was ordering her 5 pound tub of fro-yo, she turned around and the guy from the elevator had reappeared. Even though she was happy to see him again, there was fro-yo involved and in the battle between guys and food, food always wins. Madeline had already ordered and thus continued the conversation with the awesome man. We exchanged information and will forever be ‘friends’ in cyberland with this beautiful man.
Who knew that Poland contained so many hot wheelchair people? Why is this? We wanted to google it but came to the conclusion that we were both too morally ashamed to do so. We’ll never know.
The train to Krakow was short and smooth, and after a short, but expensive, taxi ride we arrived at our hostel, which was supposedly wheelchair accessible, which it was. Oh yeah, except for the flight of brick stair cases we had to climb in order to get to the elevator. Insanity. We recruited a nice Polish man and got into our hostel. We explained to the receptionist that climbing a staircase is not commonly considered to be coined the term, “wheelchair accesible”. She understood immediately and told us this same conversation had happened before. She subduedly told us that the manager did not care to change the hostel listing to “wheelchair unaccessible”. We, therefor, did not care to not kick her ass. JK, we didn’t, but it would have felt good at the time.
The room was beautiful and we decided to get some groceries for the morning. We bungee-jumped off the stairs and ventured to the grocery store, which was located up another grey brick flight of stairs. Is this a communist Polish hobby, we wondered? This time, there was not an available second to devote to recruitment, as before Roxy knew what time it was, she flew up the stairs like M. Poppins. It was surreal, but nice. Gotta love those polish lifters.
The next day, we joined a walking tour of the city and had an incredibly cool guide, who continuously claimed to have 12 children, but we strongly believe this was a ploy to get tips, which he would then spend on the Polish version of Palingka. Whether he were to spend his money on Palingka or children, we decided both were valuable causes and tipped him well. We then journeyed on to an incredible lunch spot in the Jewish Quarters (AKA the Jewish Headquarters, in Madeline’s world), where we had the best pierogi’s and latka, and the best food on our journey so far. We then hurried over to Schindler’s Factory for one of our few museum adventures.
This is when the most flabbergasting experiences of our journey occurred: one of Roxy’s front wheels FLEW OFF!! You read this correctly. It did not loosen, or slightly fall of its axe, no, it face-planted in the bushes on the side of the road. And the craziest thing about this was that Roxy heard a thump and thought she had lost a screw, but instead witnessed a phantom wheel while still rolling.
First of all, who knew a wheelchair could still hold up, let alone ROLL without a fourth wheel. Second of all, HOW CAN A WHEEL JUST FLY OFF A WHEELCHAIR? Obviously we didn’t let this stop us from getting to Schindler before the museum closed and Roxy went rolling on without a fourth wheel, newly aware that her whole wheelchair could suddenly lose vital elements, but up for the challenge.
Going up or down any kind of slant or step was no longer an option to engage in solo and Madeline and random strangers helped along the way. The philosophical question we got out of this predicament was: if a wheelchair loses one wheel and it still rolls, is it still a wheelchair? Same goes with rollerblades, but we’ll roll that bridge when we come to it.
After the museum, we realized this ghost-wheel situation was not a problem we could ignore any longer and decided to grab the wheel by the screws. We first went to a nearby hardware store, where no language was needed to communicate the fact that we had encountered a type 1 mechanical difficulty. They tried their best to help but lacked the right screw sizes. We then reached for the next best life line: gelato. We stood in front of the gelato shop and contemplated life and our recent wheel related pickle and were given a helping hand from Buddha. Loud voices and annoying laughter: it could only be construction workers.
We blindly ran over the tram tracks, gelato in hand, while noticing that two trams were approaching from both directions. When we realized we hadn’t sacrificed our gelato’s in order to be able to run to the other side quicker to ensure safety instead of merely hoping for it, we knew we were deeper into our gelato addiction than we had thought. Of course the construction men were happy to help and not only resussitated the broken wheel, but also cleaned Roxy’s other wheels and tightened Madeline’s rollerblade wheels. Then they started to take a walk toward creepyville – as construction workers can quickly venture to – and we decided to bounce ASAP.
We boarded a train to Vienna that night, which was a pickle on its own. But we’ll get to that in our next post. Next stop, Austria! Happy rollin’