Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Random acts of Tourist Rescue before Breakfast

This morning the muesli tasted even more sourly, dustily revolting than Mr Nestle's usual efforts, and a second mouthful confirmed my suspicions.

The milk was off.

Had my flatmates been leaving the fridge door open? We're talking about two blonde art students in their (very) early twenties* who possess some cosmic ability to de-magnetize cupboard/fridge/oven door catches, leaving a trail of swinging portals in their respective wakes.

I spend my life banging my shins on chipboard.

[Now's not the time, but don't let me forget to write a post on the mysteries of young Polish girls from the country. They're not like us. For example, shortly after my old flatmates moved out and the new ones moved in, filmy twee curtains, which wouldn't look out of place in my Granny's flat, appeared over all the windows...I've heard these are called 'firanki'...]

I skipped the coffee and muesli and decided to brave the bad obwarzanki ladies that brood in the underpass by Galeria Krakowska. After short deliberation and much stooping (can anyone tell me why the hatch is always positioned around upper stomach/lower boob height? It is particularly hard to bend yourself down to this level and then try to catch the attention of the squat being glowering on the other side) I emerged bearing my plum pastry prize and made to go to the office.

Near the kiosk stood a young couple, both red-haired, and clearly not Polish. They were looking doubtfully at the pastries on display. The guy made a tentative attempt on the soft drinks fridge.

- Usually they do it for you.
I offered.
- Do you want a hand?

They looked at each other and then nodded why not.

Yes! My first Random Act of Tourist Rescue. From here it's just a short step to booth interpretation. Today the bakery, tomorrow the Council of Europe.

- Right, what do you want? I asked, briskly

- uh... I guess two croissants...
- Do you know what's in them? I reckon it's chocolate... hang on...
'Prosze Pani czy rogaliki są z czekoladą?
The woman assented impatiently.
- How many: two? Two.

- And... said the guy carefully ... 'An Ob-var-zhan-ek'
- Oooh well done! Dwa razy obwarzanek (i think actually they only wanted one. ah well). Nie nie, uhh... jeszcze kurosant.

- Would you get a bloody move on there's a queue building up!
Said the Bad Obwarzanki Lady crossly. Or something like that anyway.

- Przepraszam Panią ale...

- (to the guy): did you want water?
- yes, duzy woda, said the guy, who was getting into the spirit of things.

The lady behind the glass looked as though she might erupt at any moment.

- Eight zloty thirty; I said 'uhh Bon appetit'

and beat a hasty retreat.

Next I made for the newsagent's to get some fruit juice**. There was a young Indian guy at the counter trying to buy a tram ticket.

- Normalny, said the lady behind the counter: 'nor-mal'.

The guy nodded, looked embarassed, and handed over the cash.

Only then the lady launched into a huge spiel in Polish about where exactly to go, how to exit the underpass (not as simple as you'd think... it's under a crossroads by the station and there are at least four exits), where to cross the road i tak dalej ad infinitum.

Her victim reached for his phrasebook.

- She's telling you where the tram stop is. I butted in, starting to feel over-confident. 'Do you know it?'
- Yeah yeah, said the guy, and legged it while the going was good.

I paid for the juice and decided it was probably time to go to work after all.

*And yet we can't get anyone to fix the boiler.
**Blackcurrant actually. It's brilliant. Nice and sour. If you slip a shot of vodka into it you can get someone wasted and they'll never notice a thing.


peixote said...

"Kurosant" - brilliant! Sounds like a Franco-Japanese film director. Great name for a punk group.

pinolona said...

I swear that's what's written on the shop window!! I always thought it was rogalik but hey.

peixote said...

Come now, rogaliki is what you`d get under Communism. We`ve got kurosants now.

Flowers said...

good helping!

one thing i've noticed about poland. please correct me if i'm wrong...

in most other countries (esp japan and germany) the shop staff always speak slowly and try and help out foreigners if they're giving it a go in the native tongue. poland, however, well, they seem to talk faster! the old people are fine but the young female shop workers - oof!

maybe it's just katowice, i don't know. your observations would be great as i'd hate to brand a whole nation's young shop staff as unhelpful!!!!

p.s. the old ladies are brilliant. they jabber away and the less i understand the more they seem to smile kindly....they're probably telling me how they're going to kill me, aren't they? oh, that's just hit me.

pinolona said...

Flowers: You're probably more likely to find young female shop assistants who speak English in Krakow, especially around the main square. It's definitely the old ladies who are the worst here. Although as a young man you're probably getting the special treatment. And when they're jabbering away to themselves, yes, frequently they are bemoaning the stupidity of the foreigner standing in front of them...

Shaunj said...

yes the kiosks are at a strange mid riff level aren't they? Midget kiosks. Apparently they were disigned like this so the Babcia's could comfortably sit on a chair while working and watch their customers belly buttons. Ah that's the job for me.