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To the Alps, part 2: Lucky break leads to Krakow

Two young Latvians - Arvils and Elvijs - are hitchhiking to the Alps in cold October. LSM follows their story that previously saw them stranded in Białystok but with some old luck has lead them to Krakow with full bellies and a wonderful company.

We're still at the Białystok McDonald's where we spend 15 more minutes until the employees make it known we should leave. Thankfully Elvijs has learned that a bus will take us outside the city.

If we won't find a gas station outside the city, we'll set up a tent. Google says it's -2°C outside, which doesn't concern us as the bus stop is just around the corner. After spending three hours in the McDonald's we're on the street going to the bus stop, however it turns out that the last one has departed two hours ago. We decide to spend the 7 zloty we have on a taxi.

The day in numbers:

510km in 4 cars
30 zloty (€12) spent on:
3 zloty - sanitary napkins to dry our legs
3 zloty - a Polish beer
12*2 zloty - the tastiest kebabs in the world

The buildings are high and massive, cars are parked everywhere and ad signs are lit. However a grave silence surrounds us, interrupted from time to time by dogs barking in the distance. 

A taxi takes us to a nearby Statoil. Despite the cold biting our cheeks, we've decided to go to the next gas station I've found on the map as the connection is too slow at Statoil. We've become quiet as we've started to come to terms with the inevitable - we'll have to spend the night in the tent. We're worried not about spending a night in the cold but rather that we'll have to set it up, carry our stuff around and change into sleeping clothes.

Foto: Arvils Ozoliņš

The gas station turns out to be very small and already closed. It's almost 1 a.m. and the next station is 4 km away so we rest at the bus stop. Solitary cars pass us by from time to time, and we try hitchhiking them with the same sign saying 'Warsaw'. I don't know what we hoped for. It's the middle of the night, it's pitch-black dark outside and cars pass us by once every seven to ten minutes.

And suddenly one of the cars stop. A guy says he'll take us 20 km ahead to a parking place for truck drivers. We hop right in and warm our fingers and toes, not believing what just happened.

The huge parking lot has a gas station, a store, a hotel and a shower offered free of charge. We spend 4 zloty on sanitary napkins to absorb the moistness from our feet, and another 4 zloty to buy a bottle of beer. We decide to try asking for a stay at the hotel lobby.

Mariusz, the receptionist - a young and very kind guy - allows us to sleep in the armchairs at the lobby. Furthermore, he lets us use the sauna as we look half frozen to death. We spend half an hour there and go to sleep.

At 7.15 a.m. the hotel owner drives away, swearing in Polish. 

It seems it's even colder outside than at night. We have slept for three hours and as we're waiting for the next car, our lids are closing on their own. However Martin - a talkative and curious Polish man, who wants to learn everything there is to Latvia (including the swear words) - picks us up and takes us outside Warsaw where we can hitchhike to Krakow.

A young man picks us up but we can't really get to know him as we fall asleep almost momentarily. He takes us to a place about 100 km away from Krakow.

Our surroundings have changed, with the flat plains conceded to hills. After about 20 minutes a woman picks us up and takes us to central Krakow.

She's a kindergarten teacher born in Poland, living in Toronto and working in Peking. We've told her almost everything we know about Latvia on the way to Krakow. She even offers us a place to stay and gives each of us a banana as an afternoon snack.

The huge medieval buildings across the city make us feel like we're in another world. However there's not time to waste. We find the next place with free Wi-Fi to find someone who'll let us stay at their place.

We find another McDonald's and, using Couchsurfing, contact about 15 locals until Agata messages us, 'Of course you can stay with us! We're drinking beer at the university campus. Come over!'

Agata and her friends are talkative and fun. They're studying right here in Krakow. We quickly make friends and go to the nearby store to test some more local beer. It turns out we don't have to pay for it as we're guests! We spend the evening, seven of us in total, laughing and fooling about at the campus park. Agata, Paula, Pavel, Martin and the rest are superb people. We're really hitting it off and me and Elvijs are really glad we've stumbled upon such a positive bunch.

We go to a karaoke, eat some awesome kebabs and come to the hotel by ten. We continue our evening with laughter and positive emotions and discussions on a range of subjects.

It's 3 a.m. and I've been listening to Elvijs, Pavel and Agata snoring for a while. It's only the second day but we've seen and experienced so much that it seems we left Rīga a week ago.

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