Poland: A Christmas Abroad – Zakopane, 2007

24/12/2007 to 25/12/2007

I spent Christmas in 2007, doing a Christmas Tour of Eastern Europe with company Eastern Trekker. The tour included 82 people, with 3 English (1 was kicked off for drugs and racism before leaving our meeting point in Krakow), about 5 Kiwis and 5 Americans, and almost 70 Australians. The tour visited Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Czech Republic, ending with New Year’s Eve in Prague. We spent the nights of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Zakopane, Poland, a ski resort town, so we were all guaranteed a white Christmas.

Christmas Eve, in the evening we all met for a traditional Polish Christmas dinner, as they usually have on Christmas Eve. The meal consisted of several courses, including carp for the main dish. After dinner, we returned to the hotel which I was staying in with most of the other single travellers in the group. As our tour group was so large, it was spread over 2 or 3 hotels. We took up nearly the whole of our hotel, so in the basement we pretty much started a hotel party. It started with a large drinking game of ‘Ring Of Fire’. The game got really rowdy, and is one of my most memorable drinking games that I’ve played. One memory is my friend Brendan standing out of the game, discussing how ridiculously drunk we will all get, all the while he was there drinking vodka. At one point he was giving out biscuits trying to sober us up, which was followed by him going back to his room, drunkenly falling through his shower door, and turning the shower onto himself as he fell down. He says he has never drunk vodka since. There was a big fuss as one family staying in the hotel and they were complaining about the noise, so there was an attempt to quiet down 80 drunk travellers on Christmas. I do vaguely recall heading out to try and watch midnight mass during the evening with a few others, wearing just my shirt and holey Vans shoes, it was a long, freezing cold and sobering walk there, to see it was too full and people were standing outside, just to return back to the party.

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Christmas Eve party in our hotel

Christmas Day started unsurprisingly hung-over, and was a free day on the tour, with the opportunity to try snowboarding for only my second time. I walked through the town with Jon and Brendan in the middle of us with his horrid hangover. Just walking and talking, suddenly Brendan was no longer there and I could see Jon. He had slipped backwards on the ice, banging his head, but clutching hold of his expensive camera. I could only cringe at how painful smacking your head on the ground while on a vodka hangover could be, but also thought it utterly hilarious. Snowboarding was really cheap, costing approximately £10.00 for equipment hire, and approximately £0.20 per trip up the ski lift. The ski lift was difficult as a snowboarder, as it was a drag lift where it goes between your legs, and you have to hold it at a sort of angle, and prepare for the sudden tug to start dragging you up. Numerous times I ended up face planting into the snow, and have the walk of shame back to the line to try again, or, walk the rest of the way to the top. I remember posing for a photo standing on my board, while Jon took the photo. I was just standing on my board, when I slipped and landed on my ass, and he continued taking photos of me in my embarrassment.

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Falling on my ass while standing on the snowboard, Zakopane, Poland

In the evening we had a traditional western style Christmas Dinner with turkey and the works. Here we also swapped our Secret Santa gifts from within the tour group, I received a shot glass, but I recall a straight laced guy receiving Sexatary on DVD. There was also a big quiz night, followed by fireworks bought by someone on the tour. On the walk back to the hotel, we had an amusing snowball fight, made more difficult by people including myself slipping on the compacted ice while over the should-be alcohol limit for walking on ice. Reaching the hotel, I was expecting some vengeance, when Jon rugby tackled me into a big pile of snow built up on the side of the path, well played.

Overall, I thought this tour was amazing, largely due to the great people I met, and who I still regularly talk too online, and we catch up with each other on our respective travels. The tour group was very large, which was its only real downfall. If money wasn’t an issue, I would happily do this tour again. This tour covered Christmas, my birthday and New Year, with stories of drunken debauchery from each.

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Christmas Day Dinner, Zakopane, Poland