Your Holiday Disaster: A cold Easter in Poland put a fresh chill on an already frosty relationship for Mary Barton
Sunday 06 September 1998
Gdansk, the ancient Baltic port, risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the Second World War ... I flicked through my guidebook and found the name of a recommended hotel in the centre. As it was in a pedestrianised area, I nursed the Skoda while Brian went to ask about a room in his fluent Polish. He soon returned. "Seems OK, but no parking." We eventually found a car park half a mile away and walked back.
The hotel was tall and narrow with a pointed roof. After checking in with the surly receptionist who never looked up once, we found our room at the front of the building. It was huge and shabby and far from the nearest bathroom.
We needed food, drink and bright lights to perk ourselves up, and after further consultation of the guidebook we sallied forth hopeful of good times to come. However, there was not another soul in the wind-whipped streets and the hostelries showed no signs of life. "God!" exclaimed Brian, slapping his forehead, "of course, it's Easter and they're all Catholics here! No one's out tonight." My heart sank.
Feeling increasingly ill-tempered, we finally fetched up outside a restaurant with a window made out of bottle bottoms. A metal sign in the shape of a tarnished ship squeaked in the cold black night. Despite the lack of customers, the atmosphere was surprisingly congenial and we ordered borsch and roast pork from an obsequious waiter. After copious amounts of vodka, beer and honey liqueur, Brian became expansive and said things like: "I suppose if I was in love I'd find it easier to show affection."
A chill, grey Easter Day dawned. At 9am we found the dining room, only to be informed by the surly receptionist in her waitress's hat that breakfast was finished. The smell of coffee almost had me whimpering, but Brian was already on his way out. "We can do better than this shit-hole anyway!" he bellowed, which made the few guests look up in interest.
At the car, however, a treat was in store. A window had been smashed and the radio was missing. "Shit!" exclaimed Brian, and then stepped in some, as we started to search for the nearest police station.
Several hours later, with a square of polythene flapping at the window, we drove to the sea. As we scrunched along the beach, heads bent against the biting wind, it started to snow, so we beat a retreat to a wooden structure that housed a quite fine restaurant. Tucking into carp and watching the battleship grey Baltic heaving restlessly outside, we decided by tacit consent not to speak.
We returned to the hotel and parked defiantly in the pedestrian precinct. As we were checking out, Brian suddenly banged his fist on the desk and the surly receptionist almost looked up. "What happened?" I asked, as we exited in high dudgeon. "She said the car would never have been broken into if we'd parked in the hotel car park."
It was a chilly drive back to Warsaw.
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