Monday, November 17, 2008

波兰/Poland(Part 1)

Ever since watching the biographical film Schindler’s List a few years ago, and learning a bit about the Holocaust, it’s been a wish of mine to visit Poland. I wanted to see for myself the scars left behind from World War II and am curious to see if the Polish have managed to walk out from the shadows of the war and that of 40 years of Soviet rule.

Taking an overnight bus from Vilnius to the capital city of Poland, Warsaw, I was not expecting any trouble crossing the borders, as border stops have been abolished between all EU countries. So imagine my surprise when the bus was stopped at 1am, and a Polish policeman came aboard the bus and started inspecting everybody’s passport. After the nightmare at the Estonian borders, the sight of the policeman made me break out into cold sweat. After all, the idea of being haul down the bus in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, just because it’s the first time these people here see a Singaporean passport, does not really appeal to me. As expected, the policeman took a long time to scrutinize every single corner of my passport, including flipping through every single page to checks the chops I have. Just when I was expecting the worse, the policeman handed the passport back to me, making me heave a big sigh of relief.

After the scare, I could hardly get a good sleep. When I woke up from my uncomfortable slumber, I was pleasantly surprised to see a really beautiful sunrise. For those who know me, you are right in thinking that it must been years since I caught a proper sunrise. I mean, watching sunsets are fine for a night owl like me. But catching the sunrise? Ha… no way… 因为达到华沙时是星期天大清早,难得看到没有人潮的古镇。虽然波兰一直被其他国家入侵,但却有不少保留完美的建筑,当然这些老建筑中很多都是教堂。
As it was an early Sunday morning when I arrived in Warsaw, there was hardly anybody out and about when I took my walk in the city. Although Poland has been invaded many times over the years, there are still many well preserved old buildings here. Of course, most of these old buildings are actually churches. 华沙的构造与维尔纳斯有点类似,古镇主要大街和这里的主要购物街道是连接的。来到古镇边界,最先看到的是这个外表看起来不怎样,里面装潢却非常堂皇的圣安妮教堂。这个15世纪的教堂还有一个非常高的塔楼,爬上去可以眺望整个华沙古镇和周边的景物。
Warsaw’s layout is slightly similar to that of Vilnius in the sense that the main shopping boulevard leads to that of the Old Town. Arriving at the edge of Old Town, the first building that you would see is the St Anne’s Church. This church, built in the 15th century, looks quite ordinary from the outside, but is magnificent on the inside. There is a tower within the church, which you can climb for a fantastic view of the Old Town and its surrounding area.从圣安妮教堂出来已经是中午了,这时才看到人群出现。古镇的“入口”其实是一个很大的广场,广场的真中央是齐格蒙特三世的铜像,这正是将波兰首都从克拉科夫移到华沙的国王。如今这个铜像已经成为这里的标志,也是许多人约会的地点。广场上除了可以看到许多贩卖纪念品的小摊位外,还有小丑、马车等。
It was noon by the time I came down from the tower and the usual tourist crowd has already appeared. The main gateway is the castle square, where you can see the Monument to King Sigismund III Vasa, the man who shifted Poland’s capital from Krakow to Warsaw. On the square, you can see many people out walking, enjoying a beautiful Sunday, checking out the souvenir stalls, clowns and carriages. 古镇最吸引人的景点就是这个曾是波兰君主居住的皇宫。如果你要来这里参观,那就在星期天来,因为有一部分在星期天是免费开放的,可以让你省一笔钱。对这个皇宫的第一印象是,它没有俄罗斯看到的皇宫大或辉煌,可是里面的装潢还是让人留下深刻的印象。
The biggest attraction in Old Town has got to be the Royal Castle, home to the Polish monarchs till the 16th century. If you are getting a little bit sick of the many castles in Eastern Europe, then visit this one on a Sunday as there is a special tour that allows you to visit part of the castle for free on Sunday. This castle may not be as big or impressive as those in Russia, nonetheless, the elaborate interior designs still something to admire. 在古镇较多游客聚集的地方就是这个旧菜市场。如今这个菜市场已经没有人摆摊子卖菜了,改而成为当地画家展示他们画的地方。另外周边尽是一些很有特色的咖啡座和餐厅,而广场的正中央有个喷水泉,可以看到不少小孩子在那里戏水。
The old market place is where you will find the biggest crowd. This used to be where the locals get their fresh produce. But now, it is a big square with the typical cafes, restaurants and shops targeted at tourists and an open-air exhibition hall for the many artists trying to make a living. Right in the centre of the market place is a big fountain where you can find many kids cooling themselves under the water. 走到广场后的许多小巷可以看到不少有趣的商店,还有很多艺术家在这里表演或是画家在卖画。Wandering into the many alleys behind the market place, you can find many interesting little shops, and of course, more artists displaying their works.再往后走,你会来到从中古时代保留下来的旧城墙。
Walking further, you will come upon the old city walls left from medieval times.当然,这里还有很多博物馆、历史悠久的教堂和什么等,可是一路走来看到的博物馆和教堂多的是,这次我就没有花那个钱进去这些博物馆和教堂参观了,只是从外头拍拍照片罢了。如果看到的每个博物馆和教堂都要买票进去的话,不到三个月我就要吃草,收拾包袱回家去了。
Of course, there are tons of museums and churches which you can check out, just like those you see in other European cities. I already had my fill of museums and churches, and so, this time round, I just took pictures of the lovely buildings from outside. If I am not selective about the museums or churches that I am to visit, my pockets will become empty in no time, just by paying for the entrance fees to these venues.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

立陶宛/Lithuania(Part 2)

Vilnius is not that big a city. Hence you can more or less visit the interesting sights in a day. The next day, I took a day trip to Trakai, the ancient capital city of Lithuania, which is only 28km away from Vilnius. Being the ancient capital, there is naturally an air of the old around Trakai. You can find old houses, beautiful lakes and castles here. 特拉凯最大的旅游景点是坐落在湖泊中央的十四世纪旧城堡,从外面看去非常有童话故事的感觉,这也就是为什么不少情侣选择在这里拍婚纱照。城堡虽然曾经被摧毁,但当地政府费尽心思恢复了城堡原貌,如今里头尽是展示与城堡历史有关的展览品。
The centerpiece of Trakai has got to be the fairytale Island Castle, occupying a small island in Lake Galve. With such a fairytale background, it is not hard to understand why there were so many couples getting married there. Although the castle was destroyed before, local authorities have made lots of efforts restoring it. Now you can find exhibits relating the history of the castle as you walk around the castle grounds.
因为天气还没有转凉,可以看到不少人在湖上划船,或是小孩在戏水。来到立陶宛若不到特拉凯走走,坐在湖边的其中一个咖啡坐或餐厅享受一杯啤酒和当地小吃,那就太可惜了!  ~伟
As the weather was still warm, there were still some people rowing boats on the lake. Others simply splashed about in the waters. If you do visit Lithuania, make sure you make a trip to Trakai and sit by one of the many cafes or restaurants along the river and have a beer or one of the local delicacies!  ~wei