I missed the direct train to Bydgoszcz so I had to transfer in a small town called Kutno. As luck would have it, this transfer would not be without a cultural experience.
I arrived Sunday morning, still a little wobbly from the previous night’s escapades, only to find all the restaurants closed. The only places open were the kiosks near the train station. I had an hour to kill before the train to Bydgoszcz and, though I wasn’t hungry, I figured I should find something to quell the riotous behaviour of my stomach. For starters, I figured I’d order a coffee, it’s the easiest thing to order.
My need for coffee is no secret, you can witness it in written and movie formats, I was fascinated to witness coffee “Polish style.” In my poor Polish language, I ordered “kava, chorna, nie sugar” (coffee, black, no sugar). The wonderful lady, hearing my terrible accent and believing me to be some village-hick, asks me some other questions, to which I respond (in Polish), “Pzpreszem. Nie rozumiem. Moj Polsku nie jest dobze,” (“Excuse me, I don’t understand, my Polish isn’t good”) and thus furthering her belief that I was an uneducated hick from Nowhereski, Poland.
She gives me a small plastic cup and puts some coffee grounds into it. I stand there wondering what to do. I look around for some hot water. I notice a small cart over to the left of the kiosk with a kettle on it and I wonder if I’m supposed to boil the hot water myself and somehow find a strainer for the grounds.
Nay nay, my friends. My wonderful server explains to me, in Polish, that the hot water will be ready in about five minutes. Of course she’s speaking pretty fast and I don’t really know much more Polish than to impress women at the bar (or swear). I give a “backpacker’s moment,” that is, I wait and observe the situation while smiling and agreeing. I figure I’ll wait and see what happens.
Finally, she brings out the kettle and pours the hot water into the small plastic cup, over the grounds, and stirs it for me.
Weathering that storm, I decide that I should probably get something to eat. The problem is that the “food” sold at these kiosks isn’t really food. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and something called zapiekanki. My head was a little fuzzy and couldn’t recollect ever trying a zapiekanki before, so I decide to give it a try. I sputter some Polish, “Zapiekanki, prosze.” It’s 5 PLN or something like that.
For those of you who don’t know what a zapiekanki is, take a look at the picture below, taken in Warsaw. It’s Polish fast food. Popular amongst the Poles as a snack between classes, on the run, or after the club (as opposed to eating kebabs). There are a number of toppings ranging from pizza toppings to dessert toppings to the one I got, which was kinda gross. On a long piece of French bread she put (I think) tomato sauce, mayonnaise and some other red, gooey BBQ-like sauce.
My eyes warned my stomach, “Dude, I don’t know about this.”
But my stomach insisted, “Just give it a try. How bad can it be?”
I bite into the “sandwich”… and almost lose it all. To this day I don’t know what was on that piece of bread, but mayonnaise, tomato sauce that red sauce mixed with remaining vodka in my stomach made for some bad chemistry.
“Don’t you complain! You wanted it!” Scream my eyes.
To which my sickened stomach responded, “But I was soooo hungry.”
Finally, my brain, awaken by this commotion, declared the cultural experience over. It recalled that the one I had in Warsaw was better.
Time to find the platform and stare into space until the train arrives.
At least I learned a new way to make coffee.