Sunday, January 10, 2010

Passport pirouette: Waiting for a Polish visa

Back when I did my longest stint of travelling throughout Eastern Europe, it was just before any of the countries joined the European Union, and thus it was still while Australians required visas to enter many countries - Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic among them.

When I first left Russia for Estonia, with just a vague plan of having to be in Bratislava in time for a new job, I wasn't even sure I'd travel through Poland - mainly because of the visa need. But apart from flying over it, there weren't many options, because everywhere east of Poland demanded a visa from me too. So, I stayed in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius for a few days, took the tram trip out to their Polish embassy twice, and ended up with this pretty visa stamp in my passport.

Looking back, I'm surprised at how restrictive it was. Just a 14-day stay was permitted on this regular visa, and fortunately my job start date didn't give me more than that anyway, but usually a good backpacker would want to spend a lot more time in Poland. It's a pretty large country, and has interesting bits in every corner. From the beautiful Tatra mountains in the south, moving up to the gorgeous town of Krakow and the nearby distressing-but-must-visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, and up to the bustling capital of Warsaw, and beyond to the far north - I'd love to go back and explore it all in more depth. And next time, the great thing is that I won't need a visa.

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