Poland The Land of the Free
Had this one in the works since September but never got around to posting it due to all the craziness of exchange :P hopefully I can finish the rest of my destinations this year. Well here it is…
First of by free I don’t mean the people are free (they are a free people dw), its just that everything seems pretty much free thanks to the exchange rate and relative price of goodies. “They’re fun coupons” –Rahul Gill describing the currency
Going into Poland I really had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know much about Eastern Europe and honestly didn’t know what it would look like. To make matters worse, the cab ride into Warsaw looks like you’re straight up going through the ghetto….”whyyyy ammm I even hereee”. While my first glance wasn’t the most appealing, Poland was definitely the one of my favorite spots and one that I recommend to everybody. With it being the first stop of my world tour I spent a week there, visiting Warsaw, Zakopane, and Krakow. Rather than give a break down of each place I think it’ll be better to learn more about Poland overall than just what to see and do.
“Im really into hiking now” — thoughts of Josh Reyes circa June 2014
If you’re into nature and healthy activities make sure you take a few days in Zakopane (Zak-oh-pana). Bussing into the city I felt right at home with all the lush scenery and mountains (yes Poland has those). After just chilling the first day at Goodbye Lenin Hostel, I ended up doing a 13-hour hike. While hiking that long would usually suck, it ended up being such an amazing experience. Climbing up snow ridges and the steepest mountain I’ve ever seen with no harness was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done but after finishing the hike and enjoying the view makes it all worth it. I don’t think I can simply explain how beautiful it was, so I’ll let the pictures speak for me.
Before I move onto more of the fun, I’d like to give a big shout out to Goodbye Lenin Hostel-Zakopane and Pink Panther Hostel-Krakow. With this being my first hostel experience I was quite nervous going into it. But it turned out to be one of the best parts travelling…like whyyyy would I ever stay in a hotel again. (Currently thinking about how much I love room service…what a great concept!)
When in Krakow, going to Auchwitz is a must for every single person. You honestly can’t understand the full magnitude of the Nazi concentration camps until seeing it. I was absolutely blown away. It was an extremely sad and tough 2-hour tour that brought on a few tours, but it was educational and unveiled just how brutal humanity can be at times.
While most WWII films and auchwitz documentaries explain most of what the Nazi’s did to their victims quite well, a film doesn’t show just the sheer size and magnitude of their crimes. Seeing how big birkenau II was realizing that this was just one of several concentration camps was sad and shocking.
Here are a few quotes that I saw that were quite moving, along with some pictures to show you through my eyes. I wont explain them too much as I think everyone should actually go do the tour themselves.
“ For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing” — Simon Wiesenthal
“Those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it” — George Santayana
How to Use Your Fun Coupons
For a brighter side…3 zloty is 1 Canadian Dollar
Do the tram party in Krakow, it’s a party bus but a tram (just learn to hold your pee well). The club “Diva” was also good fun (20 zloty for 12 mixed shots J)
Average Meal: 2–6 zloty
Fancy Restaurant meal with wine: 10 zloty
Perogies (literally the best ones I’ve had in the world): 6 zloty
4 pack of tall boys: 9 zloty
“Gimme one beeah”: 2–3 zloty
Big Bottle of Wodka and 4 redbulls: 20 zloty…lol
Mcdonalds Waffle Fries (amazing…): 3 zloty “theyre basically free”-Rahul Gill
…Mcdonalds also serves up a mean chocolate cake here, but I’ll do a global Mcdonalds blog post later (for those that don’t know me I do not look like Peter Griffin)
The Economy and Feel of Poland
Poland’s economy is rapidly improving as they enter somewhat of a golden age. They have opened up to multinational industries and were the only big economy in Europe to avoid a recession during the financial crisis, thanks partly to luck and partly to a mixture of deft fiscal and monetary policies, a flexible exchange rate for the zloty, a still modest exposure to international trade and low household and corporate debt. Poland still faces an issue as successful private companies are being held back by an overly bureaucratic public sector. That is one reason why some of the best and brightest Poles continue to emigrate.
What’s surprising is that only 1.67% Poland’s population is non-pole or foreign immigrants. As a colored guy (or tinted as the Dutch say…so not politically correct but hilarious) it feels like you’re the only non-white person for 100km…so weird that you literally say hello to other brown guys because it’s so rare to see them. “What brings you here man?!”. While it might not be the most multicultural place in the world, they did have the best sushi spot in Eastern Europe in the mall closest to the old town.
“Look mom he can smile” — small polish child (just kidding that didn’t actually happen)
I will never forget my travels there. Such an amazing experience in such a beautiful country. Make sure to put it on your next travel list; you will be so happy you did.
Before I go I’ll give you a few language translations that you will need…the English in Warsaw especially isn’t the greatest.
Good day (used as hello) : jen dobre
Thank you : jen kooya
Sorry: je prochem (I got this mixed up with thank you for 2 days…)
Excuse me: prochem kurczak (the polite way ☺)
Still Water: Woda ni-gasowana