After my exchange in tenth grade, when I was hardly interested in Polish language or history, I had the first real encounter with the country and people of Poland on a road trip with my friend Rosalie. We traveled by train and bus all over Poland, from Krakow to Łódź, from Warsaw via Gdańsk to Poznań and Bielsko-Biała. In all twelve days we paid only once for a hostel, in all other cities we lived with relatives and friends of Rosi’s parents. This trip made Poland truly memorable for me: so much hospitality, so many different living and life situations, so many beautiful encounters.
The first destination was Tychy, a presumably underrated city near Krakow, but fortunate for us. At noon we visited the grandmother of Rosi, who lives in a one-room apartment in the simplest circumstances, on the radio Radio Maryja, and we opened them as if she had twice as many guests.
Old and new, dupstep and folklore
In the evening we were ready to party, and Rosi’s cousin, who we also lived with, took us to a party. The “pre-drinking” was already worth the evening: Since it is forbidden to drink in the street in Poland, we hid in a dark alley and mixed vodka pure with some sweet drink in our mouths. When we were ready, we went to the club, which was in an old brick factory building. We were expecting disco polo or the usual mainstream disco pop, but we got: Gooral. The Polish Dupstep band, which sweetens their electronic bums with folkloristic sounds from the mountains of Poland, enthused us immediately. We (and the party) are forever immortalized in the music video for Karczmareczka.
Next we drove to Krakow, to Rosis uncle. He lives with his wife just outside the city on an old farm. We breathed some relief, that Rosis aunt at the moment because of her back was in the hospital, not because we were glad for her illness, but because we had already feared the many food that would have served us otherwise. Although the uncle did everything in his power, this was still limited. In addition to the usual tour round through Krakow we drove with a minibus for the equivalent of one (!) Euro to the nearby concentration camp Auschwitz, which I always recommend to anyone to visit.
After Krakow we went by train to Łódź, where I was to study in autumn next year. It was raining, Rosis feet got wet in her ballerinas, without insiders the city was only half as much fun and she looked even worse in bad weather, so we drove on to Warsaw. Not a good impression of my future hometown, which should turn fortunately to 180 degrees (see blog entry Lodz of Lenka).
Chopin and raspberry flavored beer
In Warsaw, we lived with our young aunt and uncle Rosis, who live with their children in a cute terraced house with all-round burglary protection just outside the center. Highlights: the Copernicus Museum, the Łazienki Park with Chopin concert and tame squirrels, the first visit to a Polish service, where people queued before the confessionals and knelt old grandmas on the bare stone floor.
In Gdańsk we lived with an old colleague of Rosi’s father, who lived next to the tracks and whose little house wobbled when a train passed by. A nice lady who gave us the room of her son and otherwise left us alone. This calmness looks in my memory like this: We tried our way through all types of chocolate and the raspberry beer cans piled up on the floor of our guest room.
We continued to Poznań, where we again lived with her father’s work colleagues, this time in a skyscraper that shook during the night storm and was very noisy, and a two-bedroom apartment, in which the friendly couple left us their living room.
The last stop was with the family members in Bielsko-Biała, where we were allowed to sleep in the (cozy) cellar of the family house. In the evening we visited with Rosis cousins another cousin in their new building, there was wine and the latest gossip. Rosi tried to translate as well as possible what was the subject of the conversation, but she, too, despaired of the speed of changing topics. So most of the time, I just enjoyed the sound of the language and decided to learn it as quickly as possible. It should take another year and about three months abroad until I was finally able to understand.
This story shows once again: go on trips, do couchsurfing, visit relatives, get to know the locals and not only the tourist attractions and Instagram backgrounds – these are the stories that hang out, eradicate the prejudices, and the trips which (pathetically speaking) can change lives.