Some time ago I wrote a bit about my trip to Morocco and to Netherlands. Today it is time for Poland. Have you ever felt like a country does not like you? Maybe you get a parking ticket or lose something every time you are visiting? Or maybe everything that might go wrong, does whenever you are there? This is my case with Poland. As I am from Latvia, whenever I plan a road trip with a car, there is no other way but to drive through Poland. At least if you don’t want to get a visa. So I have visited it several times. Starting from a family vacation to famous tourist destinations, continuing with a youth project in a countryside of Poland (practically in the middle of nowhere) and finishing with visiting the Tatry mountains. So this time I am going to share some interesting stories which describe my experience with Poland. If you are planning to visit the country, you might want to have a read.
People are nice but they know no English.
Over the years I have met many amazing Polish people all over the world. They have proved themselves to be very adventurous, creative, friendly and helpful on many occasions. They are the reason why I think of Poland as of a very good memory. Despite this, communication in English has been a huge problem every time I am there. And this is why:
Navigating in Poland.
More than 90 percent of inhabitants in Poland is actually Polish. Also, their politics does not really support acceptance of refugees. So this might be the reason why it is common for them to know only Polish. I am not saying that everyone on this planet should know English, but it would truly be helpful if those who work in places related to tourism or legal instances knew the language. So for example, when I arrived in Krakow Central Station at midnight, most of the station exits were closed, there was no one else getting out of the train so that I could follow their lead to the exit and I went from one exit to another without any success of getting out. So I saw the next train coming and decided to ask conductor where the exit was. And he did not understand me. I mean, the word EXIT is not the most difficult word in English vocabulary… I tried 4 or 5 times until another employee heard my desperate voice and tried to explain the way out. As I said, plenty of friendly people but learning some basic phrases in Polish prior visiting the country would certainly be helpful.
Buying a train ticket.
Similar experience I had when buying a train ticket. I managed to buy the ticket, but I got no help with getting direction to the right platform. And when I tried to repeat my question, the ticket lady got very angry and screamed something in Polish. I am usually very patient with people, but this time it was in the middle of the night and it turned out that the ticket I got was for a standing place only and of course I got to know about it only after I bought it.
Experience with the Police.
And the third experience was with Polish police. When going on a road trip with our car, we got into a tiny accident. Actually, I would not really call it an accident since our car slightly touched the other car without any damage. But other driver insisted that we should pay him 200 euros for it. He did not speak English, but as we know Russian, we were able to understand him. (Weird part was that we could understand him, but he did not understand us.) As there was no damage at all, we had no other choice but to call the police to settle this. And as the police arrived, we were not even surprised that they did not speak any English. They did, however, manage to say: “Your car, yes.. his car, yes… Contact? You pay money”. I must add that you cannot pay by card, only cash, and only zloty. Good news is, it was not even close to 200 euros, thankfully. After 20 minutes we very happily settled down at our hotel by the mountains so the day was saved.
Trains. They come often but they don’t arrive on time.
I had to travel by train several times and I really enjoyed it. Trains were wide, comfy and not crowded. The view was often great (especially if you take the mountain train) and some of them even had wifi. The downside of this was that they often came late. Usually, it would not be that big of a problem, but this one time we had to get out of the train and after five minutes, get on another train to continue our journey. As the first train arrived late, we missed the second one.
It is not like in London when the first train usually waits for the second one. Here we got to see how our second train departed a few seconds before we arrived. On the top of it, this was the last train… we were in the middle of nowhere, there was not even a station building there. It was just us, the railway and the fields of Poland at midnight. We had to put our minds and money together to figure out our next step.
Hostels. Very cheap, but incorrectly marked on google maps.
As you may have understood by know, I have missed the last transport to my intended destinations a few times in Poland. Sometimes I had a chance to find an alternative, but this one time I decided to check Booking.com and Air BnB for closest hostels
instead of spending the night in a central station. And to my surprise, the closest hostel was only 300 m from the central station and it cost 7 euros per night (note that it is a last minute booking). So I was more than happy to abandon the station and follow my navigation to the hostel.When I arrived at the said address, there was only an apartment building without any sign for a hostel. But thankfully after few minutes, I found this hostel few streets further the address marked in booking. And I must add that receptionist spoke perfect English and was exceptionally friendly.
Flights. Cheap but often delayed.
I have always been a fan of cheap flights and I love that it is always cheap to fly to Warsaw. So you can change to any connection flight here. But not to repeat myself too much, I must say that 4 out of 5 times flights were delayed. It was like “Krakow, here I come!! … emmm.. maybe tomorrow… if I am lucky.”
Nature. Beautiful but cold.
When I am traveling I usually choose to wander in between the mountains, rocky beaches and forests over cities and spending time in shops and bars. So I chose to visit some very deep countryside full of cows, chickens and beautiful forests. I had an opportunity to meet very lovely people who were trying to hold on to a small village (Klimontow) and organized several events for local kids so that they would have something to do during their summer break. Even though it was not so much to do in the village, it is my favorite memory from Poland till this day. But when getting closer to the mountain range, the cold was waiting. I had to wear 2 pairs of stockings, pants, a hat, 4 sweaters and 2 scarfs to feel warm. So it was quite of a challenge for people who came here from Greece, Spain, and Italy. So if you are coming to, for example, Zakopane, be prepared not only for a great view but also for a great cold!
On another topic, I just want to thank whoever founded the Erasmus + program. I know that a lot of people think it is a waste of money and that most of the youngsters participate in it for free travel opportunities and parties (which is often true). But it has been a blast to see how this has opened eyes for many young souls, how it has lead to the right path for future careers and how it has helped to keep a village alive. In addition I would like to encourage anyone who has not turned 30 yet, to use the opportunity to participate in this kind of youth programs, because it can genuinely guide you to your dream. Plus you can meet a lot of great people with amazing personalities. Not only this is a way to make friends, but also to build your social network to, for example, establish your future business.
Thank you for reading this and I wish you a productive day wherever you are!
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