Posts Tagged With: polish

My Favorite Places in Poland

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So this may come as a shock, but back in the summer I completed my teaching contract and subsequently decided to return to my homeland, aka the Great White North!

I regret not posting as much about my time in Poland as I would have liked, though I did touch on the city I was living in, which was Radom. IMHO, it wasn’t exactly ‘top’ of my favorites list. So now I’m going to focus on some of my favorite Polish locales I encountered during my time there. Hopefully, you will be inspired to visit these places!

Warsaw

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Ah, good old Warsaw, or Warszawa as it is called in Polish. The capital and often the starting point to any Polish travels. Since Warsaw was a two-hour bus ride from Radom, I was there A LOT! Like almost every weekend. Because of the frequency of buses between Radom and the capital, it was the perfect day trip. Now most people I met said they preferred Krakow over Warsaw (Poles included), but Warsaw held a special place in my heart. It has great restaurants, chic coffee houses and a growing craft beer scene! My favorite place happened to be the Old Town. I was dating a Polish girl, who lived in Warsaw, and we had our second date there (great romantic spot FYI).

There was always something going there all year. And if you’re a fan of green spaces, there’s this neat park in the south end of the city. I like to call it Poland’s version of Central Park but on a smaller scale. I will always remember all the times I spent in Warsaw.

Toruń

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Now your average tourist wouldn’t think to include Toruń (pronounced ‘tor-in‘) in their travel plans. And I think that’s a shame! This little medieval town, located about a two-hour train ride from Warsaw, is actually the birth place of Nicolaus Copernicus. You will hear his name a lot there. In fact, there is a statue of him near the main cathedral in the center of town. I only visited Toruń once on a weekend trip, but it was well worth the journey and money! I met some locals there in a bar and ended up dancing with them in a nightclub! When you visit some of the lesser known places in Poland, it is really easy to get noticed by the locals!

I definitely recommend stopping by Toruń if Poland is on your travel bucket list!

 

Zakopane

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Pronounced ‘zak-o-pa-nay‘. This little town, which lies in the extreme south of Poland, is dubbed the Winter Capital of Poland. Polish winter enthusiasts flock to this town during the winter months, especially during Christmas and the first week of February (kids have a break from school during this time). Because it is nestled at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, it provides opportunities for skiing and winter hiking. Of course, Zakopane is a great place to visit all year round; summer hikers would love the opportunities here. However, many Poles will tell you that to truly experience the richness of Zakopane, you must visit it during winter. And that’s exactly what I did! One chilly, snowy weekend in February, I made the trip here. Being a winter enthusiast myself, I had to. I did a mini hike through the national park that straddles the Tatra Mountains, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable Polish experiences for me!

Another interesting thing about this town is the folklore. It isn’t long before you notice the locals wearing traditional clothing, especially the staff at restaurants and hotels. It almost felt as I was in a Polish version of Bavaria. Zakopane is also famous for its cheese-filled pastries. No trip here is complete without sampling one!

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Be forewarned: the closest airport is Krakow, so the only practical way of getting there without renting a car is bus. You can catch one from Krakow, which takes three hours. There is one from Warsaw as well, BUT add five hours to the journey. Since that bus stops in Krakow anyway, it’s better to just start from there unless you’re a fan of long bus rides.

 

Honorable mentions go to Krakow and Wrocław. The former is especially wonderful during Christmas when the main square becomes a giant Christmas market. The latter is a neat university city, offering a authentic taste of Poland. But I think I have bombarded you enough with information already.

Sadly, I didn’t make it to Gdansk or Auschwitz. I was not able to include either in any weekend trips, nor was I able to extend my time in Poland after the teaching contract. So many things to do, so little time! However, I may not be living in Poland now but it doesn’t mean I won’t ever be back.

So with this I close the chapter on my posts about Poland. The experience there was one of the best in my life and changed me forever. Will I go back to teach abroad? Perhaps. But this moment, I am happy on home soil.

If Poland is on your travel radar, be sure to include the places I have mentioned. If Poland isn’t on your bucket list, well…maybe you should consider it!

 

Categories: My Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

My First Month in Poland

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So as many of you know, I recently moved to Poland to teach English. It was a job I accepted many months ago, but if someone had told me a year ago today that I’d be teaching in Poland, I wouldn’t have believed it. I had always envisioned myself teaching in southern Europe, China or Mexico. However, now that I’ve been teaching nearly a month, I find the Polish context to be rewarding and challenging. I teach children, teenagers and adults, and because I haven’t taught kids before, this adds to the challenge.

I live in a small city near Warsaw off the tourist path, which many consider to be traditionally Polish. The language barrier can be an issue, but I feel as if I’m getting to know the real Poland. Because it is small, I don’t have to deal with long commutes to work everyday. Interesting fact about the city: it has a few McDonalds but there’s not a single Starbucks!

During my first month here, I’ve taken note of a few things I’ve noticed about the culture:

  • shopping at the local supermarkets can be challenging, especially at the big chains. Aisles are often crowded, and if you want something from the deli counter, be prepared for long lines. In Poland, supermarkets are closed on two Sundays of each month, so grocery shopping on Saturdays can be particularly challenging. I’ve found it’s best to get groceries before or after work.
  • highways in Poland aren’t what they are in North America; they are more like country roads, so a 60-mile journey often can take two hours!
  • public schools are referred to as numbers, rather than names. In other words, a student will often say they go to School Number 39.
  • Men will often come out on their balconies shamelessly in their underwear. Not a pretty sight for me as my apartment faces an eleven-storey block apartment, where this often is the case. Luckily the colder weather is settling in.
  • older women will often try and bud you in the line at the grocery store. They seem to resent the shift from tradition as well as the presence of foreigners in their country.
  • bookstores and small shops are open from ten in the morning until three in the afternoon on Saturdays in the city I live in. If you like hanging around a bookstore late in the evening, this can be frustrating.

As challenging as these things can be, I am enjoying the experience so far. I’ve always wanted to live and teach abroad, and now I’m doing it. When you live abroad, there are always challenges. I’m glad I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and embarked on this life-changing journey.

Thanks for reading this post!

Categories: Life in Poland | Tags: , , ,

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