After four months of living in Poland I can say my move from the States was a wise one. For the first time in years I have been forced out of my comfort zone in a multitude of ways. Living in a different culture and navigating daily life can be filled with a myriad of challenges, but also small positive success stories. Being reminded of this and always putting things in perspective has benefited me well.
One area that I sorely neglected during the Covid years was traveling. Aside from getting in my car and going for two to three hour drives, I didn’t interact with other people. Restaurant trips were fast food at best and I made it a point to go as far away as possible from civilization. Central Europe is a completely different beast. Getting around is not as easy as jumping in my car. Planning has to be done, logistics examined, and firm dates are now the norm.
Perhaps I had lofty goals starting this school year to visit a different town in Poland each month. With my desire to check out other cities outside the country, I have been playing catch up the last few weeks to make sure that prior to Christmas vacation my goals are met. While I have visited new places like Częstochowa, Lubliniec, Jaroslaw, and Katowice, I have also visited some familiar haunts from my previous stint in Europe.
My first trip outside of Krakow was to Warsaw. This was a crazy trip to me, more emotionally than physically. Warsaw was the reason I moved to Poland. When I taught in Italy four plus years ago, on two different occasions I spent time in Warsaw and absolutely loved the city. Whether it is more of a reflection on me or just the city itself, the September trip to Warsaw felt more like checking off a box.
The city was dirty and not kept up the way it had been on previous visits. My favorite park was a shell of its past glory and nowhere as inviting or the refuge it once served. Even my run down to the river was methodical and off putting. If it hadn’t been for a cut through Lazienki Park I would have written the entire trip off.
Despite the mixed trip to Warsaw, the positives were evident. I learned to ride the trains and navigate the process. Now I know for certain that visiting smaller second tier cities would become the norm.
Lubliniec and Jaroslaw were next on deck and they were awesome. Many tourists overlook such spots, but between the castle from the 1500s and the 18th century manor nestled among the corn fields, I wouldn’t trade any of it for a bustling major city.
This past Poland city trip was a return to the Baltic Sea and to an area far busier than I remembered. I booked these tickets in September after my trip to Warsaw and before venturing out to newer places. Sopot and Gdansk were bright spots years earlier. Like my first visit, being on the water was therapeutic and between Amber Alley and the boardwalk to the molo, I was in a safe place.
For the most part, the return trip - only a weekend jaunt - was fine. I was in a familiar place, but not exactly one that was home. Maybe it was due to the colder weather or the clouds, or simply the fact that this vibrant water community is a shell in the winter compared to those long summer days.
I can’t exactly explain how I felt, just that it was all right. Although I wonder if my gallivanting to Estonia and Latvia hurt the return trip. There was a point where I wanted to live in this part of the country. Now after a second trip, while I wouldn’t group it with Warsaw, it’s only an area worth visiting to me. Even now after two trips, I’m not certain when I will return knowing there are so many other places in Poland that I would like to experience.
Still, I know on this last trip I simply tapped open the potential. As a World War 2 buff, Gdansk is an amazing place to see and explore. The seagoing tradition and the long standing commercial trade by being on the Baltic Sea is interesting, as is the Solidarity Movement and how these shipyards were the ones that brought about greater change in Poland. The community embraces the seasons and the ever growing Christmas Market seeks to bring locals and tourists together. Between shopping, concerts, the arts, a bustling restaurant scene, and a multitude of outdoors activities, there really is something for every person and family.
I appreciated the opportunity to visit, but it’s time to visit smaller areas of Poland and to get a glimpse into daily life for those in the provinces if you will, not those within minutes of the major cities.
I should add there was a bright spot to this trip, visiting Wojtek the bear, who served during World War 2 as part of the Polish military. A new statue in Sopot, I loved seeing their rendition of the bear and learning more about his place in Polish history. For me this made the entire trip. Hopefully you’ll enjoy that part of the vlog, as well as the exploration of the more popular spots in not only Sopot, but also Gdansk.
As for me, it’s time to shift to the next journey and to seeing what Poland truly has to offer.
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Sixteen plus years as a published author, Jonathan has been independent the last eleven. With readers across forty-seven countries and six continents, he has readers around the world. Writing across genres, he loves good dialogue and flawed characters.