Things I Never Thought I’d Miss About Poland

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Uniwersytet Wrocławski

Visiting Wrocław this weekend, it makes me want to move back. Life was good there. I don’t miss the weather, or not knowing the language very well, but it had a functioning public transportation system.* I had a good circle of friends, people who were fun and comfortable to hang out with, but also exposed me to things that I would have missed with my limited Polish proficiency.

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Wyspa Słodowa

Everything is cheap. Like, I had adjusted to Murcia, which I thought was cheap, and it is. But Wrocław is even cheaper. Groceries are so much cheaper. Hipster cafes are cheaper. Vodka is cheaper. (Did you know the word “vodka” comes from the Polish word for “water”? No joke, 100% true.) The beer is better. Like, oh lawdy, so much better. There are more things to do: more theater, more live music, more weird artsy events, more social events (especially for foreigners). There are more fun hipster bars, and they are still cheap. You’ll never have to wait for brunch, because the supply quite overruns the demand.

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Cathedral Island
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Wrocław National Museum

It can be a beautiful city. True, not all of it is pretty. There are some truly abominable spectacles of Communist apartment blocks, and even more abominable modern architecture. But there are also beautiful churches and cathedrals (see above), a charming Market Square painstakingly rebuilt after the Second World War, a university that dates back to the Middle Ages (although the actual buildings don’t). Between the alleys of ugly apartment blocks, we can find stencils and murals and multimedia art.

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Courtyard art in Nadodrze
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Galeria Neonside

It’s not the best spot as far as travel connections are concerned (Warsaw or Berlin would be better), but it has numerous flights from its small, uncrowded airport. You can easily arrive at the airport 30 minutes before your flight and be good to go. The bus station is cold, yes, but you can go to Prague all the time! Or Berlin! Or Dresden!

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Odra River

Somehow even all the obstacles seem softer when you go back for a visit. My lack of Polish linguistic skills isn’t an obstacle or annoyance, but an opportunity for me to have a second chance to actually learn Polish! The cold weather isn’t a pain in the ass that makes your fingers and nose frostbitten, but a refreshing reminder that you will appreciate nice weather even more come summer. Plus, maybe shivering burns more calories? (Because we all know I wasn’t eating so healthy in Portugal.)

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Sunset from my old apartment

But then I forgot about some of the less romantic realities. The pollution is terrible. Seriously, it makes my skin break out. In Nadodrze, an older working-class neighborhood, they still burn coal and sometimes trash to heat buildings because there is no central heat. I still haven’t magically mastered Polish and it’s not getting any easier. I spent a whole day with my friend’s Polish family and yeah, I sometimes know what they’re talking about, but it’s really more an understanding of the general topic of conversation rather than following sentence-by-sentence. And oh yeah, the country is sliding into fascism.

Still, in those moments when you’re a bit disillusioned about where your life currently is, when you’re not loving the place you moved to as much as the one you left behind, sometimes it’s comforting to think of going back instead of constantly moving forward. Of dreaming, perhaps briefly, of settling down instead of roaming aimlessly. Of paying 10 złoty (2.5€) for a nice whiskey sour.

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Me running to catch that train, probably // Wrocław Głowny
*God, how I’ve missed buying tickets from a machine, not lining up to buy a ticket from the driver and causing delays. And the schedule! Oh lord, imagine having apps that have accurate arrival times! They have that in Poland. It’s called jakdodade.pl, and it has info on almost every city in Poland. They do not have this in Murcia. The bus was 20 minutes late today even though it was 20 degrees and sunny. Yes, I’m still mad about it.

13 Replies to “Things I Never Thought I’d Miss About Poland”

  1. Poland is not that bad of a place to live indeed! I like living here, although I don’t see myself getting old here 😀 Wroclaw is certainly one of my favorite cities in Poland. It was evident to me that Poland is more organized in terms of public transportation, daily life etc when I visited southern European countries hehe.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I visited Wroclaw when I went to Poland a few years ago. Hands down, my favorite city I visited. Finding the gnomes around town, Cathedral Island, the Botanical Garden, the public transportation, the bars and street art…fantastic!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Aha! I have answered my own question on my previous comment! I agree that these things are not so important when you weigh up everything. Nice to know that public transport is well organized so you can get to Prague or Berlin by bus. I was a little hesitant to do this, on the first visit. It is sad that the country that initiated Glasnost is sliding into fascism. What signs do you see at the currrent time? Is it a right wing government?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I mean, I don’t live in Poland anymore, and I haven’t been there for nearly a year, but they currently have a far-right government that does all sorts of crazy things like re-structuring the Supreme Court and appointing sycophants to head all the public broadcasting and trying to erase the history of Polish collaboration with the Nazis.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh dear that is worrisome. Of all the nations that one would guess would not be able to eradicate the horrors of Naziism, you would expect Poland to be at the head! I do hope the country realizes the path it is taking before it is too late.

        Like

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