I love Poland. I really do. I like the people I met; the street food, it is cheap and good (zapiekankas!); how the beers are always 500ml; the great bars/clubs and friendly people who hang out there; saying the few Polish phrases I learned, it is lots of fun; how the Polish girls drink beer with a straw (!) and walk gracefully over cobblestone streets in high heels. The list goes on… A guy I know calls it “The Paradise”, and I think he is onto something.
I like the trains in Poland. Perhaps they are not as clean, comfortable or fast as their neighbors to the West, but they work just fine if you ask me. They are plentiful. They get you there. On time. You will find a seat and a place to put your stuff. And, best of all, they are pretty cheap. And, frankly, if you think they are unclean or uncomfortable, you should try travelling in other parts of the world :)
What’s more, in Poland, the beautiful old central squares of the cities have been restored to perfection, especially Poznan, Krakow, and Wroclaw. They are also the centre of the action. The squaures have people eating, drinking, hanging out, having a good time. At night, they are well-lit and it is fun to take pictures.
Old Market Square, Poznan
Cloth hall in Krakow’s central square
Saint Mary’s Chuch, Krakow
I spent 3 days trekking in the Tratra Mountains under blue-bird skies. The trails and views are both excellent. I appreciated how almost all of the people in the mountains were Polish. There are many places in the world where the people don’t get out and enjoy their own mountains. Not so in Poland. In the Tatras, you cannot camp, but you don’t have to go back to civilization at night — they have many gorgeous alpine huts with a comfortable bed for you, as well as good food, cold beer, and friendly Poles. The huts are always in a beautiful location with a patio facing the late-afternoon sun, perfect for a post-hike beer :) If you come to Poland, you should visit the Tatras.
The Tatras Mountains and a couple alpine lakes
Truth be told, this was actually my second time in Poland. Way back in 1995, my hockey team and I came here to play some games and see the country. It was fun to re-visit some of the places I visited the first time around. Although sometimes I did so back accident, haha. In Wroclaw, I visited the impressive Panorama of the Battle of Racławice. I thought it was my first time. Then, when I got in, I thought, “Hmm… wait a second…” Yup, I had been there before :)
Random note: I just played squash for the first time. What a great sport. Bart and a few of his employees kicked my ass for 90 min but I loved it. I left the court exhausted and with bloody knees for all the times I had fallen. I couldn’t walk for 3 days.
In the middle of all this, I made a quick trip to visit some friends in Stockholm, Sweden — a pretty city set on a bunch of islands. There are lots of boats and bridges. To the tourist’s eye, everything seems neat and perfect in Sweden. At this time of year, the leaves are changing colours and it reminds me of Ontario. I liked it.
In Stockholm, I had fun making a “How To” video (or, in this case, how *not* to) on running a hinderbana. A hinderbana is a Swedish military obstacle course. Its brutal. This video is actually the 3rd time I ran the course. I was exhausted (note the subtle insertion of an excuse here). The exhaustion made me a bit bitter in the video, but don’t mind it. Since the video is so long (because I am so slow), I was going to edit some of it out… but no. I have provided you with every painstaking, embarassing, grunting second. In the video you will also see Sebastian conquering each obstacle with ease. He is Swedish, in shape, and could have lapped me if he wanted to. But, he politely went at my pace to provide a demonstration of how it should be done. Thanks to Steve for his excellent camera work.
(Note my two-toned pants. This is what happens when I where only the “shorts” every other day for 2 years and the bottoms only rarely. The shorts fade, the bottoms don’t. In the real world, I would look like an idiot, but as a traveller, it’s cool, I can rock it. It’s called “backpacker chic”…)
I just got a call from Poland and Stockholm. They were reviewing this blog entry for me and said they wanted more pictures. Who am I to refuse?
Agata Schreyner is a good friend of Bart’s in Poznan. She is a photographer and took a few pictures of me. Normally, I hate pictures with me in them; they make me want to hit the “delete” button. But, not so with Agata’s. They make me look cool (which is all I am really trying to do in my life). I will leave you with one. Dziękuję, Agata.