Poland is quite an unexplored country of Europe, you do not find many tourists there and this could be considered as a positive aspect since there are still a lot of places to be discovered. The country was “closed” to the rest of the world until the fall of Soviet Union between 1990 and 1991. Before, the countries of the east Europe were not free to rule themselves, because of the strong Russian influence on their government, and could not have contact with the outside world and get to know how the people from west were living in order to prevent them from revolting. Maybe many of you did not know about this, but the first sparks of the Revolution, which will have the fall of the Soviet Union as consequence, originated from Poland: the religious-inspired trade union movement Solidarność. Now, that Poland is opening to the world, more and more people are coming to explore the hidden gems of this old and proud country, even though some still fear the eastern europe, considering it a bad place filled with criminals. My advice is to go and visit a place before judging because you might lose the chance of seeing beautiful places and having wonderful experience.
- Soviet Buildings
Of course, Poland cannot deny its Soviet past, just like many other eastern european countries, and this past can be easily seen just wandering around Polish cities. On the outskirts of Warsaw, you can spot a lot of these crumbling and dull soviet buildings, even if I must say that the capital is developing very fast. I could sense more this soviet past in the city of Lodz, where the soviet style is still omnipresent all around and in the city itself. Yet, I can see the struggles that the Poles are making in order to destroy and rebuild some parts of Lodz, everything is changing fast in Poland.
2. Religion Is Important
I must say that when it comes to religion, Poles are like Italians, if not even worse. You find churches everywhere and every church you come across are filled with people praying. It really seems that they love catholic religion; this is also the reason why they revolted so badly against the Russia in the past (Russia is orthodox and Soviet Union was communist). Furthermore, one of the most loved Pope in the world is Polish: Karol Józef Wojtyła; this makes them even proud, therefore you find his statues at every corner, literally. I even watched a movie on Polish TV which was about his life.
3. Crazily Difficult Language
My god, Polish is impossible to pronunce for a normal person like me! Even though I have been studying languages since I can remember, Polish is still out of my reach. It is part of the Slavic languages branch, to name you some example Bulgarian, Russian, Czech are all from the same group, and for this reason the grammar rules and the pronunciation are terribly hard (they have declesions like Latin). Poland is not like northern european countries, where you find english speaking people at every corner; here due to the country’s closure for many years, english is not so widely spread but young people and restaurant personnel can always speak some english, even though just basic. Anyway, make sure to learn (or just write, if you really cannot remember) some words and phrases in Polish because Poles are always happy to see foreigners trying to speak their hard language and know very well that for us it is hard. When I tried to speak polish with some waitresses and with a bus checker, just by saying simple things like Dzien Dobry (Good Morning) or Dziekuje (Thanks), they gave me a big big smile, they really looked happy and this warmed my heart.
4. Hard History
I am sure that you are aware of the tormented history of Poland, especially during the Second World War. The troubles for Poland started in the 17th century, when their king died and Catherine The Great, Russia’s Empress, wanted her Polish lover to be elected as the new king but he and other Poles wanted to strengthen the monarchy. So to make it short, Poland had to accept a treaty with Russia but Russia intervened too much in its politics originating a Polish uprising that made the three great Powers, Austria, Russia and Prussia divide among themselves Polish territory in order to stop them. From now on, Poland will have to fight a lot in order to get back its territories, especially against Russia. Poles will manage to regain its status as country after the First World War but this status did not last long because Hitler and his nazi friends came to conquer Poland, changing the country into one of the most horrible places during the war as the lager of Auschwitz can witness. Poles fought against Germans with all their strength, like the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 points out, but to no avail. When the war finished, Poland was again conquered by Russia and had to live under their rules until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990-1991. Such an epic and hard history, don’t you think?
5. Easter Market
I guess the most of you know the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market), very popular in central Europe but I am sure that many of you do not know about its Easter counterpart. I was lucky enough to be able to visit Poland during Easter because the whole country celebrates this religious feast with a lot of nice practices: Easter Baskets, painted eggs, delicious cakes and the Easter Market. Among them, the one I liked the most, was indeed the Easter Market called Jarmark Wielkanocny in Polish (please, correct me Poles out there, if I make mistakes). You can find a lot of stands selling traditional polish food, easter ornaments, cakes and even cute rabbits 😉 If you visit Poland on Easter, make sure to check this out!
6. Unknown But Tasty Cuisine
I think the biggest surprise for me in Poland was its cuisine; everyone always speaks about Chinese, Japanese or Italian cuisines but you never hear of Polish cuisine, even though this is a disadvantage for all of you. I must say that Polish cuisine was one of the best I have tried during my trips. It is influened by other slavic countries’ cuisines: for example you can find the Ukrainian Borsch but something very polish that you will surely find in any restaurants is the yummy Pierogi. They are like dumplings filled with potatoes, sauerkraut, meat, cheese and fruits and normally served with different toppings like fried onions or melted butter. They are really yummy and perfect for everyone! I highly advice you to taste the local cuisine if you are going to visit Poland, you will not regret it :3
7. Everything Is Ducking Cheap
I guess many of you expats already figured this out as Poland is located in eastern Europe and Eastern Europe is synonym for cheap prices. Don’t get fooled, bear in mind that Poland, despite being a member of the EU and Schengen, still has not adopted euro for economical reasons therefore they use their currency whose name is Zloty and for the cents is Grosz. The meals and the local shops are crazily cheap, I paid a complete meal just 5 euros in Warsaw while the international brands are just like the same as anywhere else. So, if you are on a budget, you have another reason to come and visit Poland 😉
8. Cheap Coach System
There is not much need to find cheap public transport as for western europeans the normal prices in Poland are already very cheap but if you prefer buses over trains, you can check this Polski Bus out. They connect Poland with many other Polish cities like Lublin, Gdansk, Lodz, Krakow and if you are planning to visit other european capitals with Polski Bus you can reach Prague, Berlin and many others.
9. Changeable Weather
I come from Italy so maybe for me such a changeable weather is weird but I wanted to make you know about my experience. When I was on my way back to Warsaw from Lodz, the weather started changing drastically and within 30 minutes the coulds came, it started raining, then hailing, snowing and in the end, sun shone again above us. I was pretty shocked, this was my first experience of such a changeable weather. Poland is located in northern part of Europe therefore the weather there is continental and I realized it was pretty the same in Germany too.
10. Private Police Everywhere
As I spent the most of my time in Warsaw, what I wrote down is more valid for Warsaw (I do not know much about other Polish cities). The capital was full of this private police called Juwentus: at the entrance of the office buildings, apartment blocks etc you find these police stands with policemen inside patrolling the area everywhere. The police you come across in the evening are not just private but also public, giving you a sense of safety that sometimes is needed.
Have you ever visited Poland? What do you think about it? Did you have the same experiences as me? Or you want to add something? Let me know in the comments below 🙂