Sunday, June 20, 2010

A final farewell

Dear Poland, especially my dearest Krakow,

Unfortunately, the time has come to end our love affair. The time we've spent together was nothing but romantic and enchanting, if at times challenging. I attempted to learn your language, a skill I never completely accomplished, but what do you expect when there are 17 different ways to say the number two? There is no doubt I tried because I can hardly speak English now. However, at the end, an understanding grew between us that no language barrier could prevent. You taught me so much about myself and for that I am thankful. Let us not part on sorrowful terms, but rather laugh about the good times and remember fondly those times when we annoyed each other so much we could have killed one another.
I will miss your romantic cobble-stone streets, late nights in cafes, markets and your history. Words cannot express the joy I felt meandering around the vibrantly green planty this spring, or gazing upon Wawel Castle during my Polish lessons. Your pierogis, kiełbasa, potatoes, cutlet and borscht warmed my entire being on those hard winter days when I felt nothing could lift my spirits. Parts of my soul are left in your cafes where I spent hours reading and studying, where I drank a cappuccino everyday. I will miss how inexpensive things are here. Please do not take offense, because if this were not the case the opportunities I had to try your food, drink your beer and enjoy those daily cappuccinos would be non-existent. One thing I will miss most is the ability to walk everywhere. In the states, everything is located so far away that it is necessary to have a car, but here I walked everywhere all the time.
The people I've met here are truly some of the most amazing people I've ever encountered. Their stories never failed to fascinate me, especially those pertaining to how they came to be here. Thank you for introducing me to people I never would have met under any other circumstance. They've truly impacted my life.
Traveling around, exploring new cities and places only makes parting even harder. Your countryside is breathtaking, your cities inspiring and your people charming (most of the time.) I did not get to see every city or town, but I suppose that is reason enough to return one day. For what I did see, it is permanently imprinted on my heart and mind.
The proof of my love lies within my ability to overlook your flaws. I will not miss your post offices, lack of customer service and I will certainly not miss the demand of exact change. I will not miss living in your communist dorm where scheduling a time for laundry is a serious hassle. I won't miss your questionable fashion choices, well perhaps I will, because they provided some excellent entertainment. Speaking of fashion, no matter how hard you tried, you did not break my love of sweatpants or sweatshirts. Once home again, I will no longer feel uncomfortable wearing a hoodie in public. While your food hit the spot on many occasions, I will not miss constantly eating carbs or searching out specific places just to get my vegetable fix. I will not miss sarcastically repeating the phrases "welcome to Poland" or "only in Poland." I especially will not miss days where the sun suddenly disappeared at 3:30 pm, where my mood matched the rise and fall of the sun. I won't miss feeling that curling up in a ball and sleeping is the only way to get rid of my, quite frankly, bitchiness. However, I will admit, now that the warm weather arrived, so have the tourists. I am so happy I reached a point where I no longer feel like one.
So here we are at the end. I earned my diploma, made friends and experienced a year I will never forget. I cringe at the thought that I wasn't sure if I really wanted to return this time around. I'm thankful I did, because this year was exactly what I needed. I know I am not your first, nor will I be your last love affair and I accept that. I consider anyone who has a chance to get to know you the way I did lucky. You will never be forgotten and I hope one day we will reunite.

Until we meet again...

Love always,

Laura Noelle Mikulski

** To my faithful readers. Thank you for being a part of this experience. I hope I provided some entertainment and fun facts about Poland. This blog would have been pointless if you didn't take the time to read it. Thank you and hopefully there will be other exciting things in my future to share.**

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Field Trip? Yes Please!

Even at the age of 23 I love the idea of field trips. Last week my language school hosted one where we went rafting down the Dunajec river in the Tatry Mountains along the Slovakian border. We had a tour guide, dressed in semi-traditionalgarb guide us on an hour and half tour of the mountains and river. Usually the ride takes about two and half hours, but Poland had flood issues recently, so the water is high making the raft move quickly. As a result of the floods, the water was murky looking, when it is usually clear enough to see all the fish. Anyway, regardless, it was a great trip. The weather was gorgeous, sunny and clear. I could live in the mountains. Its so peaceful and the low humidity helps. Below are some pictures, but they don't do any justice to what you see in person. Therefore, you all should come to Poland and raft down a river. Beware, the guides may get sassy and splash you with water. After our trip, we had a BBQ with beer, kiełbasa and lamb! Yum! All in all, a wonderful day!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gdańsk: An ass slapping good time!

Apologies for the slightly crass title, however, my ass was indeed slapped while walking down the street by a random Polish guy who screamed "Witaj do Gdańska!" (welcome to Gdańsk). And since this blog is where I describe my experiences in Poland, I simply could not leave out this brief but intense moment.
This past weekend was Boże Ciało (Corpus Christi), so naturally we had a four day weekend. Thank you Catholicism. My two roommates, Paige and Manda, and I decided to take the long train up north to the Baltic city of Gdańsk. While there we hit the trifecta of Polish beach towns by also visiting Gdynia and Sopot.

The first time I came to Gdańsk was in 2008, however, the weather was cool and rainy the entire time. Not exactly ideal for a coastal city. But this time around, I had nothing but sunshine and warmth. There isn't much to do and see in Gdańsk. There are several beautiful churches, an interesting Archaeology Museum and its nice to take a walk along the water. While Gdańsk may not be as aesthetically intriguing as Kraków, it is the center of a great political movement. The Solidarity Movement, which influenced the collapse of Communism. I could easily take up an entire blog entry about this movement, but one key person I highly recommend researching is Anna Walentynowicz. My friends and I walked to the Solidarity Monument, but unfortunately the museum was closed. However, it was interesting to physically stand where an important part of Polish history took place.

Oh, hey sunshine, I've missed you! Sopot is known for its beach, pier and numerous stands of amber. I love amber. I love it more than diamonds. I would have bought every piece of jewelry I saw if I could, but unfortunately I had to be selective. Laying in the sun for the afternoon was exactly what my friends and I needed after a long, harsh winter and a pretty rainy spring. I made it to the Sopot the first time around in Poland, but again the experience is quite different when the weather is warm and the sun is shining.

I am a genius. Or at least according the owner of a restaurant we stumbled upon. We arrived in the late morning, hungry, looking for a cute place to grab some food and coffee. Finally, we made it to a small little restaurant that serves mostly Naleśniki (Crepes). I'd like to say our Polish has improved, but it quite obvious that we are not native speakers. So during our meal, the young owner asked if we would mind helping him translate his menu from Polish to English. Apparently, this restaurant just opened this week. While sitting there, he was trying to figure out how to describe and translate Pierogi Ruskie (Russian Pierogis) which simply consist of potatoes and cheese. I simply said, "just write potato and cheese." His response, "Lovely! Yes! Perfect!" Clearly, I've found my calling. Anyway, this whole experience was adorable, and I certainly didn't mind the free coffee. We finally put to use our knowledge of Polish food and English!
While in Gdynia we went to the beach, a little too crowded for our liking, and the aquarium. It was not super impressive, but I still had a fun time staring at ridiculous fish and a huge green anaconda snake.

Overall, a great weekend spent up north. Today also marks the two week point until I return home. I cannot believe this year is almost over. I am ready to come home, but I'm not ready to leave Krakow. It will be bittersweet, but I am going to enjoy the next two weeks as much as I possibly can!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Just a taste

Another glimpse in the academic aspect of my life here in Poland... enjoy. And a special thanks to my roommate Paige for sharing this article.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Your lips are moving, but all I hear is Blah Blah Blah...

I spent this past weekend in Warsaw visiting my friend Emilia who I lovingly refer to as my "Polish Guardian Angel." We met when I lived in Poznan. She was a mentor of sorts, picking me up at the airport, moving me into my dorm, showing we around the city etc. etc. Thankfully now, my polish is good enough that I can ask for a lightbulb if I need one. Anyway, in the few months I spent in Poznan, she became a close friend. So I knew that I could not leave Poland without seeing her this time around. We talked all weekend about random stuff. Hearing her talk about her job and current pursuit of a translation certification, got me thinking about translation in general. At first I thought that it couldn't be that difficult. If you know one language and learn another, then you can translate. Of course on a day to day basis and in normal conversation this is true, but what do you do when a word in English simply does not exist in Polish? How does one translate a sentence like "I hereby bequeath to you etc. etc."? According to Emilia, 90% of the time you can literally translate words, but that doesn't always mean it will make sense. Her job focuses on documents pertaining to law. (She's a big John Grisham fan and is very interested in law translation.)
Even simple things like watching a movie in interesting. There is a theater here in Krakow that is located near the main square that my friends and I frequent. For one thing it is cheaper and secondly it is in a renovated mansion, so it doesn't have that corporate feel. I lovewatching movies with Polish subtitles because I find it interesting how certain words and phrases are translated. Like a verbal pause for example. In english during a conversation someone can say "Look, I'm really sorry" or "Listen, I'm really sorry." We have multiple choices, however in Polish, I noticed they mostly use "Słuchaj" meaning "listen." This is a very simple example, but the point is how difficult and interesting translation can be. How something said is lost because it doesn't translate the same way from English to Polish, so the non-english speaker doesn't quite get it, or vice versa.
I hate sitting in class and struggle to communicate what I am thinking. Of course my professor doesn't exactly help that situation, but that's an entirely different story. Of course it is a lack vocabulary knowledge, but also there are times when I want to say something, but there just isn't a way to say it. Especially with idioms. I once asked my professor if there is an equivalent to "biting my tongue" and she didn't quite understand. I'm sure there is an expression of sorts, but we just couldn't seem to reach an understanding of what I was looking for. Basically, I have an appreciation for translators around the world.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Where is Noah when you need him?

May is suppose to be a month of warmth and sunshine in Poland. However, that is not the case this year. For the past several weeks the rain just keeps on pouring in the souther part of Poland. The Vistula river is extremely high forcing some bridges to close and classes to be canceled. Below are some articles and links to pictures of the serious flooding.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pains and Pleasures.

Obviously, I love Poland. Now, while there are many a thing I will miss, there are also plenty of things I will not miss.

What I will Miss: Pleasures.
1) Coat Racks.
I realize this sounds odd, but no matter where you go, there is always a coat rack of sorts. Be it a restaurant, classroom or cafe there is always a charming hook to hang your coat or umbrella. I've come to appreciate this little convenience because it can get pretty annoying to hang your coat on the back of a chair.
2) Cafes
Duh. I spend so much time in real cafes and America will never live up to the standards set by Poland, well, Europe in general. Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks or any other corporate chain is not the same. There is something cozy, warm and comforting about going to a cafe in the city here. Free Wi-Fi and a cappuccino in an original cafe. They are all one of a kind. (Ok, I will admit I do enjoy Dunkin Donuts ice coffee.) But I will miss having a place to bring my computer and sit for hours and only have to order a coffee. Future investment of mine is a cappuccino machine.
3) History.
I don't mean my class. I mean the history of the city. You walk around on cobble stone streets and see old beautiful buildings rich with stories. Its interesting to be in a hip club in the basement of an old building with arched brick ceilings. Its kind of unreal and just something you need to witness yourself. So... come to Poland and you'll see what I mean.

What I won't miss: Pains.
1) People demanding exact change.
Seriously, I've never bought something where the cashier did not ask for exact change. Actually, the worse situation was when I bought some food it cost 12.20 zloty. I gave 20.20, therefore needing only 8 zloty back. The woman looked at me, grunted a request for 2 zloty. I didn't have it. She rolled her eyes and handed me back my change. She was so frustrated that she had to count out 8 zloty instead of handing me a 10 note. Seriously? Is it really that difficult for you to give me 8 zloty? Do you lack the ability to count change?
2) The Post Office.
I won't miss waiting in line at the Post Office. Quite honestly, its hell on earth. The idea of having to stand there only to be greeted by the annoyed postal service worker who hates me because my Polish isn't perfect deterred me from sending postcards to friends and family. Sorry dear loved ones.
3) Lack of customer service... sometimes.
The phrase "the customer is always right" doesn't really exist here. No matter what happens, it is always your fault. The only thing I appreciate here is that restaurants do not try and rush you out. You can sit for as long as you want. YOU must ask for the check. They won't just bring it to you or ask if you want it yet. Its nice to have a meal in peace without a fake, in your face server hoping you move your butt so the next table can sit down and leave them more money. (Listen, I've been that waitress/hostess. I get it. Servers don't rely on tips here the way they do in America so there is no need to serve as many tables as possible.)

These are not the only things I will or won't miss about Poland. But seeing as my time is coming to an end its time to recount my the last 10 months of my life here in charming Krakow.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Places I frequent: Part One.

There are several spots in Krakow that I frequent. I love to explore new restaurants and new cafes, but when in doubt I know I can always resort to specific places that will never let me down. So should you ever visit Krakow, which I highly suggest you do, please don't hesitate to check these places out. I will update periodically with other hot spots, but for now, enjoy these two.

Hot Spot Number One: Da Gregorio Pizzeria AKA "Pizza Bacon"
Ulica Stradomska 11, Krakow

One night, several friends and I were searching for a restaurant to grab some dinner. Literally, walking around the city forever, our friend Dave noticed a pizzeria. Since we were all starving, anything sounded great. This small quaint pizzeria turned out to have THE BEST pizza in all of Krakow. Seriously. We ordered a house special pizza called "Pizza Bacon." This pizza was so delicious that it is the only thing my dear roommate orders when we go there for dinner. From that point on, we called the restaurant "Pizza Bacon" rather than its actual name. To be honest, I couldn't remember the actual name until I looked at this sign. At least once a week we go to "Pizza Bacon" and now the waitress there knows who we are and what we want. This restaurant is hardly ever full, but don't let that fool you. It has won several awards and deserves every single one. So, if you are ever in Krakow and want some pizza go to Da Gregorio.

Hot Spot Number Two: Camera Cafe
Ulica Wiślna 5, Krakow

When walking into this cafe, one will notice the photos all over the walls of American Movies. It is not exactly a cozy cafe and is a little expensive because of the location. It almost seems like a chain cafe (though I'm not sure if it is.) So, why would I frequent this establishment when there are so many smaller, cozier and more original places? My friend Caroline and I both agree on this one fact... Camera Cafe has the best hot chocolate in Krakow. Honestly, I've tried hot chocolate in other cafes and the kind Camera Cafe serves is superior. There are several flavors (plain, mint, raspberry etc. etc.) and all are delicious. Its thick, creamy and perfectly sweet. It was the ideal way to warm up on the many cold days this winter. So when I am craving something chocolate and sweet, without fail, Camera Cafe will satisfy my craving.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Poznan: Round Two

My spring semester junior year of college I lived in Poznan, Poland. It was my first time living in Poland. In fact, it was my first time living abroad. While there, I did not have an intense Polish language class, the way I do now. My classes met once a week and were taught in English. I was one of four Americans that I knew of in Poland, so needless to say I had a lot of alone time. I also spent that semester traveling as much as I could. It was an important part of my life and is the reason I developed an interest in Poland and Polish culture.
Granted it was only two years ago but going back this time was... interesting. I realized how much has changed in my life and how much I've changed as a person since my time there. I couldn't help but laugh to myself at moments. I thought about how I managed to get around Poznan hardly knowing the language, except for survival phrases. Not knowing Polish, or the language of a country you happen to be living in, can really affect how you explore and embrace the new environment. Here in Krakow, my Polish is not perfect, however, I know significantly more Polish this time around. Therefore, I explore cafes weekly, walk into shops, and go food shopping without hesitation. I'm not nervous about making a fool of myself as I was when I lived in Poznan. I could physically feel the difference when I was in Poznan this time. The challenges I faced the first time in Poland made me hesitate when I was granted the scholarship that brought me to Krakow. I recalled feeling out of sorts and completely out of my element in Poznan which made me worry and question moving to Krakow. I, of course, accepted this scholarship because I would be stupid not too. I'm thankful I did, because my year here in Krakow has been one of the most fantastic and unbelievable times of my life. This will be a year I will never forget. Ever.

So, even though I felt different this time, Poznan... not so different. Aside from a few American chains, the city is exactly as it was. I love Poznan. It is a beautiful city. It has the charm of Krakow, minus the tourists. Historical buildings and tall business buildings co-exist, creating the perfect combination of history, culture and modern day. Poznan will always have a special place in my heart.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Could I really miss winter?

Missing winter time?? How is that possible? Well, lets take a moment to assess. Do I miss the cold weather, aka wearing six layers of pants and shirts topped off with a heavy coat? No. Do I miss the snow and ice covered side walks? Of course not. Do I miss falling on my butt because of said sidewalks? My butt says NO! Do I miss how the constant darkness consumed all my energy and soul? Hell no.
So what could I possibly miss about Krakow during the winter time? Easy. The lack of tourists. The winter was harsh, both physically and mentally. But during that time, it was the real city. The streets were not packed with people awing and ooing at everything, (not that I blame them, the city is beautiful.) Those who wandered around lived, worked, or studied here. Of course there were the occasional tourists, but nothing like now. Today the city square is full of people from everywhere, with their fanny packs and cameras. And, it is not that I mind tourists, technically. I think seeing the world and traveling in general is an important part of life, but it is that I am now grouped into the "tourist crowd." My Polish is no where near perfect, so yes, I mostly speak English. However, I know Krakow. I understand the culture, the city, the life. I know where there are great cafes. I know the restaurants that are worth going to and those that are not. I know the history. I have the tune of the Bugler in St. Mary's Church memorized.
I just miss seeing the city how it is majority of the year. The empty streets. Only hearing Polish spoken. I miss having the sense that "this is the real Krakow." So, yea, in some weird way, I miss the winter time.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Do Lublina!

This weekend my friend Caroline and I traveled to Lublin and Kazimierz Dolny. Our weekend consisted of warm, beautiful weather, and great people. Lublin is a small city, but should not be underestimated. The old town is small, with intricate cobblestone alleys that make for great walks. The main attraction is the castle, which holds true historical value. What I found most interesting was the use of the castle as a prison, especially during WWII.
Of course, when going to Lublin one should tour Majdanek Concentration Camp. It was a moving experience. The history of the Holocaust never ceases to amaze me. Located just outside the city, there is a museum and other exhibitions dedicated to the history of the camp. While I was there, it was quite desolate. The eeriness was emphasized by the lack of other tourists, intensifying the overall experience.
Our Sunday was spent in Kazimierz Dolny, a small town located about an hour away from Lublin. Its quite popular in the summer time for families to vacation. Romanian gypsy women wander around the small square, claiming they can predict your future and con you into giving them money, or just steal it somehow. I was not impressed. Their predictions and observations were quite obvious. "Oh.. I can see travel in your future." Yea no kidding, I'm a tourist.

I apologize for the lack of recent posts, however, I have plans for future posts. I will also being traveling to other Polish cities and towns within the next month. Hey, I guess the gypsy was right!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On a lighter note...

I realize the past two entries were not of the happy kind, due to the recent tragedy in Poland. However, I hope this article below brings some spirit back to my blog posts.

Watch out for those Poles, for they can be crafty. :-)


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Week of National Mourning

The recent events hit Poland's heart hard with the loss of many prominent figures resulting in a week of national mourning. Flags, pictures and candles cover the ground in front of the Katyń memorial in Krakow, located right in front of my language school. All over Poland, memorials both big and small are on display.
Today, there was a procession through the city ending with a ceremony at the memorial. Taking a break from our speaking midterm exam, my fellow classmates and professors watched from the window as those who were lost were honored, as well as commemorating the historical event of Katyń. A true tragedy within a tragedy. The crowd was filled with hundreds of people young and old. Below are pictures from today.

Interesting Articles:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

President Lech Kaczynski

Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and other top Polish officials, died in a plane crash yesterday morning in Russia, near Smolensk. Kaczynski was on his way to Russia to commemorate the Katyn Massacre of World War II.

Memorials are set up all over Poland, flags flew at half mast, as the country mourns for its loss. Please keep Poland, and all those affected by this tragedy in your prayers.


Friday, April 9, 2010


Happy Easter! Through numerous entries I've emphasized how Catholic Poland is, therefore it is no surprise Easter is a big holiday as well. Most of Poland's traditions are similar to those in the states. For example, Poles paint easter eggs and have Easter baskets (not sure if the Easter bunny plays the same part.) Lamb is also a main course mean for Easter. Just like at Christmas, Krakow has an Easter market selling colorful eggs, baskets, flowers and other festive goodies.

However, warning to all those who may be in Poland on Easter Monday, for you may fall victim to Śmigus Dyngus or Lany Poniedziałek or Wet Monday! Traditionally, young men would splash young women with buckets of water! The more drenched a woman got
the more likely she would get married within the year. The following Tuesday, however, women sought revenge and splashed men. It is also believed to represent the Baptism of Poland in 966 AD when Poland converted to Christianity. However, over the years this tradition has changed, and now, no matter your gender, you run the risk of getting splashed with water. Unfortunately,
Easter Monday in Kraków this year was rainy.

My Easter break, as well my 23rd Birthday was spent in Frankfurt, Germany visiting a family friend. I had a wonderful time. It was nice to get away and see a familiar face. I love Poland, but that break was exactly what I needed. Frankfurt is a pretty spectacular city. Its the only city in Germany that has a real skyline, with a few high rises. It was a pretty chilly weekend, but I made the most of my time and had a wonderful host/tour guide.

I hope your Easter celebrations were wonderful!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers....

Learning Polish is a challenge. Period. Grammar is difficult. You try mastering the 17 different ways to say the number 2 (actually, I think there is more than 17). However, the biggest challenge I face with learning Polish is pronunciation. Shocking. Because it should be easy to say a word where four letters in a row are "szcz" like Pszczyna or Szczecin. Or to say "Konstantynopolitanczykowianeczka" which is apparently one the longest words in Polish meaning "a little girl from Constantinople." Basically my days consist of spitting all over my worksheets.

Last week my professor thought it would be entertaining to teach us Polish tongue twisters. As if learning Polish isn't a tongue twister all on its own. Needless to say, I epically failed. Seriously though, if these tongue twisters are difficult for native Poles, then there is clearly no hope for me. Below are some tongue twisters. I'm not even going to attempt to spell them out phonetically. Enjoy. Class was pretty entertaining that day.

Zaszeleściły szuwary, szary świt przepłoszył drzemiące stadko srebrno-rdzawych kuropatw.

Król Karol kupił królowej Karolinie korale koloru koralowego.

W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Yesterday, several friends and I took a day trip to a town right outside of Krakow called Pszczyna (Yes, there is a way to pronounce it.) The first day of spring was beautiful, so it was a perfect time to take trip. The main attraction is the Pszczyna castle which was constructed in the 13th Century but because of the various renovations it looks more like a palace today. What I found most interesting was William II resided there during WWI and served as a headquarters of sort. Just after WWII it was turned in a museum. Its very beautiful inside, especially the music hall with high ceilings and intricate decor.

The town itself is very quaint. The main square is small with several restaurants and shops. There is also a park dedicated to Bison, however we did not go inside (wasn't quite worth the money.) The park on the castle grounds is nice as well and being the first warm day in quite some time, many families were out taking a stroll.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Semester Goals

I have a habit of setting goals for myself and then to not follow through with them. So in order to prevent this habit from haunting my life in Poland, I plan to share some of my goals with you. I'm hoping because it is in writing, I will accomplish what I set out to do this semester. You can hold me to it and guilt trip me at the end of my stay here in Poland if I fail to live up to my own expectations (although I hope this won't happen).

Goal 1: Review everyday for at least an hour. The hour will focus on what I learned that day. If I take a little time everyday to review, my Polish (I hope) will improve. I tend to put it off until the weekend, which becomes overwhelming when I shuffle through worksheets and written notes, trying to remember what I couldn't understand. This goal seems rather obvious, but distractions live on every inch of this city.

Goal 2: Explore and find at least three different cafes a week. Krakow is full of little cafes hidden in alley ways and small streets. Kazimierz (a part of the city, my favorite actually) is brimming with cafes. It is impossible to walk down any street and not pass at least four.

Goal 3: Travel more. This does not just pertain to huge trips around Poland, but also includes day trips to small towns around Krakow. I have yet to visit Czestochowa, a problem I hope to remedy in the near future.

Goal 4: Read more. I'm attached to my computer. Its an outlet for frustration and the easiest way connect to friends and family. It is also how I keep up to date with current events in America. Really glad I don't own a Toyota by the way. However, I know I can accomplish what I need to do on the computer in a designated time span everyday. It is not necessary for me to check my email 600 times a day (I wish I were that important). I want to spend my recreational time reading, not surfing. The first time I lived in Poland I think I read 6 or 7 books, no great feat, but I have yet to read that many to date. This time I plan on reading more than that. I don't have a set number yet, but when I figure it out I'll be happy to share. This being said I am open to suggested readings. Keep in mind I live in Poland and my resources are limited. One of my favorite places is Massolit, an English Used/New bookstore. Their selection is extensive, but its not a Barnes & Noble.

On a side note, Goal 2 & 4 are in full swing already. Current book of choice: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I've been moody lately, really moody and Jane Austen is the best literary pick-me-up. Cafe of the day: Cheder Cafe. Located in Kazimierz it is a cafe with a small library. Extra plus is the no smoking policy! It is hard to find cafes that are non-smoking, so my lungs especially love Cheder Cafe.

These goals are not extreme. They are not impossible. I promise to keep you, my dedicated readers, up to date with my progress.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gdzie jest tolieta?

The simple question one learns before jetting off to a foreign country is "Where is the bathroom?" And even through broken english, one can usually decipher the directions to the desired destination. Even if a wrong turn is taken, the bathroom is usually found. Logical steps take place next. Girls enter the bathroom that either says "ladies" in the native language or the door is equipped with a picture of woman in a skirt. Once inside, your business is your own.

However, in Poland, the simple act of using the bathroom stresses me out. Mostly because Poles don't feel the need to use the word "kobieta" for woman, or even use that famous image of the skirted damsel. No, no, no. That makes sense and this is Poland. The method used here is the circle and the triangle. Women are circles and men are triangles. I've lived in Poland for about a year now, if you include my semester in Poznan. I can never remember which is which. Before I leave the dinner table or movie theater lobby, I have to double check with my friends that the circle is meant for women. As a result of frustration, I developed a way to remember that the circle is for woman, but sorry my avid readers, its not quite appropriate to share. Yet, even with this little game I have in my head, I always need reassurance from whomever I'm with at that particular moment.

Perhaps by the end of my time here, I'll remember, but until then I hope a friend is around whenever I need to use the restroom.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Poland vs. France... in the battle of Holy Communion?

Nuns publicizing threats? Who would have ever thought that such a Catholic country like Poland, would allow a secular factory to make communion wafers? And what makes one communion wafer superior to others?

Enjoy the article here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ok Warsaw, You win.

I recently spent two days in Warsaw where I attended the TEDxWarsaw. For those of you who do not know what TED talks are, here is the website. Basically, it is an all day conference where people come and share their ideas. It was quite an interesting event. It was the first to take place in Warsaw and I believe in all of Poland. The main theme of this specific conference was "Collaboration." The topics ranged from Politics, Religion, Music and Storytelling. Each speaker emphasized the importance of working together for a greater cause.
I found one speaker captivating as he spoke about Jews in Poland, specifically Krakow, post War World II. Prior to War World II, the Jewish population was pretty high. However, post WWII, it changed quite drastically for obvious reasons. This speaker, Jonathan Ornstein, talked about how there is a gap between Jewish generations. Older generations of Polish Jews are still in touch with their roots as younger generations of Polish Jews are slowly getting back in touch after discovering they even had any Jewish heritage. It is the middle group, the post WWII generation that is missing. The generation that grew up either hiding or not even knowing about their Jewish heritage. Jonathan Ornstein talked about the Jewish Community Center of Krakow, and hopes that this is one small step for Polish Jews to get back in touch with their roots.
Overall, the conference was interesting and successful. Between mingling and networking, I came across some intriguing characters with fascinating stories, as well as some seriously egotistical people. But I guess that is to be expected.

So in regards to the title of this post... The first time I visited Warsaw was back in 2008 when I was studying in Poznań. A friend and I had just spent several days in Stockholm, an unbelievably beautiful city, if ridiculously expensive. We decided to fly in Warsaw, because it was cheaper and we both felt it necessary to visit. However, upon arrival, we were miserably tired and broke. Neither of us wanted to be there and after spending time in Stockholm, we underestimated the value of Warsaw as a city. You see, Warsaw was destroyed during WWII so much of the architecture is Soviet Block buildings, aka, square building next to square building next to square building and so on. In short, we hated it.
So, this being my second time in Warsaw, under different circumstances, this city had one more chance to prove itself. And, it did. Now, I still find Kraków superior is most ways, but I have a new appreciation for Warsaw as a city. Its much less romantic and far more urban that Kraków, a trait that I believe many overlook. I enjoyed my time there, even though it was cold, and look forward to visiting again in the Spring.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A continuation of Poland's creation

Remember that post from a little while ago about Poland's role in creating coffee and bagels? And how you should be thanking Poland for making your mornings that much more enjoyable?

Well, it turns out the European Union heard and will honor your many thanks. Soon the bagel will be protected under a Geographical Indication from the EU. Yes, the bagel will be recognized as regional product of Poland.

To revel in this joyous moment, a moment of sheer pride for Poles, read the article published by Polskie Radio.

P.S: I promise to update the blog soon about my 10 day adventure in Israel. Until then, enjoy some bagels and coffee.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

An evolutionary phenomenon

Everyday I wake up and go to class. In order to get to class, I must walk to the tram. In order to walk to the tram, I must cross the daunting sheet of ice that covers the parking lot and conveniently all the sidewalks leading to the tram. Without fail, I slip everyday and there have been several full wipe outs. Granted, a bruise on the thigh hurts but more than anything else its my pride that's damaged. What's crazy is why/how my pride is hurt. You may think, "well, Laura you did just wipe out and fall on your butt. That can be embarrassing. But it happens to everyone." Yes, it can be embarrassing. But fortunately for me, well rather unfortunately slipping on ice lies on the lower end of my embarrassing spectrum. Oh, college.
And, more importantly... No! No it does not happen to everyone! Not to Polish women for sure! They alone are the ones who make me feel and look like an idiot. They manage to skate by on the ice, without slipping, let alone falling. It amazes me. They scurry across in HEELS and manage to successfully make it to their destination with ease. Thankfully, I am not the only one who notices, several of my friends observe this bizarre phenomenon too. I swear its genetic. Somehow over time, polish women's genetic makeup was altered to adjust to this seasonal occurrence allowing them to not slip and fall when walking on ice.
So until spring hits and the ice melts, I will wait and hope that maybe someday I'll see a Polish woman wipe out therefore disproving my theory and making me feel a little bit better.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Is it sad when an animal understands more Polish than I do?

I want this dog. Perhaps it will force me refine my pronunciation of Polish words.

P.S: The people in the video are pronouncing the words incorrectly. So if you were thinking of being cool and attempt to utter some Polish yourself, do not repeat what they say. No pole will understand you... even a dog. ;-)

For your enjoyment.

Friday, January 8, 2010

How pigeons make my resume interesting.

After living in Krakow for a couple months, there are several things I've come to realize.

1. You wait, because that's just what you do. Especially in the post office. (This is Poland as a whole, not just specific to Krakow)
2. Sidewalks need not be shoveled after it snows.
3. Always give exact change
4. Pigeons are everywhere.

The list goes on.

However, I realized I can use these bizarre traits to my advantage, especially those relating to pigeons. Yes, pigeons (I prefer the name, rats with wings). The city is full of them. The market square is constantly carpeted by these annoying creatures. They are so plentiful, that I've seen children drowning in pigeons because their parents think its a great photo opt. You see, parents hand there kids some bread to feed the pigeons, and within minutes they are swimming in a sea of feathers, poop and filth.

So, how can I use these creatures to my advantage? Well, another thing one must be wary of while in Krakow, is that pigeons do not feel the need to avoid you. You must avoid the pigeons. On numerous occasions I've seen people nearly taken out by these birds. Whether you duck, jump or just hold your hands to your face for protection, you must be on the look out for those stray birds coming right towards you or for those sudden flocks that just take off from the ground, regardless if you happen to be walking through.

Over these few months I believe I've mastered the art of avoiding pigeons. Everyday is an adventure. By the time I leave, I believe I can add it to my resume, perhaps as a special skill.

Laura Mikulski, Professional Pigeon Dodger.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Year's Eve!

Being home in the United States for a week at Christmas was wonderful. It was nice to be in a country where I actually understood what was going on and felt comfortable. Seeing my family and friends was amazing.
My flight back to Poland was fine... for the most part. LOT airlines lost my luggage, which I convinced myself it was really stolen. I blame my hazy half-asleep comatose state for my delusions of "seeing" my luggage being loaded on the plane in Warsaw.
However, after a few days, I was back to a semi-normal sleeping schedule and my luggage arrived. Hand delivered.

So why did I feel the need to cut my time at home short? Only stay home for week? Because I wanted to be in crazy Krakow for New Years. It was a great night, cold, but filled with excitement. The Rynek (city square) was packed with people. Admittedly mostly full of tourists, but still fun nonetheless. There was a huge concert, fireworks and crazy lights flashing all over the place. I was with several friends and we danced and celebrated the night away. I'm glad I experienced New Year's Eve in Krakow. What I found most hysterical, was the aftermath of the celebrations. By 1 am the crowd significantly lessened and one could grasp the damage made. There were broken bottles, wrappers, and streamers everywhere. It was quite a site, and I feel sorry for those whose job it is to clean up post celebratory trash. In fact, a week later and silver confetti can still be found in the square. Below are some pictures from the night.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year! All the best to you!