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!