Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Sweet Return

Hello Poland! Jestem tu :-) *okay teraz nieprawada! But I was when I started writing this post....

At the end of June when I was leaving Poland I spent a pretty horrific night attempting to sleep in Warsaw airport before taking my flight home.   When it eventually got to the time I had to go through security I went outside for a few final seconds, just to relish being there, thinking about it all.  I wondered how long it'd be before I'd be back there again.  I thought about that when I touched down in Gdansk last Friday morning, it wasn't so long and there I was.

The first thing I did after arriving in Gdansk (and taking a bus to the centre) was to find a kebab place! The taste of Poland!  Lovely.

I took a train to Torun soon after (still got on the wrong train with the wrong ticket - will never learn) but when I finally crossed the railway bridge over the Wisla and saw the river and the panorama I felt like I'd won something, really.  It was great to be back.

I spent my long weekend catching up with my old friends zubrowka and piwo.. and a few other people.  Ate all my favourite foods, went to my favourite places, and caught up with some of my favourite people.  When I left Poland in June I had no idea when I'd go back and see everyone, but leaving this time was easier knowing it really isn't over.  Being there too reminded me to keep on top of my Polish at home, after just a short time it's already degraded quite a lot, so must get on it and stop being so leniwa!

See you soon everyone, thanks for a zajebiscie weekend xx

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finding Poland: The Search is Over

I arrived home on Saturday's very wet and windy morning.  I cried when I reached Liverpool, it was all over.

I started this blog in an attempt to maintain a diary of my time away and as a written hunt for the differences between England and Poland and the things that make Poland both an individual and a great country.  I'm happy that I'll be able to look back on all the places I visited, all the things I did and for me most importantly all the quirky little things that I found along the way.

It's too hard to try and summarise my 'findings' from the last 10 months, sometimes being away was easy, sometimes it was hard, sometimes it was the best thing that I could have asked for and sometimes it sucked!  I can't say that I wouldn't change anything, I still wish I'd got to drive that Maluch, but maybe next time!

For anybody thinking of visiting Poland, do it.  I wrote about my opinions and my experiences but be sure to explore and create your own, it would be great to hear some of them.  I know that my journey in Poland isn't over and I hope it never will be.  Luckily my thoughts remain the same as when I started this blog - the people, the history, the architecture, the beer and the food are all worth visiting, thanks to those things for making the last 10 months of my life truly great ones.

Pa pa Polska, kocham cie!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Holiday hell

There are so many holidays in Poland, it seems they have them every other week!

Today is Corpus Christie, so once again the whole of Poland is closed for business.  In a way I'm glad that they hold on to their religion and traditions by marking all of these holidays, but it really is impractical.  I for one have no food in and nowhere is open for me to go and buy any!

Last weekend there was a similar situation; I headed off to Bydgoszcz all geared up for a girly shopping day and found the shopping centre closed for yet another religious holiday.  Bardzo annoying at the time as we had absolutely no idea there was a holiday and were perhaps slightly overexcited at the prospect of spending all our wages on clothes, thankfully consolation beers on a boat bar made everything better.

At least I knew about this one and I'd already planned a day in cleaning and getting organised, but I am slightly hungry.

Nearing the end

Yesterday I finished my contract with the school I've been working at in Torun and now there are literally only a couple of days to go before I leave here and return to England.  Mixed emotions are the only two appropriate words that I can use.

I was glad that it was the end of the school year, I've had so many ups and downs in this job, many things that I wasn't prepared for or really wasn't happy about.  I didn't come to Poland to be a teacher, I became a teacher so that I could come to Poland.  I wasn't looking for a career in teaching at all but I've enjoyed learning and seeing my own progress and that of my students and I've met so many lovely people along the way and I hope that I made some difference to their English speaking lives.  I didn't expect to say this when I arrived but I think and hope that I'll keep teaching in some capacity in the future.

I really do hate goodbyes and now is the time to start saying them to people which is very hard.  I've had a truly awesome time particularly over the last few weeks which we seem to have crammed so much into.  It isn't time to go quite yet but today I took out my suitcase and it's half full already, today is the perfect day to get all nostalgic and teary.  Must get on with my packing, it's nearly time to go home.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fort XI

 A couple of Saturdays ago a few friends and I went to visit one of the old forts around the outskirts of Torun.

There are about 15 forts in total which were built in the 19th Century under Prussian rule initially to defend Torun from the Russians (they were apparently useless).  Later though, many of the forts were used in the Second World War as POW camps.  Fort XI was one of these camps.

Before heading to the fort we met Piotr our guide at his museum hidden in the back of a school in the centre of Torun.  Piotr is the German teacher and the museum is his and a few of his students' work in progress.  It was quite a small room but packed with remnants from the war and we got plenty of stories about different soldiers who had survived the war and about life in the POW camps.

Comparatively speaking it seemed that British and other soldiers were treated considerably well by the Germans, they had food packages, footballs, chocolate and cigarettes and so on, whereas the Russians were forced to eat grass to save them from starving and had a pretty rough time of it.  There were also stories of a few soldiers who had managed to bounce around countries and fight in as many as 5 different national armies to survive, incredible stuff.

It was also interesting for me to see pictures of Torun under occupation during the Second World War which is something obviously I'd heard about but never seen.  It was strange to see Nazi flags hanging from the Town Hall tower and soldiers marching on the square and in places that at the moment I visit in my day to day life.

At the museum we also met a woman whose father had been a British POW and was imprisoned in the fort we were due to visit.  Putting a face and a name to such things always makes them seem so much more real so it was quite interesting to hear her (dads) stories along with Piotr's historical research.

After the museum we headed to the fort to explore.  It's now private property but luckily still open for people to sneak in to and have a walk round.  We met Piotr at the fort who had brought with him another personal addition to our tour; a guy who had played with the soldiers at the fort when he was a child and it was a POW camp.

He could tell us a lot about what went on in and around the fort including things like where the boxing ring was and where everyone went to play football.  Seemed he had quite happy memories of it and he brought a lot of photos with him too.

Inside the fort we saw a lot of graffiti that had been left by the POWs.  There were these cool drawings all over one wall but mainly messages of anger and hate at the Nazi's by prisoners held there.  It made for very interesting reading and the tour was excellent; we saw the booby trapped floor where people would be dropped into a pit and killed if they tried to enter the fort, the place where the canons and arms kept guard over the outside world and the area outside which once contained all the food packages sent by the Red Cross and still had a number of old tins, packets of coffee and such like.

I would recommend anyone interested in WWII and in the Torun area to check out the fort and the museum aToruń's Historical War Museum.  Great day!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Warsaw 5/6/11
More than a year later, questions are still being asked regarding the death of President Kaczynski who died in a plane crash in Smolensk last year.  Although the crash was ruled as accidental and it appears relations with Russia are ever improving many people still have their own opinions as to what happened.

Clearly only time will tell if the issue will ever be resolved and if people will ever get the answers they're still waiting for.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A bit more of Warsaw

Last weekend I went to Warsaw to see a bit more of the place than I'd previously seen.  I've been a couple of times and seen the old town square and of course the 100m circumference round the main station recently.  On Saturday I went to visit a friend I haven't seen for a while and his girlfriend.

I met them at Warszawa Wschodnia which really didn't seem like a place I'd like to find myself alone at night, before heading out for a meal.  Considering that we ate in a restaurant in the very heart of Warsaw the prices were really cheap, for a sznitzel the size of a pizza I was really impressed... until we got the bill and found that my bottle of water was 19zl!!  As much as the huge meal I had just eaten and more than 2 and a half times more than a litre of piwo.  We literally couldn't believe the price but we were assured it was German water and therefore justifiably 10 times more expensive than any bottle of water I could have found elsewhere.  That's capital cities for you I suppose.

I have to say I was really quite surprised and impressed with the bit more of Warsaw that I saw.  The very centre is as nice as any other place in Poland and definitely worth visiting, particularly around the old castle walls, square and Nowy Swiat area.  The old town was reconstructed after the total devastation of WW2, it looks great now and I honestly felt like I was on holiday while I was there, it kind of felt reconstructed though, but maybe I was just being a Torun snob.

I still say it's different and Warsaw becomes more and more modern as you leave the centre but it's an impressive capital and there is definitely lots to see and do there.  Hopefully it's a place I'll see a bit more of in the future, but I think I'll always come away to see more of my kind of Poland, and to buy water.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Last night Rod Stewart came to Torun and I went to see him.  I wouldn't really call myself a fan of his (I like to think he's a little before my time) and I wasn't even sure I'd know any of his songs last night but I knew it'd be a good laugh and something fun and different for a Saturday night anyway.

It was really really good!  We paid for the cheap seats and found ourselves in the front standing circle, it wasn't that full and there were lots of people hanging around the sides and eventually they let us all in.  Awesome, best 'seats' in the stadium!  I did know quite a few of the songs and it didn't matter when I didn't, we had a good boogie, Rod was really entertaining and his band were pretty amazing.  Great show, kebab and piwos to finish, great night!