Poland: Second Impressions

Since the last post about Poland I’ve been to a few places and talked to a few people. After some of the conversations I’ve had, and with some further inspection and reflection, I offer you my second impressions of this fascinating country.

A few new observations:
-The arts. I’d like to express my admiration for the Polish film industry. I’ve seen a few camera crews making movies, not just in Warsaw but also in Sopot. I’ve also seen some street performers/buskers, one guy even plays a wooden chair with two sticks! Seems like the arts are alive and well in Poland.

-Ukraine. Some of you may know that the main purpose of my visit to eastern Europe is to get to Ukraine. Well, I have not heard a good word about the country since I got here. A little concerned about that.

-Vodka. Spelled “Wódka” but pronounced “Vudka”, we’ve been spending some time together. There are a lot of different kinds. I’ve tried a few. Some people think I have a problem.

-Safety. For the most I’ve been hanging around New/Old Towns, and they are, as to be expected, safe. The Praga district seemed a little sketchy, but that’s as much as I’ve seen.

And about those other Impressions:

First, the women and their smoking. I got into a little trouble by writing that MOST women smoke in Poland. When one lady pointed out my mistake, I tried to reason that maybe it’s because I’m staying in the university district and it’s the students that are smoking. Alas, she and her band of gorgeous friends are all students and don’t smoke… thus I am wrong. Moreover, when I left Warsaw’s bar district and went to a couple of smaller towns, I didn’t see as many women smoking. So, my first impressions were partially incorrect: I can’t say that “most” of them smoke.

Przepraszam, kochane dziewczyny.

(You might also want to observe that I was trying to argue with women. Yes, my mistake.)

Ah, but there is one more point I wish to make in my wordy battle with the Kochane Polskie Dziewczyny. Only one of them mentioned the first part of the sentence, “gorgeous women,” was true.

Cereal. I figured out how all the Polish women stay so young looking and beautiful: Fitness Chocolate Cereal! That’s right, our friends at Nestle have combined nutritious bran flakes with chunks of chocolate. The pictures on the bag depict women who’ve eaten this fascinating combo as bikini models and having the time of their lives. So, barring any unintentional sex changes as a result of the cereal, I will become a G-string model after eating this cereal.

Architecture. In the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to travel around northern Poland: Lodz (pronounced Wooodge), Bydgoszcz (Bid-gosh-ch), Torun (To-roon), Gdansk (G-dan-sk) and Sopot (So-pot). Lodz is a student and artist town. Torun and Gdansk are probably the most picturesque. Bydgoszcz is an old town and looks it because, so I’m told, it wasn’t damaged as much as some other cities and therefore hasn’t received the same makeover. Gdansk and Sopot are two of the cities that make up Troijmiasto (=three cities), Poland’s northern port cities on the Baltic Sea. We didn’t get as far as the third city, Gdynia, but I did see the Baltic sea. 😀

Music. In the same conversation that I was pilloried for the smoking women comment, we got onto the topic of music, particularly performance. She was impressed by us North Americans and our musical talents. Apparently, when we North Americans pick up an instrument, most of us join a band and play outside of our parents’ attics or basements. Some even make recordings (listen to mine here, here, and here :D). Apparently this is not the case in Poland.

I’m told that folks who pick up instruments in Poland often practice at home but don’t play out very much. So, out I went in search of live music in Warsaw. I found some reggae/improv music at Molly Malone’s Irish Pub in the Old Town on a Monday night, and that show was full of energy (maybe because they were students??) All the players were phenomenal but the singer and drummer stood out the most. The drummer was pulling off Gene Krupa/Mitch Mitchell-like beats while the singer was doing some sort of Mike Patton (from his Tomahawk Aboriginal chant days)/Isaac Hayes combo. Amazing.

But I was disappointed at the renowned Tygmont Jazz Club. The club had a quartet who didn’t have much of a stage presence. Maybe it was their first show and were nervous? Don’t get me wrong, each musician was very good in their own right (the female lead singer was even able to replicate the sound of a saxophone solo!), but they lacked some sort of cohesiveness. Tygmont does host several nights of live music, I’ll give them that credit, so I’ll have to go back and see what else they have to offer.

Polish and vodka, a great combination. I’ve had a good time learning some Polish and have been brave enough to speak it a few times. Some of the hostel workers think I should understand them by now, others think I don’t have a hope in hell. I was flattered when one person asked how I accomplished such good pronunciation. I replied, “I drink vodka and mumble.” Amazing how fast a facial expression can change. I should clarify my statement.

The Polish language, to me, sounds as if it is spoken with more of a closed mouth as opposed to Ukrainian or Russian, which require you to open your mouth and annunciate different parts of the words. Thus, a couple shots of vodka and my Polish vocabulary and pronunciation improves! I’ve become known as the Canadian who speaks Polish with a Russian accent.

I continue to learn.

Those are my impressions and observations so far. I’ll be settling down in Warsaw for a bit before resuming my travels around Poland.

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