Poland: Third Impressions


Warszawa Centralna at night.

I’ve made my way through a good portion of Northern Poland, doing some sight-seeing, a home-stay, and meeting plenty of folks. After all this wandering I’ve come up with my third set of impressions of Poland. You can read my first impressions here, the second here.

-Who is the Polish guy who overdubs English movies? It seems it’s always the same guy. I couldn’t help but think that his voice is more appropriate to museum audio guides than language overdubs.

-Some Polish folks like to think that L’viv, Ukraine is still theirs. Same with Lithuania. Hmmm.

-In smaller towns such as Poznan or even Wroclaw, I’ve found that fewer people speak English. In Warsaw, everybody spoke English better than I did… and they knew what the past continuous was.

-The internet doesn’t seem to like my MacBook. Most of the websites I try to visit don’t work in the hostels and some cafes. This has gotten to be very irritating. They work fine on my iPod, go figure.

-The urinals are really high. I’ve had to learn how to pee upwards.

-Upon further inspection, it’s not so much the distance up the wall, it’s how big the pee-catch lip is: it goes way up. It’s not necessary, it can be 2 inches shorter and we can stand closer. The chances of splash-back are about the same.

-Night life. Wow, Poland has a lot of clubs. I think this is another way Polish women stay thin. Smoking and dancing.

-I’ve noticed that Europeans call going to the night clubs a “party” or “to make a party,” whereas Brits and North Americans call it “clubbing.” In North America at least (not too sure about them Brits), a “party” usually refers to a private affair, in someone’s house or a closed venue. In Europe, it seems, “party” refers to going out anywhere.

And a few more in depth impressions…

-Still Water. Theoretically you can drink the tap water, but most folks don’t recommend it. In a pinch, such as after a night out clubbing, it’s almost like eating McDonald’s: it won’t kill you right away but steady use may do some damage.

-Sparkling/fizzy/gaz water. I seem to drink “sparkling” or “fizzy” water only while travelling. In Poland, you can order water with or without “gaz.” Now, in my mind, I don’t want “gaz” anywhere near my water, that’s something you put into your car. However, Europeans, being the beautiful and unique people they are, have abbreviated the word “gazowany” to “gaz.” Wonderful. Plus, they put diesel into their cars. So, unless the waiter asks if you want “woda w diesel,” you should be okay drinking “woda w gaz.” With that, gaz water with some ice cubes and a lemon = bardzo dobze (very good).

-Trains. Although some Poles don’t like train travel, so far my experience has been positive. For me, train travel is one of the simplest ways to travel. Maybe it’s the idea of being able to hop on a train, buy a ticket and land in another city without anyone checking my documents. I mean, the stations are so simple: ticket booth, tracks, platform. Done! The downfall to this simplicity, however, is that they usually only have one decreped sign with the name of the city… at the beginning of the platform. If you miss the sign, you have noooo idea where you are. The central stations are pretty easy to identify.

Apparently you’re not allowed to drink on the train. But the signs on the train aren’t very clear: there is a bottle within a red circle. With no red line through the bottle (like all “No Smoking” signs) it almost looks as if it’s imperative to drink and lean out the window. Being the observant traveller I am and surveying my surroundings to see what The Natives are doing, I think it’s best not to pull out my bottle of vodka. Score one for stopping and thinking.

-Polish. I’m a language dork, I know it, but I’m having difficulty keeping up with the nuances of the Polish language. I have yet to master the ability to correctly say or write in Polish “in Warsaw,” “in Bydgoszcz,” or “in wherever.” People seem to understand me, but it seems every city is unique and uses a different ending (called the locative case for you language ignorati out there.) We Warszawa, wie Poznanie, w Bydgoszczy, w Krakowie, we Wrocławiu, w-kurwa! What’s the rule here? Language exchange anyone? (FYI, “w” in Polish is pronounced “v.”)

Declensions aside, a few useful phrases include piękna dziewczyna (pee-auk-na dzeev-che-na), kocham się (ko-xham see-ow), and jestem głodny (yest-em gwod-ne). In order: “beautiful girlfriend,” “I love you,” and “I’m hungry.”

-General travelling. You know what else I’ve noticed, especially in contrast to travelling southeast Asia? No hawking! Maybe it’s because I’m travelling in the low season, but I’m starting to feel a little lonely walking the streets and not getting harassed by hundreds of people trying to sell me all sorts of shit. I mean, in southeast Asia, there was rarely a dull moment. Here in Poland, however, some days many stores look closed until you walk in!

And those are my latest impressions of the Land of the Po. You can compare them to my first set and second set of impressions.

They don’t stop there. I will be writing up a few others posts about my travel and vodka experiences in Poland.


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