I am currently on my way to my new home after about 6 weeks on the road, and have decided to get back to blogging after a moderately deserved break.
I’m on a bus from Krakow to Warsaw, which will be followed by a bus to Berlin and finally, a train to Aachen. I’ve been in Poland for the last week, and thought I’d share another bunch of surface impressions in the hope of encouraging others to visit here (but I’ll probably just end up annoying more Polish people than I already have).
“Look, I’m not saying you all drink vodka, I’m just saying that there’s 8 people here and there’s 8 vodka glasses on the tables.”
I had a lovely conversation with a Polish girl last night, who got offended that during her time in Perth, a lecturer asked her in front of the class whether she was alcoholic and drank vodka constantly. Whilst her indignation at being asked this in front of a class is understandable, the fact that she’d had 2 shots worth before 9pm and that the tables we were sitting at were littered with vodka glasses made her incomprehension that the Polish could possibly be seen as drinking a higher than usual quantity of vodka slightly less understandable.
The Polish drink more vodka than beer. More vodka than wine. At New Year’s Eve, we were offered 2 choices with our table: vodka and vodka (2 different varieties though, be fair). I’ve never met a group of people who have downed quite so much of the stuff.
They have some great traditions that go with it too. Can’t take another one? Have some bread with pure lard slathered all over it and you’re good to go.
They do drink other things though.
2. HOT BEER AND STRAWS
This was first brought to my attention by my father, who had been in Poland roughly a
year beforehand, and was amazed that people would just sit around at all hours of the day, drinking beer out of straws.
I didn’t notice it until I got to Zakopane, when I sat down with my friends at a restaurant and ordered a round of beers. 3 came out with straws in them. They were warm. And I’m not talking British-room-temperature warm, I’m talking beer-version-of-Glühwein warm. Which is essentially what it is. Spiced, hot beer. Drunk through a straw. Served as a pint.
And my god, is it good. As my German friend described it, “a hug from the inside”. My favourite was a bitter version with a bit of cinnamon and cloves, but you can get sweet beer with cranberries as well, along with what I’m sure is a host of other selections.
3. OH, THE HOMOGENEITY
I’ve mentioned before how weird I found certain parts of Germany. But it’s nothing on Poland. I’ve never seen so homogenous a population. A friend described it as “90% white, 90% catholic”. Where the other 10% are from, I’m not sure. Probably Australian tourists, judging by the contents of hostels in Krakow.
4. TOILET SIGNS
The male/female fertility symbols on toilets, I get. It took me a while, as when I was in Year 8 a classmate got them switched around and I followed his lead for about two years, but I got there. But In Poland it’s just TRIANGLES AND CIRCLES. WHAT!!!
It took me a while to figure out, chance glances in to see whether they had urinals being the basis of my guesswork when other people weren’t around. I’d constantly forget which shape I’d used though. And one can’t always peek discretely into toilets, lest an unsuspecting female be lurking particularly quietly. So you can imagine my relief when I arrived at a quaint little restaurant 10 or so kilometers outside of Zakopane, and they had the respective genitalia drawn down the middle of both shapes. That sort of thing sticks.
5. THE CREEPIEST GINGERBREAD MAN IN THE WORLD
Whilst I am glaringly aware that this is not indicative of Poland overall, I feel it deserves a mention. My cousin and I were wandering down Florianska street in Krakow, when we noticed an individual with a gingerbread-man-from-Shrek costume on. Bite taken from him and all. And an enormous frown.
It wasn’t quaint, or cute. It was really quite creepy. The creep factor was heightened by the fact that he would randomly gurgle screams at passers-by. The real tipping point came when he shuffled ominously over to a poor girl who was getting money from an ATM. She was understandably terrified and backed into an alcove as he made his way towards her, his 9 foot frame blocking out the rest of the street. After a couple of pelvic thrusts, he seemed to decide it was time to move on.
So there you have it! Let me know about anything you loved about Poland as a visitor below.