Many of my friends told me that they were expecting a post about my experiences in Poland in this challenge. But I deliberately chose to write about it at the end. And now, as we have reached the last leg of the challenge, I dedicate both my posts to this wonderful country. Without its mention, my series will not be complete.
When I flew to a country where I knew nobody and where a language was spoken which I absolutely didn’t understand, I felt like an alien. As soon as I got down from the plane, I remember I told my husband, “The air is so fresh here”, as it was a pleasant welcome. And today, I love everything about this country – from culture to food to weather and the people.
A country that has given me endless memories and experiences. Where my husband got his first onsite opportunity and I discovered my passion for writing. A country where I shared my daughters with the world as they started going to kindergarten. Where they made their first friends and achieved many milestones. A country where we made our small world. A country which I call home now.
- It is home to the 14th-century Wawel Castle which is located at the riverside and makes the best spot for cyclists and sunbathing during the summer. You can take a cruise in the Vistula river and enjoy the meals in luxurious restaurants too.
- You can visit a Renaissance trading post, Cloth Hall and St. Mary’ Basilica Church in the main market square.
- A vast Wieliczka Salt Mine where everything is made up of salt – from walls to the objects to the stairs.
- You can also experience the Jewish quarters in Poland.
- After a long day, you can relax in the lush green Planty park which is one of the most charming parks in the city.
- Poland is home to the world-famous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp memorial. It has underground halls and tunnels that remind the barbarism of the Holocaust. It is a must-visit attraction.
- Apart from Krakow, the two major tourist destinations are the Tricity of Poland and the Tatra Mountains of Zakopane.
Foods to try:
A few most popular and staple dishes in Poland are Bigos, Pierogi, Cheese Cakes, Beetroot Soup, Nalesniki, and zapiekanki. Bigos also known as Sauerkraut, is made of fresh or sour cabbage with chopped meat. My kind neighbor cooks a vegetarian version for us. It is a calcium-rich food and a must try when in Poland. Pierogi look like momos and comes with various stuffings of mushroom, cheese, potato, onion, meat, beef, etc. You get the best Cheesecakes in Poland. Nalesniki is Polish pancake which is usually served with fruits and ice cream. Zapiekanki looks like a subway footlong burger split in half.
Being a vegetarian, we could not try all the Polish delicacies. However, a few that I love the most are Zapiekanki and Nalesniki from my neighbor’s kitchen.
The reason why I reserved this place and chose to write about it at the end is the affection and heavy usage of the alphabets Y & Z in the Polish language. We got used to the words like zapraszamy (welcome), dzięki (thanks), smacznego (enjoy your meal), Przedszkole (kindergarten) and many more. Dzień dobry (good morning) is pronounced as jane DOH-brih, Dobry wieczór (good evening) as DOH-brih VYEH-choor and Cześć (hi) as cheshch.
We took a few months to actually pronounce the right word as the spelling hardly matches the pronunciation. And still, there are many words which we could not pronounce so we gave the short names to them like UT for Urzędnicza, Charno for Czarnowiejska (name of tram stops), etc. Puzzled? Don’t worry, I will end it here.
Funny encounters and learnings:
Sign Language and the Savior – Google translator:
I had two infants in tow when I relocated to Poland and it was very challenging to manage everything alone. Settling down, handling kids, household chores and my full-time job (My Indian Company offered me to continue working remotely). So, finally, we hired a babysitter, Kate. And then started the fun! We had nothing in common – culture, language, lifestyle nothing. And that’s when I excelled in communicating in sign language.
I would give all the instructions to her either on google translator or by sign language. Kate was a Doctor and doing a further medical course. After 3 months, she had to leave the city to start her practice. It was time to say Bye and when both of us realized we had one thing in common – the love in our hearts and tears in our eyes.
Running away from the parlor:
After over a month, I planned to visit a nearby salon to get my eyebrows done. My kind baby sitter accompanied me with both the kids. Unfortunately, the internet was not working on my phone. As I entered the salon, I encountered the hairdresser whom I explained using the sign language about what I wanted. She signaled me to another room. I asked Kate to stay outside with the kids. In another room, I met a lady in her late 70s with perfectly manicured hands, trimmed nails, hair tight in a neat bun and dressed in a white lab coat.
She greeted me and asked me to lie down on the bed. Baffled, I lay down as she put the wax for melting. Soon, she switched on the high mercury light over my head (similar to the one at the dentist clinic). By then, I was totally clueless and frightened as to what was waiting for me next. I never felt so handicapped before without internet access. I told her again pointing at my eyebrows and she nodded. Finally, my patience got over and I actually ran away from the salon before she could start. My wailing kids were the perfect excuse for me to leave.
Later, I learned there was no concept of threading here unlike India and the two modes of getting your brows done are waxing or clipper.
Angry Mechanic episode:
Once a mechanic visited our place to replace the broken washing machine. Very confidently, I greeted him in Polish just to get a cold look in return. We had a conversation related to the machine where I used a few Polish words and he gave me angry looks. While leaving, he bid goodbye and I reciprocated in Polish again. His patience was over by then and he came closer to me sharply and told me the correct terminology, for every word I said incorrectly. What an embarrassing event that was!
Police at home:
Most of the time I used to stay at home with my girls before they started preschool. One fine day, the doorbell rang and I saw a few muscular men dressed in blue, from the keyhole. Police, they were. I immediately called my husband and asked if I was loud the last night and they have come to arrest me. Or the kids who keep screaming the whole day. Without wasting any time, I quickly took out my resident card and passport and told the kids to be quiet. On opening the door, they enquired about the neighbor as her door was locked. They could actually make out the fear at my sweating face and laughed at my situation.
Apart from these, there were many other events when I goofed up. After all these incidents, I have picked up a few words for my survival. This exposure taught me many lessons but the best thing happened to me after moving to Poland is that I learned to be thankful and grateful.
Today, when I started writing about Poland, I realized I have so much to share. But since an entire country cannot be covered in a single post, I think I already have my theme for the next #A2Z Challenge. Oh! did I just reveal it?
Come back tomorrow to read the last post in the series.