NOTE: Travel log posts are short and unedited. It’s a way for me to share photos and stories about my travels that otherwise wouldn’t make it onto the blog. Kind of like the bonus material on a DVD nobody ever watches.
Szklarska Poreba & Wroclaw, Poland.
I stayed in Szklarska Poreba, a mountain town on the Czech/Polish border for two nights. After failing to avoid buying carbonated mineral water at the grocery store not once, but TWO times it was time to leave and on 5/18 I took a scenic 3 hour train ride through the Polish countryside to Wroclaw (pronounced Vrats-suave..confusing right?).
“Why did I come here?” seems to be a common question I ask myself upon arriving to a new city, often accompanied with a fair amount of anxiety, confusion and fatigue and Wroclaw was no different in this respect. After walking for an hour and a half from the train station I arrived at my Airbnb in the country/suburbs outside the city, exhausted and relieved I had found the place.
I stayed with Joanna and Andre, a Polish couple. Andre didn’t speak much English but Joanna did and their hospitality was incredibly generous. Upon arriving I was offered maps, coffee and Yerba Mate (yes!) and a bike to explore the city. They worked during the day meaning I pretty much had free range of the apartment all day including the washing machine and kitchen. Not bad for $15/night. I’d end up cooking them what I figured was a Californian brunch and on the last day Joanna made me an incredible, Lithuanian inspired beetroot soup with strawberry and tomato salad and grilled chicken. So good.
I only seriously crashed the bike once after catching the lip of the sidewalk and thankfully the bottle of cider I was carrying was not harmed.
Wroclaw proved to be my favorite city so far, probably because it’s a bit smaller than the other cities I had visited and did not skimp on gorgeous parks. The market square is the most impressive one I’ve seen. At night it had a buzz and atmosphere to it that I fell in love with.
While sitting in the square watching the world go by I was approached by two girls both named Polina 1. They wanted to know how many dogs was the most I’d ever seen in my life and seemed pretty sure that they new the answer better than I did. I told them I thought this was a strange question and after talking for a few minutes to make sure they weren’t crazy I answered that it was probably 10. Nope it was 101 Polina informed me 2. This suspiciously seemed like a pick up tactic and when I pressed her about the questionable habit of asking strangers how many dogs they’d seen Polina admitted “you never know where I might meet my husband.”
Wroclaw, besides being a university town also has a lot of history and was described as a meeting place of culture where the East meets the West. One of the stories I found most interesting was how one charismatic individual convinced the citizens to give up all their valuables and burn them in the city square. He would speak in the city square while holding a human skull in his hand, as a reminder that this would soon be their fate as well.
On one day I young man came running up to asking for money..he apparently ran out of gas in his car. Wroclaw being a college town this was plausible. He also looked slightly shook up and was sweating, both good signs. I asked him suspiciously where his car was parked, trying to get him to stray from his story. He didn’t. I gave him a couple Zloty, deciding it was either an excellent con or he was telling the truth and either way he obviously needed the money more than I did.
On the last day in Wroclaw I had the awful experience of lying to a poor little Ukranian girl fundraising to support her ancestor’s graves in Ukraine. I had one Zloty in my pocket 3 and, being tired of being asked for money all day, when she caught me by surprise and asked I reflexively told her I had none. She looked at me with these huge puppy dog eyes and said in a disappointed tone “oh….ok” before walking away. I immediately regretted it but was too ashamed to reverse course which would have required admitting to her that I had lied. So I sold part of my soul for one Zloty that day.