Samstag, 23. August 2014

5 things I love about Poland’s Baltic coast.

I think anyone who may live in Germany is really lucky – I am infinitely grateful for this possibility and definitely aware of this privilege.
(I wrote about it HERE before).

Nonetheless I love spending a few weeks every year at Poland’s Baltic seaside – I summed up some of the reasons for this below! 

1. The empty beaches.

The tourist magnets that are swamped during the summer months aside, the national park runs along hundreds of kilometers of the Baltic coast.
This protection guarantees breathtakingly beautiful beaches void of people – although these can usually only be reached by foot along forest paths.

Buy a map (yep, all old school made of paper and such. You will be nicely able to make out the forest paths on it), leave the car by the side of the road and off with you through the woods: the reward of almost untouched nature is really worth it!

2. The people’s warmth, straightforwardness and humor.

Tourists often rave about the friendly natives – but are they themselves as friendly towards their own?

It actually is the case with most of the Polish:
As I speak Polish fluently and without an accent I naturally am not seen as a tourist, but can judge the situation from an outside point of view.

I particularly notice the cordial interaction when I go shopping:
They look me in the eye, the tone is very friendly and helpful, and the smiles I get just like that are honest.
It isn’t rare that the answer to my question whether there is a certain kind of cookies left is:
"Nie, Skarbie... jutro dostaniemy." , which means something like "No, honey/dear – come again tomorrow.”
No sales assistant in Germany has ever addressed me as “honey”!
(Not even a gay hairdresser…)

If I happen to run out of cash in the local supermarket, I’m often told:
"Oh, don’t worry – just bring the rest next time.”
I had them put it on the tab several times already, because I hadn’t exchanged enough Zloty – no kidding!
On the one hand, it is sloppy, of course – what, if someone doesn’t end up paying? -  but on the other hand it is so far away from any rules and reason.
In Germany I sometimes have the feeling that they’d rather send me home without any milk than with 2 Euro missing from the cash register.
If everybody did this!

On top of that the locals get my type of spontaneous sense of humor – in Germany, on the other hand, it often happens that people who don’t know me freeze in a moment of panic, because they don’t know exactly “how I meant it” at first.
But I like nothing better than goofing off  - especially with strangers!

In Poland nobody has ever misunderstood me – quite on the contrary: strangers also like to engage in a kind of “verbal pong-pong”.

Quick example:
About 2 weeks ago my husband and I went to the men’s department in a Stuttgart department store to buy shirts.
On the way to the fitting rooms the sales assistant asked me in friendly tone:
"May I offer you anything? Espresso? Water?”
Me: "That would be great: I’d love the espresso and some non-carbonated water.”
He: "Unfortunately we only have carbonated water.”

(I bet a Polish person would have asked with a straight face whether I’d like the glass pre-heated or whether I’d prefer a certain color of espresso cup.)
Back to the German person:
I sat down on a couch, smiling – but I didn’t smile for long, when I looked behind me and yelled:”Oh, NO!”:
The sales assistant stood there, water bottle in hand, shaking it, opening it, closing it again, shaking it again, opening it again, closing it, shaking it….

3. Mom-and-pop stores.

Speaking about shopping:
What I love about Poland is the huge amount of small and tiny snack shacks, kiosks and mom-and-pop stores that are often open until late at night.
Feeling like chips and beer at 11 pm?
No problem – off to the corner store.

They are a little similar to the "Späti"- stores in Berlin (a kind of 7/11) – but they are usually much, much smaller.
Even villages often have several little stores:
They tend to often have a really extensive selection and due to them elderly people, who can’t walk so well anymore, can get their daily necessities without a lot of hassle.
I think that’s great!

4. Imperfection.

This is a very subjective topic and only very few will be able to understand it:

what I love about Poland in particular is the improvised, “unfinished” state of things. In Baden-Württemberg (region in Germany)- where I live -  everything is perfect down to the smallest detail:
the streets are level, the little gardens straightened, the fields are tilled, the houses have fences around them.
Every inch is tended to, is being farmed and used optimally, everything is clean and groomed.
Don’t get me wrong: it absolutely makes sense – and it is necessary considering how many people live here.

However, what I love about Poland are its spacious, seemingly untouched landscapes.

There isn’t another village behind every bend, no house, perfectly mown lawn or farmed field. Here there’s often and for a long time: nothing.
At least nothing man-made.
Huge overgrown meadows. Forestry as far as the horizon. Farms, fallen into disrepair. Abandoned old buildings nobody gives cares about. Rank growth, abundantly overgrown by brushwood, old apple trees and weeds (blossoming beautifully).

The Germans couldn’t stand this state for even 4 weeks – they would instantly complain, take care of, get rid of, tidy and use the area in a meaningful way.
On the one hand, that’s great – on the other hand…it doesn’t leave any room for imagination.
When I was a kid I could wander about such landscapes for hours – on my own or with a gang of friends.
We had the wildest ideas and went on daily explorations.
And there was a lot to discover: Meadows so high that nobody could see us (in Germany they would have been mowed long ago), old, brittle tree trunks that we climbed around on (in Germany they would never have simply ended up lying around in no-man’s land, they would have gotten rid of in the proper way), buildings in disrepair that we played in (in Germany they would have been demolished a long time ago to build 3 apartment houses on the plot).

I don’t mean to say that I think it’s a bad thing – I am trying to express that I sometimes very much like this unfinished, sloppy state, because in my mind it also contains certain adventures.

And sometimes not just in my mind, but in fact for real.
There is simply so much space here to…unfold.

(I don’t want to deny that there are two sides to the whole thing, though ;)).

5. Food.

Generally I really dislike Polish food:

too heavy, too substantial, too much meat.
I don’t even like pierogies.

But what I do like are a certain few food items that I eat every time I am here.

ONLY, when I’m here.

Among these are:

- sun flower seeds straight from the sunflower.

Every market stall sells them these days – sunflowers as big as wagon wheels with ripe seeds. 

You eat the seeds straight from the plant, they have a very mild and delicate taste – and are a super healthy snack full of protein and magnesium.
I have never seen them on German farmers markets – at least not in the South.
Above all I haven’t seen anyone walking around with them eating seeds.

- Sausages and cold meat.

Even if I have talked about this before, I have to mention it for the sake of completeness:

if the Polish know how to do one thing, it is producing sausages and cold meat.
I tend to buy them in really big quantities and eat them, sliced very finely, as a snack instead of chips (!) or other such things.
(I guess this completely destroys the healthy effect of the sunflower seeds and the universe is balanced out again).

You should definitely try these sausages when you’re travelling in Poland:

- Krakowska
- Krakowska sucha
- Zywiecka (pronounced "schywiezka").

Don’t buy them packaged in the grocery store, but always fresh at the butcher’s store.

Viciously delicious.

- Paszteciki from Stettin.

I have mentioned these before, too:

Paszteciki are a specialty sold at the snack shacks in Stettin – they are filled and deep-fried pockets made of yeast dough.
You eat them very hot and the are filled with either meat, sauerkraut or cheese.
Polish people often drink Barszczyk with it, a kind of savory beetroot soup (which takes some getting used to, if you didn’t grow up with it) – you can buy it at the shacks as well.

If you ask me, you can leave out the Barszczyk, but you’ve got to try the Paszteciki by any means!

Greasy, hot and perfect Polish fast food!

(unfortunately I forgot to take pictures, but they look kind of like

- Mleczko.

And lastly a right big mess:

as soon as we arrive I buy liquid chocolate in a tube in the supermarket.

I guess originally this was supposed to be a kind of “coffee creamer” sold in different flavors, among others caramel etc..

As far as I know, though, nobody uses Mleczko in their coffee, but eats it, nicely refrigerated, squeezed straight from the tube into the mouth.
I guarantee you, you will for sure regret ever having tasted this wicked stuff – once the tube is in your mouth you will usually suck it empty in one go.
In other words: you HAVE to try it!
D I S G U S T I N G.
Disgustingly delicious.
As soon as you cross the border again, the cravings for sausages and other horrible things in tubes strangely disappear again – you can trust me on this one ;). 

You can read up on more shopping tips for Poland




Please understand that I cannot reply to mails with individual requests for travel advice, accommodation etc. due to time restrictions (valid also for Berlin and Stuttgart) – I publish all my recommendations on my blog.

This post was translated by Ginnell Studio.

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