30 lip 2010

Poles on holidays

Where do we spend holidays and what do we like to do?

As everywhere else the money is the most important factor. Generally not many people travel around the world, Poles explore cheaper destinations. During the PRL times you could only choose the Eastern bloc (in Polish “demoludy”) destinations - e.g. Bulgaria, Crimea or East Germany (in Polish NRD). Now a lot more popular for holidays are Western or Southern countries like Greece, Italy, Croatia, Spain, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey (on the photo below). But after lovely holidays in Bulgaria I have to admit that many Poles go also there.

Poland is very beautiful and offers a lot regarding holidays but unfortunately if you're looking for 100% perfect weather it's better to go abroad. We even have a nice term for this – “pogoda barowa” – rainy and cloudy weather only for going to a bar.

Poles love Polish seaside – big beaches and clean sand. The only thing that spoils pleasure is the cold Baltic Sea. Sometimes you can swim but I recommend to take a wet suit with you. Where to go? It depends if you like crowds or not. The most popular cities are Sopot, Władysławowo, Krynica Morska, Jastarnia, Jastrzębia Góra, Łeba, Międzyzdroje. If you like water sports the best place is Hel – the peninsula. Below - not the prettiest beach in Łeba:

Mountains in the summer? Why not? It’s quite popular in Poland. Not only Zakopane – Karpacz, Muszyna, Szczawnica, Wisła, Ustrzyki Dolne...

Many people choose agroturystyka – rural houses or apartments for rent usually run by families. All over the country you can live healthy during holidays – eat regional food, drink fresh milk, wander or use a bike. Great not only for people with small kids or dogs – we like to escape from the city for a weekend. Close to Warsaw you can also find nice places to rest for a while in a friendly atmosphere. Host offer not only food but also horses, grills, campfires, workshops and sport equipment.

For people with any kind of health problems there are sanatoria. In sanatorium you will get medical treatment and spend time close to the nature. Most sanatoria have been renovated and have offers for foreigners. If you don’t suffer any health problems – not medical spas are highly recommendable. They are expensive but so elegant and all new.

And in summer music festivals attract a lot of people, at last Poland gains on the Western Europe: Open’er, Przystanek Woodstock, Castle Party, Coke Live Music Festival.

Useful vocabulary:

agroturystyka/gospodarstwo agroturystyczne - farm tourism
dom wczasowy = hotel (lower standard)
pensjonat - guesthouse
urlop - holidays from work (leave)
wczasy - holidays
wakacje - holidays
wyżywienie - food on holidays
wyżywienie własne - your own
zajazd - inn
zakwaterowanie - accomodation

And for those fluent in Polish - a funny article in "Gazeta Wyborcza" about complaining on holidays:)

26 lip 2010


I visited Łódź for the second time and would like to recommend you a short trip there. From Warsaw it's easy to go there by train (interRegio is the cheapest option).

Firstly, Łódź means "a boat" and it's feminine (ta Łódź, jadę do Łodzi).

It's a city known by the textile industry which grew in the XIXth century. Immigrants from all over Europe came there allured by the vision of the possible wealth. Poles, Jews, Germans and Russians lived in Łódź together, did business and often went bankrupt. Some manufacturers were very rich and built beautiful residences and tenement houses (kamienica) but the mass was struggling and starving. I don’t have to write what working conditions you could face in the early capitalism. Russian authorities weren’t keen on investing in Łódź – for example the first sewage system was built in the 1920s so life wasn’t very pleasurable in this wild city.

Łódź wasn’t destroyed during the WW II so you can visit old factories and see different architecture. Many buildings are renovated but many aren’t so you will feel more like in the East then West. The main street is called Piotrkowska and it’s almost nice – the main problem is the same as everywhere in Poland – authorities don’t control the number and shape of banners and ads so we have an ugly and chaotic colourful mix which spoils the view. I really can’t stand it, in Warsaw it’s the same.

In the beginning of the XXth century Łódź was one of the biggest Jewish city in the world (240 000 inhabitants). There is the biggest Jewish cemetery in Europe. When you go there it’s good to see the old Radegast Station – from where Nazis deported Jews to the extermination camps. Today’s Łódź is only Polish but you can see many signs of the multicultural past.

So what to see in Łódź? It depends how much time do you have. If not much – Piotrkowska, the Museum of Łódź with the exhibition about famous inhabitants and unique interiors, Manufaktura – the great shopping, entertainment and cultural complex in the old factory. Oh and the perfect hotel... You don’t need any transport, everything is very close. But if you don’t like to walk you can always take a cycle rickshaw (Polish riksza) or a Segway.

If you have more time there’s also a good-looking museum of contemporary art, the little sewage canal museum, the old building museum, famous Film School museum and many other places to visit.

Where to eat? I encourage you to visit a Jewish-Polish restaurant to try a local cuisine.

And I really recommend you one of the best Polish movies ever “Ziemia obiecana” (“The Promised Land” - 1974) by Andrzej Wajda based on the novel of Władysław Reymont (1899) about a Pole, German and Jew who do business together in Łódź. Fantastic actors, plot, pictures. Here you will find the movie.

And last but not least a nice but a bit too long video about Łódź in English:

15 lip 2010

Grunwald - the historical battle

600 years ago on the fields of Grunwald (German Tannenberg) there was a huge battle between the Polish-Lithuanian alliance and the Teutonic Knights. I think it's really interesting but I have no desire to write now about the historical details so please check the Wiki :)

Today the new president of Poland Bronisław Komorowski, the president of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite and the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights Bruno Platter met in Cracow in order to celebrate this impressive anniversary. Fortunately everybody on the same side:) How good is to live in the Central Europe in peace, after the constant conflicts now we can cooperate.

This week in Grunwald you can watch reconstructions of the battles, medieval crafts, listen to old music and play different games. It's crowded and hot but children love it. Don't forget to visit the biggest castle on the Polish territory - Malbork - the residence of of the Teutonic Knights (XIV-XV).

Below a very good spot made by a Polish great animator Tomasz Bagiński - as always dark and serious. Don't you think that in the past wars were much more fair? Battles were won by these who had better qualifications or were braver. Arms were far less important. And now weapon of mass destruction it's money and technology.

14 lip 2010

EuroPride in Warsaw

EuroPride is the annual event organized by The European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA) - a network of European Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Organisations. It started in the 1992 in London and spread in the Western Europe. This summer for the first time EuroPride is organized in the more Eastern Europe. Until the 18th of July you can take part in many different events: conferences, clubbing, parade, film festival. The motto is “Liberty, Equality, Tolerance”.

In Poland LGBTQ rights are still a matter of discussion. Catholic organizations consider them as a danger for the church and families. Protests are loud but fortunately the authorities of Warsaw don't take them into consideration. I wonder how many people will protest during the parade, during the feminist marches there are always some black-dressed guys from nationalistic organizations.

I recommend you to come for the parade and just enjoy colorful diversity and peaceful manifestation. All the details on the official website.

I also invite you to the National Museum in Warsaw where for the first time you can see the exhibition Ars Homo Erotica. More info here.

10 lip 2010

Summer - what to do in Warsaw?

At last we have a real summer:) Temperatures 30-35 degrees! We must enjoy it and don't think about forthcoming long autumn and winter;) Of course you can't stay at home. There are so many great things to do in the capital, most of them for free.

1) The river - rzeka

When we want to be close to the water Wisła it's perfect although swimming is forbidden. You can suntan on the one of the beaches. The one near Łazienkowski bridge has just been opened - entrance is near ul. Kryniczna. Free deckchairs, grills and toys for children.

Water tram - goes from the Old City to Łazienkowski bridge

Ferry to Serock - every Saturday and Sunday, 9 hours of relax on the water. I've bought a ticket and can't wait:)

Small ferries for walkers and bikers

2) Open swimming pools - otwarte baseny

Moczydło - ul. Górczewska

ul. Wał Miedzeszyński 345

Open only a little bit but so nice inside - Wodny Park Warszawianka ul. Puławska.

3) Sighseeing - zwiedzanie

In Warsaw you can find more and more new murals. Just wander and look for them. Some you can check here. In July the city hosts Street Art Doping festival.

4) Free yoga on the weekends - joga za darmo w weekendy

At 10:15 on Saturdays in Skaryszewski Park and on Sundays in Pole Mokotowskie Park. More info here.

5) Ice cream - lody

I recommend Grycan - a Polish company which makes perfect cold desserts.

Malinova - ul. Niepodległości 130

A. Blikle - well-known Polish pastry family.

6) Movies - filmy

15th Film Summer Festival in Warsaw. Here you will find the programme. Cheap tickets.

7) Music - muzyka

Jazz in the Old Town Festival - every Saturday at 7 p.m. free concerts

Don't forget about Chopin, it's his year! All summer you can listen to the concerts.
Festval "Music Gardens" in the Royal Castle - till the end of July

More info about Chopin Year Celebrations here.

8) Theatre - teatr

Free performances of Teatr Polonia on pl. Konstytucji. Mon-Fri at 5 p.m. From the 12th of July also flamenco show! More info here.

and many more... How to stay abreast? My advice - every Friday buy "Gazeta Wyborcza" with "Co jest grane?".

2 lip 2010

Around hygiene - wokół higieny

"We buy only unwashed eggs" "Attention farmers don't wash eggs (nuts;)"

Every year the same... when it's getting hot using the means of transport can become unbearable. In Warsaw many passengers clearly avoid antiperspirants and sometimes even soap or washing powder. Many buses have air condition but you can never notice - drivers often turn it off in order to save gas and get a bonus. Tons of petitions and nothing has changed.

Many Poles still don't understand why we should care about hygiene and what are basic hygienic habits. These kind of statistics are always risky but we can assume that less than 50% of Poles clean the whole body every day and change the underwear. Not better with brushing teeth. What is interesting people declare that lack of hygiene is dangerous for health but in the same time spend very little money on cosmetics and chemicals.

The Polish state completely doesn't care about education - people aren't taught at school what and how often should we clean and wash. Very little money is spent on preventive treatment, the Ministry of Health prefers to cure very serious diseases. When you are dying possibly you will be treated well in the public health care. If in general you're healthy and just want to check your blood results you won't get anything. What for? Even doctors who work privately often look at you as an alien when you want to do any tests. But the health care system is the other big topic...

And what should we do when somebody around us stinks? Uncomfortable situation, most people tell nothing. The oldest way is to buy a deodorant as a gift - not always effective. What is your advice?

If you are interested how long Poles live and what are the most popular diseases see this document in Polish.