‘Did you enjoy your holiday in Poland?’, is a question we’ve been asked several times since our return to Prague just over six weeks ago, on Wednesday 21st October. My reply is always a very positive ‘Yes’, with the notable exception of the problem we had with the ‘Carly’ when the immobilizer malfunctioned. I hope that some of our enjoyment comes through in my previous eleven blog posts 🙂
A number of people questioned in advance of our visit, whether we were wise to travel around Poland in mid-October, thinking we would experience bad weather. However, in the whole of the fifteen days we were away, we were only affected by rain twice – in the late afternoon and evening when we drove from Frombork to Malbork, and the bulk of the day when we sought to explore Wroclaw on foot.
During the first few days of our trip, when we enjoyed blue skies and bright sunshine during the day, it was inevitably quite cold overnight, with a touch of frost on occasions. But it was never severe and temperatures soon rose, once the sun came up.
There were two major pluses arising from visiting Poland in October. One was the wonderful array of autumn colours we saw as we travelled, which became more pronounced each successive day. The other was the cost of our hire boat on the Masurian Lakes, which was half what it would have been, had we hired it in July or August. But also, because we hired in the late-season, we then had the lakes virtually to ourselves.
The Masurian Lakes more than lived up to my expectations. What really impressed me was the excellent balance that the authorities seem to have achieved, between protecting the wonderful unspoilt environment with its variety of wild animals and birds, and allowing visitors to enjoy and explore the area. I would love to visit again in summer, but it would inevitably be far busier with many more visitors.
Although we travelled from the south of Poland, to the far north, and back again, we were still limited in the number of places that we had time to stop in and explore. And even in the places where we did stop, I often felt that we only scratched the surface of what there was to see and discover.
Speaking of the places in which we did spend some time, my own preference was for Wroclaw rather than Kraców, despite the rain that impinged on our enjoyment of the former. As Wroclaw is no more than five hours drive from Prague, it is certainly somewhere to which I would like to return, hopefully in better weather.
The inevitable question that has been asked is why didn’t we visit the capital, Warsaw. There is a very simple answer – I have to go there next year in late September, as the Warsaw Anglican congregation are kindly hosting the 2016 Eastern Archdeaconry Synod. I hope to encourage Sybille to come with me and we might then add on a few more days of annual leave, and discover a little more of Poland.
‘Did anything come as a surprise?’, is something I’ve also been asked. Probably the biggest surprise was discovering how widely English is spoken, with the exception of when we most needed it to be, when the ‘Carly’ broke down 🙁 Also, when we offered either English or German, English was nearly always preferred, with the notable exception of the marina at Mikolajki.
The only other surprise, though as a geographer by first degree I should have known, was discovering in reality, how big Poland actually is. Except when travelling on motorways, of which there are currently relatively few, it did take a lot longer than I originally anticipated, to get from A to B.
Of all the eleven blog posts that I’ve written about Poland, the one that has attracted the greatest number of comments has been the first one, regarding contrasts between the Czech Republic and Poland. I’m most grateful to everyone who did comment and it has been very reassuring to receive several affirmations within those comments, concurring with what I wrote.
Firstly, my thanks to Cynthia, an American expat living and working in the Czech Republic and who writes an excellent blog herself 🙂 , saying that she had exactly the same response from Czech people as we had, questioning why on earth she would want to spend time visiting Poland.
Secondly, I appreciated the various explanations, by both expats and native Czechs, as to why Czech people rarely visit Poland. That Czechs prefer the warm Adriatic sea to the cool Baltic sea. That they think it will be the same as the Czech Republic, therefore why would they want to see more of the same? That they have experienced poor Polish food imported into the Czech Republic and presume therefore that all Polish food is poor. That agnostic Czechs feel threatened by the power and influence of the Polish Roman Catholic Church!
My original observations were written and posted after only being in Poland for five days. But what we observed in the following days, only further confirmed what I originally wrote. I mentioned the high level of adherence and practice by Polish Roman Catholics, in contrast to to the Czech Republic. Both Sybille and I were amazed at the number of masses being celebrated at almost any urban Roman Catholic Church. The photograph on the left was one Sybille spotted in Wroclaw.
I also wrote that virtually the only area where I had observed any similarities between Poles and Czechs, was in their fashion sense. As in the Czech Republic, throughout our travels, we continued to see many men having long hair and tying it back in a pony tail. And it certainly seemed almost de rigueur, in virtually every bar-restaurant we patronised, for young female waitresses to wear short stretchy black miniskirts or mini-dresses 🙂
I finished that post by saying that since passing through the border area just north of Ostrava, we hadn’t seen a single Czech registered car! That continued to be true until three days before the end of our trip, when we were passed by a Czech registered car, just north of Wroclaw. But we didn’t see another until a few kilometres before the Polish-Czech border near the ski resort of Harrachov, on our drive back to Prague.
One major attraction that I omitted from my post about Wroclaw, were the dwarfs that can be found throughout the city. Apparently, there are now over three hundred of them! Our favourite of the ones we spotted, was the dwarf using the ATM, at the beginning of this post. Below is another.