A moment of honesty, friends. The only reason I included Gdansk, Poland in my travel itinerary was that a good friend was going to be there for two weeks.
I certainly wasn’t anti Poland, but it just wasn’t one of those countries I was aching to visit. I was fairly sure that it would be full of terrible architecture and grumpy old women in dumpy grey dresses and chunky shoes.
Apparently I really absorbed all that anti-Communist propaganda that came out when I was in primary school.
Well, be ye not so stupid as me. Poland is awesome and you should go there.
* Fantastic beaches and good weather. As we’ve established, I love me some Sweden. But their summer ends mid-August! When I arrived in Gdansk, summer was still going strong and there were still people hitting up gorgeous beaches.
* The food. Oh my God, the food. In four days I ate: Belgian waffles with whipped cream and raspberries, Russian pierogis with borscht, tons of great vegetarian food (from a cheap, chain restaurant!), vodka + pickles, vodka + black current syrup + Tabasco sauce, cherry vodka + hot fruit tea. Annnnd a million other lovely things. I will be rolling my way to Iceland rather than flying.
* The people. Helpful, sweet, and wonderful number of middle aged med with big, bushy mustaches.
* The history. Did you know that The Solidarity Movement – which eventually help end communism’s grip on Eastern Europe – started at a shipyard in Gdansk? There’s a great interactive tour you can take, lead by people who actually worked in the shipyards and took part in the movement. I’m not usually one for history, but it’s amazing to realize that these changes took place within my own lifetime. My Polish friends talked about standing in line for hours for bread or being stranded out in the countryside at relatives’ houses because martial law and curfews were in effect and their parents couldn’t come out and get them. Mind blowing, right?
* The prices. Poland isn’t cheap cheap, but it’s much, much, much cheaper than Sweden and just as lovely. My friends and I had shared two appetizers, three cocktails, one main, and two soups at a nice-ish restaurant to the tune of $40 US total. Pretty good, eh?
Have you ever traveled to a country or city you were pleasantly surprised by? Or surprisingly disappointed by?