Reflections on Poland

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As we sit at the airport waiting for our flight back to Holland I am struck by two things. Firstly, how mean is it for the snow to fall today instead of the for the past two days. And, secondly, that Poland has been an amazing country to travel.

When we first told people we were traveling to Poland in the winter, we received two common responses: “Are you crazy? It’ll be too cold!” and “Why would you want to go to Poland?”. To the first response, I simply responded with “We have good quality layers for warmth” and to the second I responded with “Why not?”.

Having now been to Poland in the winter I can tell you that it is cold but that with good layers and a more relaxed pace of travel you can thoroughly enjoy this country and all it has to offer. To help others planning a trip to Poland in the winter, here is what I wore most days:

  • Fleece lined beanie
  • Fleece neck warmer
  • O’Neil ski jacket shell
  • Kathmandu Altica 100 fleece pull over
  • T-shirt
  • Mountain Designs mid-weight merino long-sleeved thermal top
  • Fleece gloves
  • Regular underwear
  • Quechua winter trousers (cost about $AU30)
  • Quechua Forclaz 100 socks (1 pair only – I don’t layer my socks)
  • Quechua Forclaz 600 winter hiking boot (Paul used the Quechua Arpenaz 500 boot, which worked well too)

We also carried merino thermal long johns and a 700 weight goose down jacket but it didn’t get cold enough to use them. We were fortunate that the coldest it got while we were outside was -14’C and the average hovered around -2’C during the day and -7’C at night. What I’ve learned from the experience in relation to weather is that I don’t need to avoid winter because it has it’s own beauty … one to which we’re both quite hooked now and we’re already talking about a return to Eastern Europe in January-February 2017.

But what about Poland as a travel destination? I think my blog tells the story of that. It’s wonderful. Poland has embraced tourism in a positive way. It’s easy to rent a car and drive around the country independently. And I highly recommend renting apartments, rather than staying in hotels. Our one experience in a hotel was in Warsaw where we stayed in the Mercure. Seriously, Poles do not understand hotels – our sheets were dirty and then we were expected to make our own bed when the staff brought us clean sheets. But they have wonderful apartments and the landlords of the apartments know how to make them feel like home, right down to apartments often having fresh flowers in vases and better quality linens than even the Mercure (a four star hotel).

I was sad to leave Poland because I enjoyed the pace of travel there. Late morning starts and late night finishes felt good. My blog fell behind because we were having too much fun to take time out for writing. The food is excellent unless you are a vegetarian, in which case I’m sure you’ll find something to eat but sorry it won’t come close to roast pork knuckle or Polish sausages.

The past two weeks in Poland had everything from the gut wrenching stories we heard at Auschwitz, Schindler’s Factory and the Warsaw Uprising Museum to the now lighthearted fun of Wroclaw’s dwarfs and playing in the snow. It made us ponder the role of religion in society and rejoice at the joy of skiing. As far as travel goes, Poland has definitely entered the top three places I’ve been along with South Korea and Hungary. Perhaps I just like the dark horses.

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