One journalist's musings about the beautiful, bizarre world in which we live
Before I left for Poland, I prepared documentation to get me around the country. Maps, websites, regional information—everything I thought I’d need when there. I saved it all to a Google Doc. I didn’t make a solid plan, but instead left myself with options to do what I felt like when I arrived.
Imagine my dismay when I arrived in Rzesów, and my cell had no service—and I had no way to access my document.
Polish is not in the same language family as any language I already know; the structure is wildly different, with only few discernible words with roots in Greek, Latin or new technical language. As such, living in it for a few days became a huge learning experience.
Buying a bus ticket was part of that.
With a little help in English and a returned memory in basic Polish, I found myself in a cab from the airport to the Rzesów station. The driver taught me how to ask for a bus ticket properly.
Finding the bus was a bit more difficult.
Polish is not exactly at the top of everyone’s list of languages to learn—meaning there are few people with strong accents. Even the slightest “eh” when there should be an “ehn” can throw people off. “Stalowa Wola” was apparently a weak point in my linguistic learnings, but at least I could read the sign on the bus.
An hour after I jumped into a seat, I found myself in the small town, with little idea what to do there.
Architecturally, I would call Stalowa Wola “Soviet retro chic.” Buildings are blocky and uniform; even the newer, fancier buildings have the same, square and often grey elements.
There’s a market every day that is not a holiday or Sunday, where one can buy clothes, food, trinkets and other life necessities. There are also a couple of large bicycle stands.
After roaming around Stalowa Wola scrounging for internet, I found a lovely little bakery and café that had wireless for customers, where I quickly learned the word “lody” (ice cream). There, I looked at my doc and realized I wasn’t going to do any of the things I planned, and instead searched the internet for places to stay in the small town.
Most places I found were fancy hotels in the range of $100/Cdn a night. I am not a fancy Canadian, and do not need a fancy abode.
In the end, after much Googling and learning a few new words, I found a place called the “Metalowiec,” for a much more reasonable $16/Cdn a night. Bussing into the town, I had seen it—big, with a big rainbow painted on the side. I was quite pleased with my choice.
When I told people I was going to Poland, everyone said to eat too much while there. So I did.
It started with mediocre pierogi and continued with bread, the most Polish of experiences I know. I had zapiekanka, an oddly-constructed and oddly delicious street food, with mushrooms, ketchup and fried onions on bread. I had the best pizza crust I’ve ever had. I revelled in rye sandwiches. I also snagged some beer and kiełbasa at a gliding competition, and lody whenever I could. It was strawberry season, and big cheap baskets were on sale in the market every day.
Between eating and eating, I took long, lovely walks. I walked into the countryside and through forests. I walked into quiet and desolate areas of town, through abandoned structures and parks. Listening and watching is a lovely thing to do, especially in a place where I knew so little.