Right when we got to Gdansk (which is a port city in the very north of Poland) I was worried. There were still buildings with WWII damage. Not only was there damage but there were destroyed buildings everywhere. The first night we got there we headed out in search of a bar. We ended up finding something much more awesome. There were swarms of people in the main part of the town just flocking away from something and they all had little heart stickers on. We assumed that there was something cool going on so we walked to where they were leaving from. After finding a place to change money (Poland isn’t on the euro) we ended up walking into what was one of the most interesting scenes ever. Later, our tour guide told us that we had stumbled upon a benefit concert for sick children that goes on in cities all over Poland.
As you can see in the picture, the stage was huge and the crowd was massive. The band we watched was pretty interesting because it had a fiddle, flute, accordion, drums, and bass. The sound can only be described as gypsy. Something I learned quickly was that the Polish people are not a dancing culture. I learned this by dancing by myself in a crowd of at least three thousand other people. After chilling there for a while we left and went out to dinner with part of the group. I ordered fish and wasn’t expecting what I got. It was a fish alright. I was so surprised that I did not know what to do. But I did what nature told me to do and I pigged out on that thing. It was so delicious. The Poles really know how to cook fish. This trip is really making me step out of my box when it comes to eating. At home I am so picky but here I feel like I should try new things and I have come up with more successes then not.
The next day was just a tour. The harbor was probably the best part of the tour. The majority of the city was either really old (like medieval level) which really isn’t my focus area or it was still destroyed from the War. Gdansk was much more laid back then Berlin there weren’t as many people or as much action going on. Although there weren’t many people there were so many kids. We did not realize this until we got to Poland but Germany has very few young kids. I kind of liked the break from all the hustle and bustle.
Another difference between Poland and Germany is the fact that Polish people are much more heavily religious. There are so many churches in Poland that you can walk out the back door of one and into the front door of another. The artwork in the churches was just amazing. It was almost unbelievable that people would actually praise Jesus in these spaces. My church is so plain in comparison. Going into these churches did cause me to feel a little awkward though. If you have never been into a Catholic church, there a few things that you need to do to be respectful and as a christian I feel that I should be even more respectful. However some in our group aren’t very religious and they don’t know the protocol and being loud in a church where people are praying in makes me upset. I understand that we needed to go in though because that is such an important part of their culture but it was just a little much for me. The best thing we did in one of the churches was listen to an organ concert. The organist only played five or six songs but the church just quaked at the power of the organ. It really made me miss home and all the things that church means to me at home.
After a trip to the Baltic sea, a lecture, and a museum we left to go to Krakow. It was about a eight hour trip because we had to cross the entirety of Poland. The land was the flattest I have ever seen.
Krakow was an amazing historical city. The two things that stuck out to me the most were the jazz club we went to and KFC. So the first night, as usual, we went out to have a local beer and wondered upon a jazz club. After much deliberation we wondered in. As a musician there are not many times when you can pass up an experience like this. So we headed down the stairs to the bar. The band was killer. Jazz is the reason I got into music and so it was an amazing experience to be able to hear it in another country. If only I had brought my trumpet! The bar was crowded and it stayed open till 12 am which is a big deal because everywhere else in the countries we had visited shut down by like 10. They had pictures of Marvin Gaye and Louis Armstrong on the wall and it just made me feel like home. The second major thing was going to KFC for lunch. We have all been missing home a lot so we decided for a taste of home with a little Kentucky Fried. I am not a huge fan of KFC when I am home but I have gotten so desperate that I had to have something. If you ever travel abroad the one thing you need to know is that American food is generally worse, if that is possible, in other countries. The chicken was floppy and had no meat to it at all. The problem was, I bought a whole bucket because I was super hungry. Another thing about traveling abroad is remembering to always convert prices into dollars in your head. We have started calling the money over here funny money or monopoly money because that is the way it look and feels. So sometimes I worry about using too much of it. I just know that when I cash out at home I will have spent way too much.
I am finishing this post as I am getting ready to leave Hungary and finally head home so I will write another post about the trip and then we’ll dive right into the semester.