Back From Poland

Many people use coal and firewood to heat their homes. I was surprised at how polluted the air felt. In New York, if you see a black column of smoke, it usually means to call the fire department. In Poland, it usually means that gas and electricity is too expensive. I did see quite a few windmills, so perhaps Poland will improve in this area. Recycling didn’t reach the area I was staying, so the plastic bottles of my trip could be around for hundreds of years after my journey.

That’s what was interesting about Poland. Some things are quite modern, while others things were so backward. Television is an excellent example. In New York, I don’t have cable or satellite TV, but I still have lots of shows to watch. But on an old TV, just south of Słupsk, only three broadcast channels were available. Much of the time, American movies and shows were shown — with a Polish man talking over the English dialogue. It made for a frustrating viewing experience.

Here’s an excellent example of the difference. On a Sunday afternoon, the movie “What Planet Are You From?” was on. It was something of a sci-fi comedy, with many elements of soft-core porn. In America, that movie would be rated “R”. In Poland, the number 12 was shown on the top-left of the screen. Apparently, the Polish people are cool with young kids watching Garry Shandling on top of a woman with her breasts exposed. I had to leave before the movie ended, so I didn’t get to watch what happened to the alien with the vibrating penis.

While Polish TV was a disappointing experience, I’m impressed with Polish Internet access. A company called Play offered 1GB of mobile data for 19 złoty. That’s about $7 — less than what I pay for my mobile phone. It was pre-paid. No contract, not even a name was necessary. Just drop the sim card in a USB stick and play. (It was 129 for the stick and 1GB of data.) Although, I was glad that I downloaded the City Maps 2Go app. Having an offline map made it easier to get around.

Almost two weeks into the trip, something weird happened. I started dreaming in Polish. This is especially weird considering that my understanding of the language is about the same as a Polish toddler. I was eager to go home, but it wouldn’t be easy.

It started snowing in Poland. In general, the skies were gray. If you’re interested in visiting Poland as a vacation spot, it might more enjoyable during the Summer months. The winter in Poland seems tough. I was shoveling lots of snow and it wasn’t even officially winter yet. I was also sick for most of the trip, constantly coughing from the cold air. Although, the snow did add a nice background for the season. The weather made it feel more like Christmas.

The snow delayed my flight, which lead to a quick trip in Zürich, Switzerland. Apparently, I was making up for all the years I hadn’t been outside of the United States. The flight home was on Swiss International Airlines. I still hate flying, but the Star Alliance seems to do a good job. I enjoyed eating lasagna and pizza on the return flight.

Things are different in Europe. The people seemed rather cool. Even though I was a foreigner, I felt welcomed. When I arrived in America, I felt the difference. Getting through customs was rather annoying. I’m thinking that this is a bad introduction for foreign visitors. I traveled through Denmark, Poland and Switzerland without much trouble. In America, it was quite a hassle. I didn’t enjoy the body scanners or being searched for contraband. The whole process of leaving and returning to the United States just seemed more serious and less friendly. That’s unfortunate, because it can be a deterrent to traveling. In Poland, there was security, and it was strict too, but somehow it was friendlier.

Will I return to Poland? I don’t know. I did learn some valuable information that could make a return trip easier. Although, I am happy to be back home. That’s what I learned the most from my trip. It gave me a renewed appreciation for the little things in life… like sleeping in my own bed or driving my own car. I also think that I gained a new respect for those that live abroad. Considering that is visited by people from all around the world, I think it’s a very good thing to have had a more worldly experience.