Let’s have a quick talk about one of the most underrated European countries, Poland. For some reason this country is flying under most traveller’s radar and that should change.
Growing up in a small town I get all warm and fuzzy when I’m reminded of the same small town feels I get from home. Even in major bustling cities like Krakow, it’s busy but at the same time it’s quiet. Not like London or Berlin where the city never sleeps. It still feels lively but at the same time it’s still tranquil. There’s a common understanding that nice days are spent enjoying a lody (Polish word for ice cream) by the water or on a park bench conversing with friends.
People always laugh when I tell them that Poland is one of my favorite countries.
“Oh you like it more than Paris?”
“Are you sure, I mean what’s so great about it?”
So I’ll tell you what’s so great about it.
IT’S SO CHEAP
I cannot even BEGIN to describe how much I love the zlotys. In London, I feel like I have to panhandle just to afford a decent meal or an underground ticket. Poland, not the case. Whenever I step onto Polish soil I’m like Jay-Z walking off a private jet. Even on a backpacker’s budget I feel like a baller. Six plate meals, drinks, appetizers, the whole nine yards will run you about $25 total. A night out on the town, drinks, dancing, 6am bedtime will cost you less than $30. A tram ticket….68 cents for a single ride!! The beer is often cheaper than water, running you just over $1 each and a vodka sprite coming in at less than $4. Even a meager budget will last you quite a bit of time out here.
Ohhh man, the food in Poland is just on point. My heart screams with joy whenever I get here, my waistline, not so much. But hell, I’m on holiday right?!
*That’s what I’m going to tell myself when I’m squeezing into a bathing suit on the Spanish coast 😨*
First things first, there’s pierogis, filled dumplings of East European origin. AKA one of my most favorite foods in the wholeeeee world. They are made by wrapping pockets of unleavened dough around a savory or sweet filling and cooking them in boiling water. There are all kinds of fillings. Some with cheese and potatoes, others meat, some cabbage, spinach, fruits, and kielbasa, which is the mecca of Polish sausage. The possibilities are endless. A plate of twelve pierogis will typically run between 10-15 zlotys, converting to roughly $2.50-$4.00.
Then there’s barscz. Oh man the barscz, which is Polish beet root soup. I could eat bowls of barscz for the rest of my life and be perfectly content. This is coming from a girl that acts like a toddler when it comes to vegetables. 😫.
I know, I know, I’m awful. Maybe one day right?
Then there’s the lody, aka ice cream. As I’ve already mentioned, ice cream is taken pretty seriously here. At any given time of the day, people of all ages are seen strolling down the street with a colorful cone in hand. There’s a shop on every corner and each as delicious as the next. One scoop of ice cream will typically cost you less than $1.
Polish food is all about comfort. Imagine southern cooking but in Northeast Europe. It’s the kind of food you eat in small hole in the wall places. You sit among other Poles enjoying a quick bite before returning back to work. Once you finish eating you return your dishes to the kitchen just like at home. The kitchen is full of women who perfected recipes in their grandmother’s kitchen. Just downright wholesome meals that warm the soul and fill the stomach.
The Poles are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Often times they are so taken aback that I’ve grown this massive love for Poland that they warmly welcome me with open arms. They want me to appreciate their culture and invite me to explore more of their country with location recommendations that would otherwise be overlooked. Many times their recommendations come with a shot of some STRONG (AND I MEAN STRONGGG) hazelnut spirit called Soplica.
Amber from the Baltic sea is a widely available commodity out here. There are shops everywhere that sell this precious stone among hundreds of other ones. Coral, turquoise, amber, tiger’s eye, you can get it all here and the quality is just phenomenal. For my fellow stonehounds, if you ever end up in Krakow (which I hope you will after reading this article) check out the cloth hall. Here is an arcade style shopping area enclosed in a 15th century Renaissance building. There are scores of people selling the obvious Polish souvenirs. But the real gem (pun intended 😝) are the stalls selling the prettiest stones you’ve ever set your eyes on. It’s easy to walk away with a new high quality jewelry collection for less than $80.
THE STREET ART
Cities all over Europe are home to some drool worthy street art. Poland is no different. Their artists incorporate the influences around them and produce gorgeous pieces of art. Some scream Polish pride, while others address the recent political happenings. But it is fair to say that each piece adds a certain type of character to these neighborhoods and those who call them home.
You can’t walk too far without stumbling upon some unique kind of street art. Simply turn down an alley or walk down a less frequented street and you may be treated to an array of colorful art.
Something about a Polish old town that makes my heart flutter. There are massive squares where people congregate. Kids play, old women gossip while peddling local flower bouquets and people relax and enjoy a slower pace of life. Their squares are filled with buildings painted orange, green, pink and lavender. Their streets are narrow and their alleyways full of life.
I recently made my way outside of the Polish cities I was used to frequenting and went to Zakopane. This mountain town nestled in the middle of the Tetras was the perfect backdrop to the relaxing couple of days I needed. I escaped the city life and instead hiked to the top of Beskid mountain. It wasn’t easy but that view is exactly what I needed to remind me how small I am in this glorious world. If you’re a hiker then this is the place for you.
Overall, Poland is an underdog in Europe. It’s not held in the same regard of Spain, Italy or France. But it should be. It’s full of rich history, architecture that reminds you how old these places are, kind people proud of their vibrant culture, food that leaves the eyes in wonder & the tastebuds drooling and prices that make any wallet happy.
So if it’s not on your list of places to see, add it. Trust me, I would never steer you wrong. 😉