After a few hours journey, I suddenly jerk awake from slumber from the sounds of Polish radio in the background. “We have finally reached Poland!”, I think jubilantly. And yes- there it is- the landscape changes, language changes...suddenly I see Polish rustic Restaurants selling Pierogi at the side of the road, reminding me of the countless family trips in which autobahn hostels featuring pierogi and sorówki were the rule rather than the exception.
Half an hour later, I am rudely reminded of the Polish roads...meaning bump after VERY deep bump. We straggle along, my ears pounding by the noise of the road colliding with the heavy bus tires. I manage to sleep through most of it and dream through the rest, not noticing my bottle fall to the ground and my kind seating neighbor retrieve it.
We're nearing Wrocław. It will only take a few more hours until we reach Kraków. At least here they've finally built the motorway and we'll have a straight route all the way there.
The weather in Berlin was horrendous. As we left Steglitz and headed for the autobahn, blue sky and heavy, white clouds greeted us. At Hauptbahnhof, the sky was another story... thick, stormy grey as far as the eye can see. And yes-I didn't miss the rain. 10 min. before “takeoff”, the rain started to patter and turn sidewalks into rivers. On the trip, it did not get any better. We had the interesting experience of enjoying spontaneous dashes of rain followed by glowing sunshine.
Ironically, the moment we reached Poland, the rain decided to leave us behind. We are now surrounded by pure sunshine. How lucky we are...
Again, I am reminded of Poland when random huge advertisement signs pass us on the highway. This is a phenomena not found in Germany. This “Polish” advertisement consists of a very large pole, stuck in the middle of a field, with a random sign at the top. Although smaller than a windmill, it is double as ugly and a thousand times more useless.
However, as I learned last week, the radical changes Poland endured after the collapse of the Soviet Union included complete financial ruin as Western companies from France, Britain, Germany and America overtook the local markets. (CCC, Geant, Tesco, Obi, Ikea, Dachser, ToysRUs, Cargill, Castorama, Kaufland to name a few). A sad but true story, one that I could get as mad as a Spanish bull about every day.
Even Wawel, a Polish chocolate company, was bought out by Neslte, an American company. Just another sign how globalisation destroys small enterprises.
How else does Poland differ from Germany when it comes to the landscapes around the highways? For one, the agricultural fields are smaller, the tractors smaller and less high-tech. There are quite a few houses around, however most of them look run-down, yet still friendly. Here again an after-effect of joining the EU- Polish farmers only received about 25% of the funds that Greece and Spain received.
I'm reminded again of Poland's fate. A new, huge super market built along the high way as I pass. These huge buildings usually encompass an extra proportionally large Geant, surrounded by small boutiques such as Cameau, Ryłko, Deichmann, H&M, and Smyk. I pass another industrial strip with the shops Cargill and Ikea, CCC, Tesco, Makro, Castorama, and Viessmann.
Destracting myself from this dismal sight, I find butterflies flying along the road and a field of flowers greets me in front of the Leroy Merlin and the Agata.
Traveling as such has its merits. Apart from sitting uncomfortably crunched, I am surrounded by interesting people. Theres a German sitting in front of me. In front left is a young British couple. LOVELY accent. Behind me is a Polish family. And my neighbor...is Japanese, working for a Tech company in San Francisco and now expanding to Europe, Berlin.
We have finally reached Wrocław. Another difference I noticed...unlike the S-Bahn and U-Bahn and Tram possibilities, Wrocław just has Tram and Bus possibilities. There are houses that still need renovations. The cars are less new and smaller. There are houses left to decay. The street signs are a nice bluish color mostly written in a "Trebuchet" font. Run-down houses are still in use. And yet... even the poorest of the poor are well dressed. There are telephone booths, but unlike in London, they are more rundown, yellow, and see-through on all sides.
I see a sign for "Góralskie Oszczypek", a certain type of goats cheese sold in the Polish mountains. Immediately my stomach starts to grumble as I imagine fried oszczypek with a żurawina, cherry, sauce.
But then I get distracted by a Polish schlager on the radio, again reminding me of which country I have landed in. The song is pretty bad but before I have time to consider any of this I see girls outside my window wearing pink.This disturbs me quite a bit until I realize that I am not in Germany anymore, but in Poland, where pink is still respected as a color worth wearing.
On that note, my mind wonders off to another fact I've noticed in Poland...Most women have their nails done.
And I fall back asleep to the impressions around me.
I wake up again thinking I'm in south Germany. Then I realize that the fields are smaller, although they looked as golden as the harvested ones in Baden-Württemberg. The difference also seems to be the random wild trees left standing in between the small fields.
Then there are the forests themselves. They are beautiful. Wild, filled with bushes and tall grass, birches, smaller trees I cannot recognize, small paths where only a Polish car could get through. Trees with berries, mushrooms (this I know from my own experiences walking in them).
Another beautiful element of Dolny śląsk: The wonderful, miniature roads winding through the country side shrouded by proud oaks. A beautiful feeling to walk through those. You feel like you're entering paradise.
Katowice-first impressions: It's huge! And in dire need of renovation...poverty leeks out of every building, every shop window. I am happy to leave this chaotic city again.
And on my way to Kraków, I pass by Gliwice, the home town of my family...and Bielsko Biała. I feel the need to ask the bus drive to stop here so I can see my aunts, uncles and cousins but I realize that I am in a restricted bus taking me to Krakow and no more. I regret my decision of not planning to visit them. I could have stopped by family and say hi.
I know this part of Poland too well...I even know the exit from the motorway. :D
Then-finally, I reach Kraków. I've been through 2 weeks of seminar and half a years worht of anticipation for this moment. Although I have been here as a child, vague memories fill my head and do not remind of the city I find in front of me. These memories collide and clash into one single thought of joy: I am finally in my "home" country. I have reached Poland. A new city awaits me.