do Polska!

(Jennifer Goes to Poland!)
Krakow Castle
Disclaimer: to any Polish speakers out there, I’m sure that my title is so grammatically incorrect that it’s got you grimacing into your half liters of beer right about now.  Whatever ensuing Polish phrases/words that I drop into this blog will probably also have the same affect.  But I need to show off the mad Polish speaking skills I’ve developed while I’ve still got em. So, pull up a chair, pick up your glass, and say with me my favorite Polish expression “Na zdrowie!” (For English morons like me, that’s pronounced something like ‘Naz – drovia’)
 
Poland. To sum it all up, I had four amazing days and five nights in this country. My time there was filled with history, friends, food, and adventure. So instead of overwhelming you with one long post about the entire trip, I’m going to dole out bite sized portions one day at a time.  Choose what you like, but remember to chew it well. There’s a lot of sentiment and info in these bits.
 
Pre-ramble:
 
I’m gonna call it a pre-ramble because the following description is somewhat like a prequel to the trip, but mostly just me rambling about whatever I want to. So, consider this the prequel to Day I.
 
For some back story, there were moments when I wasn’t sure if this trip was going to happen. The Friday before we were supposed to leave, a big unpleasant flu decided to roil around in my stomach. By the end of the workday, I had had to teach two of my classes with a fever. Imagine this, a room full of excited 12 year olds at 4pm screaming my name and begging that they get to be in my group. This scene should make me the giddiest teaching assistant in Nantes, but when I have a migraine that made my brain feel like it was dislodged from my scull and rattling around its walls, their little piercing “Jennifer!”s made me want to pass out.  
 
Krista, in her own right, was developing a major cold (probably a nasal infection at this point), that was going to make breathing through her nose impossible and flying in airplanes probably the least pleasant activity for her poor ears.
 
On the American side of things, Kristi missed her connection flight in Seattle because there was too much fog to land. Unsure of when or how she was going to get to Paris in time for our flight, she was emailing Krista and me frantic updates from her snazzy iPhone throughout the day.
 
Add to this the uncertainty that all of the strikes had left France in. Gas shortage, angry workers, and garbage-strewn streets. I just wanted to curl up into a ball and sleep through the holiday.
 
But, after lots of medicine for Krista and me, and lots of ticket finagling on Kristi’s part, we were all together Friday evening in my apartment and more or ready to head off to Paris the next day.
 
Besides her smiling American face, Kristi brought Krista and me the best presents ever: a 3lb jar of JIF peanut butter and a full sized bag of Reese’s Cups each. 
 
Krista and Kristi with the goods.
Oh, sweet melt-in-your mouth Reese’s, this is my ode to you. Chocolate encasing peanutty brilliance, the perfect balance of salty and sweet. Had I known how much I would miss thee, I would have filled my suitcase with you instead of socks and pants. 
 
But because of my flu, I knew I would have to wait until after Poland to enjoy the creamy goodness of Reese’s.
 
The grèves didn’t affect our train to Paris or our flight to Krakow. In Paris we stayed again with one of the nicest American girls in France, Anna Marie. She provided us with a free place to stay and took us to the pharmacy before we left. She loaded Krista up with all sorts of good cold medicine and the coolest liquid zinc tablets ever that you shoot out of glass vials. This was fun to do at the airport.
 
We spent some time sight seeing before we left. Look at some of the photos I took. These have nothing to do with Poland, but they are still pretty to look at, and show just what a lucky girl I am to get to travel the world. 
 

Sacré-Cœur

 
Place de la Concorde
My picture with Poseidon.
Paris by night.
 
After our connecting flight to Prague, we arrived to a nearly empty Krakow airport around 11pm, not really sure what to expect. Anna, Jen G.’s Polish friend, had sent two of her friends to pick us up from the airport. Jen and Anna were in a different part of Poland and couldn’t meet us until Wednesday.  So Chris and Michael, Anna’s friends, were our tour guides for the first night in Poland.
 
They drove us in a tiny car going very very quickly down and around narrow roads (I’m still getting used to European driving!) to our hostel, Mosquito Hotel. Horrible name, but great atmosphere. This being my first time in a hostel, I think I was spoiled (especially after staying in the merde Parisian hostel on our return trip, but that story is for another day). It’s on the third floor of this domineering, ten story building, not far from the city square. At night when you have to walk through a couple of big metal door entrances and buzz yourself in several times, you wonder what sort of neighborhood you’re in.
 
Inside though, the hostel is great, painted in orange and blue and with a full kitchen and comfy seats. The guy on staff gave us a wicked cool map with all sorts of bars and clubs and Polish sayings on it, then spent 10 minutes going into great detail about all of the things we should do and places to go in Krakow.  This was probably around midnight and we had been traveling all afternoon. Still, he spoke perfect English, so this in itself was like a vacation for our brains after living in France for a month. Afterwards we felt like we knew more about Krakow than Chris and Michael. And we bragged to them that we did.
 
After we were settled into the hostel, Chris and Michael took us to a couple bars, the first of which was called Showtime and had live music. This is where we discovered that beer is usually served as a half liter here.  So imagine your two liter bottles of soda in the states, now pour out a quarter, and down it. Okay. Now you understand. Yes, that’s the normal size. You can also get larger glasses.  And this probably only costs about $2-$5 max. Woot!
 
Considering that the beer is sold on the złoty in Poland (local currency) and that Chris was paying, we all decided to try the most expensive kind on the menu, a light cherry.  I give it a so-so rating.  The cherry in combination with the lightness of the beer gave it a watery, cough medicine taste.  But later on, Poland redeemed itself with a really good dark porter. However, the name of this porter is something that I cannot pronounce, therefore it will forever be shrouded in mystery. 

We were sitting at a table in good view of the stage area where a party of Polish friends danced and drank to a live band.  This is what they danced to: imagine Daughtry with the voice of Creed playing wedding band covers of old American favorites such as “My Achy Breaky Heart” and “Easy like Sunday Morning.” Sometimes they give these classics a reggae touch.

 
Again, I don’t know the name of the band, but they actually had a good sound.  Our waitress told Michael that the band was enjoying somewhat of a celebrity status in Krakow, having just won a Polish reality TV show for cover bands.  (Aren’t we lucky girls!) This was easy to see why, as the band plays well together, the singer has a strong voice, and they have an engaging stage presence. But half way through “Easy like Sunday Morning,” Krista and I realized what had been bothering us about the lyrics. 
 
Mind you, these were Polish non-native speakers of English members in an American cover band, so I sympathize with their confusion over certain words and consonants.  I’ve heard my French friends describe the sounds they produce when trying to sing a song in English as “yogurt.” When they aren’t sure of the words, they sort of half hum, mumble English words that they’ve deciphered from the gibberish they don’t understand.  I think I do this too with some American songs.  I definitely do it with French sentences… I sort of make a jelly roll out a bunch of probable sounds and hope I come up with something intelligible. So I’m stealing their expression and putting it here (Thank you Wafa and Marie).  I believe this band was displaying Polish yogurt for us. 
 
The chorus of that song should go like this: 
 
“That’s why I’m easy…(oooahoo)… easy like Sunday morning.”   
 
What Polish Daughtry was singing is this: 
 
“That’s why I’mmm mmeeeeaaaaa-zay ..(oooahoo).. meeeaz-ay like a sunnnn-ay mooornin’.”  *
 
Polish American cover band gettin’ down with their fans.
So, first impressions of Poland were quite good. After our introduction to the Krakow night life, us three American girls returned to our Mosquito Hotel and settled under the warmest, most comfiest covers in the whole of Europe.
 

Thanks for reading. Until next time, this is Jennifer, wishing you a meazy, sunny morning.  

*Updated per Krista Schilling’s expert advice.  She was totally right, I did not do justice to the moment. 🙂

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