Friday, July 28, 2017

Post 1: Sopot, Poland

April 8: So.... I'm in Poland. Yes, Poland. I'm not on a long hike, but rather a mental walk learning Polish, traveling through an exotic land I'd never seen or experienced before. I'd never put much thought into Poland until meeting Karolina while hiking the Camino de Santiago. Karolina spoke of Poland often, with great enthusiasm, and with obvious pride--and it's been rising on my to-do list ever since. And after I started learning Polish while hiking the Appalachian Trail, it became a place I didn't just want to visit, but I wanted to experience. One of the best experiences of my life was signing up with a Spanish language school in Central America, and I decided to give it another try in Poland. I can be in Poland (and pretty much all of Europe) for up to 90 days without a visa (and I don't have a visa), so that's my limit. I can study, live and learn all things Polish for up to 90 days.

St. Georges Church
I'm dispensing with my usual Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, etc. updates because most days, I won't really have much to post. I wake up (budzę się), go to school (idę do skoły), perhaps eat lunch at a restaurant (jem obiad w restauracji), then go home (idę do domu), complete my homework (robię pracę domową), watch television (oglądam telewizję), then go to sleep (a potem idę spać). It's not exciting, and it's pretty much the same story day after day after day. (Any bets on if Karolina corrects one of my Polish phrases in the comments below? *raised eyebrows*)

So I've decided to post about subjects. This post will be about Sopot, Poland, my base of operations. Or rather, my first base of operations since I do not plan to stay here for my entire time in Poland.

I arrived at around midnight local time after traveling on four airplanes through nine time zones. I didn't get to see much immediately upon my arrival given the fact that it was after midnight and dark outside. I took a taxi to my temporary home away from home.

Sopot I've heard a lot about over the years from Karolina mostly because it's Karolina's hometown. Now, I realize that Karolina might be a bit biased in her observations of Sopot, but my google searches and reading up of the area made me think it actually would be a place I'd enjoy. The population, according to Wikipedia, is about 40,000 people. Large enough to be interesting, small enough to get to know well. It's located on the Baltic Sea in northern Poland, tucked between the two larger cities of Gdańsk and Gdynia. Collectively, the three cities are known as the Tri-Cities.

Don't be fooled by the hand with the net. It's just a distraction! It's the other hand I'm worried about!
Although Sopot is Karolina's hometown, she's off living and working in The Netherlands, so you won't be seeing her much in this particular adventure. (Although she is scheduled to visit her mom around Easter, so there might be one post with Karolina later.) However, Karolina did set me up with a room for me to stay at her mom's place, and that will be my base while I'm in Sopot--about a mile away from the Polish language school that I'll be attending.

As I type this now, I've been in Sopot for a week, and I'm giving it two thumbs up. The town is charming, the views over the Baltic Sea are wonderful, the people are friendly, and the food is exotic (but good).

On my first day in Sopot, Karolina's mom (Barbara) took me on a quick walking tour looping through town showing me where the school I'll be attending is located, the main tourist drag downtown, and good places to eat and shop. It was a Sunday afternoon and the downtown core was crowded with people--a lot of people--and I said that to Barbara. She shook her head in disagreement. No, she told me, in the summer--that's when it's crowded. This wasn't crowded at all.

Mental note: Don't go to Sopot in the summer. =)

Later, returning in the middle of week, I'll say that the crowds were much thinner than they were on the bright, sunny Sunday I arrived.

One thing I'll mention about the city, and this whole area for that matter, is that it's wonderfully walkable and bikeable. I don't bike so much so that's less of a concern for me, but it's very easy and safe to get around on foot or by bike. It is, in fact, perhaps the most friendly walking/biking set-up I've ever seen.

And, I feel like the area is very safe. I'd have no qualms about walking around late at night. The people are friendly, and most people seem to speak English fairly well. Which is actually a disappointment for me as I'm trying to learn Polish rather than English, but for those of you less interested in learning Polish but might want to visit someday, English is common and all you need to have a good trip.

One short story.... I tried getting a gofry. They're everywhere out here, and I kept seeing everyone eating them, and I wanted one. So I tried to order it--in Polish. I wanted it all--put whip cream on it and fruit. She replied, in English, that I could choose two different fruits. So I replied in Polish with my choice, then she replied in English with the price. The girl seemed amused at my attempts at Polish, and sometimes didn't seem to understand me. (Although later, I would tell other students at the school that I was surprised that Poles couldn't understand their own language and seemed to prefer English!) But the point being.... it's easy to get around with just English. And the locals might even prefer it that way. ;o) 

I won't describe the city in detail.... as they say, a photo is worth a thousand words and so it's easier for me to post photos than words!

I thought this was crowded with people, but Barbara told me no, this was nothing! I should see it in the summer!
Krzywy Domek, or the "Crooked House"--called that for obvious reasons! (No, this photo has not been photoshopped!)
Convenience store
Now that's a sexy bike rack!
The parking meters were all wrapped up for the winter. Apparently, those are only active for the summertime tourists. Also note the wide sidewalks for walking and biking! They're everywhere! (The grey part is for walking, the red side is for bikes.)

This is the "Molo", or Pier in English. It's also the longest wooden pier in Europe, jutting out into the Baltic Sea.
The summertime tourists have to pay a fee to go on the pier, but this time of year (April), it's free. So I'd walk out on it quite often! =)
Dom Zdrojoywy (or Spa House in English)

I really liked how they made these planters. =)

I liked the lights on this tree. =)



Mary said...

Great photos! I love the crooked house and the lights on the tree and the swans too.

Karolina said...

Anyone who wanted to bet I'd correct one of your Polish phrases in this blogpost would loose. Your Polish in this post is correct! :-)