Poland: Scary Roads and Christmas Time
In a couple previous posts I wrote about being in Berlin for the first time with my friend Olivia in December 2010. After staying in Berlin for a couple days, Olivia's uncle picked us up and drove us to Wroclaw, Poland. The roads were covered in snow and visibility was low. To be clear, I have driven on a lot of snow covered roads having spent half my life in Vermont. I also have been in a lot of scary car rides. Have you ever watched Ice Road Truckers: Deadliest Roads? Season one was set in the Himalayas of India, and they even drove over Rohtang Pass. Rohtang pass is the road that leads from Manali to Spiti Valley. I've been on that road, a lot. It's scary as hell. The ride with her uncle was, hands down, the scariest ride I have ever been on my entire life!
I sat in the backseat and Olivia was in the front. He was zooming down these roads, passing cars when there was not enough time, around corners and up hills. We ran into a roadblock and so he took us down back roads, but didn't drive any slower. Speeding up and then slamming on the breaks when we reached another vehicle. I held so tight to my seat that my fingers were going numb. I kept closing my eyes and praying for it to be over. He was really entertaining though, which helped distract me from my anxiety about our impending accident. He blasted Lady Gaga and since he didn't speak much English he kept teaching me all the bad words in Polish. Olivia couldn't translate everything he was saying because she was laughing too hard.
Once we got to Wroclaw, he dropped us off at his son Bartosz's house. Him and his wife offered for us to stay two nights days with them. I felt a bit awkward at first, so I took some time to compose myself after the terrifying car ride. After spending some time in our room, we went downstairs to eat and chat with our hosts. The awkward quickly faded as night fell. Bartosz pulled out vodka, it was the first time of many that my Russian heritage would be called out and I'd be encouraged to take shots of vodka. "You look Russian," someone would say and Olivia wouldn't hesitate to tell them, "Her great-grandmother was Russian." This was always followed by, "You must drink vodka with us!" That night we all got quite drunk because he kept feeding us shots, I would cover my shot glass and he would pour it in my drink or I'd go to the bathroom and he'd pour it secretly in our drinks while his wife kept drinking wine. It was a blast.
It was like, "Hello Poland, you've gotten me drunk off vodka, nice to meet you."
The next day we went into town and walked around. We ate sushi at Sakana Sushi Bar with some of Olivia's family. The food there was really tasty and the atmosphere was fun and relaxed. With little boats that carry the sushi around the bar. Afterwards we did a little shopping. I got yelled at in Polish by someone who worked in H&M when I dropped some clothes in the dressing room. Olivia wasn't with me and I was too flustered to remember how to say "I don't understand" in Polish (which is pronounced "Nyeh rozumiem" in case you were wondering). I couldn't do anything so I just said, "Sorry I don't speak Polish" in English and walked away from that potentially embarrassing situation.
That evening we went to the Wroclaw Christmas Market. While on the outskirts you can see the clear remnants of a communist past with bland buildings, the center of Wroclaw is absolutely beautiful. Ornate historic buildings, beautiful alleys, and adorable shops. The Christmas Market is set in the middle of Old Town in the Market Square and composed of little wooden houses and sparkling lights. We wandered around and warmed ourselves up with mulled wine.
It was a great way to celebrate the start of winter. Neither of us loves mulled wine, but we loved the cups we got to keep!