I will be in Poland for 4 weeks and realized what I like best when I travel are people and the random short conversations/interactions along the way. Skip to Summary if this is boring. Ha! I will just add more city by city in the Replies.
Gdansk: 5 nights in an apartment right in the old city.
Upon arrival I called Uber from the Gdansk airport. In 4 minutes, Andrei, in his blue Skoda, was there. He hopped out, popped my small bag in the car, a touch sternly said “ Sit down” ( meaning “get in”), and we were on our way to the old town. We sat in silence for about 10 minutes, Andrei with his earbuds in, till I couldn’t stand it any longer and said “This is my first time to Poland.” Andrei pulled his earbuds out and had me repeat.
Then he said he had small English, to which I replied I had no Polish - which made him ask where I was from. I replied “The U.S.” and his face lit up. He said “I love USA!” And while we didn’t win awards for language skills, Andrei talked (and I listened lol) the rest of the way. He is from Belarus, made sure I knew the geography (Poland, Belarus, Russia), pronounced Lukashenko crazy, then pronounced Putin crazy, and told me a couple of things about Gdansk I didn’t quite understand. 🤣 (about Danzig, I think)
At this point, we arrived at my apartment and he made me wait till he opened the door for me, offered his hand to help me out, and then carefully handed my bag to me. We both smiled and went our ways: an ending not at all the same as the beginning.
** I like having my rideshare payment system already in place (unlike a taxi). It makes tipping easy, too.
I Don’t Speak Polish.
Day 2 and I am already starting to count the number of times people speak to me in Polish. I realize that sounds a little odd, but when I travel I am usually in the tourist zone (as I am here) and people just know by looking I am not local (ha!). So I am used to their assumptions and the fact they begin with English because of that: in restaurants, in shops, on the street, etc. So far only once has someone addressed me first in English. So maybe that is what I should be counting.
** Also, Milk bar meals are cheap. And I am memorizing “I don’t speak Polish”….
The best sign language is a smile. Day 3 I had to find a post office and mail a box. Only I had no box. Or tape. I found the Poczta Polska and a lovely lady. She spoke only a few words of English and I could recognize a few words of her Polish. She pointed me to the box and then asked me if I also needed tape (I assume). I also had no scissors (or keys) - but I had an ink pen, so I jabbed my tape with the pen to cut it. After I took her the filled box, she reinforced it with more tape - grabbing her ink pen and jabbing the tape to cut it. I laughed and showed her my ink pen still in my hand and she laughed, too. And everything became easier. After I had paid for my box, tape, and mailing, I gave her a present of the leftover tape and that also made her laugh.
The post office inside was beautiful. I would never have known……
** Also, for the lost German tourists who wanted to ask me for directions, I don’t speak German, either. They weren’t any better off since they apparently didn’t speak either Polish or English.