My business partner and BFF, @gosiadulz and her sister @soniatron hosted me in Poland last week and WHAT AN EXPERIENCE IT WAS!!
The only thing I knew about Poland before the trip is the World War I and II high school history knowledge that was still stuck in the far corners of my brain. But from Gosia and Sonia’s wonderful childhood tales and photos, it has always left me wondering about the mysterious and secretive country - similar to the Polish language full of shhh syllables that makes you wonder what they are whispering about…about tales of Silesian princesses and Prussian princes hidden in the dense forests; about castles and haunts of the ancient kings around every corner..?
Or about the caring and courteous people that make up a nation of just under 40 million Poles…
Well I arrived in Warsaw (the capital) on a balmy afternoon on an Emirates flight and Gosia and Sonia picked me up in an Uber that dropped us at our AirBnB apartment in the centre of the city. What I love about European cities (apart from the coffee and the sightseeing) is how they use space! This was literally one tiny room, but with every single necessity (even luxuries, like a Nespresso machine, a safe, and big closet) combined into a stylish loft space! This was to be our base for the next three days, and there was no time to rest. After a quick shower, hair and makeup (outfit changes in tow to shoot in the streets, of course!) we headed to the Old Town of Warsaw.
I was obviously a very annoying guest, as I wanted to stop, taste, take photos and marvel and every pretty street corner and cafe. A wonderful little summer rain shower halted us for half an hour and we were forced to sit and enjoy the view of the towers of the Old Town while sipping ons some Tyskie (a Polish beer).
After exploring the old cobbled streets and passages until 20:00 pm it was time to find some dinner and we skipped the touristy town square and headed to a quieter place where they served us some Zurek (a traditional sour soup with sausages and egg). Let’s just say one bowl wasn’t enough and that when in Poland, it’s best to not be counting calories!
Breakfast, Day 2 at Bulke przez Bibulke. Amazing food. Amazing vibe. You will have to queue here if you sleep in on a Saturday morning! Great Organic and Vegan options too!
What also struck me about Warsaw (and all the major cities in Poland) are all the fresh/cold pressed juice bars that can be found all over...if you prefer it all-green or more smoothie-like - it will be on offer!
Lazienki Gardens: A favourite spot in Warsaw for sure - this is where the royal family used to have dinner every Thursday evening and a treat if you are looking for a peaceful walk or morning jog. They also have classical concerts here on summer evenings. mostly tributes to the famous Polish composer, Chopin.
Dresses: All Zara
Flaming & Co.: The hippest spot in Warsaw at the moment, where all the fitfluencers and stars hang out ;) Loved the atmosphere of having a “garden party in the big city”. Be prepared to pay for the reputation and atmosphere though!
We left Warsaw on the last train on Sunday afternoon, heading to Tychy, the town where Gosia and Sonia grew up. It was a good 3-4 hours but I just love train rides and watching the towns roll out into beautiful country side dotted with potato fields, sheep and cattle. We arrived in Tychy only to be met with - you guessed it - more food!
Polish women all seem to have a knack for cooking and my friends’s mom, Ania, cooked up a storm, serving us Bigos (which I fell in love with when Gosia and Sonia made this for us in South Africa one Christmas eve) with fresh rhubarb bread. Yum!!
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners Chez Tron were all just a feast!
The next two days were spent exploring the forest, lake and pretty castles around Silesia (the southern part of Poland where Tychy is situated). The activities around the lake and forest areas in summer are just endless, with people walking, cycling, jogging, sailing, swimming and rowing everywhere! And the ice cream (here is a Polish word for your travel vocab you simply need to know: lody - pronounced loh-de) rivals that of Italian gelato hands down!
It’s so inspiring to see all these people enjoying the outdoors and being active. One thing that is missing for me in South Africa is this factor and it feels like we all sit in our big cars all day long, on our phones or in our houses or in malls…we have a lot to learn from the European lifestyle of walking and socialising with neighbours, colleagues and friends!
On Tuesday, we left early for Zakopane, which promised to be a highlight of my days in Poland.
This little mountain town just crept so deep into my heart, from the time we arrived on a foggy and rainy afternoon to the time we booked out of Aries Hotel and Spa on the Wednesday afternoon!
The little houses and buildings are what can only be described as something out of an Alpine fantasy - everything is carved our of wood, the streets smell like smoked cheese (best of all, the cheese TASTES exactly like it smells), the goffres (waffles) are topped with the freshest berries and cream available anywhere on earth and there are view. Upon view. Upon view. Everywhere. It is hard to describe the kind of freedom, peace and absolute, sweet surrender I feel when standing on a mountain top, overlooking fields of green. I’ve only felt that on one other place - and that is in the Drakensberg mountains. And here, in Zakopane Poland.
Then there is the hotel we stayed…not a cheap option, but we decided to spoil ourselves and book into the Aries hotel and spa, that is also conveniently located.
A sprawling structure in true Zakopane-style architecture, complete with a spa, indoor swimming pool and jacuzzis! Because we had a sudden bout of rainy weather, it was so lovely having a haven where we could do some relaxing indoor activities as well. I went for a Thai massage at the spa (highly recommended!) and we sat in the steaming outdoor jacuzzis watching the rain and discussing philosophical topics (probably induced by the chlorine in the steam, LOL).
On our way back from Zakopane, driving through the mountains of Poland and Slovakia, I couldn't help thinking how traveling changes one's perspective on life, on the concept of "home" and how amazing it is sharing adventures and experience with people we love.
Hope to bump into you someday on a boat, plane or train!
Lots of love,