The time has finally arrived where the restrictions are beginning to lift, and the possibilities of a semi-normal summer are upon us. Although travelling abroad may still be an unlikely scenario within the coming months, we will be able to travel within our borders, which will be incredible, as we live in a beautiful country. But, if you’re anything like me, you are most likely itching to step foot in a plane again!
There is something about queueing inside a bustling airport. Working your way through a generally chaotic security area, where you or your bag will most likely be the randomly chosen one to be searched. Once you have finally gotten past, you enter the long-anticipated ‘waiting period’. This can involve rambling the shops and searching for some food to snack on or a drink. Maybe looking for some little bits that you forgot to pack or water to replace the bottle from before you went through security. It sounds mundane enough, and arguably it can be. But honestly, that hustle and bustle of being in a pretty big building, surrounded by hundreds of different people, with diverse backgrounds and stories, all trying to make their way further on their journey, I think it’s a seriously magical experience.
The nostalgia to go back to that is intense. But we’ll get there someday. And with the vaccines now, we can hope that it really might be sooner rather than later. Until then, and while planning a trip to another charming corner of our island, I have been reminiscing on my foreign travels, pre-Covid.
In the months before the pandemic hit, I had been lucky enough to venture to a handful of different places, such as Poland, Spain, England and Scotland. My time in Edinburgh, Scotland, can be read about here. As for today, I want to talk about my time in Poland. Call it a homage to the time spent with my incredible friend that I haven’t seen in far too long, so Amelia is for us.❤️
Back in July 2019, Amelia and I were planning our first trip together. As she had to travel to Poland for work, we decided I would follow her over a few days later. I was pretty excited as I had visited Kraków only the summer prior and fell in love with it. I couldn’t wait to go back!
The plan was as follows. I would fly into Kraków, travel up to Warsaw and stay there for a couple of nights with her super accomodating cousin, then we would travel up to her hometown of Iława, and finally, I would fly home out of Gdańsk. It was going to be a pretty packed few days, but we were ready!
My flight ended up delayed for a few hours, which involved sitting on a packed plane for an extra couple of hours. Looking back, I probably should have embraced the added hours, as I think many of us would do anything for them nowadays. I was sitting beside a lovely couple, though, so we had the chats to pass the time. Another random aspect I love of airports is talking with strangers. There is a curious intimacy you can share amongst people when confined inside a narrow metal tube.
Upon arriving at Kraków airport, Amelia raced to find me; back then, a couple of weeks would have been too long between seeing each other. Now it’s been around 18 months, I think? Regardless, we began the long drive to Warsaw, only stopping around halfway for some Polish hotdogs. Which I didn’t realise would be such a popular food. For a garage at midnight, it was pretty tasty. We finally arrived in Warsaw in the early hours of the morning, and at least for me, I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Amelia put together an excellent breakfast for us the following day to get us ready for our busy day ahead! And as soon as we were ready, we headed out on our way. The weather was perfect. Barely a cloud in the sky, the sun was beating down on us, and not to mention the atmosphere in the city itself! It was infinitely energetic.
My favourite section, without a doubt, was the old town. The one part of the city that remained after World War II. It was beautifully sad. A portion of history that told a story of what could have been. The buildings here were brightly coloured and stood tall despite their past. Walking down some streets, we entered a secluded square with a couple of market stalls selling their goods. There was a strong sense of tranquillity in this part of the city, especially after leaving modern Warsaw to the older side. The move from contemporary chaos to the quaint original part of the city was honestly moving. Listening to Amelia tell me all about her country’s experience with war and destruction had me emotional.
To stick with the historical theme, we decided to check out Łazienki Park, which is both the largest park in Warsaw and summer residence for the last reigning monarch of Poland. Designed in the 18th Century, it is the perfect combination of nature and heritage; this place is a must-see. The architecture was simply stunning, and the park was spectacular – and the ideal spot for a picnic! We took a tour of the residence, both of us in awe of its beauty. I truly believe if you are in the area, this place is a must-visit. You could spend at least a half of a day just roaming the park alone and taking in its breathtaking views, lake and botanical gardens. If I ever go back, I’ll be sure to bring some food and drinks, and maybe a good book to fully relax and take in the park again in all its glory, with no added time pressure.
After this, we decided to head back into the central part of the city to get some food and visit the sizable shopping centre ‘Złote Tarasy’, of which there wouldn’t be enough time to explore fully! As shopping centres go, I found this to be a beautiful one. Entirely modernistic, its main feature was a meandering glass roof, which grabbed my attention from the get-go. Getting hungry from our busy day, we got some lunch and checked out the various shops, partaking in some much needed retail therapy! Although I was conscious of the size of my suitcase, I still managed to pick up a couple of things. There is something very appealing about shopping abroad.
We couldn’t leave without a visit to the Palace of Culture and Science (Pałac Kultury i Nauki), mainly so we could experience the mesmerising panoramic view from the 30th floor. There was quite the queue, but it moved quickly enough, and honestly, it was worth it. The view was every bit as captivating as I had hoped. Warsaw is such a big city, especially when you are from Ireland, where cities are almost a large town. So, to see this great city from that height was remarkable.
As the day was coming to an end and the entire day’s adventure was beginning to hit us, we headed back to prepare for the next day’s journey.
I was thoroughly looking forward to visiting Amelia’s hometown as I had heard so much about it over the years. I always thought it sounded lovely. It is a lakeside town, attracting tourism from other surrounding areas of Poland and Germany in the summer. As far as I’m concerned, it was even more charming than I had anticipated! I loved it. You could rent boats out onto the lake – which was much bigger than I imagined too. I learnt that it’s the longest lake in Poland, Jeziorak. There were camping areas for tourists in the summer, by the lake too, a forest that we got to explore on the last night and little sections of beach on the lakeshore. It was great to get some time to clear our heads from the city to this quiet and picturesque town.
Now, the days we spent here have melded into one giant one in my mind, as it’s just short of two years ago, but it was superb. Amelia’s family and friends were so warm and kind. I was cooked incredible meals, which allowed me to properly try Polish cuisine, though I was informed it wasn’t anything too crazy, what I did eat was so delicious! Everyone fully embraced me; it was thoroughly wonderful.
There was an amazing restaurant, U Czapy, that we visited a few times. They made the tastiest food, including a type of fish that is native to the local lake. I don’t think that I could pick a favourite meal that I ate in Iława. Everything was simply mouthwatering. And the cocktails were every bit as amazing too! A personal favourite aspect of my time here was that the restaurants supplied fresh blankets to keep us warm in the evening! Let’s not forget that Poland is warmer than Ireland, so this is a thing I would love to have brought back!
I enjoyed how we could take in every moment with no rush. We would eat, drink some fun flavoured cider, relax in the sun. It was such a shift from the fast pace of Warsaw. Both were equally as enjoyable, though.
I think my only complaint would be that we didn’t have enough time! A couple of us were planning our trip to visit Amelia (and Poland!) last summer, but for obvious reasons, that never worked out. As soon as this pandemic is long and gone, just try to stop me from returning!