I feel very fortunate to be in Poland right now. Everything has been going great. I have good students and am continuing to enjoy Lebork. I believe that I have been enjoying myself so much because of the great weather that we have been having. In English, we don't have a specific word or phrase for when Autumn or Fall is so nice but the Polish term 'Golden Fall' perfectly describes the current weather. The trees are just starting to turn color and the weather has been amazing. No rain, No clouds, nothing but sunshine and warm temperatures. I was worried that it would already be cold and snowy here, but this has not been the case at all.
I have been bragging to my family about the weather here because where I am from in America they have already had snow three times. My cousin has been very upset because he has to get up early and drive to work and when it snows he has to spend time cleaning it off of his car. He has sent me a few photos of him doing this and I have sent a few of me sitting on a park enjoying the sun in return, just to rub it in. I hope the weather continues, but I know it has to get cold sometime.
Besides enjoying the weather I have also been seeing the many billboards, banners, and advertisements that have been hung up throughout the city for the upcoming elections. This has been quite the phenomenon to witness. I like the banners for many reasons. Firstly, it is a good exposure for seeing many different Polish names other than Jan Kowalski, and I have enjoyed practicing the pronunciation of the more interesting ones. Secondly, it has been good to see the different political parties that are being represented in the elections. I know of some of the parties from following Polish news but there are some that I had not heard of before. Lastly, I have been getting a kick out of some of the photos that have been used for the billboards. Most of the photos are very nice and the candidates look very professional in them. However, there are a few that I can't help but laugh at because the photos just aren't that good. On some of the billboards, the photos look rather funny. Whether it be the candidates' facial expression or the general theme of the advertisement. Either way, I know it is not nice to poke fun at the hard-working local candidates, but I can't help but see some humor in the billboards. I have also been impressed by the lack of vandalism and defacing of the billboards. I know that in America if there were as many billboards and advertisements for elections that most would have fake mustaches, colored-in teeth, or some sort of other abuse put on them. Here in Lebork, it seems that the general population seems to be more refined or else the young people are more mature, I am not sure on either account, but either way the general respect given to the political advertisements is impressive. Best of luck to all the candidates running and may the billboards and advertisements stay up as long as they need be.
For my first weekend get away from Lebork I decided to explore a strange peninsula that I always found interesting on maps of Poland. This peninsula is the Hel peninsula and on maps of Poland it looks very skinny, almost to the point where if the Baltic sea level rose just slightly then the peninsula would turn into an island. The train ride looked like it was only going to take 2 or so hours to get there with one transfer, so I figured: 'why not?'
I booked my train tickets to get to Hel and back. I left Saturday morning very early and got to Hel at about 9 a.m. I checked-in to my small guest room, got a map of the town, and began exploring. Hel was a very nice town and reminded me of some seaside resorts that exist in America. At first I did not want to seeme like a 'stuipd tourist', but then I realized that just about everyone in the town was a stupid tourist so I might as well embrace it. I started with a walk around town and the pier. Then I went to the fokarium and watched the seals there as they performed tricks and received fish for when they performed well. After the fokarium it was straight to the Fisherman's museum for me. The museum exhibits were well made and I learned a lot about the fishing history of Hel and the surrounding region. After this I stopped for a coffee and Gofr.
Feeling refreshed from my snack and coffee I walked the 1 km out of town to see the museums about the defense of Hel and the peninsula during WWII. The museums were well made and I again learned a lot. There are many old battlements and artillery batteries in and around Hel and I saw a few of these throughout the day. It was about dinner time and since I was in Hel and near the sea I figured that fish was the obvious choice. I tried a very tasty fish soup and ate herring in the Kashubian style. After dinner I went to the very tip of the peninsula and watched the sunset there. Since, I was on vacation I thought a beer would be good. I went to a local restaurant and saw on the menu that they had a beer with cherries. This sounded good to me and I did not think much about it when I ordered it. However, the beer came out with a straw actualy cherries in the bottom of it. This was very different from what I thought it would be. You see, I had translated poorly from Polish to English because in English when we say a beer is 'with' something it usually means that the beer is brewed or made with that ingredient. So, I thought I was ordering a beer that would have cherry flavor, not actual cherries in it. However, I had already bought the beer so there was nothing left to do but drink it. Although I would not order it again, I must admit that the beer with cherries was not that bad.
Sunday morning came and I was anxious to get my day started. I saw the lighthouse in Hel, got a coffee, picked up some food for the day, and began my journey of walking along the peninsula. I planned to walk from Hel to Chalupy. I looked at this on the map and the distance said only 25 km. Now, I knew that 1 Km was less than one mile. So, I figured that it would be a nice walk and would not take me that long. I was wrong. The walk took all day, and although the scenery was nice I was very very happy when I finally reached Chalupy. Once there I only had about an hour before I had to catch my train. So I sat on the beach and looked out at the vast expanse of the Baltic Sea. I caught my train and was happy that I did not walk anymore during the day. After an uneventful train ride I was back in Lebork and happy that my exciting weekend was over. Hel was a great time and it certainly was no Hell, but walking 25 Km in one day was more of an undertaking than I thought it would be.
Lębork has proven to be quite an amazing town. Everyone who lives here says it is small and that there is not much to do, but I couldn't disagree more. Although, if I was asked about my small town I might say the same thing. (I am originally from a very small town that numbers about 1,500, so Lębork is not small to me at all!)
A few weeks into my stay here and I have already done so much in the town! The museum helped me to learn about Lębork through the ages and they even had a visiting exhibition from the National Museum about the movements of peoples across Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. As a lover of History, I was very happy to see this. The Museum also provided me with an audio tour as I walked around town. Through this, I had the opportunity to learn about the original Medieval walls and towers of the city, the Town Hall, The Gothic style Post Office, the Old Brewery founded by a rich 18th Century merchant, and the Castle that was originally built by the Tuetonic Knights!
The Old Town and Town Square are also a spot I am coming to enjoy and there is something new that I had not noticed before at every turn. Other than the rich history I have been enjoying the food as well. The many bakeries and shops offer a wide variety of sweets and tasty breads. I treated myself to pizza for lunch one day, and of course I had it with ketchup as this seems to be popular in Poland.
I have also had an opportunity to explore the many markets of Lębork. There are many options for supermarkets, whether it be Biedronka, Tesco, Lidl, Kaufland, or some other small shops as well. I have concluded that Biedronka is a store that I will try and avoid. It is always so busy! I have also had the pleasure of meeting with many Polish Grandmothers while I have been testing the new stores. I am a fairly formidable opponent as I am tall and fairly fit, but I would not want to mess with any of the Older Women that I have seen. They have a certain attitude about them and they know their business, especially while they are shopping. They go into the store, do what they need to do, and don't care if anyone gets in their way. There have been a few times where I have been cut in line, or cut in front of while I was trying to see what I wanted from a shelf. The Older Women here wait for no man!, myself included. It has been fun to see how they carry themselves and I must doff my cap in respect as they have a feirce attitude that demands respect. I look forward to more adventures in Lębork and across Poland as I keep exploring more and more.
Born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan David was raised by his parents with his two sisters and brother.