A Virtual Holiday in Poland
During these times of COVID-19, travel is not even a consideration for me. As someone with asthma, an auto-immune disorder, and enough health problems, I’ve become quite OK with being a hermit until the pandemic is over. But that doesn’t mean I can’t dream about travel, right? Now’s the time to dream about all the places I’d like to visit some day, and make a plan of how I’ll get there when it’s safe to travel again. One of the many countries I’d like to see before I die is Poland.
I recently wrote a post about Habitica and how this app has some fun challenges you can join. One of the challenges I joined for June was “Take a Virtual Holiday,” which had me researching a country I’ve always been curious about: Poland. In high school, I had a few friends from Poland who were a part of my regular circle. They taught me some Polish and I’ve always been fascinated with the language. While many people find it hard to pronounce, I find it very easy: we have many of the same sounds in Portuguese. For example, cz = ch; sz = j, ł = lh, etc. I would love to become fluent in Polish and travel to the country some day to put my skills into practice, and also to learn more about this country that most people take for granted, but that is quite beautiful from what I can see online.
Anyway, I figured I’d share some of the things I’ve learned about Poland during my armchair travels. I may do more of this eventually, for other destinations also.
Firstly, did you know that Poland has some gorgeous beaches, beautiful national parks, and is even the site for the Capital of European Cartoons? You can also canoe through a route that will take you to many of Poland’s Gothic Castles, including the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, a medieval castle where “many of the conservation techniques now accepted as standard were evolved.” These are just some of the wonderful things you can do in Poland. I would definitely like to visit for real some day, but for now I content myself with completing the virtual holiday activities.
The challenge I joined on Habitica invited us to do the following:
Read a book or watch a film set in your destination (Poland)
I won’t finish the book before the challenge is over at the end of June, but I borrowed Poland: A History from our library. It’s quite a long book so I’ll be taking my time with it. But I also watched “Ida,” a Polish film set in Poland. It was… interesting. The ending left me somewhat baffled. But I liked that it was shot in black and white, and I liked that the silent moments in the film really bring you closer to the characters.
Visit a virtual museum or tourist website from your destination (Poland)
I visited the Polish Tourism website to check out some of the places worth visiting in the country, and I visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum’s website as well. Even going through the information and photos on the museum’s website is already a very sombre and heart-heavy activity. I can imagine what it would be like in person. I would one day like to visit Auschwitz. I think that this is an important thing to do for anyone who wants to be reminded of what can happen when we treat others as less than human. For anyone who truly wishes to embrace diversity and be at one with “the other,” this is a place that needs to be visited.
Cook a dish typical of that destination (Poland)
I haven’t done it yet, but sometime this week I want to make pieorogies. I love pierogies soooo much; they are delicious. However, I’m also participating in a “try vegan” challenge, so we’ll have to adapt the dish a little bit. Here’s a recipe I found for a vegan version.
Other Challenge Tasks
One of the tasks was to make a list of things that you’d do on a real holiday to your destination, ad then find virtual alternatives. So I started looking for things I like to do: got to the beach and hike. Poland has some gorgeous beaches. If I ever did go to Poland, I’d want to spend enough time to really explore the country. I’d want to go to several different places. Here are just some of the places I’ve been dreaming about.
Sopot has a beach that features the longest wooden pier in Europe. It’s also a fun place to visit, with places like the “crooked house” and what looks like a really fun Aquapark.
I would definitely want to visit Warsaw. Some of the places I would want to see is Old Town and its market place, The Royal Castle, The Warsaw Uprising Museum (I also want to read a book about this soon), Corpenicus Science Centre, and more. You can read about each of these in detail in this excellent post by The Crazy Tourist.
I would be tempted to visit all the National Forests, too. Really, I just want to travel to Poland and spend a good few months there, getting to know the country. I do think this is a trip I’ll do solo (or with just Dan or adult children) one day, because many of the things I’d like to see relate to some very dark periods in history, that I don’t really want to share with my very young children just yet. They do already know about the holocaust, but I think facing its details is meant for an older audience—the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum even states that visiting the museum is not ideal for those under the age of 14. So I’ll keep dreaming, and maybe even planning a visit that will happen eventually.
Have you ever been to Poland? Which spots would you recommend visiting?