Szczecin, Polska [Visiting Poland]

by Heidi Obermeyer

poland4poland33poland3poland10poland66poland8poland9poland6poland1poland7poland22poland2poland44poland5poland88poland11poland55poland15poland13poland14My desk is so covered in stuff. When I have a real apartment, will that change? Is there some way to set this up so that when I get up in the morning I magically have a completely clear workspace? Things sitting in my vicinity right now: Candles, mineral water, crackers that I should probably throw out, envelopes for letter writing, my jewelry holder (aka the plate I got at the Flohmarkt), my empty mug from breakfast, receipts everywhere, an uncapped pen that is dangerously close to hitting my arm while I’m typing.

I went to Poland yesterday! First thought on that: Damn, that was a cheap trip! Brandburg-Berlin ticket split between 9 people: 6.50 euro. Lunch, including dessert and a beer: 10 euro. Snacks and a Polish beer to take home: 3 euro. That’s less than I probably would have spent messing around in Berlin!

Second thought: Poland is actually pretty nice! There’s only so much cultural difference you can find in 2 hours worth of distance from Berlin, and Szczecin (Stettin in German) was actually a German city until the end of World War II, so it’s kind of a cheater’s trip to Poland. It felt fairly German and the brochures we got were in Polish, German, and sometimes English. I’ve always liked the Poles that I’ve met in Germany and judging from the few people we interacted with yesterday, they seem to be quite a nice bunch of people. Good job Poland- you give off a friendlier impression than your rich and closed-off German neighbors!

Szczecin is easily reached from Berlin with the Brandenburg-Berlin Ticket (similar to the Bayern ticket, which I have raved about before) in about 2 hours. It’s a port city (connected to the Baltic Sea) so there’s lots of water-related offerings if you come in the summer. We were just grateful to get some sunshine in- it felt so good to be outside for a few hours walking around and soaking up a little vitamin D. It was a low-key day- the only plans we made were to get lunch at a restaurant that I found on TripAdvisor (when in a country where you can’t read the language, better safe than sorry!) and check out a palace that seemed to be one of the main attractions in town. Both were pleasant (I love the city mural above that was around a door on one of the walls in the palace’s museum) and the town was much better equipped to handle tourists (new street signs were everywhere, for example) than other Eastern European cities I’ve been to (I’m looking at you, Budapest). But that brings up my question- is Poland in Eastern Europe? I don’t think so anymore. Let’s start using that “Central Europe” term more often- the Czech and Poland deserve some recognition.

World War II did a number on the city- almost all the big old buildings were bombed to bits during the war, and the city has rebuilt most of the important historical stuff. On both the big church we went up into and the Palace of the Duke of Pomerania were plaques attributing the new versions to EU funding. Cool! It’s interesting for me to see EU funds at work in a country that gets a lot of funding from Brussels, versus Germany who tends to hand out the dough. The Palace had been turned into a museum, and under many of the (sometimes poorly repainted) portraits were plaques stating that the originals had been lost in WWII. The sheer amount of loss (in many different ways) during that time period is astounding- it’s so tragic. The church we went up into was also new(ish)- there were elevators to the top of the spire! I had never been in a church spire that felt like the observation deck of a skyscraper- that was strange.

Whenever I do these day trips, the train ride is always a big part of the fun. It’s such a nice way to travel- no one has to drive so nobody is grumpy, you can sit facing each other, you can get up and move around- it provides a good environment for conversation without the distraction of a laptop or having to navigate. This trip was with some of the other interns, and we went through all kinds of cool topics on the way, from wizarding graduate school (does the magical world in Harry Potter focus too much on vocational training?) to deforestation’s affect on societies (for which Anne even drew us an algorithm,  pictured above). It was fantastic.

Today I’m going to be baking a flourless chocolate cake to bring to work tomorrow. Maybe I’ll make two- I know I’m going to want some of those leftovers later this week, and I don’t think it’s too likely that one will survive a day at the office 😛