Life is a story that is constantly being written and modelled by our individual experiences. In this - and also a more personal sense - change is a magic word that has sculpted my perception of life in many different and inconceivable ways. It has meant that every change during my lifespan has been an opportunity for development and evolution, or, to quote Lavoisier Law, ‘Energy is neither created nor destroyed, it only transforms’.
The idea of living abroad has been in my mind since I turned 15. At that age, I had my first experience of going to a foreign country - a study abroad in the United States. In general, the goal was to learn English but getting a sense of what the world and the different cultures around the globe have to offer at the same time was obvious. After that trip, I would hit the road every summer, exploring more of my continent, South America. To be completely honest - when receiving insights into cultures and meeting new exciting people, I was finding the savvy that many Ecuadorians my age were somehow lacking. The change of and experience of other environments than just the one I grew up in was definitely much needed for me.
After traversing South America, I decided it was time to go beyond the continent and explore Europe. I must say that Poland never came to my mind. And as I had not been to this country before, my idea of it was rather stereotypical and limited to communism, cold weather, vodka, and a difficult language. Certainly, the winter is much more severe here than back home. And vodka is available in every store, although not essentially being Poland´s first drink, as I got to know later on. And of course, for a person such as myself, who’s only been in contact with Anglo and Latin languages, a language like Polish is going to be nothing less but difficult.
Still, after being in Poland for almost five months, my preliminary conception of Poland has changed dramatically and definitely exceeded oversimplified stereotypes. On that note, I would love to share some of the things that have captivated me about this beautiful country.
1. Baltic Sea sunsets
As you know, the Polish Northern boundary is marked by the Baltic Sea. Being at the Polish seaside is wonderful in every sense of the word, where being in contact with the sea offers a sensory refreshment to the body and the mind. Visiting a place where white sand, blue coldish water, and the sunsets full of red and yellow explosions create a symphony of colours and feast for the senses was previously unimaginable for me. Yet here I am. Moreover, I had the opportunity to beat the beach during the summer solstice with its late-night sunset, which just enriched me with an undoubtedly unique experience.
2. Biking around cities
As many cities grow, transportation becomes key. Believe it or not, but Poland has one of the best infrastructures of bike lanes and pedestrian routes I have seen so far. Well developed and organised, an eco-friendly alternative to moving around in the cities in less time and at a lower cost than public transport. Not to mention that it is a great way of exercise while enjoying the views. However, what can be a bit arguable for cycling Poles, in my experience, the respect the drivers have towards the bike riders is something I highly value on my rides around Warsaw and against my overall experience from other countries.
3. Preserving food by fermenting
Since Ecuador has only two seasons due to its geographical location, there is no need to preserve food as there is a supply of fresh food all year long. Hence I had to come to Poland to taste the real preserved food. And dear Lord, what a feast! All the fermented food in Poland taste simply splendid. One aspect that makes this process an even better authentic tradition is the fact that it is often prepared by Polish grandparents and tastes like childhood and love. Don’t let that tradition be lost!
4. Preservation of fruits in compotes
I just cannot stop talking about the food and the million ways of its preservation! As usual, warm weather comes along with the blooming of beautiful trees but also with tasty fruits of all kinds that are also exceptional in Poland. Berries, apples, pears, cherries, and do not forget about porzeczka - white, black, and red. And what’s better than preparing a delightful kompot (compote) and jams? Poles have mastered the art of fruit preservation as well, which, let’s be honest, is especially appreciated when enjoyed during cold winter days when all you need to have the taste of summer is to open a jar.
5. Nature in the cities
Polish cities follow the path of other global cities that are sprawling at a fast pace, with the rural spaces getting smaller. However, there are still natural wild places to be found in Polish cities. And do not forget about the national parks around the country! Poland’s geographical location allows it to have full four seasons enabling people to enjoy a wide variety of flora and fauna all year rounds. But! It is also crucial to mention with some degree of grief that cities are slowly turning into concrete jungles. I see it especially in Warsaw, where many of those beautiful landscapes are being destroyed, and it just breaks my heart.
6. Cities that are living museums
All the Polish history makes the country one of the biggest living museums, with each city having a different yet equally rich story to tell. Although many of those stories could be gloomy, all the walls, trees, streets have witnessed more than you can imagine. Literally - if these walls could talk. And as such, for the exact reasons, if you ask me about my favourite neighbourhood in Warsaw, I would say Praga with its old buildings, diverse ancient architecture (although most of it was rebuilt), and bullet holes in the walls, reminding of the tragic history.
And there is way more that I could mention! Once again, for me, a great change has been the act of travelling, a kind of change that does not necessarily alter but rather reinvent us. Life is too short to not be open to changes, and, in my case, I have embraced Poland. The country that not only has amazed me with its beauty but in turn has embraced me and allowed me to take my life in a virtuous direction with hopefully many new adventures, places and people yet to meet.
A passionate writer and social entrepreneur. Graduated with a degree in Agribusiness Engineering in Ecuador and spent two years in Barcelona getting his Postgrad diploma. Currently based in Warsaw, faithful to his philosophy, he remains a small entrepreneur exporting products and promoting the social development of small indigenous producers from different regions of Ecuador.