Thursday, April 8, 2021

Covid-PCR Test

Last week on the phone, Dad recommended that Cameron and explore the Romanian Carpathian Mountains, or at least the Polish mountains. He suggested we just camp out in the wilderness or sleep in our car, to which I tried to explain through my frustration that we can't! Yes, I'm flying to Dubai tomorrow, but that took considerable coordination and new challenges keep coming up (to be discussed shortly). Non-necessary travel within Europe is virtually nonexistent right now, and all accommodations in Poland are closed. Poland does not have any wilderness camping, and I am not willing to bend the rules right now just to have an uncomfortable night of sleeping in my car.

Just about everyone I know in the US has gotten at least their first vaccine shot, and both of my parents have been fully vaccinated for a few weeks (months?) now. They visited my sister (also vaccinated) in Colorado last month, and have started regularly socializing with friends and eating out at restaurants. I'm sure it's easy for Dad to forget that, even though he has these newfound freedoms, Europe is currently smack-dab in the middle of its third wave. 

In Poland, we haven't been able to sit down at a restaurant since October, and shops, schools, hotels, and restaurants seem are constantly in flux on whether they are allowed to be open or not. There are quite a few people whom I see regularly but I don't know what the bottom half of their face looks like. I bought tickets to an (outdoor) chocolate festival and had mentally committed to making a hair appointment, only to be informed the next day that both of those things would not be permitted for the foreseeable future. 

It's fine. The peak so far this month was over 420,000 active cases in Poland, 35,000 of which were new that day. That seems like a lot, but it's pretty much par for the course these days. On the plus side,  I like my growing mask collection. I probably wouldn't have written on this particular topic (again), except that I had my first COVID-PCR test yesterday. 

It was an in-person test, but I had to order it online. I selected the place closest to my flat (rather than a drive up location) and paid nearly 400 PLN for a voucher, good for the next three months. I really hoped that I would be able to make an appointment for a specific time, but alas it was up to me to decide when I wanted to show up.

My flight to Dubai leaves at 12:35 tomorrow, and I needed to have by PCR test within 72 hours of the departure time. Since it takes 24-36 hours for the test results to come in, and since the testing spot was only open from 8:00-13:00, it only made sense to go on Wednesday morning. Even though I arrived at 7:35, the line was already 20-people deep. 

I expected this, and felt pretty confident that they would get through the line quickly enough that I would be back home before my 9:30 Polish class. It was a little cold, and periodically snowing, but people were (mostly) keeping a reasonable distance from each other, plus my friend was there, too. Right at 8:00, the line lurched forward as four people were let inside. Things seemed to be moving smoothly and rationally, until they weren't.

Rather than letting the next batch of four into the building based on who was first in line, the hazmat-suited medical worker came out onto the street and said asked if anyone was waiting for a particular type of appointment. A rush of people left their original spots in line to identify themselves as 'the special ones.' I didn't understand enough of what was said to know whether or not I was 'special,' but I didn't hear the letters "PCR" so I thought it was correct for my friend and I to stay put. 

That cycle of four people from the 'true' line and then four 'special' people continued the whole time we were waiting, but I didn't figure out the pattern until we were practically at the door. I wasn't the only one who wasn't getting it, and every time the employee came outside the line turned more and more into a blog, with people trying to finagle their way into entering the building sooner. My friend whispered to me, that it seemed like a bazar way of prioritizing the Polish speakers, since it was clear that the majority of people around us who were not volunteering themselves as 'special' patients were also foreigners. 

Finally, around 9:10, my friend and I rode the wave into the building. There were four seats in the lobby, which we sat down in after getting a pump of the door-side hand sanitizer. It was clear that there were multiple testing rooms, but only the one nearest the front door was being used.

They kept the door to the testing room open, so while waiting I could see another hazmatted medical worker disinfecting the patient seat and tinkering with vials, while the other woman (the one who regularly came outside seeking the 'specials') sat behind a computer screen and handled the paperwork. That door remained open, even after they called in the patients, so I got to watch the process of a young guy going in, handing over his ID, and then being directed to the patient chair.

I didn't see the test itself, since the doctor placed herself between the patient and my line of sight, but I got a gist of the protocol. Next, I was called in, and I handed over my voucher number, ID, and shared by address and phone number. While my information was jotted down, I could see that the room wasn't particularly interesting, but was filled with organized stacks of plastic tubes, boxes of gloves, small vials, and other medical gear. 

I sat in the chair, and the doctor stood in the same spot as she did with the last patient. She directed me to sit with my head fully tilted up, and then she pulled down my mast to just below my nostrils. As she stuck the test stick (I don't know the proper word for that) down my right nostril, I realized I had been breathing through my nose and now had to figure out if I should just hold my breath or attempt to breathe through my mouth. The swab was out before I could decide, and I'm not sure if it would have made a difference breathing through my mouth, since it felt like the stick went down into my throat. 

As anyone who has been tested before can probably attest to, it didn't hurt, but it was uncomfortable. The strange tickling sensation stayed with me for at least ten minutes, as did a slight watering in my eyes. Before walking out of the room, I was given a card with a website that I could log into 24 hours from then to find my results. Easy-peasy. 

I didn't quite make it to my Polish class on time, but I was only late by about five minutes. When I checked the next morning (today) my test results were there, and I enjoyed a minute of feeling like things were going smoothly. Then I realized, the signed results form was only in Polish, and only English results were valid for traveling to Dubai. 

Oh boy. I suppose I just assumed that we would get dual lingual forms, since neither my friend nor I had seen anything otherwise. Well, what to do? I spent the morning seeing if I could use Google Translate to create a passable-looking English document, but of course it turned out really whack. Even if I managed to make a reasonable looking 'forged' certificate, there's no way I would be darning enough to actually present it to an Emiratis customs officer. 

Luckily, I found a place that could do a same-day sworn translation for 180 PLN each (ugh, another $50 to this already expensive trip!) and there was a place that could print out copies of the Polish certificate (and my janky English translation ones...just in case) for a few złoty, so things seem to be back on track. In my superstition mind, this means one of two things: either our flight will be canceled last-minute, or we will have already gotten through all of the hiccups and will now have a stress-free trip from here on out. Fingers crossed for the latter! 

The slightly unnerving image you see when you (finally) are let into the building). 

You can see that everyone outside starts to disregard the social distancing rules once they get close to the door. 

And since I don't have any other interesting Covid-related photos, I figured I'd also share a few pictures from our Easter:

Cameron woke up, thinking it would be a normal low-key Sunday morning, until he saw a lady sticking out of the couch cushions. Yes, once again, I made him go hunting for Easter candy. 

I think Cameron is looking forward to me being gone for a week, so he doesn't have to put up with this sort of shenanigans. 

I also attempted to make treat-filled chocolate 'eggs.' I didn't quite temper the chocolate correctly, and they didn't turn out very egg-shaped, but they were fun!

Cheese fondue is starting to become our Easter dinner tradition. 

Easter Monday is a national holiday, so Cameron and I enjoyed his day off with a walk through the Wolski Forest. 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Legend of Lajkonik

Happy Easter!

Normally holidays make a good blog topic, but I re-read last year's Easter contribution (Easter in Poland) and I'm pretty pleased with it still. If you didn't get a chance before, I recommend giving it a read to learn about the Polish Easter traditions. 

This week, I want to introduce you to a Krakow-specific tradition–the legend of Lajkonik! 

When I first arrived in Krakow, I saw the symbol of Lajkonik (the silhouette of a bearded man in a pointy hat riding a horse) everywhere: the bus seat upholstery, bakery logos, and bike racks. I didn't know what it was, and in my mind just assumed it must be some historical king. Though he may be kingly, he's actually remembered as a valiant trickers. The pointed hat, paired with colorful oriental attire, is characteristic of Krakow's 13th century enemies, the Tartars. The horse, is a wooden hobby horse, a humorous fill-in for the real thing, which has become more iconic than the true story. 

Through the 13th century, there were multiple Mongol invasions of Krakow. The main one was in 1241, and led to a lot of destruction, but is said to have only lasted 10 days. Lajkonik's story comes later, in 1287, during the third Mongol invasion of Poland. The Mongol army joined forces with Turkic troops and the two planned a raid on Krakow, after having already looted and seized Sandomierz (approximately 160km north east of Krakow). 

Quick interjection–you'll notice that I'm using multiple names to refer to the invading army. Although I think the most historically accurate term is the combined Mongol/Turkic army, I will refer to them as the Tartars, as that is the term used in most of my references.  According to the lovely Encyclopedia Britannica, "Tartar" is the umbrella term applied to any Turkic-speaking group. Ok, now back to the good stuff!

Legend has it that the Tartar armies wanted to surprise the city, so they decided to hunker down in the village of Zwierzyniec (fun fact: the street I used to live on was Zwierzyniecka). A group of local raftsmen happened upon the group while they were doing their regular regular river-based wood transportation. These local heroes attacked the would-be raiders in their sleep, killing many of the Mongol generals. The Polish attackers wore the slain's outfits and rode into the city. 

The Krakowians feared the city gates were breached! It was a great relief that the city dwellers were simply on the butt end of a prank, and were in fact not being attacked. Once the story had been all cleared up, the Mayor of Krakow declared the raftsmen as local hears, to be commemorated every year with a return of Lajkonik, dressed as Tartar Kahn, parading through the city streets. 

Yes, I agree, the part about the Mayor declaring an annual celebration day-of seems a little far fetched (especially since other sources say that the annual tradition only goes back to the 17th or 18th century). Also, I can't find any documentation concerning the fact that the city nearly was breached and that there was still (presumably) some unhappy Tartars waiting outside of the city. Regardless of the actual historical facts, it is true that every year there is a Lajkonik festival. 

On the first Thursday after Corpus Christi (10 June, 2021), a procession follows the plucky Lajkonik from Kosciuszko Mound, through Zwierzyniec, up the Old Town market square. Along the way, he and his follower reenact the battle, do a dance with the city flag, collect ransoms from shopkeepers (money, food, booze), and strike onlookers with a golden mace (which is considered to bring good luck). As put by In Your Pocket, "Lajkonik is so beloved he basically has carte blanche to do whatever he wants along the procession route." It takes five hours to travel to the city center (and there is no expectation that he will arrive sober), but on the square "he collects a tribute from the Mayor of Krakow" and the city citizens join him in raising a toast (Karnet). The whole ordeal ends with a salute to the city. 

Now you think to yourself, "well that sounds fun, but why is Aisha writing about this now rather than in June when the Lajkonik parade actually happens?" Well, my friend, it's because I am pessimistic that there will actually be a parade this year, as there wasn't one last year due to Covid precautions. Also, author David Abulifia, wrote that the first Tartar/Mongol invasion happened on Ash Wednesday- 10 March, 1241, which is enough of an Eater connection for me! So enjoy the read, and Wesołych Swiąt!

There he is in all of his glory- Lajkonik in his pointed hat and ridding his hobby horse. 

And here he is again, memorialized especially during Christmas time. 
What's interesting to me is the name "Lajkonik." I haven't found the origin anywhere, but the word konik is very similar to kón, which means "horse." If I look up "laj konik" (two words) on Google Translate, I get "hit the horse."

More Christmas decorations! He really is a local hero, celebrated more regularly than just on his celebratory day. If you zoom in, you can see Lajkonik making an appearance in one of the traditional Krakowian nativity scenes.

He's a common character to find all around. Here's a different nativity scene where you can see his outline in the center vestibule. 

As I said, he even appears on the local transit seats. 

I think I shared this photo already during my Grocery Stores post, but to prove my point you can see that the pretzel sticks are branded "Lajkonik." 

And last but not least–this is the real reason I decided to write about Lajkonik today. I was on a walk yesterday and spotted the bike racks shaped like our like our rootin' tootin' hero and figured it was finally time for me to do some research on this guy. 


I read a lot of online articles and blog posts beyond just the ones that are linked to in the main body of my post. The other websites I consulted can be found here, and most have great photos of the annual Lajkonik procession:

https://krakow.wiki/lajkonik-procession/ 

http://krakow.travel/en/artykul/118/the-legend-of-the-lajkonik 

https://www.carnifest.com/the-lajkonik-festival-2021/

https://emilysguidetokrakow.com/2015/06/16/polish-traditions-the-legend-of-the-lajkonik/ 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Mongol_invasion_of_Poland 


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Where the Houses Bloom

Zalipie is a village of less than 1,000 people, approximately 1.5 hours drive east of Krakow. If you look online at what the median age is, it will say residents are mostly in their 30s, but based on driving around the town you would expect the median age to be closer to 60 or 70. It's a farming town, with most houses neighboring a large field or a fenced in pen full of ducks, geese, and turkeys accompanied by a guard dog. All-in-all, it's a pretty typical Polish village, yet it has been on my Polish to-do list for months.

Despite it operating as a small standard farming community, Zalipie is listed as one of the most beautiful places to visit in Poland. The town has a tradition of painting its houses, both inside and out, in intricate floral patterns. The more traditional walls are whitewashed first, but the flowers can be found on all shades of painted wood, stone, dog houses, wells, bee boxes, bicycles...just about anything.

That's not to say that every structure within Zalipie is smeared with paint, but an annual cottage painting competition generates enough interest that as you drive around the small town it seems like every third home has at least some painted surface. Those with the most elaborate homes are very proud of them, and will often welcome you into their yards to get a closer look. We definitely shared a few waves from our car window with a few locals, and I had a very rudimentary conversation about a turkey farmer's painted barn shed. In addition to being the cutest village we've encountered, I think it might also win #1 in the friendliest village award category.

Despite Zalipie showing up on just about every "top 10 things to see in Poland" list, there isn't a whole lot of fanfare around the village. There is a community center that, when open, gives out maps and tourism information, a museum, and a gift shop. Near this public-interest sites there is some signage, but the history of the blooms is fairly pedestrian, and isn't even that old of a tradition.

Within the last two centuries, housewives would paint the interior of their homes white to help brighten up the dark walls caused by the smokey stoves. Even after the walls were painted, dark soot spots would still be visible, so those were covered up further. The concept of covering the dark spots with bright colorful flowers spread across the town and from the inside to the outside of homes. Since then, the paint has changed (from a milk- and fat-based paints to our modern longer-lasting versions), the paintbrushes are no longer made of cow tail hairs, and the wood-burning stoves have been replaced. The annual cottage-painting competent was introduced after WWII as a means of cheering people up after the war. Despite the relatively new history, the town feels old and quaint. 

This is a little staged area near the "Dom Malarek" which translates to "the house of the painters." It was especially nice that they had this outside area because inside was closed (due to recently reinstated Covid restrictions). 

Even the trees were painted. 

Despite the paint used these days being longer-lasting, it is still a tradition to touch up the prior year's blooms. It seems this picnic bench hasn't had it's annual touch-up yet. 

A sundial, that was pretty close to right. We arrived in town at around 14:30. 

I'm sure if we had spent more time, we would have found even more secret paintings tucked away in less obvious places, like this bush-covered fence. 

Cute bee boxes. 

A lovely gazebo outside of Dom Malarek which would make a great lunch spot. 

My favorites were the paintings on dark wood rather than on whitewashed walls. 

A pretty common home exterior. I read that the paintings often don't mimic real flowers, but are just a bright collection of the artists' inventions. 

Although it was supposed to be closed, a man let us into the souvenir shop, which was staged like the inside of many of the homes around the village. 

Although there are only about 20 homes that are excessively decorated on the outside, over 50 houses open up their interiors to tourists during the annual cottage decorating competent. 

Visiting a few weeks before Easter seemed very fitting. 

In many yards we passed, the dog houses were often the most elaborately decorated features. 

This home is part of the museum. The main museum building is the former home of Felicja Curyłowa (1904-1974), who is thought to be the primary reason why the floral paintings became a town-wide tradition.

And because I'm conceited, I made Cameron take some photos of me. The village is just so picture-perfect that I couldn't help it!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Witch Hunt

Happy Spring! 

In Krakow, our first days of spring have included a surprise return visit from the snow clouds. It also was paired with some not-so-welcomed Covid restriction returns. I won't get into those in full, but suffice it to say that the hopes I had for doing a little weekend getaway are, at the very least, suspended. Regardless, I will always welcome a snowy walk. Especially, if that walk turns into a scavenger hunt, or even better, a witch hunt! 

I recently learned that March 21st is the day to welcome Polish spring by burning, and then drowning Marzanna, the witch of winter. School children will build dolls out of straw and cloth, decorated with twine and accessories to parade around. Then, all of the Marzannas (and male counterparts Marzonioks) are burned at the stake. The witches are then dunked into water, all while children sing ominously gleeful songs about the process. 

It's an old pagan Slavic ritual, as a way to turn away from winter, plague, and death, and to welcome the spring. In Germany, there was a similar tradition of burning a snowman in the town square as everyone jumped abroad the "summertime train." These equinox rituals are so much fun for me, but maybe that's because we don't have a similar counterpart (that I know of) in America. 

Sadly, my witch hunt was not a success. Nowhere along the river did I find any charred carcasses or trails of sopping rags. Some villages have a town-sponsored celebration, but I don't know of one in Krakow. Even if there typically is something, nothing would be going on this year (nor last year). Also, I get the impression that the celebration is mostly carried on by children, so maybe because today isn't a school day there weren't any school-sponsored massacres. Lastly, it's really cold today, so I'm sure only the most dedicated made their way out to the water today. 

Alas, it's just another small loss thanks to the year+ pandemic, and in the process of researching this, I caught wind of another springtime activity, which I think is unlikely to happen this year– a city-wide pillow fight. Even though I don't expect anything like this, I'll be taking a stroll through Rynek on April 4th!

A beautiful sunny, snowy, spring morning along the Vistula River. 

The park behind St. Joseph's church. 

Even with some snow on the ground, the local Saturday market was in full swing, and with some new variety thanks to the warming weather. In the bag on the left are honey mushrooms- a delicacy that I am very excited to try!

Cheesecake and berry pastry- two Polish specialties, courtesy of our local farmers market. 

Like I said, I didn't find any witches in the wild today, but you can find plenty of photos by searching on Google

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Grocery Stores

I love going grocery shopping—it is my favorite weekly chore! But that's only now that I am familiar with my local stores and know where to find some "speciality" items like popcorn kernels and chocolate chips, even if it means shopping online or going to a specialty store. When we first moved, it was a little overwhelming and anxiety-inducing to make a trip to the grocery store. I even wrote my first Toastmasters speech about it. 

Once I learned the pattern of the grocery store, it became fun. I love meandering the aisles and seeing what still sticks out as unusual. Most things I've stopped noticing–eggs in the regular shelving, foil-topped yogurt containers, and unrefrigerated produce–but every so often something still sticks me as either clever or confusing. Rather than my regular format, I think I need to narrate through photos:

Practicalities:

These are the standard carts that are available in most mid-sized grocery stores. In the mega grocery stores (only found inside shopping malls) will you find the full sized carts. Outside of those mega stores, though, aisles are really tiny, and even these two photographed options feel cumbersome in the cramped spaces. Also, I still struggle to smoothly unpack these types of carts at checkout. 

Speaking of checkout, this is what it looks like- typically pretty tight with not a whole lot of space to set your stuff down (especially in photo #2). Baggers are not a thing, and it feels like a race trying to bag up your own goods without impeding on the flow of traffic behind you. 

A lot of shopping happens in these convenient store-esque shops. I've adapted to going to multiple stores in order to maximize my needs. The small shop like this is my go-to for heavy staples (potatoes, flour, milk) but I got to bigger shops and speciality shops if I want anything semi-interesting. 

That's not to say that all stores are teeny-tiny. This is one of the mega mall stores. You can see that there is a lot more space, which also means a lot more variety. Unfortunately going to this store is a 25 minute walk home, so I try to limit my purchase of heavy items. 

Produce:

You've probably already seen in some other photographs that produce often is stored in crates or buckets and is often not refrigerated, especially not root vegetables. 

This is my favorite mid-sized grocery store, although now I rarely go there since it's also about 25 minutes away from my house. The back wall is the refrigerator produce and the center island is the unrefrigerated produce: fruit, tomatoes, squash. What is funny to me is that lemons will sometimes be chilled and sometimes not and avocados are always refrigerated. 

This is my other common store (only about 15 minute walk) but it is a bit chaotic. If feels like boxes are just piled on top of one another and you have to do some digging to find what you want at times. 

This is an odd thing to me–some produce is wrapped up in plastic wrap. Broccoli is almost always mummy-wrapped, and you can kind of see that the zucchini is vacuum sealed but the cucumbers are not. 

I would consider this as a MASSIVE variety compared to normal. One thing I read was that most produce you find in grocery stores are semi-local, but that also means that the variety significantly decreases during certain times of year. Some things you can always find, though, are carrots, beets, cabbage, and apples. 

If you want fresh herbs, you can typically find a small package of dill and parsley, but if you want basil or cilantro you need to buy a living plant. 

One of my FAVORITE things is the variety of onion sizes. Most onions are pretty small (about the size of an egg). The thing that I still notice sometimes, though, is that the onion and garlic skins often look spotted with dried dark mold spots. 

Dairy & Protein:

Like I said, eggs are never refrigerated, but what is even more peculiar to me is...

...10 eggs per carton. I hate to admit that it was almost a year of living here before I realized that a carton wasn't a dozen eggs.

I'm pretty sure I shared this photo around Christmas, but it is wild to me that they will set up a swimming pool in the grocery store to sell live Christmas carp. 

Dairy also surprised me at first. Virtually all dairy comes in plastic cups with foil lids, which makes it hard to re-seal afterwords. I have never seen a container of yogurt larger than the one pictured here (about 500 ml). There is refrigerated milk, but there is more variety in the non-refrigerated UHT (ultra pasteurized) cartons. 

I'm not regularly in the meat aisle, but this is a pretty standard set in about half of the stores. However, the other half only have fresh raw meat behind a manned meat counter similar to...

...this one. Clearly this is cheese, but if there is a cheese counter there is a meat counter. 

I don't know how interesting this is, but tofu always comes in these vacuum packed squares, and when Cameron gets a meat treat it is often some sort of salami is a pretty loosely-packed plastic or paper sleeve. 

Down the Aisle:

Jarred goods are often grouped together, regardless of their contents. Here are pickles, sauces, jams, and other preserved slawed vegetables.

"Bio" is the word for organic. Other than the mega mall stores you often don't see too many bio options. 

Even the smallest convenience store type shops will have a bakery section. The bakery goods are delivered, not baked in-store. 

My new local grocery store always feels like a bit of a mess. There are multiple walls that seem to be be the excess space for anything that doesn't really fit anywhere else, but you'll never find the same thing there two weeks in a row. 

My favorite grocery store does not have a whole lot of variety on much, except for pasta. There is a HUGE aisle that is purely pasta. 

Specialty Stores:

If it can't be found in the mega store, it probably can be found in a speciality store. I don't frequent them often, but I have found Indian and Hispanic food shops. 

One of my favorite places is an underground high-end goods store. I can't afford most of it, but I often buy specialty sodas for Cameron here when I want to get him a treat. 

The underground shop is the only place I know of that sells you live lobster, not that I would ever dare to buy one. 

While you can buy alcohol at a standard grocery store, I prefer to buy my beer at a beer-only shop. There are two that I frequent if I want a variety of craft beers. 

Of course the best "specialty" shops are markets. There are three that I know of that have outdoor vendors every day, but this one, which is closest to my house, is Saturdays-only (rain or snow or shine). 

Other Oddities:

Ice cups. I think this is the only way to buy ice. Take note that on that same shelf there is also frozen raspberries and pierogi. Unlike the US, where frozen food is half of the store, pierogi are often the only frozen pre-made meal you can buy. 

Everything comes in bags: pasta, flours, sugar, starch, rice, and salt. I'm sure I've noted this before, but potato starch is your only option here. Another interesting thing is that flour is almost always named after the city it was milled in, and I think the only salt available (unless you are buying pink Himalayan salt) is mined in Poland. 

More bags: for a while I could not find cocoa powder and Karob was the closest I could find. Chips and crackers are Cameron's snack of choice, but there aren't a lot of options. A few of the more interesting one's I've found are paprika (which is quite common), ketchups and these ones: mushroom tart. 

Ane even more bags: pretzel sticks (I haven't found traditional pretzel shapes), cereal, crackers, and chocolate chips. Chocolate chips are the one thing that we use semi-regularly that I haven't found in a grocery store. Occasionally I'll buy a bag online, but more often I'll just buy a chocolate bar and break it up. 

 Now for our vices. You can buy M&Ms but I've only found them in the mega stores and they are SUPER expensive (this bag costs the equivalent of ~$10). As far as alcohol, it is pretty cheap. The Soplica brand is very common for flavored liquors, vodka is the standard here, and I love this brand of Georgian wine. One thing I find interesting is that all alcohol has the paper seal over top that you can see on the wine bottle. 

Tomato sauce only comes in boxes, and most cans are peel tops. On the rare occasion where I have bought a can that requires a can opener, we've had to stab at it with a knife since our apartment didn't come with that particular appliance. 

And lastly spices and baking. Spices come in these little packets, which is kind of nice since we are able to use their contents before they go stale. You can't find liquid broth, so we always keep some mushroom or vegetable bullion cubes for the times we don't have homemade broth available. Pure vanilla extract is the other thing we haven't found, so we end up with these tiny bottles of vanilla syrup. Lastly, baking solids (soda, powder, and gelatin) are also in little envelopes. 

Well, I hope this was a little fun to see. As one of my friends says, grocery stores are the best way to see that you are in a different country. The same friend also has been shocked by the things we lack. I was on the phone with here one morning (our common call time is 7am my time, 11pm her time) and contemplating what I should have for breakfast. She suggested picking up a canister of Pillsbury cinnamon roles, and I laughed because that is definitely not something you would ever find in a Polish grocery store.