Here is a list of things I have noticed thus far:
- Walking, biking, and electric scooters are all appropriate modes of transportation around the city. However, if you choose either of the wheeled vehicles mentioned, do not wear a helmet.
- If you insist upon driving, you will have trouble finding parking, but you are welcome to park your car in any sliver of space that it might fit. If necessary, any number of wheels may rest on the sidewalk, and sometimes sidewalk parking is preferred over on-road parking.
- Eat ice cream, regardless to the weather, time, or number of people in your group. Well, maybe time of day does matter–I don't think I've seen anyone with a breakfast ice cream, but plenty of people agree that it makes a good snack on your (walking) commute home.
- Also eat obwarzaneks. These truly can be eaten any time of day, and seemingly anywhere. I've seen them being consumed in the mall, on a bus, and in the office.
- Always carry a reusable shopping bag with you. It seems most people go grocery shopping every day or two (probably because the grocery stores are small and most people are walking or biking their purchases home so they don't want to carry too much) so you should always be prepared if something at the vegetable stand catches your eye on your way home. Also, you are less likely to be badgered by one of the city tour salesmen if you are carrying a bag of groceries.
- Wear scarves.
- If you are going to wear a dress, wear pantyhose or stockings.
- Wear impractical pants. Faux leather seem to be in fashion for women, and I've also seen multiple young men in capri-length tweed trousers. Another favorite was a very petit woman wearing jeans that were far too big on her so she hiked them up and essentially plaited them with a belt.
- Honestly, wear whatever you want, so long as it looks somewhat ridiculous (and therefore fashionable). A few pieces that have caught my eye include: Pomeranian-level fluffed-up fur coats, calf-length tweed jackets, all denim, fur sandals, tutus, a bike-chain style lock and key as a choker necklace, hexagonal shaped glasses, see-through shirts, and gray baggy sweatpants paired with a black blazer.
- If it seems like everything is too flashy, then you can always be a nun.
I've also learned I am a terrible housewife, and I hate sitting at home trying to busy myself with chores. I was very productive and motivated on day one stay-at-home life, and every day since I've become more and more lackluster. One day I even left a stack of dirty dishes on the counter for Cameron to deal with when he got home from work (I know, I'm terrible and Cameron is wonderful!) In one of the girl-positive historical fiction stories I read as a kid (thanks Mom!) I remember the protagonist complaining that women's work is only every noticed if it is done poorly. Every time I vacuum, or iron, or wipe down a counter I think about that, so I've started to move towards a "don't clean until it's messy enough that the difference will be noticed" approach.
As mentioned, I'm only working (read: volunteering) for a few hours each day, but it's been enough to introduce me to a small group of really nice, young, English-speaking people. I'm currently trying to convince Cameron to let us have a housewarming party (mostly because I love the Polish term "parapetówka impreza" which literally translates to "windowsill party.") The remaining in-between times I fill with reading romance novels, applying for jobs, taking free walking tours of the city, watching Polish television, and trying to get comfortable spending Cameron's money.
Here are a few additional tid-bits I've picked up from those activities:
- My natural sleeping schedule seems to veer closer to ten hours of sleep a night (rather than the nine I used to shoot for before).
- Romance novels are great. I even took a college course that focused heavily on romance novels, so I don't know why I didn't develop this appreciation years ago!
- Applying for Polish jobs is much more involved than for American jobs. There is a good chance I will have to take a written math test and a language proficiency test as part of the hiring process.
- Every hour on the hour there is a trumpeter that plays from the highest window of Saint Mary's church in the main square. The trumpeters are local firemen that rotate off after they complete a 24 hour shift. There is a prevailing factoid that the reason the tune is incomplete is in honor of a 13th century trumpeter who lost his life mid-toot when a Mongol arrow shot him in the throat, but in truth that was a lie made up by a 20th century tour guide and popularized by American journalist, Eric P. Kelly.
- "Peppa Pig" is a terrible show. Peppa is a very spoiled little girl yet her family continues to indulge her. Any merits of learning Polish through this show are significantly undermined by the terrible snorting all of the pigs do.
- Eggs are not refrigerated in the grocery store, and there is a rating system printed on each egg which indicates if it is organic, free range, indoor, or caged (0 is best, 3 is worst).
- Polish people are very dismissive of themselves. I've heard many people comment about less-than-perfect processes by saying "Welcome to Poland, that's how it's done around here." However, I think maybe everyone likes to talk that way about their government, regardless of country.
- The city is very clean, especially for a city! There are horse-drawn carriage rides that shuttle tourists through town yet I haven't seen any horse poo. Everyone seems to smoke yet there are rarely butts littering the ground. I think I have only seen two people who looked like they might be homeless, but they seemed perfectly content with their lives from what I could tell. Even the pigeons seem plump, happy, and relatively unmaimed.
- Food tends to be sweeter (like plain yogurt, pretzel sticks, and curry powder).
- According to a tour guide, practically 100% of the Polish population is baptized, however it's hard to say what percentage of people are practicing Catholics. He said the older generations tend to be more religious, but he's also seeing a stronger religious pull in the younger generations, too. From his perspective, the least religious demographic are 25-40 year olds.
At some point (probably over the next week) I'm hoping Cameron and I will do a walking tour together, probably through the former Jewish district which is now know as the best place to go for beers or out dancing. We'll probably also buy at ticket for HistoryLand, which is the Muzeum Karkowa's history through Legos exhibit. I have an interview to prepare for (ugh, more ironing!), a day-long networking-focused event to facilitate, and (hopefully) a windowsill party to host! I just finished my latest book and will have to find another one soon, especially since we leave for Los Angeles next week (visa stuff). I'll be sure to update you all as I discover more!
...and sorry for not having any photos of the odd fashion choices I've seen.
My tour guide telling us a legend of two brothers engaged as the architects for the Saint Mary's Cathedral steeples.
According to Chris, the tour guide, one steeple is taller than the other because the older jealous brother killed his younger brother and then committed suicide before the second steeple could be finished.
As with most buildings, the Juliusz Słowacki Theater had layers of architectural elements that correspond with the centuries of structural additions.
Jagiellonian University, where Pope John Paul II attended, although his name was Karol Wojtyła at that time.
Wawel castle at night.
The dragon, Smok Wawelski, outside of his dragon den below the castle. The statue blows fire at random intervals, and it's said that it only goes off when a young virgin walks by (which is not often).
The moat and secret doors at Barbican gate.