Last autumn, when my friends were booking trips to Venice and Barcelona, I decided to visit a Polish family in the medieval city of Toruń in northern Poland. Unlike others, I chose to visit Poland because of the following reasons. Firstly, as a foreign student studying in Finland I was low on the budget. Fortunately, there was cheap and direct flight from Turku (Finland) to Gdańsk (Poland) and vice versa. Thanks to Wizz Air. Secondly, I had a host. Thirdly, I wanted to experience something new and different.
Joanna, the elder daughter of the family, then a senior high school student, was my internet and pen pal friend. I became interested in Poland and particularly in Toruń after the series of regular chats and mails with her. Later Basia, the younger daughter of the family, then a junior high school student, also became my friend and they invited me to travel to Toruń. As soon as I finished my summer studies, I packed my bags for a Polish adventure and the very next day I was in Gdańsk.
Before catching the train to Toruń, I got few hours to wander about in Gdańsk. Since this was my first trip away from Finland, everything from KFC restaurants to Turkish Kebab stalls and EURO 2012 countdown to local trains seemed interesting to me. I had noted and learnt few basic Polish expressions for my travel which was very little of help when buying the train ticket to Toruń.
When I was in Toruń, I was surprised to get such a warm welcome from my host at 4 am in the chilly autumn morning. Joanna and Basia were my tour guides for the next few days. The old town of Toruń is very artistic and culturally rich. I visited Nicolaus Copernicus Museum, the leaning tower and nearby Vistula river. I was in the Rustic Museum as well which depicts pre-modern Polish society and history. The local dumplings and ginger-bread cookies were also delicious.
The most interesting part of my every day in Toruń would be when I was together with the parents during the breakfasts, dinners and in between. This was the time when I was learning about Poland, its people and myself. We talked not only about Polish politics and economy, but also differences and similarities between Nepal and Poland. We talked about Polish athletes and Pope John Paul II. We talked about the EU and the Scandinavian countries and their influences in the development of the modern Poland. We talked not only about war ruins in Warsaw but also about mountaineering in higher Himalayas. We also talked about increasing nuclear families in Polish society and the diminishing religious faiths among Polish youths.
I also met few other Polish students (Joanna’s and Basia’s friends) in Toruń. Currently, I am in Germany as an exchange student, and I have here also few more friends from Poland and some with Polish origin. I find a unique similarity between all these Polish students and us Asian students. They have similar competitiveness, high motivation and hunger for success which is less evident in other students. I think, the Polish parents yet need not to worry about their children’s religious faith; because, of all my Christian friends from all other countries, my Polish friends go to church more often than others (if going to church means being religious).
I went to Toruń, Poland as an unknown country to be with unfamiliar people and returned with a heavy heart feeling ‘at home’ in Toruń. I can’t wait to visit Poland soon again.
I wish Poland a successful organization and participation in the EURO 2012.
To view the complete set of pictures from the trip, visit the link below: