I spent the first few days of my Polish stay in Olsztyn, a small city in Eastern Poland. It has a fascinating history, having changed hands several times. The Old Town is very walkable and accessible and is a mix of old and new buildings and businesses. One of the most attractive parts of the city are its lakes. While the lakes are more enjoyed in the warmer weather than in November, I still liked taking walks by them and nature viewing.
A nature walk was indeed what Kasia and I did my first full day in Olsztyn. A brisk 6km walk around one local lake was refreshing. We followed that up with dinner with her mother at the weirdly named Casablanca, which had no Moroccan food but is semi-famous for its tomatoes and was a good spot for a warming bowl of pumpkin soup and a glass of spiced honey tea. We then took a walk around the Old Town by night.
The next day, we walked the Old Town by day. We stopped for dinner where I tried for the first time traditional Polish sour rye soup. OMG. I am now in love with this soup!
My third and last day included a visit to a tourist village. It’s basically a Polish version of the colonial/pioneer re-enactment villages we have in the United States. It was semi-closed for the season, so we couldn’t go into the houses and there were no actors, but there were also no crowds. We could still wander around outside and with no other tourists, it felt exactly how I would imagine a blustery early winter day in a rural Polish village would’ve felt like 100+ years ago.
We also talked about Kasia’s childhood. She told me that she and those born late 70s were the last ones to have clear, vivid memories of Communist times. Clear memories of the empty shelves, the long lines for bread, the rations. That the only way to get meat was to know a butcher who could do you a favor. The one sweet orange served as a special treat at Christmas. Knowing of Barbie dolls and other wonderful childhood toys children in other countries got to enjoy but that were out of reach of a Polish child. But life was certainly not all hard times and she recalled to me as we walked, spending summers at her grandparent’s farm, which was still a family farm although they had to give some of their harvest to the state. It was simple and happy times on the farm.
The visit was ended by a dinner party in Kasia’s charming flat with several other Polish ladies. We ate, talked and toasted to new friends and a lovely visit.
Olsztyn by night
Sour rye soup is sooooo yummy
Wooden church, formerly common in the south of Poland
Kasia remembered her grandparents using one of these on their farm