And Poland is a small town in Russia isn't it?
Oh man, some of the wonderful things I have heard about Poland over the years have literally made me laugh out loud. I have to admit, as I have written in previous posts, that before I came to Poland, I knew little about it. A bit about the football team, a brief understanding of communism and I knew it was somewhere in the middle of Europe. To be honest, I probably also knew a handful of the countries that it borders - but definitely not all of them!
Below is a list of common misconceptions about Poland, I have heard these either directly or indirectly. Some are hilarious and others are more worrying; check them out.
1) Poland is always cold isn't it?
I hear this question quite a lot. I especially love the confused faces I see when I tell people that I will be going to Poland for a holiday, or I will be spending summer in Poland. I don't know if people hear the word 'Pole' emphasised and therefore associate it with North pole or south pole. Many people are surprised when I tell them that Poland has 'proper' summers. As I type this, I am sat in our flat in Wrocław and outside the temperature is over 30°C. I have been here before when the temperature has almost reached 40°C. Yes, it does get cold in winter and Poland has proper seasons, not just rain all year like the UK. Trust me - it gets very warm during the summer months here in POLE - LAND!
2) It's all about cabbage and vodka
Although polish people can work wonders with a cabbage, there is much more to Polish cuisine than merely focusing on 'Kapusta'. Some of the most famous Polish dishes do contain cabbage or sauerkraut - Bigos and gołąbki to name a couple, but trust me there is so much more to enjoy when it comes to Polish food. It is also true that Polish people are partial to a vodka (or ten) especially when it comes to celebrations like weddings and 'imieniny' (name day). However, there is much more variety when it comes to alcohol in Poland - so much so that I could write a whole post on it. Polish beer is also fantastic (watch my YouTube series - 28 Polish beers in 28 days) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHJiLwUs7v0&t=124s
3) Poland is a small town in Russia
Now, my geography knowledge isn't the best but I am fairly certain that Poland deserves the recognition that it is it's own country. Poland did disappear from maps between 1795 and 1918 (find out more about that here https://history.state.gov/countries/poland) so maybe this and the whole communism situation here in Poland, which didn't end until 24th August 1989, caused this guy some confusion. This statement actually (allegedly) came from a member of the armed forces believe it or not ( I won't mention the country). This was not said directly to me but to a friend who then mentioned it to my wife. At first I thought it was a joke but no, this guy actually thought that Poland was a town in Russia. I can confirm - Poland is a country in it's own right and I am sat in this wonderful country right now as I write this.
4) Polar bears all over the country
This one makes me chuckle. Again, I have heard this a few times and I suppose it is linked with people thinking that it is always cold here. It is probably also linked to the first few letters of the country being the same as the type of bear some people think lives in Poland. POLAr bears must live in POLAnd, right?...Wrong!
Whilst Poland is home to the brown bear, I am quite certain when I say there are no polar bears here, apart from in the zoo.
The picture on the right is a photo I took whilst in Zakopane of a warning sign, confirming there are bears in the area. Luckily we didn't encounter any although it would have been coll to see some from a distance.
5) Poland is not a holiday destination
As I mention in number 1 above, people often seem surprised when I say I will spend summer in Poland. Brits especially love to travel to Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey for their summer vacation and hardly anybody would even consider Poland. A handful of folks from the UK will have been to Poland for city breaks but this is usually because they know a Polish person who has invited them. Once they get here, they seem to love it.
I wrote in a previous post about Gdansk, that I am not sure if the Polish tourism board are bad at their job, or if they (sensibly) want to keep the country to themselves. I just cannot understand why more people don't come here. From the UK, flights are short, cheap and regular. Hotels are a good price and the seaside resorts are beautiful. I'm not really complaining as I kind of like the fact that not a lot of Brits come to Poland - it gives me this sense that I am aware of something that most other Brits have no clue about. Whether you want a city break, a beach holiday, a mountain resort, a trip to the lakes or a hike through nature in one of the wonderful forests; Poland has it all.
So, there are five misconceptions about the wonderful country of Poland. I'm sure there are plenty more too but those are the ones I hear most often.
If you get the chance, make the trip.