poland

Poznan, briefly

December 6

I left Kaliningrad by bus at 6:00 AM (Kaliningrad Time); when I arrived in Poznan, by train, it was 3:30 PM (CET) and nearly dark. It was raining, on and off.

Outside the busy main station, I tried to navigate toward the dot representing the Meeting Place where my Uber would arrive. Taxis seemed to be picking people up right in front of the station, but the dot was across the street in a parking lot. I dragged myself and my bag across the street, where I realized there was a fairly short but nonetheless impassable fence separating me from the dot. I walked along the shoulder of this road to the entrance to the parking lot, and headed toward the dot.

But although the dot appeared to be in the parking lot, it was always somehow closer to the station than anywhere I could stand. I doubled back to the parking lot entrance, wandered around all in front of the station, trekked back and forth across the road a few more times, tried the parking lot at least once more, and eventually realized that the location name associated with the dot was just the spot outside the station. (I was very tired and hungry.)

Traffic was heavy, as was the drizzle. I had imagined I'd see some sights from the car, and I suppose I probably did...

Blurry-outline-seeing in Poznan.

Blurry-outline-seeing in Poznan.

Eventually I was dropped off at Zemsta, a vegan/anarchist restaurant, bookstore, and gallery. I ordered a Polish specialty, kotlet schabowy — a breaded cutlet (usually pork; this cutlet was soy-based), mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut.

Vegan kotlet schabowy with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.

Vegan kotlet schabowy with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.

It was the first real meal of my day, and it was incredibly filling. This was a rare occasion where I couldn't finish what I was eating; I think I left two bites on my plate. It was such a small amount, you'd think it should have been possible, but I couldn't even look at it directly without getting queasy.

Instead, I went to Aleksandra's flat to get ready for my next show. Aleksandra had generously offered to host a concert on Mikołajki — Saint Nicholas Day. She arranged a very nice table of festive treats for the concert attendees. I took some time to collect myself, take a shower, and prepare for the show.

The concert was, like many of the shows on this tour, attended mostly by people from the Couchsurfing community. Interestingly, one attendee, Joanna, had hosted Iza (my host in Gdansk) when Iza visited Poznan to see a Frida Kahlo exhibition. It was also interesting to see, not just in Poznan but in many cities, how the people who attended my shows sometimes knew each other or had a connection of some kind.

We had some fun conversations at this show. At living room concerts, there are sometimes ridiculous tangents and thought-provoking group discussions. (More reasons why you should host a living room concert. It's easy and it doesn't have to cost you anything. Email me!)

Milena brought vegan cookies, which I appreciated (and ate several of).

Though it was a holiday, it was also a weeknight, so the evening didn't go too late. This worked out well for me — I got at least a tiny bit more sleep than I had the previous few nights.

(Side note about Europe: so many bathrooms have light switches on the wall outside the bathroom. So when you're in there, someone else could turn off the light and you'd just be screwed.)

I still had an early start the next morning, of course. I had booked my flight from Gdansk to Copenhagen before the opportunity to play in Poznan came along, so it would take 5+ hours on trains just to get to the airport. The flight itself took only an hour, and then I was in Denmark.

You can Gdańsk if you want to

(Because "When you get the choice to sit it out or Gdańsk... I hope you Gdańsk" was too long.)

December 4

When you're flying around Europe, and your frame of reference is the US, you quickly notice some differences. (And I can only speak to my experience in coach, on cheap flights.) For example, I often found that my assigned seat was occupied, and it was necessary to sit elsewhere. If you want a window seat, try to be near the front of the line to board the plane. If you happen to find yourself in an empty row, you can lie down and sleep across all the seats. (I never did this, and probably never would, because I'm self-conscious about taking up space.) Sometimes people stay in their assigned seats until the Fasten Seatbelt sign is off, at which point there is a great migration. When the plane lands, don't be surprised if the passengers around your burst into applause. But also don't be surprised if they don't. If you want to clap, but don't want to be the only one clapping, hold your applause and feel it out. Alternately, you could be the one to get things going.

Anyway.

My first view of Poland: grey, snowy Warsaw, from the plane.

"I know this grayness; I even used to love it, as part of the mood and weather with which one grew up here, and which sank into the bones with a comforting melancholy." - Eva Hoffman, Exit into History: A Journey Through the New Eastern Europe

In my little video clip, you can see about the extent of what I saw of Warsaw, other than the inside of the airport whizzing by me as I ran to catch my plane to Gdańsk.

I landed in Gdańsk, found the train platform, and donned my ushanka.

Here I am wearing my ushanka on the train platform at the Gdańsk Airport, with some snow visible here and there behind me.

Here I am wearing my ushanka on the train platform at the Gdańsk Airport, with some snow visible here and there behind me.

I got this vegan ushanka from Hoodlamb because I figured it would be impossible to find a vegan one in Russia. (Once in Russia, I found out that only tourists and the police wear ushankas in the city, so I stuffed it in my suitcase and opted for a plain black tuque.)

In Gdańsk, my lovely hosts were Iza and her cousin Ola. Iza met me at the train station and guided me back to her flat, where I dropped off my things before heading out to see the sights.

A view of Long Lane from Golden Gate, already in shadow on this short winter day. In the distance, Ratusz Głównego Miasta (Main Town Hall), home of the Gdańsk History Museum, is still enjoying some daylight.

A view of Long Lane from Golden Gate, already in shadow on this short winter day. In the distance, Ratusz Głównego Miasta (Main Town Hall), home of the Gdańsk History Museum, is still enjoying some daylight.

Gdańsk had a nice, cozy feel to it, as did the show that evening. Iza and Ola were such sweet hosts. There were about a dozen people, mostly from Couchsurfing, in attendance, and they were all so nice and interesting. Ola was really familiar with my music already, and she made some requests. I'll make sure to practice "Fall" before my next visit to Gdańsk! I'm very grateful to them for opening up their home for this event. After the show, Iza and Ola and Klaudiusz had an amazingly entertaining little dance party... I knew I needed to sleep, but when "Toxic" started playing I had to stay and watch.

Very, very early the next morning, Iza helped me get on my way to the station, and by no small miracle I found the bus that would take me to Kaliningrad. The friendly driver noticed how flustered I was and, smiling, said, "Spokojna."

Calm.