8 life changing lessons from my very first trip to Poland!

 It is hard to say what makes me want to travel. I can accept the fact that some people are not made to stay in one place. But despite this habit, I think that my thirst for the unknown makes me plan always trips, which I would probably never do. I’ve been inspired by many reasons. Some of them are historical reasons, some other are cultural or some friends from other countries that I’ve met in my life and I really want to visit them.

During a trip, a lot of things happens in your mind. I can not express this feeling of calmness and relaxation by words. These moments of instant truth with yourself, the moments that nothing matters. There are numerous of ways to receive everything by the universe, but the most important way is to accept yourself, your dreams, your diversity.

My first trip took place at 2006. 10 years ago!!! Destination? Chrzanów, Poland. A very strange destination for a very first trip outside of Greece.While I was a student at high school, my school took place to a European Union educational project, that has as aims to help young people and educational staff better understand the range of European cultures, languages and values. In this project were 4 different schools as participants. Greece, Poland, Esthonia and Northern Ireland. Few things happened during this trip and I would like to share with you, my memories, my feelings and the most important, lessons that I’ve been taught!

I remember that I was afraid to be on the plane. My 2 male classmates made fun of me, while my professors tried to calm me and to make me realize that nothing can go wrong. Since then, I fall in love with airplanes and one dream have been created, to fly one day an airplane.

Lesson: You’ll never know when a sparkle or and idea will be created!

late-soviet-era-apartment-building2
Soviet style building in Krakow.

During 2006, there was not such a thing like economic crisis in Greece. We were considered ourselves as a rich development country. And somehow, I knew that Poland is a “poor” country. During the flight, I was sitting next to the window and I was looking outside during the landing. As we were approaching the ground, huge soviet style buildings appears and I became to worry about my expectations. I was expecting a poor country but I didn’t imagine to find soviet remains (I think, I wasn’t so informed about the after WWII history of Poland). Tired as we were, we took a taxi to the hotel which was located around 40km from the airport. It was rainy and very cold and I remember that I stuck my eyes at the window to enjoy the route. We were driving to a countryside road, full of destroyed old buildings, farms and small forests and all these sceneries were appearing to a gray background cause of the fog.

Lesson: You must have low expectations, with this attitude you will always be surprised!

chrzanow_pomnik_wolnosci_i_zwyciestwa
The Victory and Liberty Momument

When we arrived finally to the hotel (I have to inform you that the hotel was an XXX hotel apparently), we left our bags and we went for a walk. We were 3 professors and 4 students that for a very first time we shared time together. One of the things that happened during the first day was the warm feelings that I received by our professors and I was surprised, not because I didn’t expect them to be warm but because the last three years we drove them crazy during the lessons and I thought that they will be mad at as. We spend a lot of time by talking and sharing our worries, our stories and our dreams.

Lesson: You will always be loved by people that you won’t expect!

a-xhanNext morning was scheduled to visit the school. The English professor and the headmaster of the Polish school came to the hotel and they offered us a ride to the school. They both had cars like Mr. Bean’s mini cooper. So we were in total 9 persons to fit in 2 tiny cars. It was impossible of course. But the headmaster of the Polish school called another professor to come with her car! Within 5′ the professor was at our hotel and we were ready to head at the school. Later that day, we learned that the professor that has been called to come and pick us up was teaching at the moment that the headmaster called. She stopped her lesson in order to come. When we asked why the headmaster came to pick us up and he didn’t let us take a taxi the answer was: You are our guests, hospitality is a huge part of our culture!

Lesson: Strangers, no matter them color, nationality or gender can make your day by a very simple act of kindness!

While we were in the car, I was trying to imagine the school of a “third-world country”. a-2Until this moment I had the idea or theory or imagination that Poland is a third-world country. But everything change when we arrived at the school. A huge building was in front of us and nothing, not even the smallest thing, was the same as our school.                                                  It was an “American College Style” school, with security guards, indoor basketball and volleyball court with showers and hot water. Every lesson had its own class and every class has its own professor. Restaurant with delicious fresh cooked meals. At the end of the “School Facilities” tour, I felt disappointed with myself.

Lesson: Never judge a book by its cover!

a-3One of the following afternoons, the headmaster gave permission to students that participate in this project, to take us (only the students) for a walk around the city. And I say permission because the order was very clear: The students they will stay with us for as long as we want, so they didn’t have to worry about getting in school early next morning. We end up to an underground (literally) pub. The first round of our beers was on them. We were around 20 teenagers, have beers and speak and laugh. At the corner was a modern jukebox. In the 2000+ songs list, it was an English song of a Greek singer that won the European Singing Competition “Eurovision”. Every 10′ some of the kids threw a coin in order to play this song over and over again. They wanted to feel like we were at home. The next 2 rounds of beer were on us cause we wanted to show them our appreciation. After a 30′ argument (they didn’t want us to pay so much), we put our wallets out in order to pay. One of the students noticed that we were carrying a lot of money with us, so she asked 5 of the male students to come around us and covered us in order no one from the pub to see that we have a lot of money on us. And of course, they take us back to the hotel.

Lesson: You must have faith to humanity and trust people.

auschwitz-gateOur days to Chrzanów came to end and next destination for 3 days was the city of Krakow. An amazing city with plenty of attractions for tourists. I found them buildings and architecture amazing but for me, other things matter more. One day, one of our professors had the idea to visit a dark place. A place that we heard in history classes and many of us have seen documentaries. And this place called “Auschwitz”. By far the most interesting place that I have been. Two Polish professors and 3 students (all of them females) came with us. But they didn’t want to come with us. We asked them why and they began to cry. They were crying, all of them. We instantly understood that was very difficult for them. And I remember one of them to say: Do not force yourselves to finish the tour. And the truth is that we didn’t finish the tour, we became emotionally dry very soon. When we went out of the camp, we found the 5 ladies to wait for us and we ask them why they were so emotional before. And they told us that all of them have someone that has been tortured and died in this camp as many of the Polish people.

Lesson: Respect every culture and every aspect of it. No matter if it is bright or dark.

The last night came and we decided to go out for a drink, all together. Our trip came to its harris-piano-jazz-barend and we had somehow to celebrated. We didn’t expect us to go at a night club with our professors of course. Something that I didn’t know is that Krakow is that has been considered as the cultural capital of Poland. As a result is that has plenty of Jazz Bars. One professor (God bless her) threw the idea to visit a jazz bar. As a teenager I hated Jazz. 4 persons, playing 4 different instruments and no pattern to them songs. Bliah…  Our professors didn’t give us any other choice. By the time that we arrived, to one of the best Jazz Bar in town, I began to speak with my professor. She explained me the philosophy behind the jazz music and I fall in love with Jazz. I understood things that I couldn’t. It is still one of the most beautiful nights of my life and a perfect way to finish our trip.

Lesson: Always be open to new things. By being open will give you the ability to compare, understand and learn a lot of things!

I made friends, I saw things, I tasted new flavors and I learned a lot of things. Probably this is the most important reason for me to travel. The fact that in 7 days you can discover yourself, you can discover new feelings and create thoughts that you couldn’t create before. These lessons I think (and I hope) that made me a little bit a better person. Before to finish this post I would like to quote some words of a Chinese philosopher:

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
-Confucius-

~Live And Travel~

 

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