I’ve gotten this question from a LOT of people. My mom and I took a trip to Poland together when I was a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding. We have some ambiguously Polish/German ancestry (those borders changed all the time), and are both fascinated by WWII. So we decided to focus on seeing as much of Poland as we could, and waste as little of our time traveling as possible.
Zapiekanka – definitely my favorite thing we ate over there. This is a very popular street/fast food in Poland. It’s basically a loaf of bread halved, with mushrooms (I always got mine without), cheese, and toppings toasted in the oven. They were only about $1-2 each, were quick and convenient while we were out sightseeing, and filled us up. I keep talking about trying to figure out how to make them here.
Beer with raspberry juice – this was the recommendation of my Polish friends Nicole & Pawel. It was pretty much a no-brainer considering a) i love beer and b) raspberry is my favorite flavor of.. well, anything. I ordered these everywhere we went.
Water – unlike restaurants here in the US, water is not brought to your table unless you order it. And you have to specify “No gas” if you want still water instead of sparkling. I love few things more than an ice cold glass of purified or spring water. I found neither here. All the bottled water we found was room temperature mineral water. As I looked around while we were eating at a few restaurants, I found it interesting that most Poles didn’t have anything to drink with their meal at all.
The primary language is obviously Polish. I completely overestimated how many people would speak English. Like, completely. My friend Pawel grew up in Poland and went to school in Krakow and speaks near perfect English. I assumed he was a representation of all Poland and I’m embarrassed to admit I never once thought “Pawel’s been living in the US for at least 10 years now.” In my defense, a lot of other things I read gave me the impression that especially in major cities, English was very common. What we found was that most people my age (20′s/30′s) and younger did speak English, but most people older than that spoke Polish and Russian (this makes complete sense historically). For the most part we got around all right. We did run into problems at a few train stations, where NO attendants spoke English. In those situations we turned to the nearest young person and asked if they spoke English and for help. Everyone we asked was incredibly helpful.
Poland’s currency is the zloty. The exchange rate is roughly 3 zloty to 1 USD. Our credit cards were accepted at most places, and we found plenty of convenient ATM’s when we needed more cash.
Old Town Krakow Main Square
Jasna Gora Monastery
Frederick Chopin Museum
Old Town Warsaw
Palace of Culture and Science
Warsaw Ghetto Wall
Poland is known for its Amber, so we brought back several pieces of Amber jewelry, as well as Vodka (that goes down easier than water there: see my water summary above), and chocolate.