We woke up at 5:00 am, rolled out of bed, stumbled downstairs to pick up our carefully packed breakfast and began our journey to Gdańsk. The first 2 hours on the bus were pretty silent. Occasionally you could hear a short mumbled conversation, but for the most far it was silent, with heads bobbing up and down, trying desperately to get more sleep. As we arrived in Gdańsk, heads began to perk up and eyes were peeled open to take in the new city. Our first stop was a boat ride and tour of some of the historical WWII sites. Seeing the city by boat was a fun new perspective as we watched people enjoying the warm sun and the colorful waterfront buildings pass by.
After a big helping of pierogi (Polish dumplings) for lunch, we spent some time walking around the city, marveling at the beautiful churches and mesmerizing buildings. Gdańsk is known as the capital of amber, with tons of street vendors displaying an array of jewelry made with the Baltic gold, so of course we couldn’t leave without some time spent shopping. Our last stop, before heading back, was a quick trip to the beach on the Baltic Sea. The beach was packed with people lounging in padded beach chairs, under umbrellas and a few brave souls who ventured out to the frigid water. We left Gdańsk beat from the long, action-packed day, while simultaneously craving more time in the lively port town.
I was pleasantly surprised with all that the city had to offer from the rich history, the cheerful old town and the lovely beaches. I couldn’t help but think about what a perfect weekend getaway destination it would be.
First of all, YAY we’re back in Joensuu! The past month has been full of fun times and great memories, but I sure was ready to be back in my own bed. The first two weeks of the trip I was in Toruń, Poland working with students from three other countries on an intensive summer course. The topic was building intercultural awareness in teaching English as a foreign language. We arrived late Sunday night after a 4.5 hour train to Helsinki, 2 hour flight to Warsaw and then a 4 hour bus ride to Toruń. Then early Monday morning we were up for the beginning of ten long days in class (don't worry, we managed to squeeze in some time for fun). There were nine other students from UEF that went on the trip, so I got to make some pretty great friends as well.
Now let’s talk about Poland. Go there. Seriously, it’s such an interesting, beautiful country filled with so much history. In Toruń there was a wonderful Old Town filled with ornate, colorful buildings that I could just stare at all day (maybe that’s why I have so many pictures of them). And because we were studying with Polish students, we also got to learn a lot about Polish culture. For instance, what I would call ‘lunch’ they refer to as ‘dinner’ and it’s eaten at around 1 pm. The meal generally consists of three courses and starts with a soup, then you have the entrée, which is usually some sort of meat and potatoes, and then a dessert. Later you have ‘supper’ which is around 6 pm and is generally some form of sandwich. Being in Poland, we followed the same daily meal schedule. I always find it interesting to learn about other food cultures. I think you can tell a lot about a culture from how and what they eat. We also learned a little about Nicolaus Copernicus, who is the pride and joy of Toruń. There's a statue of him in the center of the old town and the univeristy, where we were studying, is named after him. As our welcoming gift, we all got Nicolaus Copernicus zip drives!
Although we were in class a lot, there were still plenty late nights hanging out with new friends from Spain, France, Poland (and of course, Finland). That was the best part of the trip. Just talking, laughing and being with those people. After two weeks of cramming in a ridiculous amount of work and play, I was completely worn out, but it was so so worth it.