Before coming to Wroclaw, my knowledge of Poland didn’t extend far beyond what I had learned in secondary school history. I had little knowledge of Polish culture and customs, and of course I could not speak a word of the language. Before my internship I had never even heard of Wroclaw, so the decision to spend six months here as part of the Transenter internship programme was the perfect opportunity to experience not only a new city, but also a fascinating country and culture.
My biggest worry when coming to Poland was how I would survive as a strict vegetarian – experiences in Russia and France had taught me that a vegetarian lifestyle can be a nightmare when travelling. However, the Polish cuisine was a pleasant surprise: a range of salads, soups, and the guaranteed vegetarian-friendly options of pierogi ruskie, dumplings filled with potato and cottage cheese, and placki ziemniaczane, potato pancakes usually served with a dollop of sour cream.
Now, on to drinks – I was under the impression that nights out in Poland would consist of throwing back multiple vodka shots, but it turns out the Poles are actually very much beer drinkers. Poland is Europe’s third largest beer producer and, according to a 2009 report by Ernst and Young, the average Polish consumer drinks around 92 litres of beer a year! Some of the more well-known brands such as Zywiec and Tyskie are also available in the UK, and in Poland you have a wide range of all kinds of beers – light, full and high strength lagers, sweeter beers such as Piwo Miodowe, a light, honey flavoured beer, and dark lagers. Normally I’m not really a fan of beer, but after six months here I have well and truly been converted!
As I mentioned, before I came here I had never heard of Wroclaw. As it turns out, Wroclaw is really something of a hidden gem – firstly, it’s a beautiful city, and secondly it has a great atmosphere. In my experience, the Poles are generally very friendly, and despite my limited knowledge of Polish people here have always been not only polite and helpful, but also welcoming. Wroclaw is a great city to live in, and during my time here I also visited Krakow and Warsaw, and made a couple of trips to the Polish mountains, which was a great experience. All in all, it’s been a great six months – I’ve had the opportunity to get to know great people, a new language and a fascinating culture.
I would recommend this experience to anyone and I hope that, one day, I will have the opportunity to come back to Poland and see more of this amazing country.