Chapter 10. Saying goodbye to Poland

Before I leave Poland, let me say something about Adam and Luiza! They are such wonderful people and I am so happy that the workaway program brought us together. I love them like family and they could not have been better hosts. They did so much for me and showed me every single corner of their beautiful area that they possibly could.  Luiza always wanted me to stay at night and chat, even when I was tired and needed some down time. When the three of us were together, we talked so loud, and laughed so much, and said some very inappropriate things when we were visiting somber historical areas, and I would not have traded any of it for anything! Their daughter, Emma, is such a delight and they are just wonderful parents. Their dog Dexter, is just the best doggo, so well trained and just a happy good boy. Luiza and Adam, I love you both, thank you so much for everything!!

One other reason why I like them so much, is that they lived in Ireland for 10 years and that is where they left their heart, sounds familiar!

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Emma is such a sweet, happy baby!

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I enjoyed my time in Poland very much. It’s a beautiful country that I definitely hope to visit more of in the future.  Adam asked me if Poland met my expectations. I told him that honestly I never really have any expectations, I just go to learn about a place, it’s people, it’s history, the good and the bad. I always hope to have a good time, and that expectation is always exceeded.

Below are a few odds and ends from my trip.

Things are quite cheap for Americans in Poland. This is a receipt from a breakfast that we had at a very nice restaurant near the sea. Luiza and I had eggs and bacon and I had a side of sausage, and Adam had a huge omelette. Coffee and bread rolls included. sTotal: $10.00 for everything.

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So Adam had been telling me that there were wild pigs in his neighborhood and I was dying to see them! It was hard to believe as he lives in a very residential area, but he says that they have adapted. Well one afternoon I went for a walk in the neighborhood across the street which has many very tall buildings, hills, homes, and apple trees! It’s an interesting area because there are little stairways and alleys that go up and down the hills, it’s like a maze. I was heading down some very steep steps when I saw the pigs near the steps. There were 6 (not so small) babies and a mom and dad. I was on my way to meet Adam and Luiza for dinner and was a bit concerned that these pigs may try to charge me. I have no idea what a mother of 6 would do if I walked right next to her! I called Adam and he told me I should be ok, so I went about my business and they ignored me! Unfortunately I don’t have any photos, but I have plenty of videos which I am unable to upload to this site.

Another crazy thing I saw in Poland, something that the three of us will laugh about for years to come, is the below sign, and man. We were walking through the beautiful streets of Sopot, where obviously there were many signs in Polish, however this one caught my attention and I asked Adam and Luiza what it meant. The literal translation is “Helium for talk” and they said that this man was selling helium for people to inhale so they could talk funny. I was like “What?!?! This is a thing in Poland”?? HAHAHAHAHA “HELIUM FOR TALK”!!!  I just regret that I did not find out the price.

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Another thing that I still cannot get over is the candies in this waffle cart. Dessert waffles are very popular in Poland and they come with many different toppings. I noticed that there were like 10 wasps hanging out in this candy dish and I was shocked and appalled at it. I could not believe what I was seeing. I even told one of the ladies standing in line about it, but she did not seem bothered with the wasps. I could not believe that everyone was just going about their waffle business while wasps were literally feasting on the candy. I have since learned that wasps  (and these little fly things) are quite prevalent when sweet things are around. The oranges were supposed to attract the wasps, but I guess these wasps are big fans of candy.

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Another thing that amused me (I’m easily amused) were these structures that were next to many buildings. Any idea what they are for?

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Well the answer is that they are for beating area rugs, big and small! Luiza said that no one really uses them anymore. It’s funny that they were once so popular that they were all over the place in some areas.

Strange picnic bench.

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There was a beautiful natural area about a 15 minute walk from my apartment and I did manage to get a few miles in one day.

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Always odd for me to see swans in the sea!

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This school with children’s art work on the gate, so cute.

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Polish Police

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Gdansk!

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Europeans don’t wear shoes in the home. The man who owned the apartment that I rented left these little paper slippers for me. I wore them.

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Did I mention pierogis?? These were amazing. They had crispy onions and bacon on the top.

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This little store in my neighborhood sells nothing but rotisserie chicken. Adam told me they were delicious and tried to convince me to get one but I wasn’t in a chicken mood. I have enough chicken at home. Give me some more pierogis!

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This old lady feeds the pigeons while she sells flowers on the street. The flowers looked rather sad and Adam and I were convinced that she got them from people who were throwing them away, and then sells them. This may have been one of the things that we laughed inappropriately loudly about.

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I left Poland on Monday afternoon to fly back to Sweden for one more day. The same flight attendants were on the plane that were there when I flew to Poland. One of them recognized me and I thanked her profusely for turning my books into the airport staff. She was very happy to hear that my new friend Piotr returned them to me!

I did have one little mishap at the airport which was fortunately rectified quickly by the nice Swedish staff members. I had the first seat on the plane  next to the front door and when we landed at the Stockholm airport I followed the guy that was sitting next to me. We had been chatting and he was from Stockholm and was familiar with the airport so I just followed him through the maze of corridors. All of a sudden I had a feeling that I went too far and I asked him “hey, you did not have any checked bags did you” and he said “no” and kept walking. He and I were going to catch the same bus into the city center. I turned around and realized that I had passed the luggage carousel and had gone through one to many doors. That is a big problem in an airport because you are NOT allowed to go through exit doors. I am not used to people flying without checked bags and we all just usually walk towards the luggage carousel together, but in Europe people quite frequently go on short weekend trips with hand luggage only. I knew it would be a big deal to get back into the luggage area, and that I would have to be rescreened again. I was worried about missing my bus as another one was not coming for awhile. Fortunately the staff took pity on me and the airport is very small so they rescreened me and I was able to go back to the carousel. My purple suitcase was sitting there all by itself surrounded by three police officers. Fortunately I was able to grab it and catch my bus with no problem. Thank goodness for European efficiency!!

I will see you again Poland, I promise!

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Chapter 9 Saturday

Saturday morning the streets are very busy with people shopping and a lot of general hustling and bustling. Adam told me that it is the law that all businesses must close on Sunday (apparently not restaurants though) so I guess Saturday is the day to get all of the errands done.

It is really amazing to me that there are nearly 100 little shops within a five minute walk from my apartment. At first I thought it was great that there is a market on the ground floor of my building (literally right below me) but considering that it makes late night cheetoh runs very easy, I no longer think it is such a great idea. I think it’s better to have to get in a car and go get the snacks!

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Polish people love potatoes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Polish people love pickles!

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Polish people love sausage!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kozlowski’s Bakery is the most popular one in the area.

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They literally have a line out the door on Saturdays.

So the most amazing thing that I have seen at the local markets, are these giant dried sunflowers. I had no idea what they were for when I first saw them. They are obviously past their shelf life for being prettily displayed in a vase.

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Adam told me that the sunflowers are to eat the seeds out of! HA! Of course I know that sunflower seeds come from sunflowers, but I’ve only seen them in packages! So interesting.

I was very pleased to find out that Adam had an allotment. An allotment garden, often called simply an allotment, or a community garden, is a plot of land made available for individual, non-commercial gardening or growing food plants. I have seen them in many of the European countries that I have been to, and they seem like such a fun idea that I have always wanted to visit one. Many families have little structures on the allotment with a mini kitchen or bathroom. Families sometimes visit their allotments on the weekends and have a barbecue, let the kids run around, do some gardening etc.

Adam’s allotment had many yummy things growing, apples, blackberries, raspberries and tons of grapes! Saturday afternoon we met up with his uncle and had a BBQ. The BBQ grill (which was made out of an old washing machine drum) required the use of a 1980’s vacuum cleaner on reverse mode, but eventually, we had some delicious sausages and pork!

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Dexter was VERY happy to be at the allotment and did plenty of zoomies with two separate balls for the entire afternoon.

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Me and Adam’s uncle.

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And yes, I did buy a sunflower!! It was only $1.50 and we snacked on it for hours!!

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Chapter 8. Europe’s longest residential building and Westerplatte

Friday….I had read about Falowiec, Europe’s longest residential building, in my guide book and was very excited to see it! Falowiec means “wavy block” and is a type of architecture that has a wavy shape. Gdansk is home to more Falowiec buildings than any other city. This particular building was built between 1970 and 1973 and is in the district of Pryzmorze It has 1,700 units, three separate bus stops to service its many entrances, and house nearly 6,000 people. It is 11 stories tall and stretches for about 1/2 Mile. Luiza and Adam patiently waited in the McDonald’s at one end while I walked around the entire building. I found all of the different balconies so fascinating as every one had its own unique style and character. It takes almost 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other. I found this little city in a building absolutely fascinating!!

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A picture from the McDonalds menu

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After our visit to Falowiec we visited Westerplatte which was the site of the first battle of World War II. On September 1st 1939 the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein let loose a barrage of artillery on to the Polish naval Base, therefore beginning the war. It was an immense honor to visit this area.

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After our visit to Westerplatte we went out for a delicious traditional Polish meal which consisted of lots of cabbage, pork, and potatoes!

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Emma enjoyed her lunch too! She is such a sweet baby and is quite the trooper as she almost never cries and just goes with the flow!

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After lunch we had a wander around Sopot, another beautiful city on the water. They have a very long wooden pier and a lovely area to stroll around. It was a beautiful day, about 70 degrees and sunny.

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Friday evening I took Luiza and Adam’s dog Dexter for a 2.5 mile walk around the neighborhood, he’s such a good dog and loves going out exploring just like I do! We walked across the street where there are a bunch of buildings up on a large hill, it was a great walk!

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Chapter 7. Old Town Gdansk

I took the train to Gdansk this morning as I wanted to visit the World War II museum as well as wander around the beautiful old town area.  The local train station is only a 5 minute walk from my apartment, and the train ride into Gdansk is 40 minutes. I spent the morning at the museum, and the afternoon wandering around town. As you will see, one can wander in this area for hours and never tire of the beauty.

A bit of history about Gdansk. Gdansk is the 6th largest city in Poland. WWII started in Gdańsk when the German battleship Schleswig- Holstein fired the first shots on the Polish military post in Westerplatte. We will visit Westerplatte tomorrow.

Old town Gdansk is just beautiful and I was simply awe struck at it’s beauty. I truly feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to visit a few of Europe’s most famous cities. Gdansk is definitely right up there with such stunning cities such as Budapest and Prague.

During the Second World War, the old city was destroyed, and then razed to the ground by the Soviet Red Army. 90% of the historic old town was demolished. The destroyed city was rebuilt in the early form, thanks to the enormous effort of several generations of Polish people. Reconstruction took more than 70 years, and it continues to this day.

If you’re interested in seeing some awesome photos of Gdansk when it was in rubble after the war and some present day photos, check out this website. 

Here are some of my photos from today.

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I found a few geocaches in the area. My favorite was sitting on the sidewalk of a busy pedestrian area. It was in an ammo can attached to a bicycle and you need a code to get into it.

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St. Mary’s Basillica is thought to be the world’s largest brick church and can hold 25,000 people. It is impossible to get the entire church in one photo.

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For dinner I was happy to be able to dine at one of the Milk Bars in Gdansk. Milk bars are often considered a communist legacy and offer a rare insight into Eastern bloc Poland.  They used to be subsidized by the state and offered large portions of food for little money. With the fall of communism many milk bars were forced out of business but a few still remain. They serve traditional Polish food cafeteria style, there are no waiters. Usually when your food is ready they just yell out to you. Also, when a certain food runs out for the day, that is just the way it is so it’s best to come at lunch time.

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Since I was at Neptune Milk Bar (Bar Mleczny Neptun) for dinner, they had indeed run out of a few things, so I just settled for a soup as I did not want one of the huge entrees. The lady told me it was a potato, sausage and egg soup and I can assure you it was absolutely delicious and I had every last drop of it!

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One of the strangest things that I have seen in Poland was at a waffle cart. I don’t know why I am so fascinated with this situation, but…. I was passing a waffle cart which are quite popular here, and noticed something odd. The waffles are like desserts and have different toppings like fruit, cream, chocolate etc.  There were some M and M type candies in one of the sections of toppings, and there were literally like 10 wasps flying all over these candies. No one seemed to care except for me! I even motioned to 2 ladies who were in line to look at the wasps and they really were not concerned. Is this just ok with everyone?! That wasps are eating the candies?! img_20190905_173010260

I mentioned it to Luiza and she said the oranges that are on display are supposed to attract the bees! Well apparently these bees like candy way more than oranges! This man needs to have one of these handy bee houses near his stand which I had seen earlier in the day!

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I need one of these in my life, so cute!

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I will leave you with a piece of good news. I had one tiny bad thing happen, but it has turned into a good thing! And on the grand scale of things, it was very tiny because everything has gone very well on this trip. ( I credit my excellent planning skills for that)! So on my flight from Stockholm to Poland, I left my travel journal and Poland guidebook on the plane. My journal has all of my notes in it and all of my important info (addresses, phone numbers, hotel info, flight info, things to see lists) written down as a back up to my online lists. On the first page I diligently put my name and phone number in case it gets lost. Well the first night I arrived I was laying in bed kind of bummed that I left it on the plane and trying to figure out how to message the airline when I received an unknown text message. It was from a guy named Piotr who said that he was the airport dispatcher and that he had my books. I was so happy! He said that he lives in the same town where I am staying and he did not mind delivering them to me! Wow! That is more than I could have hoped for! Piotr did in fact deliver them today but unfortunately I was at the museum so he dropped them off with Adam and Luiza! I left some money for him and I am hoping to meet him when I fly back to Stockholm on the 9th. If we miss each other then, coincidentally he is visiting Miami in November so we will be able to meet up then! Also I am going to contact the airport about his good deed!

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Luiza, Piotr and MY BOOKS!!

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Chapter 6. Poland!

Thursday was a long day of travel but it all went good.  My airbnb host was kind enough to drive me the half mile to the train station. I took the t-bahn to the Central Station and sat down for a nice lunch and then hopped the flygbuss for the 80 minute bus ride to the Skavsta airport. Skavsta is a tiny airport on the outskirts of Stockholm. Stockholm was nice, but I’m so excited to be on the move again and finally heading to Poland to see Adam and Luiza! The flight only took 55 minutes and I had the whole front part of the plane to myself! The airport was so small, and most people did not check their luggage, so I was at the luggage carousel 10 minutes after landing and in the lobby with Adam in another 5 minutes! So cool!

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Adam picked me up from the airport and Luiza had a nice dinner waiting for us. It was so nice to see them again and meet their baby Emma and their very well behaved dog Dexter. I rented an airbnb studio apartment in Adam and Luiza’s building for $30.00 a night. Adam walked me over to the apartment and helped me get settled in made sure that I had everything that I needed. It is absolutely perfect, a little kitchen and a bathroom, and a living room/ bedroom combination. It even comes with a bicycle. The building is a 5 minute walk from the train station. I cannot wait to explore the neighborhood! There is a nice view of the neighborhood from the living room and kitchen which I will post a photo of another time.

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Adorable kitchen with dishes, pots, pans etc.

 

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The bed is in the other half of the living room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The living room with couch and TV (only Polish programs).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bikes included!

 

 

 

Below is the building that I am staying in, the same one that Adam and Luiza live in. Although it looks like one of the hundreds of communist era buildings in the area, it is not because Adam says it was built in 1991. There are 160 units in the building, but overall it seems very quiet. There are many different elevators and stairs in the building so there is a lot of privacy. There are many different shops on the ground floor including a small grocery store and a kickboxing studio.  I am on the ground floor, although the ground floor is on top of the shops and  storage area, so it’s not really the ground.

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My first morning in Poland, Luiza, Adam, Emma and I went out for a delicious breakfast, finally I got some eggs! I’ve missed my eggs!

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After breakfast we went to Luiza’s favorite area of Gdynia, Seaside Boulevard. It is a mile or so stretch of pavement along the Baltic Sea where people walk, bike and roller blade. There are also a few playgrounds and outdoor exercise facilities. I’ve seen many photos of Luiza jogging in this area so it was great to finally visit it in person!

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I posed for a photo with these two fun guys that were working out at the outdoor gym. They were excited when they heard that I was from Florida. The older guy on my left said a whole bunch of things in Polish and then said the word “instagram”, so we are now following each other on instagram. Adam told me that in this area of Poland it is mostly locals and that I will probably not come across any other Americans.

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We also found a couple of cool geocaches along our walk! Luiza spotted the first one which was tied to a string and down in the little drain area.

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For the second geocache Adam and I had to climb up a hill to an old World War II bunker to retrieve it. I thought this one was really cool because it was hidden only 15 miles from where the war actually started, in Gdansk, Poland. More about that later.

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Climbing up the hill

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The bunker

We also stopped for a treat of a waffle with cream and blueberries. It was my first purchase in Poland and I found it to be quite cheap. Eastern Europe is usually quite cheap in general. The waffle was $1.00 and if you wanted cream and fruit it was an extra $1.00.

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It was a really nice walk along this sea, and my first time seeing and stepping foot in the Baltic!IMG_9816

Tomorrow I’m on my own and taking the train to Gdansk to visit the WWII museum.

Wish me luck!

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Chapter 5. Sightseeing in Stockholm

I spent the last couple of days just sightseeing and wandering the streets, taking it all in. Yesterday I also went to a very interesting museum called the Hallwylska Museum.  Today I rented a little electric scooter and rode it for hours and hours around town, it was an absolute blast. These scooters are very prevalent and are on almost every street corner, you just have to download the app and enter your credit card information and you can grab any one that you see. They are permitted in the bicycle lanes and there are bicycle lanes everywhere!img_20190902_120647158_hdr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The traffic in Europe never ceases to amaze me. The buses, cars, pedestrians, numerous bicycle riders, and scooter riders, all follow the rules and zip along in an orderly fashion. I rode this scooter for miles in the bicycle lane which is basically part of the street and not once did I see anyone do anything stupid such as cut someone off, run a red light, dart across the street in a dangerous fashion. I think I’ve heard horns beep twice in the past few days. Somehow, traffic just works here. It makes me think of all of the crazy scooter riders  out East in Broward county, and how they keep getting hit by cars.

So there is only one thing that I really dislike about Europe, the extreme lack of public bathrooms. They are not easy to find, and not readily available like they are back in the states in every grocery store, restaurant etc. Now of course most malls and large train stations have them, but they usually cost $1.00 to use. I don’t mind though as they are clean. This was a very welcome sign to see in a large mall.img_20190901_134109815

However I’ve noticed that when you do find one, there is usually something interesting about them! This one has a video of a fish tank it, very relaxing! This bathroom is in the main train station and is actually unisex which many of the larger bathrooms are. That is something that I have not seen anywhere in the US. (Sweden seems to have very easily solved the whole “which bathroom will a transgender person use” debate).

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My bathroom receipt. You have to scan it to get in.

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Everyone is welcome!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This unisex toilet in the train station has a video of a fish tank. Oh, and they don’t actually call them bathrooms in Europe, they call them toilets, which sounds a bit vulgar to me. It is like a tiny little closet with just a toilet and sometimes a child sized sink. I will admit I do miss the “luxurious” big bathrooms at home.

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This toilet in the mall is a bit judgemental as it has a scale and a blood pressure monitor to make sure that you are “in shape for shopping”.

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The weather has been great during my trip, although a bit warm. Every day has been sunny and the daytime temperature is usually in the high 60’s to high 70’s. The blue skies have made for some great photos of this beautiful old city, here are a few from my sightseeing.

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I stopped for a snack break at Gunnarson’s Bakery for this delicious chocolate meringue. Gunnarson’s has been in business for over 70 years. It was amazing!!

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Tomorrow it’s off to Poland!

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Chapter 4. Swedish shenanigans

When I woke up this morning and took the time to look at the news, check emails, read facebook I got quite upset about the impending hurricane in Florida. Unfortunately I wasted half of my day in the house worrying about it. Fortunately I have a great support system at home, Carlos who offered to go and stay at my place, the best neighbors ever Jeff and Leonor who promised to take care of my cat and home, (my cat sitter left town at the last minute due to the hurricane), and friends like MJ who reassured me it would be ok.

The good news is that I had evening plans with two old friends Anders and Jonas. So I got myself out of the house and again walked to the neighborhood market to buy a few things and THIS TIME I brought my passport. When I gave it to the clerk along with my credit card she looked at me like I was crazy and asked why I was giving it to her! Oh brother!! She called over her boss (neither of these ladies had been there the previous time) and she said she did not need it and told me how to bypass something on the credit card machine and all was good!

I met Anders and Jonas 10 years ago when they stayed with me in Florida. They are so much fun and both have a great sense of humor! You never know what is going to happen when you are with them. I think they were both happy that I was coming to Stockholm and that they could show me a bit of their home, like I did for them back in 2009.

I met them at a little pub where they were having a drink (they are Swedish, they like beer) just outside of the Slussen T-bahn station.  They, as good friends should, had many options planned for me this evening. A few different walks to choose from (one very long one which involved walking over a bridge which seemed like it was in another city), three different dinner options, and then on to a friends house party.  I chose the shorter, yet very scenic walk. Now mind you, when a European says that you are going on a walk, it is NOTHING like a Floridians version of a walk. A walk in Europe usually involves through a forest, up and down a few hills, and scrambling over some large rocks.  This one was no different but it was in an extremely scenic area with amazing views and it even involved a well known foot path that was on my to do list called Monteliusvagen. It was quite hidden and I may not have found it on my own. Here is the view from the path.img_20190831_174253789-effects

And as I promised,  a walk in Europe always includes steep cobble stone streets, and like Anders said, “no high heels”!

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We had to get a few silly selfies in! (Oh and by the way, Jonas and Anders are now self proclaimed “hipsters” with silly mustaches! ) On the way to dinner Anders was sure to take out his mustache wax and twist his mustache so it did not get too much food on it.

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As promised a bit of rock scrambling.

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There were people sitting all over the place having picnics and enjoying the views. I really wish I had a place like this to go to and hang out.  Anders had quite a laugh at how someone changed this “alcohol forbidden” sign in one area of the park. Apparently they changed it to say “alcohol mandatory” and they worked quite hard at it too! You can see where they taped some pieces of paper on the sign, including over the red alcohol forbidden picture. Anders was quite proud that he was carrying some beer (for the party that we would be going to later) into the park.  As he likes to say “bend the rules”!

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We walked through a nice path also. (We never stopped walking seriously)!

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We walked past a community garden and saw some little houses that had little wine bottle corks and such in them. Anders told me that they were homes for insects and bees that people put out!

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We even saw some silly art which is all over the city if you look carefully.

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About two hours into our walk (and it was quite warm, about 75 degrees, I was sweating)! Jonas and I got quite hungry and he proposed three dinner options to me. 1. A high end steak restaurant 2. A Swedish/Mexican restaurant 3. A small outdoor restaurant that serves a very typical Swedish meal dish called kropkaka. I certainly chose #3 and Jonas was pleased about this as he apparently likes kropkaka very much. He said the translation is body cakes (?) and he kept repeating it over and over until we got to the restaurant, kind of like Homer Simpson “mmmmmm body cakes”. I think a better translation for it is potato dumplings with pork. So we took the t-bahn a few stops to a very quiet residential area where there was a restaurant right in the middle of the quiet neighborhood. We sat outside at a nice table and we all ordered the same thing kropkaka with butter and lingonberries. They were delicious! There were four of them but since they were so heavy (and Jonas told me that they would put me into a food coma) I only ate three and the guys split the last one. I told Jonas about Carlos’ fondness of eating, eating so much that he needs to take a nap and Jonas liked that idea so much that he has declared his new saying as “eat until nap”! They were surprised that I was brave enough to eat such a traditional dish.

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English version of the menu

After dinner we took a cab to Anders’ and Jonas’ friend Erica’s birthday party. I talked with a few people there (everyone speaks near perfect English around here) and they were all quite nice and friendly. One girl had a question for me when she found out I was American. She was a bit tipsy and she put her face a little closer to mine and said “I have a question for you since you’re from America”. Oh oh! Here we go, more embarrassing Trump questions! But I was wrong. “YOU wear your shoes in your house” ?! She said in a somewhat gentle yet accusatory tone. “NO”! I said “I don’t do that, but most other Americans do”. “Why”? She asked. “Why do they do that, it’s gross”! I told her that I agree with her and I don’t know why they do it. As you may know, most Europeans leave all of their shoes at the door, some change immediately to house slippers. She also had one other question, but it’s not really appropriate to write here. Outside of Erica’s building, we saw a very friendly cat that came up to us, I had to pick it up and give it a hug, I miss my kitties! Anders then pointed out to me that many of the apartments on the first floor had tiny kitty ladders up to the balconies so the kitties could go in and out of the apartment when they wanted, HOW CUTE IS THAT?!

I left the party at about 11:30 pm and since I did not want to take a bus and a train I asked Anders if I could take a taxi. He told me that my Uber app would actually work here in Stockholm and I was quite surprised at that! It definitely worked and I grabbed an Uber and was home in 20 minutes! Good night!

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Kitty ladder!!

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Chapter 3. Stockholm.. beautiful sites and dinner with an old friend

I had a GREAT 10 hour sleep last night which is just what I needed! I set my alarm for 7:30 AM as I wanted to get on Swedish time right away. I woke up and fixed my cereal and eggs and seemed to have the house to myself. The eggs were gross, apparently Swedish eggs are way different than eggs back in Florida. (Honestly they are probably higher quality eggs and I am not really used to that)! So it will just be cereal for now on.  I hit the road at about 9 AM and walked the ten minutes to the T-bahn. The weather was perfect, sunny and about 70 degrees!!I headed to Gamla Stan, which is also known as Old Town. At the very first ATM that I saw I took some cash out. I’ve been told by numerous people that Stockholm is a cashless society and that you don’t need cash, just a credit card, but I’m not carrying my passport with me everywhere so I needed some cash! And I’m not gonna lie, I was thrilled to see a 7-11 because I really needed some familiar coffee!

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Gamla Stan is one of the largest and most well preserved medieval city centers in Europe and is where Stockholm was founded in 1252. It is like a living pedestrian-friendly museum full of sights, attractions, restaurants, cafés, bars, and places to shop. IMG_9678

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The Royal Palace is also located in Gamla Stan and I spotted quite a few important looking Swedes around it.

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I’m pretty sure this guy is a viking on the weekends.

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I was chatting with this barber for a few minutes. He was really enjoying sitting out in the sun with his bulldog Buddy. He was kind of hoping that no customers came along. He was a cool dude, and Buddy was a sweetie. Even when there are customers, Buddy still sits out here in his bed in the sun.

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For lunch I decided to try one of the restaurants in my Lonely Planet guidebook called Hermitage. It is supposed to be one of the best bargains in Gamla Stan and a simple, tasty vegetarian buffet. I’ve been told that Sweden could be quite expensive so I figured I would look for bargains when I ate out. The buffet was quite good for $15.00 and I even had good company! Some of the tables were quite large and the place was small so I sat down with two fun ladies from Denmark, Anita and Gitte. We had quite a few laughs over Trumpf (as one of them called Trump) and how he wanted to buy Greenland from Denmark and how he called the Danish Prime Minister’s remarks “nasty”. Needless to say, Anita and Gitte are not fans of Trumpf.

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My lunch partners, Anna and Gitte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a photo of me and some random Asian woman in Marten Trotzigs Grand, Stockholm’s narrowest street. She insisted on having her picture taken with me.

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After Gamla Stan I headed out into the city center to look for a geocache. (Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world).  Believe it or not, Stockholm encompasses 14 islands and more than 50 bridges! I saw on my geocaching app that there was a cache at a building that was on a little island all by itself so I started heading that way. As I was approaching the cache location I saw a young girl or boy ( My apologies to the young Swede, but I never quite figured it out) near ground zero looking at his (I’m just going to assume he was a boy for conversations sake) cellphone so I asked him if he was looking for a geocache. He told me (in his limited English) that he was in fact a cacher but at this moment he was playing a different game on his phone. He also told me that he has looked for this cache previously but was unable to find it. So I asked him if he could read me what it says on the cache page as it was in Swedish and he did. The hint was “about 1 meter up) and I quickly found the cache under the railing. We were both happy and we both signed the log paper inside the cache!

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The young cacher apparently likes New York.

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The island with the cache

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took a stroll near a very large police station also.

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In the evening I met up with my dear friend Dora. Dora is from Hungary and we met through the workaway site. She came and stayed with me about 6 years ago in Florida, and 5 years ago I went and spent Christmas with her and her lovely parents in Budapest. Dora now lives in Stockholm and she is the only person that I have seen in three different countries! The first thing that we did was buy a Sim card for my phone! I did not want to do it by myself as I did not want to get the wrong one and I definitely did not want to be dependent on free wifi at 7-11 and Burger Kings anymore. I was surprised that the sim card was only $20.00 and she said it should work in Poland too! We then had a nice dinner at a Lebanese restaurant and then did some walking along one of the many waterfronts.

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In this particular area (no I cannot remember what it is called, these Swedish words are very difficult to remember)!! they had a bunch of boats on the water that were actually bars and restaurants so we stopped at one and had a drink while we watched the boats go by and saw a nice sunset. It was so nice to see Dora again, she is always so much fun!

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Chapter 2. Fort Lauderdale to Stockholm

Overall, my flight went very smoothly and for that I am extremely grateful. However it was delayed by about 4 hours and I can not sleep on the plane so I landed in Stockholm  very tired and hungry. Arlanda airport is very easy to navigate fortunately but the few restaurants they have sold mostly bread and pastries, neither of which I wanted. I found the information center where I was able to buy a 5 day pass which will enable me to use all public transport including buses, taxis, trams and ferries. It was quite a bargain at only $29.00. I then made my way to the bus which I had pre bought a ticket for. The 55 minute bus ride brought me about 2 miles from my airbnb hosts home, I then had to jump on the metro and take it one stop to her home, and then had to walk for about 10 minutes. How I was able to do all of this on no sleep and little food, I have no idea. Sussane lives in a quiet residential area, with adorable little homes and trees everywhere. The home is quite deceiving as it literally looks like a barn or shed from the street, but somehow is actually quite roomy on the inside. I had been looking at it on google maps and was a bit worried about it.

The front of Susanne’s house.

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Susanne’s street

My room is in the very spacious basement and has it’s own huge bathroom. The basement has windows and is very tastefully decorated, it’s not like a dungeon. The bathroom even has a sauna in it which are apparently quite popular in Scandinavia. Her backyard is very lush and green and has a couple of nice sitting areas.

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Sussane was at home and greeted me. I chatted with her for a few minutes and then I took off for the market to get something to eat and something for breakfast. The closest market is 1/2 mile away. It is a smaller market but it is a neighborhood store and had everything that I needed.  I found it quite handy and the ten minute walk, half which was through a park, was lovely. I picked up some cereal, eggs, milk, bananas and one of those cheap ramen packets. (Don’t judge, I was exhausted). I got to the counter and swiped my credit card. The cashier said something in Swedish. I told her I don’t speak Swedish. She then told me in English (all shop workers speak English here) that she needs to see my ID. I told her that I don’t have my passport with me and she said she needed ID again. So I told her that I would be back and I walked outside. I walked around the corner, and just stood there and started to cry. I was absolutely exhausted, and starving. I really did not want to walk all the way back to get my passport and start this whole process over again. I just wanted to eat and go to bed. It was about 8 pm Swedish time, the sun was going down, and then it started to drizzle. A lady came by and asked if I was ok. I waved her away and said yes. I was too exhausted to even think about walking back home so I just sat on the curb and cried. Another lady came by and asked if I was ok. I explained my problem to her and she said that she never heard of anyone needing ID to use a credit card and I was like “ME NEITHER”!! She said as long as I had a PIN number it should be ok. I told her that I had a pin number so she said let’s go back in the store and try again. So we did and the cashier told the lady in Swedish “She is a foreigner she needs ID”. OH GOOD LORD, I JUST WANT TO BUY A FEW GROCERIES!! UGH! So I had no choice but to go get my passport, which I did and I was able to buy my $9.00 worth of groceries without any further incidents!!! I went back to my airbnb, heated up my ramen and had a nice chat with Sussane, and was asleep by 10:00 pm!

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Chapter 1. Sweden and Poland 2019

On August 28th, I will be traveling to Europe again! I took a bit of time off from traveling overseas in order to do some minor renovations to my home. Now that they are done, I’m ready for new adventures in Europe. My main destination is Poland as it was next on my list. Just exactly why is Poland next on my list you may be wondering? Well simply because I want to go there, (honestly I want to go pretty much everywhere) and I’m slowly working my way through Europe! Why not? I have not been to a new country in over 4 years, and I am so ready!

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Although Poland was next on my list, I have another reason for my visit. Two years ago I met a wonderful couple who have become like family to me. Adam and Luiza stayed with me for a week after they had written to me on the workaway.info website. They stayed with me in exchange for doing some small tasks around my home. They expertly, and cheerfully, painted both of my bathrooms and replaced a shower head and fixed a faucet for me. We had a very fun week together with lots of laughs. I love them both very much, they are so much fun to hang out with and I am very excited to visit them in their town of Gdynia which is on the North coast of Poland, next to the Baltic Sea.  Here is Adam and Luiza hanging out with Carlos and I when they visited. (Don’t mind Adam’s eyes, I think he was just enjoying the free beer from Harley Davidson.

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Adam and Luiza have added little Emma to their family now so I will get to meet her also.  I have rented an adorable studio apartment through the airbnb website which happens to be IN THEIR BUILDING so I will be very close to them. The apartment even comes with a bicycle and is only $30.00 a night.

Their town of Gdynia is very close to the more well known town of Gdansk. World War II started in Gdansk when the German battleship Schleswig- Holstein fired the first shots at the Polish military post at Westerplatte. For a WWII history buff like me, that is fascinating. I will be sure to visit the monument that is there now as well as the WWII museum.

As the title says, I’m also going to Stockholm, Sweden. Although Sweden was not on my short list of European countries to visit, it is most certainly on my long list, plus I found a cheap flight to Stockholm, non stop from Fort Lauderdale, so Sweden it is!

In Stockholm I am also staying in an Airbnb. I have rented a room in the home of a lovely lady named Susanne for $36.00 a night. This was the only Airbnb accommodation that was available with a private bathroom so I was quite lucky.  Old European homes just don’t have as many bathrooms as we are used to here in the states. Susanne’s property has 36 five star references and everyone raves about how wonderful she is! Her home is in a neighborhood with many other homes but is surrounded by quite a few parks and is just a few minutes walk from a metro station which will take me straight into the city center. With this map that Susanne sent me, I’m sure that I will have no trouble finding her home!

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I do have a couple of friends in Stockholm as well! Jonas and Anders contacted me through the website http://www.couchsurfing.com and stayed with me for a few days about 10 years ago. They were absolutely delightful guests and so much fun. I’ve been promised “shenanigans” with the two of them! Here is a photo of the three of us when they visited Florida.

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My dear friend Dora also lives in Stockholm, but is actually from Hungary. I met Dora through http://www.workaway.info and she came and stayed with me about 5 years ago. We had so much fun together, and even took a road trip to the Keys. The following year I visited her and her family in Budapest. Her parents were so good to me and I just adore them. I have plans to see her on Friday.  Dora and I in the Keys.fb_img_1566872172861

I land in Sweden on Thursday and will stay there for 5 days and then will take a 55 minute flight to Gdynia, Poland.

That’s all for now, see you in Sweden!!

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