I am sure you have all heard the saying “when you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all” well perhaps I should stop now and not write anything about Poland.
I will declare now that we are both a little tainted in our opinion, as this is where I (Maree) was forced to leave the boat and return to the UK for a while to ensure I didn’t overstay my 90 days in the EU Schengen area as per Australian passport holders are allowed.
Having done nothing wrong, knowing I hadn’t either overstayed the number of days allowed in the EU and Cfurthermore having declared our arrival at each and every new country/port it was a shock when we were severely chastised due to not getting stamps in The Netherlands and Germany (where customs officials had welcomed us, told us we were not a threat and that they didn’t want to limit my time in the EU therefore required no stamp). We were expecting the Polish to not be as casual and give me a stamp in – essentially starting my 90 day clock (which was fine and we new would happen sooner or later) but NO I was taken to the customs office by the officers whom visited the boat (when we contacted them to declare our entry) and was sat in a meeting room with a guard (who didn’t speak English) and left there for over 4 hours before they came back with a stamp that had been backdated to the entry date in the Netherlands and therefore leaving only 13 days in the entire EU Schengen area. Very upsetting and quite a shock.
The next day was spent making plans for Maree to leave the EU and we are extremely grateful once again to Pat and family for providing a place for me to stay in the UK (the UK are not in the Schengen area). With travel arrangements made we had one more day together to look around Swinoujscie before I was due to depart. Surprisingly it turned out to be a hot one, the temperature reaching 31 degrees!
Neither of us could find a whole lot to like (even when putting the customs issue behind us), going by this town Poland is seemingly a rather poor country or at least the northern towns certainly are. Lots of apartment blocks, lots of raw concrete, supermarkets not particularly clean nor organised. It was also the first time that English was not spoken by those whom you would think may be able to.
When we visit a country we in no way expect them to speak English as we are in their country and should speak their language, this can be challenging trying to learn so many languages so quickly whilst we are travelling but we always get the basics down (please, thank you, hello, goodbye, numbers etc).
Poland however was the first place where the people in customary “tourist or international” type roles were not able to speak any English, for example, the customs men (making my whole scenario quite difficult), the people in the marina, the staff at the airport and train stations also didn’t speak english. They could speak German, not surprising I guess with them sharing a land border close by but English was very foreign to them.
It is also the first country where I actually noticed that the people looked noticeably Polish (notice my tact . . . writing Polish rather than saying they look different), what I mean is they all look similar. I was asked if I noticed the girls in Holland or Germany being particularly tall, blonde or beautiful but I couldn’t say that I did, they were normal with some tall, some short, some beautiful some ordinary and so on. But in Poland men, women and children were all considerably short (I was feeling tall) had dark hair, (blonde was very very rare), and all quite round or thick set – made noticeable because they were short. They all looked like cousins, very similar faces. We felt very different, and felt we stood out and we haven’t felt like that anywhere else.
From what we can gather Poland is still developing following it’s years under soviet control. We can only hope they continue to grow and develop.
So all good things must come to an end – a temporary glitch (definitely not a permanent end). It was soon time for me to board my train to the airport.
Here in starts another tale, having to take three local trains to get to the airport – see picture below of one of the stations where I waited ALONE for 1 hour and 22 minutes for a connecting train to the airport ……errrrrr, yes a very long 1 hour 22 minutes and I didn’t see another person, car or building.
I then had a direct flight from Szczecin (Poland) to Stansted (England). We are calling it Crew being out on R&R and leaving Phil to sail Red Roo out of Poland and east thru Lithuania and Latvia (the tricky countries for EU passport control) where after some time in England I will be able to re-join him.
It is no mean feat sailing a yacht alone, the actual sailing part not being so hard but berthing can be quite the challenge, however as expected he did fabulously with the tactic of arriving at a harbour and picking the most expensive looking boat around and declaring very loudly that you are solo berthing along side of them – funnily enough they always rush to assist …. he he he.
No seriously, jokes aside, he did great and there were usually fellow sailors around to assist him to berth in most locations. Incredible that he only got it sideways once (that he has told me about) in a very tricky situation of a stern buoy, bow to pontoon berth in cross winds – that was never going to be easy no matter how much help he had.
Writing this retrospectively, I can declare that he did let it slip a week after I left that “the second set of hands is useful” and that “someone to talk to is nice” I am taking those words to be interpreted to “I miss you” but of course he would never actually say that…