It was the winter of 2015 that, like the apple on Newton’s head, an idea fell into my head to go to Europe and enjoy my bachelorhood earning a Masters degree in Management. Even though the idea was simple, it wasn’t an easy choice on which country and which course I should be choosing. After a few weeks of reading, few months of sitting over my decision, holding closely my dear salaried days, I finally applied to Kozminski in June 2016. 3 months and a lot of burning south Indian summer sun over my head, I landed in Warsaw on the 26th of September into the cold breezy Warsaw. I was cogitating about my new world- “Wow! It’s awfully quiet over here”, “ Pff!! Why are they stopping in front of the red lights?”, “Why do they even wait for the green to cross the street, can’t we just run?” and the most perplexing of all questions- “why are these cars not honking??” It was a weird future in front of me, highly doubtful, perplexed, I stood before the Palace of Culture, waiting for my Airbnb host to call, letting me know when to go in.
All of my experiences could be broken down into the 4 short semesters or Episodes.
Holy Moly, I can’t believe it, I’m in Europe!!! This was my only expression for the first few days of stepping foot on the European soil. I was staying with a great family of three at a place called Budowlana. I had a room with a window up against the roof of my room. Having escaped from a place with sun all around the year in abundance, it was too much to wake up to sunlight right on my face. I don’t know if it was because I was named after the sun, or the place of birth that made me repulsive of sun and heat. Now this didn’t qualify to be an ideal dream for my European days. Every day when the host meets me at the Kitchen, she’d say, Isn’t it a lovely morning with all the sun? Didn’t you enjoy the morning rays? And the basic instinct of being nice (and crying inside), would make me say, It was! It feels so much much like home!
Everywhere I looked seemed so much like the pictures and wallpapers I had seen. Since it was October, the green was giving way to the most colourful season. Every tree looked like from the colouring book of a 5-year-old. Serene, beautiful and tantalizing. But in that moment of tranquility, I heard the disturbing noise of a burble. My stomach was on a protest. The lack of language and the difficulty to adapt to the new world let me limp into eating only bread, god-knows-if-it-was-butter and free apples at the university. A week into the pseudo-hunger and inability to find an apartment by ourselves, Me and my roommate moved into the terrible act of cooking ourselves. I was almost an atheist until that point. The moment I had what my roommate cooked, I started believing in God! His prowess in cooking saved my stomach and cute pot belly (Which I grew myself) from extinction. Our initial plan was to land in Warsaw, stay at the Airbnb for a week and then open google, bam! We get an apartment. Well, the plans aren’t meant to work most of the time right? or are they?
Special mention to the hostess too, who without hesitation let us extend our stay for another two weeks beyond our initial plan and for finding us a nice beautiful apartment. As the wise said sometime back when humanity was still being found, that first impression is the best impression, the 3 weeks with the Polish family gave us warm and amazing memories about Warsaw and Poland for the rest of our lives. Their stories of childhood in Polish villages, picking mushrooms, the family dinners, the Polish opera… Everything will be embedded in my memory forever.
It was mid of October that we, me and my roommate decided to move to the apartment in Bialoleka. When we were searching apartments, the only thing that was warned by most of the people we met was Keep away from Praga!. Well, we ended up beyond Praga. As I write this, sitting in the very same apartment after approximately 2 years, I feel this was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Close enough to the University, but far enough from the City centre not to be disturbed by all the issues, and yet, well accessible by almost all means of public transport.
The university life after four years of working wasn’t exactly how I imagined. The ability to concentrate on a lecture had degraded dramatically from the 5 minutes after start to before entering a classroom. Teaching methods in Indian system that I’ve seen were drastically different from what I saw here at Kozminski. We had just 3-4 hours of classes for most days as opposed to 9am to 5pm back home. This was something nice, everyday exploring the city or just hanging out with people or more time to sink into the comfort of a bed.
While in Rome, do what the Romans do. Well, I do not know how well I can put the experiences I had in Warsaw. But what I can sure say is, you can eat like a Polish here. Start the day with the thick potato pancakes, drown yourself at the lunch with a tartar add a platter of pierogi of various fillings, blood sausages grilled/roasted on the side and a ton of raw vegetables for mostly decorating the plates. But dinner is where the fun begins. It took some time to realize that Vodka is an essential part of most polish dinner. I guess it’s mostly because according to Poles, it was them who invented Vodka (*I wish to plead my ignorance on this topic here, in case the Russians have to object ;) ).
Polish weather is something that no can ignore on their first visit, especially the winter. It was the winter of 2017 that I and my roommate decided to try that website our European friends were saying so much about- Ryanair. Boy! It’s an amazing service- gave us tickets to Gdansk, in December for just $1. Well, I get that smirk, it was cold on the beach… but we made it to the new year’s concert there. For me, it was what summer feels like to Europeans, the cold just wasn’t enough. So, right from Gdansk I went straight to Zakopane, one of the coldest places in Poland. From -5 deg C to -30 deg C. I was a kid who saw mud when I saw the snow, rolling, taking selfies and just loving it on the mountains of Zakopane. There was a time I tried to take a selfie, and then rolled into deep snow, so deep, the more I tried to get out, the more I dug. It was the quicksand of the snow. Some kind-heart seeing this decided to laugh until he got bored and pulled me out. Well, as they say- beware what you wish for. I wished snow and I was buried in piles of it. I would strongly recommend all those new to Warsaw/Poland to take the trip. Be it the historic places like Krakow, the beach in tri-city (Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot), mountains of Zakopane or the lakes of Mazury. Poland is an amazing place to explore.
In the next episode, I can tell you all about how to survive in Warsaw. 1st semester is exploration, the second, learning to survive and so on.
Let me know in comments if you like my style of writing and would like to see more chapters coming up.