If you are reading this blog, it might be because you are a student and you are wondering if you should go on a student exchange program or not. Going abroad is a very special experience and you learn a lot about yourself, how to handle unknown and difficult situations and you also meet a lot of different people from different places around the world. First semester I met very friendly Polish students (from Silesia). Unfortunately they had to leave Brussels and go back to their home university for the 2nd term. I’ve never been to Poland, therefore with a friend we decided to go visit them in March. Our flight was Saturday morning…
Day 1: Warsaw – Capital City of Poland
The first words that come to my mind when I think of Poland are Chopin the very famous musician and pianist, and also Marie Curie because that’s where she was born. I also think about the sad disasters of Auschwitz and the fact that the Polish government had to reconstruct a lot of their buildings. Yet before going to this trip, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I didn’t have a mental image of Polish architecture, thus I just let myself get surprised by the adventure. The first thing that I didn’t know was that although Poland is a part of the Schengen Agreement, they don’t have the Euro yet. However, I was astonished to see that even on a weekend there was no difficulty at all to find exchange offices in town. After changing my money, we started going to the city center of Warsaw and visiting Poland….
Stalin built the Palace of Culture. From up close I found that the building looked much smaller than in pictures. Polish people don’t really like the building because it was built by Stalin during the communist period. There is a joke in Poland: “What is the most beautiful view in Warsaw? On top of the Palace of Culture, because that’s the only place where you cannot see it!!”.
Saturday evening, we took the train to go to Katowice, where my Polish friends live. Depending on the type of train the trip can be between 3 and 5 hours. We took the fastest train which took 3 hours.
Day 2: Katowice and Krakow
Katowice is a small city compared to Warsaw and Krakow, however it has a lot of charm. On Sunday when we visited the city, it was the weekend before Easter and a lot of people were in church and were carrying flowers, called palm leaves. My friends showed us the industrial neighbourhood in which miners used to live. Today people still live there, but it is a poorer district than in the past.
There is a salt mine near Krakow. We visited the salt mine, I was very impressed by it because it was bigger than I expected. Miners did beautiful sculptures inside and there are saturated salt lakes. When you go inside you cannot smell the salt very much, however when you leave the mine you can feel the difference in the air. Some people sleep there and stay a couple of days in the mine. Furthermore, there are lots of small chapels inside and there is a big one in which there are Sunday services every week and where you can get married. Some music concerts are also held there because of the nice echo. After visiting the salt mine we decided to visit the city centre.