Love by all accounts and personal experience is a strange and often illogical feeling. The love of countries can be even more strange sometimes based on a feeling or sense more than rational factors. Luckily being polyamorous with countries is socially acceptable. So I can love Spain for its overt and visually vibrant left wing politics as well as it’s breathtaking landscapes. I can love Latvia for it’s people, it’s simplicity and in the areas I visited lack of the curse of modernity. Now strangely I feel like I have also fallen for Poland.
Lets look first though at the rational and the negative. Poland has some clear things which grate and I do not like. There is an obvious sexism in advertising for example. The bus stops display an ongoing graffiti war between competing but all apparently far-right wing football fans. There are clear displays of invasion from ‘western Europe’ Lidl, Tescos and other familiar supermarket brands. Plus the armies of foreign tourists being wooed by guides and restaurants in Warsaw and Kraków.
However for every familiar high street chain there seem to be ten independent shops. The cities are especially full of small bars, cafes, bookshops, food shops and clothes/shoe shops. Not all to my taste but it is nice to see this spirit of independence. It reminds me of the vibrant independent business scene that has emerged in Leeds. The smaller towns by their nature are more limited but bar maybe one or two chain supermarkets they are also populated by independent businesses. Poland appears to me to really be ‘a nation of shopkeepers’.
This gives the county a very different feel to the ‘identikit’ vector graphics of many other places I’ve been. This is also bourne out in how a new house being built looks. Thanks in part I believe to lax planning laws new houses are all sorts of designs and shapes even if the construction techniques themselves are fairly standard. The best example I saw of this was a house with a completely seperate circular tower at one corner. What purpose these two slightly impractical rooms weren’t meant to serve I have no idea but I like how crazy it looks.
To be honest reading between the lines of the above easily identifies why I love this country. It’s familiar enough to be comfortable but crazy enough to be interesting and exciting. Even the language, in which I’m up to about six words is hard but appeals to my thirst for learning and knowledge with it’s complexity.
However of course this is all new, maybe when you are travelling and a tourist you can’t really love a country. Surely it’s lust at best, a quick fling before you leave for the next one. So in two days time I should be in Slovakia. As much as I love Poland it hasn’t forced me to stop moving and pinned me down. My route though I think will bring me back into the west of the country for a while so maybe there is still time. Plus as with the other countries that fight for the attentions of my heart i.e. Spain and Latvia, I want to come back again in the future and experience it more, test and explore our fledgling relationship.