It’s a fact of life – people grow up, move away, and sometimes relocate to other parts of the world altogether. Do you miss them? Absolutely! But does it make your time together more special, when it eventually comes? Without a doubt! I was able to spend 48 hours in Poland with my best friend from university, who moved earlier this year to take an exciting job opportunity! We hadn’t seen eachother for four months, and crammed as much as possible in to a weekend so neither of us had to take time off of work.
My home for the weekend was in Gniezno, about an hour north-east of Poznan. I arrived in the small hours of the morning, but could already see the difference in architecture on the dimly-lit residential streets, spot the road signs, and see all the left-hand drive cars which told me I’d left England.

Saturday was a nice and relaxing day, the kind you spend somewhere when you call it home; meandering to the shops to buy some fresh bread, taking a late breakfast with a big pot of coffee, running some errands, doing some chores, and checking out the local shops. Exploring Gniezno town centre briefly, we popped to Willisch for the coolest dessert you’ve ever seen (pun intended) – black ice cream! I finally experienced the art of a Polish dumpling, and then we headed out for a surprise roadtrip.

the best (and only) black vanilla ice cream i’ve ever had!

Knowing I’m a lover of the great outdoors, and knowing of course that my camera never leaves my side, I was taken on a surprise roadtrip to the very beautiful Powidz Lake, 30km or so away from Gniezno. Out of season it was quiet, with only a few sailing boats out on the water, no campers, and a lone fisherman; in high season I’m told that this is where families camp, rent boats, fish and enjoy the staycation – overseas travel is less popular here. A long jetty lead to where a single boat had docked; there was hardly a soul around and the sun dazzled through the trees as the reflections bounced off the water.

Driving home through the countryside, it’s hard to differentiate it from other countries. Flat, green, and occasionally tree lined, you pass through village after village, not spotting churches as much as in other parts of Europe, but tiny shops, old train tracks, and advertising by the roadside.

The simple art of a night out is culturally so different from Poland to England. At home it’s all too common to see people gathering for too many drinks, and not enough memories made. We’ve always been the kind to sit and chat over a drink (initially bonding over several cups of coffee!), and in Poland culture dictates that friends gather for a chat and a laugh over a drink and the sharing of food. We checked out Sports Pub in Gniezno, which initially drew me in because of the motocross playing on the TV screen. There was a covered outdoor seating area, but not heated like at home – instead with blankets draped over the chairs – though we opted to sit inside by the bar, share a pizza, and have the most amazing mojitos.
After another delicious breakfast of homemade plum jam, we set off to explore Poznan; us girls chatting in the back in English, and the guys in the front of the car in Polish. We listen to Polish rock, watch the countryside roll by, and I get the guided tour of sights I can see from the window.
We begin at the town hall, arriving in time to watch the midday spectacle that is two head-butting goats emerging from a cuckoo clock! Hundreds of people had gathered, and at the stroke of midday, the bugle rings out, the doors open, and the goats emerge. There is a Polish legend which tells of goats head-butting at a feast, and so it was decided that people should be treated to this view every day – it’s become a sort of mascot for the city, with plenty of goat memorabilia, statues, and even real goats paying a visit to the square! What perhaps made this experience all the more special was the impromptu musical performance from a young orchestra, who had paraded around the streets, and then filled the balconies of the town hall.
We dived in to E. Wedel to eye up all of the cutesy chocolates, and ended up staying for a DIY hot chocolate (well, we can’t be blamed, can we?!) It’s at times like these you’re glad there’s a native Polish speaker sitting in front of you – everything in the menu looked so good, but it was all purely guess work! I opted for a milk chocolate base with roses and a scoop of raspberry sorbet dolloped in the middle. Honestly – delicious, 10/10, the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had! It was hot and cold and tasted chocolatey and fruity. Complete contrasts but it worked so well!

So after meandering around the old market square, the next adventure came in the form of a tram! I was super excited about this actually, the last tram I went on was in Berlin a few years ago, but these were so different from how I remember the German counterparts. I bought a ticket which equated to something crazy like 94p from an automated machine near the platform (no ticket barriers here), and we headed off in the direction of Citadel Park, making sure I validated my ticket on board the tram.

Kornelia knows I love roses (you’d have to to put them in your hot chocolate, right?!) and there was still some of their large display in bloom. It was here that I really noticed people’s behaviour, how they seem happier, enjoy a slower pace of life, and look as if they enjoy to spend time together. Families walk in the park, and old couples sit snuggled up amongst the roses. There’s something quite retro about the ambience here, with oldschool candy floss being served on sticks in every colour, and bubbles made with sticks and string for children to play in.

Following the path, we arrived outside the Army Museum where tanks and planes were parked in neat lines, but ducked in to Umberto, one of my host’s favourite spots. This bustling café looks inconspicuous from the outside, but erupts into an oasis of green as soon as you are through the plastic curtain. Plants and ornaments hang from the ceiling, birds are dotted around in different aviaries, and we wait for a table as the queue grows steadily behind us – a popular spot indeed! Inside it was more like a quaint botanical garden, with tables nestled among plants. We shared a pizza, and despite really fancying a cold iced tea, was served a hot lemonade – which looked and tasted like Christmas in a jar!

Before heading off to the airport I was shown the war cemeteries and monuments, where the servicemen and prisoners of war can be found. It’s beautifully kept, sectioned for British, Soviet and Polish, and actually quite moving.

Me being me, I was drawn to the typography on the stones, and asked what they said. It’s funny how the little things stand out to you, but perhaps the highlight of my whole trip, odd as this may sound, was the three of us standing around this graveyard, Michal reading out the Polish, line by line, and Kornelia translating the English for me – it was a poem, they said, and just this multi-lingual delivery and the fact that, years after the wars, there we were standing together and sharing a beautiful moment in a place that had been in such turmoil, restored my faith in humanity just a little bit.

Before I knew it, it was time to hit the road to the airport, but I left with a sense of cultural fulfilment, happiness for getting to spend some quality time with one of my favourite people, and a list of things I must see when I visit next!