One of the few things that were clear in my mind after I finished my Erasmus year in Poland is that I had to go back. I had to wait three years for that. However, when I did it was on a proper trip and not just a quick weekend getaway. In June 2015 I made plans and got tickets to go there for three weeks that August.
The initial plan was to hop from town to town without going to the countryside at all: Cracow, Wroclaw, Gdansk, Rzeszów and Warsaw. However, it’s always nice to leave room for a little improvisation, and that’s what happened when Alicja, a girl I had met on CouchSurfing one or two years earlier, told me she was coming back from South America and I was invited to a little party at her family house in her village, about a couple of hours from Wroclaw.
Biedrzychowice, 788 inhabitants in 2011 according to Wikipedia. As you can imagine, I had no idea of where it was (I actually had to ask Alicja for the name of the village right before writing this) but well, why not. After all, I hadn’t been to the Polish countryside yet.
First of all, I have to thank Alicja for coming to the bus stop, getting on the bus and waking me up when I arrived, otherwise i would have ended up in the Netherlands or something like that. Once I got off the bus, I could immediately see that the village was very small, rather a bunch of houses built randomly at both sides of the road. I didn’t really have time to see much, as we left my things at her place and then went to see a friend of hers who worked with horses.
When we left, Alicja´s friends were still not there so she took me to her family’s house again, where a few relatives were having a barbeque. That was when, for the first time in my life, I truly experienced Polish hospitality.
I apparently was the first foreigner in the family house and none of them, if I remember correctly, spoke English, but that didn’t stop them from asking me a million questions about who I was and what I was doing in Poland and making me feel at home from the beginning. Here’s the thing about Poles, and I´m pretty sure this happens in Slavic countries in general: their language is difficult and foreigners rarely speak it, so if you can say a few more things apart from “hello”, “thank you” and “good morning” they will love you. I did my best to communicate in my broken Polish (which isn’t much more than the words I previously mentioned anyway) and that seemed to make them even friendlier.
Their hospitality was truly overwhelming and it’s truly one of my fondest memories of that trip. Different food kept coming endlessly: lots of meat, pickled cucumbers (obviously) and galareta, some meat in jelly that I ate despite not fully coming to terms with its taste; it’s the least I could do to correspond all that kindness.
So much food obviously made everyone thirsty. However, there was no need to worry, as there was enough vodka to make the whole village drunk. Alicja warned me that nobody left that house sober and she was so right. My brain may be twisting my memories a little bit, but I remember drinking five or six shots after what seemed little more than half an hour and being certain I was going to end up sleeping in the little dog’s house.
Her friends arrived and we went somewhere else. It didn’t matter; I could run from the vodka but I couldn’t hide. At some point I ended up playing Jethro Tull songs on youtube and singing them with a guy who was too shy to speak English when he was sober.
To be fair, I managed to keep my dignity with me and the following day I was moderately alive. We spent a few hours chilling next to a lake before I went back to Wroclaw, although nothing eventful happened there because everyone was recovering from the previous night.
All in all it was a wonderful experience and, even though I’ve focused on the vodka because well, it’s just impossible to not make cheap jokes about it, that’s not the point. A group of people whom I didn’t know at all opened their door and made me feel like one of them and I will always remember it with a smile.