A weekend in Amsterdam, a weekend in Poland… the ease of international travel here in Europe is really quite fun! This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Poland, and better yet, to visit a friend from Luther in Poland! I think visiting people is one of the best places to travel and see different places – not only because it’s thrifty (I have yet to pay for a hotel/place to stay – outside of Bonn – in any of my European adventures thus far), but also because it means you get insider tips and people to explore with! Natalie was an especially fantastic buddy, and we had a lovely time exploring together!
Museums are quite popular in Europe, and seem to be frequently visited by both visitors and people living in/near the area. Local historical museums seem especially common – more so than I am accustomed to in the U.S., though perhaps that is simply because Europe’s history is longer, and therefore most localities have more history to commemorate than many U.S. cities do! Wroclaw, Poland was no exception in this regard, and Natalie and I visited several together. To say that their collections were a bit of a hodgepodge – that the theme or common thread between the objects was sometimes difficult to discern – would be quite the understatement. Consequently, I think we enjoyed these museums much more because we experienced them together, than we would have visiting them alone. When we saw what appeared to be a normal drill, for example, encased in glass and labeled “cordless drill,” we could ask questions and exchange glances; when steps away we saw an Egyptian mask, or a rug from the 1700s, we could look together in awe and speculate on potential connections between the seemingly disparate items. All in all, the museums were quite an entertaining adventure – and taught me a bit about Wroclaw’s history, too!
Food is where visiting people and not simply places – receiving those insider tips – is especially rewarding, in my opinion. Natalie did not disappoint in this regard! For our first lunch out together, Natalie took me to a cozy restaurant serving typical Polish cuisine, where we enjoyed beet soup with pierogies, and potato pancakes. While you might raise your eyebrows at the idea of beet soup, you should give it a chance – the clear broth was surprisingly flavorful and delicious, and the perfect meal after a brisk fall walk around the city. The delectable pierogies inside the soup, tinged with pink from the beets, only enhanced the soup experience. The potato pancakes on the side were also great – crispy on the edges, warm and soft in the middle. All in all, a warm, hearty, delicious, and pleasantly Polish meal!
The following day our lunch stop was a charming wood-fired pizza place, situated underneath train tracks. The pizza was fantastic – think Punch, but better, with a thin-but-not-too-crispy crust, and just the right amount of cheese. The great setting, with occasional train rumbles overhead, and the garlic/chili oils on offer as garnishes, only made the pizza taste even better! Natalie, herself, also provided some great food – delicious homemade chai lattes, and even some creative cookie oatmeal on our last morning together!
Besides eating (soup, pizza, pastries, cakes), visiting museums, and exploring the city’s attractions (like the charming gnomes found all around Wroclaw), Natalie also took me to go bouldering at her local climbing gym! This was quite fun for me, as I had never tried bouldering before, and Natalie was an excellent teacher. I tend to be rather reluctant with some heights-related activities – climbing included – but I thoroughly enjoyed this bouldering adventure. After warming up, Natalie started me on an easy climb, showing me the way first, and then watching me, and offering tips and encouragement along the way. Over the course of the evening, my confidence and enjoyment of it all grew. I think my high point was when I tried one slightly harder spot, and there was a hold kind of far away that Natalie suggested I go for. It felt forever away, and I wasn’t sure I trusted my other muscles/limbs to hold me, but I went for it, flinging out my arm, and I managed to grab the hold! Endorphins flooding my body, I felt very accomplished.
Throughout all of our adventures, Natalie and I also enjoyed lots of good conversations. It was so much fun to be able to chat with a fellow Luther person – about friends, professors, classes, etc. – make nerdy biology jokes and references (e.g. reference to endorphins above) and have someone understand them, watch and discuss documentaries together (several interesting “Explained” episodes, and a full-length documentary called the Gamechangers, highly recommended!) and simply catch up about our lives and plans! All in all, it was a highly enjoyable weekend.
During my travel to Poland, I started reading a book (recommended to me by a friend) that I have to mention briefly here, as I have found it fascinating and think everyone should read it! Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker, is a thoroughly engrossing and informative, book, discussing something that I think not nearly enough people appreciate and recognize: the importance of sleep. Particularly coming out of college, where I know many people pull all-nighters and routinely function (or I would now say, “function”) on five or so hours of sleep, I found this book at turns enlightening, intriguing, and alarming. Perhaps a small piece of my fascination with the book comes from feeling vindicated, having gotten through college with less sleep deprivation than most students, but sometimes because I chose to forego fun things in order to sleep/because I was too sleepy. However, I’ve certainly chosen and suffered my fair share of sleep deprivation, too, and this book is making me think seriously about how to avoid that in the future. Whether you’d like to live longer, have a healthier heart, lose weight, feel sick less often, reduce car accidents, be more emotionally stable, reduce your risk of having dementia, or simply learn, concentrate, and function better, this book gives you reasons to prioritize sleep. I don’t think we give sleep nearly the credit or respect it is due, and I think this book, well-written and well-supported with research, is one step in addressing that, and increasing public knowledge about sleep’s importance. I’m not finished with the book yet, so I’m excited to continue learning more, but I definitely think this is an important read for anyone and everyone. Whether during travels to Poland, or over a cup of hot chocolate at home, I highly recommend that you grab a copy and start reading!