Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a wine tasting hosted by Wineland. I’ll admit, I’m not always excited to go to mixer-type events. (Not very “Go Now”, I know…) They can sometimes be a challenge, especially since I’m still trying to learn Polish, let alone the other 14+ languages represented here. That night was different; wine was the great equalizer. Language barriers were’t the typical issue and we all chatted while still listening to our very patient sommelier. It was a lovely evening — 18 women in a room surrounded by yummy bites and cases of wine. I’m glad I went, it was one of the best mixers I’ve attended, since college anyway.
It was while we were chatting and siping on our aperitif that I realized that I moved to Poland more than six months ago. Early in the move I celebrated every “Polandiversary” by looking back at the progress we’ve made since getting here. That habit fizzled somewhere around the holidays. Nonetheless, it’s hard to ignore what has happened in the past six months as an expat. Here are some of the highlights:
- We played Laser Tag three days after I touched down in Berlin and we’ve been back three times since. I think our next outing will be bowling. Apparently, I’m a bit too aggressive for the folks we played with. Clearly they don’t know that I have my own bowling ball 😉
- We went to Oktoberfest! The local event was hosted by Chris’ German colleagues and it was great fun. The beer was German and the food was a mix of Polish and German specialities. I especially liked the roasted chicken and huge pretzels. I tried to get into Bigos, the national dish of Poland, but just couldn’t get my head around how it is prepared. Some things I just shouldn’t know…
- I’m getting ready for the 2016 event by searching for a Dirndl. Check out my Oktoberfest Pinterest Board to see some of the styles that I like.
- I found, contacted, and ordered wood from a delightful man named Adam that doesn’t speak English. Luckily, he was charmed by my horrid attempts to speak in Polish. In addition to the two cubic meters of wood, I got a kiss on the hand. He’ll be back in August when we get our second delivery.
- Motivated to discover more of the city, Chris and I launched Friday Date Night. So far, our favorite spot is Hospudka, a Czech restaurant. Our meals there prompted us to move up the Czech Republic on our Polish Bucket List. Plus, one of my favorite photos was taken on our first visit – a liter of Rezane is the perfect drink and prop.
- There is no shortage of sweets. Chris loves the candy aisle in the grocery stores. And the only thing I love more than the eclairs is lody. My new goal is to visit all of the Castellari locations — four down, five to go.
- It’s rare that my Polish-life reminds me of my Kentucky-life, but this view brought me back to the Bluegrass State. I haven’t seen a horse since that day. Coincidentally, many of my KY friends are at Keeneland right now.
- I waited for the punchline when Chris came home from work and announced that he’d be making apple pie. Turns out that the joke was one me. He made Szarlotka Martinis (called Polish Kiss in the States), an apple pie flavored drink made from Bison Grass Vodka and apple juice. It’s the perfect fall drink, he can make me apple pie anytime he’d like.
- Halloween isn’t widely celebrated here, but one of the american families did their best to change that. Amazing party. Luckily I managed to convince Chris to dress up, because all but one of the 100+ people showed up in costume and many were in elaborate make-up. Months later I was still connecting faces with costumes. Our costumes were rented from Fantazja. Visit their facebook page to see us in costume and to watch the video of the raffle that we won. Yay! Free movie tickets.
- Movies here are great! Online ticketing and reserved seating means no lines and no searching for a good seat. And for an extra few Zloty (about $1) it’s possible to upgrade to VIP seating — larger seats, positioned in the center square of the theatre, with wider arm rests and better cup holders. Perhaps best of all, the Polish word for popcorn is pronounced popcorn. Sometimes it’s the small things… 🙂
- Our furniture was shipped in two installments. The first got here in September before I arrived and the second, larger delivery, got here on 17 November. The goal was to get settled by 1 January. For the most part we hit the goal. There is still a disaster of a space on the third floor that I call “The Monica Room” — cue the Friends music. Sadly, the Forty Bags in Forty Days Challenge didn’t help as much as I had hoped, but I’m making progress.
- Our first snow in Poland turned out to be uneventful. Just a light dusting. We should count ourselves lucky; most of the following snow days looked similar. I only used the snow shovel twice and the snow blower is still sitting in the box.
- Thanksgiving Day was a bit odd. Turkey can be hard to find, so we had ham. While I was cooking the meter reader showed up to calculate our energy bill. This was after the gardener showed up early. Then as we sat down to eat, two Jehovah’s Witnesses rang the bell. (They initially came to the house the day the second furniture shipment arrived. I think I was added to the frequent visit list once they learned that I spoke English. Somehow Chris is never home when they visit. How convenient…) Lots of traffic considering we only had one guest for dinner.
- A few days later we attended a more traditional Thanksgiving with about 50 of our English speaking friends. Fried turkey! The Brits, loved the food so much they didn’t care about the history of the holiday. That said, it was still quite the international meal — German Egg Nog and Pierogi are now and forever on my Thanksgiving menu.
- The Christmas season started with a Danish celebration and continued until Epiphany. I’ve never attended so many parties — Juleglogg, Christmas Eve Cocktails, Christmas Brunch, New Year’s Eve Dinner, Boxing Day. The community here is phenomenal. We got fat and happy.
- Of course European Christmas isn’t complete without Christmas Markets. A friend from home was in Berlin for work, so we met at the Berliner Weihnachtsmarkt. Then Chris and I took a road trip to a medieval town in Germany for my birthday weekend. There was plenty of Glühwein at the Esslinger Mittelaltermarkt and too many Egg McMuffins at McDonalds — I don’t recommend ordering the number five by pantomime. Finally, I joined some of my new friends on a trip to Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin. Shopping was good, but food was better. Like I said, fat and happy.
- Words can’t describe how seriously Poles take New Years celebrations.
- We played tourist for the day with our first visitor to Poland, a friend from college that Chris also knew in high school. He was in Belgium for work and made the quick flight to see us. We packed quite a bit into the brief visit — Rode the tram. Ate at the oldest bar serving paszteciki. Stopped at Galleria Kaskada for gelato. Went pottery shopping — where we bumped into some local friends. Had beers and “onion rings” (literally rings of raw onion) at a brewery in Old Town. Passed through The Pomeranian Duke’s Castle. Walked Wały Chrobrego. Visited a grocery store. And explored Central Cemetery. The only thing we didn’t do was take enough pictures.
- Finally, we did some traveling outside of the area. Of course, Tallinn, Riga, and Dublin all deserve their own post.
That brings us to the past week and time for a new post. Whew!
So, which Dirndl should I buy?