We are able to travel a little bit now and we recently got back from our first weekend away since our trip to Warsaw. We were were a little rusty. But not too bad. I now realize how efficient we had become at packing and getting away. We only forgot two major items: our portable baby chair to contain the smallest, yet biggest mealtime mess-maker, and ground coffee and filters. We always try to bring our own stash of coffee, because we’ve found that even nice, fully furnished and equipped apartments sometimes don’t have coffee, even instant packets, next to the sugar and salt and when you need coffee, you need coffee.**
We went up to the Baltic coast, to a town called Kolobrzeg (kowO-bzeg). It was good for the soul. The Baltic Sea here reminds me so much of Lake Michigan’s eastern shoreline. If I were dropped from the sky blindfolded, I would have thought I was home. . . until I waded in and got a splash of salty seawater in the face. Or, heard surrounding conversation in Polish, saw itty bitty bathing suit bottoms on gentlemen, and noticed the fabric wind barriers they put up around their claimed space of beach around here. Whichever came first. Soft yellow sand stretches as far as you can see. The sea is clear and cold. The surface water temperature hovers right around 65 degrees Fahrenheit in mid-July and the historic high and low only vary a few degrees from that. Brandon and I both went for a brief swim. Its just the right temperature to make you feel alive, but not really want to linger. Thick forest of trees and low dunes cozy right up to the beach. Could have been back at Hoffmaster State Park. But right behind all that and just up the beach is like, the Delaware and Maryland mid-Atlantic beach towns I’ve been to. Ice cream and pizza and shops along a boardwalk, selling every kind of beach toy your kids could ever beg you for, high and low rise hotels with cabanas to rent for the day stretched across their beach. A wax museum and souvenir shops. You know, the usual beach stuff.
While the beach itself reminded me of so many familiar places, the town let me know we are still far away. Tucked between the pizza and ice cream are pierogi and pazcki shops. Kolobrzeg is another one of those cities which lay within the borders of Germany in the early part of last century. Its architecture is an interesting mix of Polish and German styles, old and new with that soviet bloc influence that is so common here. Walk inland from the shore and you’ll find parks with fountains and tree-lined paths. We wandered by the old Post Office, Town Hall and in to the peaceful quiet of medieval Co-Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with Max (21 months) continually reminding us to “shhh”. They have all been rebuilt and finished after being burned in WWII. They are gorgeous, red brick, new-old buildings like so many of the churches and historic, beautiful buildings we have visited in Poland. Back down to the shore, at the mouth of the Parsęta River is the Kolobrzeg lighthouse (Latarnia morska Kołobrzeg). I’m a sucker for a good lighthouse. Like the other historic buildings in Kolobrzeg, this one is also made of red brick. It was erected in 1945 on top of a fort that had been in place, guarding the river port since the 1600s.
It is interesting being an American traveling in Europe right now, because there aren’t many Americans traveling in Europe right now due to Covid-related travel restrictions. Usually when someone hears me speaking English, they’ll assume I’m British, now and before the pandemic. I always think this is funny, because, accents. But to a non-native English speaker, of course these would be near impossible to differentiate. Where we live it seems they’re surprised to discover we are American, but especially now. I get the feeling there aren’t many of us around here in general. One woman, a coffee shop owner, came from behind the counter to ask us in English where we are from. She seemed excited to talk to us, and kindly gave the boys a balloon and a piece of candy. She was more surprised than usual that we’re American and wondered how long we had been here. After explaining we live in Poland now, she told us about how she spent six years in Boston, bringing her daughter to Boston Children’s Hospital for medical treatment. She wondered what we thought of Poland, and Poles. Her English was perfect, and since my Polish is so far from, it was a treat to be able to have a rare, full conversation with a random and kind Polish stranger.
We took the scenic route home. The journey is half the adventure, after all. We passed through little villages, a lot of farmland, and some exceptionally shady, green tree tunnels. Poland has the best tree tunnels in the world. Don’t even try to change my mind. We stopped to check out some very cool ruins of a 13th century church on a bluff overlooking the sea. When the church was built, it lay two kilometers from the shore, but as the sea crept closer, nature started to slowly reclaim it and throughout the 1900s pieces of the structure slid down the bluff.
I feel like the Baltic seashore in Poland is one of the least talked about stretches of beaches in the world that you should really visit. It was crowded enough that I don’t know if we can call it a hidden gem, because clearly word has gotten out somewhere, but if you’re considering a different sort of beachy destination, consider it.
**Traveler tip, if you’re ever in Poland needing coffee, or anything, look for Zabka, the Polish equivalent to 7-Eleven. There is almost always one nearby that will come to your caffeine rescue.
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