After Christmas and before New Year's Eve (okay, on the 29th, I checked) Hannes, both our moms and I went on a little day trip over the border to Poland.
Hannes' and Nico's moms often drive over to Świnosjście (or Swinemünde in German, because this is pretty hard to say) for inexpensive spa treatments and, honestly, inexpensive everything else, too.
A two-hour drive due east from Rostock takes you from silky smooth roads like the one pictured above to developing world-quality ones that are all crumbly and full of potholes. It's not hard to imagine people swinging over for things like cartons of cigarettes and who-knows-what-else, kind of like how Americans swing down to Mexico for cheap generic Oxycontin and Botox, but less tragic. And without the ever-present threat of imminent physical violence or even death by execution-style gunshot to the head.
The instantaneously worsening road quality is one of the stereotypes Germans have about Poland, apparently, but at least at this particular spot, it literally does change as soon as you cross the line.
Hannes insists that Poland is a former Soviet Bloc state success story, and I certainly haven't read enough to throw in my two cents on the topic, but all things considered, it's not surprising that a lot of Poles feel a little bitter about how much better the former GDR is doing in comparison.
It's kind of hilarious to me that western Germans, in turn, are doing even better than the people I know in Germany and are sometimes snooty and superior about it, because even people who "just" went through vocational training or who didn't do anything beyond high school at all got a much better education than you probably can for free anywhere in the States, and theirs is the highest quality of life I've ever seen. I can only imagine how well Danes and Swedes do for themselves, and how many people would weep at the sight or taste of what they might consider mediocre.
And when the wall did come down and Germany was officially reunified, on Hannes' third birthday, he and his parents and everybody else to the right of the line were something like refugees, traveling across it to Berlin in order to collect their 100 marks per head from the federal government ("Welcome money" that anyone who'd previously gotten permission to go into West Germany also received before, though it was less) to help them transition, because they weren't even using the same currency.
First thing's first: coffee time.
These Baltic folks are major coffee-and-cake-time people, it's pretty great.
My mom was having a nice time even though I was being snappy and short-tempered
while figuring out my new camera ;>_>
Oooh, but look at the texture! The texture, Duke, the texture!
Goddamn it, this is such a handsome angle, too. Sigh
I had a baked potato with sour cream and fresh dill with a side of grilled veggies for, I don't know, 6 or 7 bucks.You literally can't even get stuff like this in Japan, especially not in this size.
The center of town was pretty quiet, though there were a fair number of people about; the remnants of the Christmas market were still up and everyone was just having kind of a slow relaxed grey day, meandering about.
Very nearly bought something from this ceramics vendor and can't wait to accumulate so much glorious handmare earthenware vessels and other shit from Eastern Europe once I have a place to put them.
A few of these are from my mom's iPhone.
Just kids in a human-sized bouncy snowglobe, no big deal haha
This church was the most prominent one in the centre of town, so we wandered over to it to see inside and take a few pictures.
Naturally my mom took one of the nice little shrine they have to Pope John Paul II (who was Polish, yes), a well-known and -loved figure in her side of my family.
Just to the left of the large, heavy wooden doors was this very Eastern Orthodox prayer nook.
And, much like the churches in Rostock and probably Hamburg and all the other Hanseatic and Hanseatic-adjacent cities, there were large old models of ships hanging from the ceiling.
This doughnut's name is Malina.
For real though everything looked so good, and was so cheap. 3.50 Zloty is 88 cents, USD.
Anke picked up some new workout shorts for Marco in a funny little shopping area that reminded me of the old, run-down, and immigrant-heavy areas of Phoenix, like around Christown Mall.
But, again, by American standards, Poland is very safe. And charming!
Oh right, of course - I almost forgot the manhole covers.
New manhole cover equals new city, that's the rule.
Also they use hieroglyphics to depict children at play lol
Would you want the world's perkiest boobs if it meant giving up your arms?
Wait, what is the moral of this story?
Just past a novelty galleon-like wooden ship that houses a restaurant something that probably belongs to NATO was visible across the harbour.
Street art ahoy!
Just these two things, though. I didn't really see any slaps or other stencils or anything.
Another church, this one even more imposing from the outside in a brick gothic style different from that of northern Germany.
The insides of these ones are pretty ornate and colourful, too, which is also different from the often simple, primitive, and Medieval style of those in Germany, which I think are much more like museums than functioning places of worship. That's part of what makes them so pleasant.
After a leisurely walk around we decided to go down to the water.
These dried fish are pretty gnarly-looking, huh?
It looks just like Rügen, Germany's largest island (and probably nearby Usedom as well), with calm, viney, leaf-littered forest all the way down.
And a weirdly festive and fragrant (seriously, like with incense or something) little public bathroom house surrounded by kitschy witch decorations?
Then there was another weird combination of things we didn't expect
once we did get down to the water: beach swans.
They surfed, too. It was a little ridiculous.
I guess feeding them is a thing, and chasing them like this one obnoxious little kid
does in the video, because they really didn't seem to care. Anke and I were hoping they'd
attack him, but they were just like, eh, just far enough back to the water that he stops.
The local novelty bus
An older open-air painter in front of a wide open and desolate amphitheatre.
Ah! And a Hanseatic merchant vessel with the Rostock emblem on it sculpted out of sand.
This is another of my mom's pics and it isn't the cafe we went to to finish off the afternoon, but there are a whole string of cute little themed ones like this on the boardwalk to choose from, though "little" is the key word; they're mostly very tiny and made for sitting in front of rather than inside.. of.
Hot mulled fruit wine, coffee, and cake time? Aw yiss.
But I was still stuffed from lunch and didn't have any.
Okay, I had a bite. I mean look at it though, how could I not?
The drive back was a peaceful and sleepy one with a beautiful sunset.
Both our moms' driving keeps both of us on the edges of our seats with anxiety, but Hannes is in his driving as in everything else: calm, confident, and steady.
All in all it was a nice little day out and I can't wait to see more of Poland.