Monday, September 9, 2013

Hello from Gdansk, Poland!

Hello everyone, my name is Taylor Stoddard and I am studying in London for the 2013 fall semester. I am an English literature student in my final semester. I am thrilled to have finally squeezed in my ‘always planned’ semester abroad. I remember attending the Study Abroad Fair at UMKC three years ago with plans of going to Lyon as I was studying French at the time, but as many of us do, I changed my major and now I am in the heart of my favorite subject, London. Surrounded by beautiful libraries, huge bookstores-new and used. Train trips to Oxford, Cambridge, and Trinity College are all in store for me during my next three months. I also have plans to visit some of my favorite author’s homes here in London and in other cities.
Leaving Kansas City was easy for me. This is now my third time abroad alone since I’ve been twenty. I can’t get enough of European culture, and this time around I wanted to explore further East and further North. So my journey began in mid August with enough time to see new places.
Gdansk, a beautiful sea-side city in Northern Poland was my first destination after spending just one quick day exploring London. Here I was exposed to a culture similar to that of Western Europe, but differing by their lack of Western products, shops and English. Waiting in the cold night air for a bus from the airport to the city centre was a poor first impression, and arriving to a fully booked hostel that myself and the two other girls I was meeting had already arranged also wasn’t ideal, however the morning light completely revitalized my impression of Gdansk, its people and especially its food! As I mentioned, once at the airport I met up with two other friends from Kansas City who were already travelling. The three of us woke up the next morning a bit curious as to why I chose Gdansk, but the truth is, I was only searching for cheap travel. I visited a site that allows for users to input a point of departure and “everywhere” for the point of arrival. Meaning, they allow for you to go anywhere based on the price of the ticket. I found a ticket from London to Gdansk for £20, so off I was to a place I’d never heard of.
We happened upon an annual fair, St. Dominic’s Fair, an exhibition of Polish food, Baltic Amber, jewellery, music and beer. Thousands of tourists flood the city to experience traditional Polish flare. Though surrounded by other tourist I’d swear we were the only Americans in the entire city.
A quick (but confusing) train ride from Gdansk to Molbork Castle brought me back to the 13th century and the time of Teutonic Knights. The largest castle in the World deserves an entire day to explore its massive grounds. Though we missed the guided tour in English, it’s interesting to note it was the only tour of the day in English with only ONE customer. I met this man on the train back to Gdansk and he told me his tour guide spent 5 hours leisurely walking about the castle giving him inside information and even stopped for lunch together. These are the benefits of visiting very small cities. 
 During the second World War Gdansk was nearly completely wiped out, and so the buildings, the Town Hall and other important city features were completely rebuilt in the 20th century. However they stuck to the traditional features of architecture and design, the result of which is a colorful candy-land city on the water with beautiful crafts, rich history and friendly people. 

After Visiting Poland we ventured to Hamburg, but I'll save that for my next post! 

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