When we announced our decision, at what we considered an advanced age, to enter the world of Ex-Pat Life, and move to Europe, people were excited for us. However, when we said where we were going, we repeatedly got the same question, "Why Poland"? An answer of England, France, Germany or Spain, probably would not have raised an eyebrow, but Poland, "Why Poland"? It seemed little was known about Poland as a travel destination.
The answer to the "Why Poland" question could never be answered in a single blog post. My original, oversimplified, answers have evolved, altered by the knowledge gained from the length of our stay, people we have met and the ease of travel throughout the European Union. Culture, history, food, geographic location and the uniqueness of people are only some of the answers. Language, I will get to later.
Now, after almost two years, a Krakowian friend asked me about the culture shock of moving to Krakow from the United States, I replied, "I think the greater culture shock will be moving back".
During a European vacation to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary we started asking ourselves, "Wouldn't it be nice to just move to Europe, instead of traveling back and forth to the United States?" After all, we were older, retired, the kid was grown. What would it take? What would we do? What country should we choose? Which country would let us move in? If not now, when?
This started book buying and had our research department about moving to Europe, what to do with your stuff, taxes and most important, healthcare. My wife, Grace, had given me the gift of "A Castle In My Back Yard", a book written by Betsy Draine, Michael Hinden. Two people, both professors who moved to the South of France, purchased a home and stayed during their summer time off from work. I was fascinated by them and their book and it provided us the inspiration we needed.
We were retired and had already changed our life with a move from New Jersey, settling into a new life in Maine. No downsizing but bigger and surrounded by more land, very cold winters and lots of snow. I was successfully displaying and selling photography and Grace attended UMaine and became a Master Gardner.
Grace has written a description of how two American Senior Citizens packed up and settled in Krakow, Poland in her Wanderlusting Dreams Blog. I will add this very important note: Do not believe the ease of just packing up and moving to another country shown on television shows such as House Hunter's International. It ain't that easy, trust me on this one. Navigating a government bureaucracy, in a language that is foreign to you, and accepting you had do things their way, was not an easy task.
Now that you have read Grace's saga of our journey, I can fast forward you to our new home.
The city of Krakow is Poland's second largest after it's capital, Warsaw. When you enter the town's main square, you walk back in time into what is said to be the largest medieval town square in Europe and probably the world.
The Cloth Market dates back to the Renaissance and the city branches out from here.
Inside is clothing, jewelry, amber and souvenirs from Poland and Krakow.
Year round there are festivals. Food, Ethnic and Holiday celebrations utilize the Main Square and the Little (Mały) Square.
Name your favorite stuffing and you can probably find it inside of a Pierogi.
Bread (Cleb) making demonstrations and contests.
My favorite, Smoked Kielbasa. You will not find these in a U.S. Supermarket
I've only scratched the surface of "Why Poland" with some highlights. Still to come are centuries of history including Kings, Queens and Knights. There are stories of conquests and of being conquered. There is also plenty of legends, fantasy and Dragons. In the future, I will visit Wavel Castle, Wieliczka Salt Mines, Kazimierz section of Krakow, Art Galleries and the great Polish painter, Jan Matejko.
To see more images of our two-year Senior Ex-Pat travel journey, please visit my website at gregoryspring.com. You can find me on FaceBook, Instagram, and Twitter. Our Travel Blog is Grace's Wanderlusting Dreams: Still Bohemian at 65, follow her on FaceBook and Twitter.