It’s Sunday sunset time and I am sitting back on a Flixbus having just passed back over the Polish-German Border into a bucolic, wind turbine-infested Germany. Part of me is craving the craziness and liveliness of my life in Berlin, but most of me is still floating in Szczecin, a totally different world (which has one too many consonants to pronounce) just two hours from the German capital.
I made the choice to surprise my boyfriend, Bruno with a trip to Szczecin just over a week ago, when I decided it was time to spontaneously book a weekend trip somewhere new and unique without having to fly. While I was initially unthrilled about booking a trip to somewhere else urban, I now have absolutely no regrets.
Just two long, dreamy days ago, we successfully beat out the Berlin traffic and arrived in the city just around sun-down. Hangry, I forced Bruno into the Polish restaurant, Harnaś near our hotel and order Pierogis, Polish “dumplings” filled with pork, cabbage, and cheese. I put dumplings in quotes, because I had no words to describe them until Bruno saw them and immediately compared them to the dumplings we used to get (and he loathed) in China. His feelings towards dumplings still haven’t changed, and I was forced to eat his share. Still bearing space in our stomachs, we ended up at none other than….a brazilian restaurant. Yup, here we were in a small Polish city getting Brazilian food. While I laughed at the thought, it was fucking awesome and I could eat their cassava fries for days.
Not having researched much of the nightlife, we found out the city’s only gay-friendly bar was just a fifteen minute walk away. Having packed hastily, we walked on in with running shoes and tank tops, apparently not the look at Szczecin’s only gay bar, Love CLUB All Together (yes, ‘for anyone’ is part of the name of the club). At first glance, it felt a little bit like a high school dance, a sharp contrast from the intense, techno-heavy, all-night ragers we had become accustomed to in Berlin. But, a Zywiec and tequila shot later, and we were dancing along with predominately gorgeous blonde girls and lots of Szczecin gays to Top 40 hits and oddly a lot of Latin music. In a way, I was thrilled to actually be singing music that I knew and not feeling the need to stay out until 11 am the next morning. We hit a wall around 2 and wandered our way back through the eerily silent, cobblestone streets until we reached the comfort of our bed.
Saturday came with the unfortunate start of a hangover, which at 27 is getting worse and worse even as my drinking volume goes down and down, but I quickly redeemed myself by stepping out into the world, wandering through some of the famous Szczecin sights (please check out alternative websites for explanations on sightseeing in Szczecin, as I just won’t do Polish history justice in this post), and doing some quintessential thrift shopping. Thrift shops have a unique pricing model in the city. When the clothes are first delivered to the shops on Thursdays, the cost is 60 zloty for 1 kg, but each day of the week following delivery day, the prices go down by 10 zloty, so by Wednesday, you are spending just 10. So if style is not your forte, head over on Wednesday, for the worst of the worse. A little thrift store hack here: people are searching for whatever the current season’s attire is, so if you are looking for winter clothes in summer, you will find AMAZING things (and I imagine vice versa). Since it is Summer now, we walked away with quite a few puffy winter jackets.
I then felt that absolute need to show Bruno a milky bar (Bar Mleczny), something I experienced on a 5-hour layover in Warsaw about 5 years back. This sent us on a two hour mission, encountering closed milky bars, ending up in the deep suburbs, getting rained on, peeing in bushes, getting hangrier and hangrier, and finally ending back in the main part of town having not experience a milky bar. I frowned at my failure, settling for a much more expensive, touristy, non-Polish experience instead, but seconds into shockingly-delicious roasted potatoes I was cured; I reflected “failure is common in travel, and that is the best way to experience failure.” Even a day later, the struggles from that failure still stand out as one of the best moments of the trip.
Back at the hotel, we dazed into food coma as we listened to the strange rain and sun mix patter against the rooftops of the old town. It was calming and reinvigorated us to go out into the late afternoon sun. From then on we just strolled, no clear destination in mind, just the desire to explore. We walked along both sides of the River Oder, borrowed a long board and skated around Solidarity Square, and discovered a beer garden with a banging IPA off the side of the highway (right past Solidarity Square towards the river).
That night I finally got my full-on Polish fix of food at Karczma Polska complete with Barszcz (Borscht - or beet soup served with little tortellinis), Golabki (cabbage stuffed with rice and pork) and of course Pierogis. I could have died happy right then and there.
Sunday came around and so did my urge to see Poland beyond Szczecin, so we hopped on a rickety old train at Szczecin Główny train station to the remote stop of Dolna Odra, wandered through some woods and past factories, and ended up in the eery Crooked Forest. The exact reason for why these trees grew in such odd formations are disputed, but theories range from strange gravitational pulls to the odd “j” shapes being manmade. With hanger pangs coming in strong again, we wandered solo back to the station and hopped on a much newer train filled with drunken festival-goers coming back to Szczecin.
With our trip to Szcezcin nearing its end, we decide to once again…eat Brazilian food, the joys that come with having a Brazilian boyfriend. Topped off with some last-minute bus-stop Barszcz and Polish ice cream, here we are now on our way back to Berlin.
Szczecin in a Sentence:
Beautiful, pocket-sized Polish city with a calming medieval charm, hints of Soviet-nostalgia, and growing contemporary flavor, Szczecin will surprise your taste buds and eyes.
Failure is common in travel, and that is the best way to experience failure. I guarantee the failures of your trip will make the most memories, that is the same with any failure that you have in life.
Places from this trip:
Amber Suite Przystanek Szczecin - Great little reception-free hotel bordering the Old Town. Unique decor and a good breakfast!
Brasileirinho Brazilian Cuisine & Bar - Okay, so Brazilian food in Poland is a little unprecedented, but you have to give their cassava fries a try. In the Old Town, which has its charm at night.
Karczma Polska - Delicious all around. Try the Barszcz and Golabki for true Polish deliciousness.
Bar Mleczny Turysta - A famous milky bar in Szczecin - As mentioned, we didn’t make it here, but it is highly recommended.
Harnaś - Polish restaurant in the heart of the Old Town. Go there only for a beer and pierogies, as they are quite to others in the city.
Love Club All Together - You are sure to have a good night out here, with lots of throwback dancing to your favorite pop songs. Entrance was 10zl and huge beers were only 8zl.
Na Wagę - These thrift stores are all over! Pay differently by the day for 1kg of clothes.
Pomeranian Dukes Castle