Thursday, 21 March 2013

Day 7 - 11th March 2013, Zielona Góra

This was our main day for exploring Zielona Góra, as we would be heading back for an overnight to Warsaw before our flight back to the UK the next day. As we had arrived in the dark, I would have a chance to show my Dad the attractions of the city in the daylight. During our trip, the weather had gotten colder and colder and the city was covered with snow, and as such was more like Biała Góra (White Mountain) than Zielona Góra (Green Mountain, the beautiful translation of the city's name into English).

Old town square in the daytime
We started by visiting the main square and admiring the colourful buildings, stopping off in a local bookshop that caught by attention as it was selling a book called 'Zielona Góra przełoma wiekami' - literally Zielona Góra through the ages, which detailed with illustrations and text (in Polish, naturally) the city's history, culture and traditions. It also came accompanied with an old map of the city and a DVD showing some photos of the city in former times. I did not purchase it, as the money I had for this trip did not permit it, as it was quite expensive, but I have made a point to return in September for the wine festival (something I always planned to do) and will buy it then as a tribute to my favourite Polish city.

Trees and church near the main square flecked with snow
Following on from this bookshop, we made our way to the main street, taking in a language bookshop and Empik, which is basically a shop selling all manner of Polish magazines, films, music and so on. After this we found a local independent record shop which had an even better collection than Empik and to which I have also made a point to return. My Dad really appreciated the colourful nature of the city and I loved the atmosphere the snow added to it, as I had never been here at this time of year. It is simply a wonderfully pleasant city to walk through, and you feel as if you are really viewing Polish everyday life.

A shop selling a variety of teas from all around the world -
I still have some toffee tea I bought here in 2008!
After this we decided to visit the tourist office on the main square, which had moved since the last time I was there from the small office on Kupiecka street (Ul. Kupiecka) to a more prominent position on the main square. I was very impressed, as it sold a wide range of artefacts and souvenirs less commercial than in many other places (although these were here too) and had a range of local products. In particular, I picked up a fascinating anthology of fantasy literature created by local students who had the vision and inspiration to come up with a mythology for the City based on it's history and residents. For me this was fascinating and entirely unique, and the anthology only cost 10zł (around £2.50), with a second anthology also available and a third in the making.
Another of the main streets in Zielona Góra
However, as I figured it would be enough of a challenge to translate the first, I only bought the one. In addition, I bought a map/poster of the Palmiarnia detailing the contents of the interior and with a wonderful large image on the back showcasing the building and park in its entirety. This is a nice compliment to the poster of the city I have in my room back home. I had planned to take my Dad to see the Palmiarnia, the place which inspires me most in the city, but unfortunately it was closed as on Monday's they take care of the plants etc. However, this offered even more incentive to return in the summer for the wine festival, easily the highlight of the city's cultural calendar.

The Palmiarnia in the the snow - vineyard covered over
Time was unfortunately marching on, so we made our way slowly to collect our bags from the bed and breakfast (we had made an exception to stay somewhere nice in this city, with a wonderful breakfast) and made our way back to the station. Since we had been exploring with little time to eat, we bought some bigos (Polish stew) and pierogi (polish dumplings) 'na wynos' (to take away) near the station to eat on the train. Our train to Warsaw was at 16.18 and would take five hours. Incredibly, our train was officially inter-regional, but was made up of Intercity stock (this could only happen in Poland) and for a change we had a toilet with running water and flushing toilet. Ironically, the train was also called Zielonogorzanin (the name for residents and citizens of Zielona Góra). This was a fantastic end to a fantastic stay, although all too short in the city, and I find myself eagerly in anticipation of my four-day return in September to appreciate the city more fully.

Street near railway station with hotel & snow-covered tree
N.B. Having said the above about the trains, although it may sound strange to some, this just serves to intensify the appeal of Poland. It is not a typical tourist destination and one cannot expect all the services one can expect at home all the time - however, Polish hospitality is second to none and any unusual aspects of public transport etc. are more than made up for by the resilience and nature of the people that constitute this country. There are certainly more serious things to worry about in the world than whether the train you are travelling on has water for washing your hands with. Remember those people in Africa who have to walk for miles each day just to access water? Poland is not one of those countries, and shouldn't be seen as such.

Link to day 7:

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