SAC: Blog

Stacey’s Final Blog

Final Blog: Observations

A recent project of mine was to create a country report for doing business in Poland. This was to follow the guidelines of the popular book series “Kiss, Bow, or Shake
Hands,” which gives country reports of over 60 countries. As my last blog,
I will share some of the interesting trends I have observed in my experience in
Poland which were included in this report.  Enjoy!

When breaking the ice, most Americans will start with the questions “How are you?” This is very unusual in Poland for two main reasons. Firstly, the Polish believe that when
someone who they do not know personally is asking this question, it is more for
the absence of silence than for general and sincere care of how they are doing.
They see the gesture as automated. Secondly, as the poles most common
stereotype is the tendency to complain, the answer you may receive could
include a quite gloomy response.

Many Poles believe that the pressure in the air directly affects their mood; therefore, on days with low pressure, they should expect to be tired and unmotivated (they even
have weather forecasts specifically involving the air pressure). When asking
the question “how are you,” do not be surprised if the answer sounds somewhat
like “tired…the air pressure is low and I have had a headache all day.”

The drinking and driving tolerance in Poland is much stricter than that of the United States and must be considered when going out with colleagues. Poles are extremely
surprised at the amount foreigners are willing to drink before refraining from
getting behind the wheel. This is due to their country’s reduced tolerance. In
Poland, drinking less than a beer, less than one shot of vodka, and less than
one glass of wine will put you in jail and take your license from you.

Another aspect which comes as a surprise to Poles is the amount of time Americans consider ok to drive the next day. If a Pole drinks heavily the night before, they will
refrain from driving until the next day’s evening. It is in the best interest
of foreigners to do the same. It is extremely popular for police officers to
set up checking stations in the morning. This means they stop each car and have
the driver breathe into a breathalyzer at certain check points. These stations
are usually checking alcohol levels from about 8:00 AM until 11:00 AM.

When visiting Poland, take time to clean your shoes. Poles are very attentive to the cleanliness of the outer part of their shoes. If you have dirty shoes, you are very likely to
receive judgment from all generations. The same is for wrinkled clothes. Poles
usually reserve a day of the week to iron their week’s clothing.

Poles generally have a lot of superstitions. In addition to the typical black cat, breaking mirror and Friday the 13th, Poles have other situations to be superstitious about. These
superstitions can help in business when giving gifts, selling, advertising, and
general mannerism when visiting this country.
Even Amount of Flowers: If giving flowers to someone in Poland, be sure they are in an odd amount. Giving an even amount of flowers implies the passing of bad luck. This fear of odd numbers relates to more than just flowers. Be aware when giving gifts or selling items in which a quantity is involved.
Wallet Running Away: Women should never place their purses on the ground. It is believed that their wallets will run away, leaving them without any money. I have actually had store attendants warn me of this after setting my purse down to look at merchandise.
Corner of Table: If you are an unmarried woman, do not sit on the corner of a table. It is believed that a woman will never get married if she sits in that place at the table. Many
times, dinner has been stopped and I was requested to switch places with one of
the males
Chimney Sweeper: If a chimney sweeper is seen (or, man with a top hat), you must hold onto a button and cannot release until you see someone with eye glasses. If you do not, bad luck will follow


If you would like to see the full report, feel free to ask 🙂

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Stacey’s Christmas

I’ve said before that to really experience a culture,
the best time is during the holidays. This idea proved to be true during
Christmas this past year. Marcin’s family was kind enough to open their home
and show me a truly Polish Christmas.


The festivities began on the 6th of December, Swi?ty
Miko?aj (St. Nicholas’ Day). On the morning of St. Nicholas’ Day, small
presents are typically found under pillows when you wake up. This is when you
discover if you were good or bad during the year – and what to expect on
Christmas Eve. At work we had a fun surprise visit from Santa. 🙂


The main celebration for Poland is on Wigilia
(Christmas Eve). This is the time when families meet for the traditional 12
course dinner. Most traditional is the Karp. In the weeks leading up to
Christmas, I saw large fish markets appear in booths on the squares in Kraków
with big barrels of live fish. Also, in the bigger grocery stores, I saw
barrels of fish temporarily placed in the meat market. In the past, Poles would
purchase the fish live and keep it in their bathtub until Christmas Eve
morning. Since then, the fish are purchased closer to the 24th – living and


Before beginning the dinner, the Catholic
“bread” (like a communion wafer) is shared between each dinner guest.
Each person breaks a bread piece with another and wishes each other best wishes
for the year. This is repeated between each family member.


The first dish on Christmas Eve was Barszcz with
uszka. Barszcz is a very traditional red beet soup. The soup has a very
particular taste – sweet, yet slightly bitter. The actual beet taste is very
subtle. The soup is one of my favorite in Poland. Uszka is somewhat like
periogi – a dumpling filled with meat.


Dishes which followed the soup and uszka were the main
courses: karp and cooked cabbage – one with mushrooms and the other with beans.
My favorite was the cabbage with mushrooms. Alongside these dishes were bread
and salad (raw cabbage and other vegetables with a mayo based dressing).


Throughout dinner the Polish drink, Kompot, was
available. Kompot in general is fruit boiled in order to create a sweet drink.
The drink is available in many, many varieties and found most any eating place.
The Kompot serviced on Christmas Eve is a very precise mixture of fruit, mainly
dehydrated plums and apricots.  I was advised that people either love or
hate the mixture. I tried it, excited for the new experience; but it wasn’t for


Following the main hot dishes, was poppy seed pudding
with tea. Marcin was especially excited for the dish, as it is his favorite
dessert. While we ate the pudding, presents were passed around by Marcin’s
nephew, Philip.  Oscar (my cat) had been invited to the celebration and
spent most of the time watching Philip and finding stray pieces of wrapping
paper to play with.  All of the presents were from Santa.


In the middle of present opening, more desserts were
placed on the table. A variety of cakes – my favorite being the cheesecake.
Yum!  As a U.S. treat, I decided to make sugar cookies with frosting.
Though my attempt at making them was not so successful due to the ingredient
translation, they were able to get the idea. Also, with the happy surprise of
puppy chow (sent in the mail by my mom a few days before the holiday), I was
able to share a personal family tradition with the family. The treat went over
very well.


When we could eat no more, it was time to leave. We
were sent home with food to feed us for a week – leftovers along with a variety
of meats, cheeses and fruits. Also, cleaned fish scales from the Christmas karp
were given to each person to put in their wallet. This is for luck of a
financially prosperous year. My wallet smells like fish now, but that is
something I am willing to deal with in the big picture.


A common ending to Wigilia is the church service held
at midnight. Although we did not go, it is a very common tradition in


Christmas Day was spent resting at home until the 26th
when ?wi?tego Szczepana (the day of St. Stefan) was celebrated. This typically
involves meeting with the family again for a small meal. However, Marcin and I
spent the time traveling to the local mountain town, Zakopane, to begin New
Year’s Eve plans.


We celebrated the last day of Christmas traditions
with Trzech Króli – the day of the Wisemen. This was was on the 6th of January
which allowed us a day longer of Christmas break.


Holidays are typically when I feel the farthest from
home and family. Christmas Day was the toughest yet, but I enjoyed the new
experience very much.


I know it is late; however: Wszystkiego Najlepszego z
Okazji Bo?ego Narodzenia i Nowego Roku!!

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Stacey’s Return to Poland

I finally made it back! After the short 3 months back home
in the US, I have returned to Poland. It’s amazing the scents and scenery that
seem so familiar and missed. I have noticed certain smells bring flashbacks to
my stay at the beginning of the year. Small, trivial things such as the face
wash I use in Poland or the rustic aroma of coal furnaces make the time spent
away seem not so distant.

There are differences between my stay this time versus my
initial visit at the beginning of the year. The main difference is the length
of my stay. I will be staying for 8 months until the beginning of May 2014. It
was for this reason that I brought my cat, Oscar. You learn a lot about
traveling when you bring a feline passenger with you!

For Oscar’s entry into the European Union and Poland
specifically, he did not have to go through quarantine (as many countries
require). He simply had to go to the vet and receive his rabies and distemper
shots along with have a microchip inserted allowing airports to scan him. He is
my little grocery item now. J

To fly with me in the cabin, Oscar had to lose some weight
to make the 8kg limit. Luckily, he made it…barely. His carrier went through the
x-ray machine while I carried him through the scanner with me. The whole time,
he didn’t squirm or fret. Through the 7.5 hour flight, he sat in his carrier at
my feet and slept mostly. He did the same through our 7 hour layover and 1.5
hour connecting flight. He did spend some time on his leash in the airport but
he kept tripping people with the leash so we switched back to the carrier.

Along with the prolonged stay and having Oscar here with me,
my courses will be slightly difference. The first semester will be completely
at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. I will be taking courses which will
transfer in directly to my International Business degree at SVSU – Finances in
the European Union, International Trade and Investment Law, Knowledge-Based
Economy and Society from a local and regional perspective, Information Systems
and Policies, and level 2 Polish language.
A full schedule that will prove to be exciting. During the second
semester, I will mainly be taking online courses through SVSU – International
Marketing and International Management. I am still trying to find an advanced
statistics course online to transfer back to SVSU so university suggestions are
welcome. J

To complete an outstanding international experience, a
position within Nexteer Poland has been offered during my stay. I have the
opportunity to work with the same brilliant mentor and supervisor as my last
duration in Poland. Malgorzata, Gosia for short, has allowed me to grow
professionally in the exploration of my International Business degree. The
transition into the Polish workforce has ended my employment with Nexteer
Saginaw. This proved to be sad but communication will continue as I will be
working with many of my old team members through my new assignment. After 4
years of employment through the headquarters in Saginaw, I can still give the
most credit to my previous boss for his encouragement and support.

For students studying abroad, I encourage the work aspect.
You are able to work on a student visa… documentation from the university
allowing you to practice in Poland is all that is needed in most cases.

I am looking forward to the next 8 months. While it will be
emotional during the holidays when I will miss family and friends the most, I
am excited to become engrossed in the culture.
I have found from my previous experience that holidays are when the most
preserved and cherished traditions appear. Marcin’s family has welcomed me to
join in their celebrations. What better way can an individual begin to learn
and understand a new culture?

Oscar traveling:

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Study Tour 2014

11-Day Study Tour to Poland and the Czech Republic


Would you like to see the best of Poland and the Czech Republic in 11 days? Join our 2014 study tour! The tour includes accommodation, airport transfers, a bilingual resident director, tours, on-site transport, pre-departure information, and health/accident insurance. We are now accepting applications.

Contact us to apply!


May 21 Arrive in Krakow – Airport pick up

Accommodation in a 3-star hotel. Meet in the hotel lobby for an orientation meeting. Walk to the Old Town for a Welcome Dinner.

May 22 Tour of Krakow

Krakow is one city in Poland that can’t be missed. For centuries Polish kings and queens resided there before the capital was moved to Warsaw. Today the city prides itself on being the center of Polish culture. With over 6,000 historical buildings and monuments, Krakow is also a great place to learn about the country’s history. Since this was one of the few cities that was not destroyed during WW II, the Old Town still retains its medieval layout and some of the buildings date back to the 10th and 11th centuries. Due to its beauty and historical significance UNESCO named Krakow to its original list of World Heritage Sites in 1978. Krakow will enchant you with its charming Old Town, historic royal castle and cathedral on Wawel Hill, majestic churches and numerous museums, cafes and shops.

Jazz concert (or similar activity) in the evening.

May 23 Half-day trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine

Imagine visiting a 17th-century chapel carved out of salt? At the Wieliczka Salt Mine you’ll be able to tour this chapel as well as other chambers all made out of salt by former miners. This 700-year-old salt mine (kopalnia soli) is a UNESCO World Culture and Heritage Site. In addition to functioning as a tourist attraction, it also serves as an underground health spa thanks to its special microclimate which is known for treating allergies and other health conditions.

Free evening in Krakow.

May 24 Day trip to the former Nazi concentration camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau

Not far from Krakow is the site of the largest Nazi death camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau. Most visitors recall the inscription on the gate to Auschwitz “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“work makes you free”) from films or books about the Holocaust. This is a chilling reminder of atrocities that occurred there. In 1940 the Nazis built the first death camp called Auschwitz. In need of more space, one year later the Nazis moved to nearby Brzezinka and created a much larger camp called Birkenau. It is estimated that between 1 and 1.5 million people died at these camps, and over 90% of them were Jews. Today the camps serve as a museum.

May 25 Day trip to Zakopane (in the Tatra Mountains)

If you would like to experience all of Poland’s hotspots then you can’t miss taking a trip to Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains. The Tatras are the highest range of the Carpathians Mountains stretching across the Polish-Slovakian border. After taking a cable-car ride up to the summit of Kasprowy Wierch you can stand with one foot in Poland and one foot in Slovakia. At the northern foot of the mountains is Zakopane. It’s considered the country’s “winter capital,” and it attracts about one million tourists per year. It is especially popular among skiers and hikers. Many tourists also enjoy Zakopane’s unique highlander culture and the so-called “Zakopane style” of wooden architecture created by Stanislaw Witkiewicz (1851-1915). Depending on the time of year of your study tour, your trip might include rafting on a wooden raft on the Dunajec River.

May 26 Day train to Prague

Accommodation in a 3-star hotel, dinner.

May 27 Full-day tour of Prague

Prague is considered one of the jewels of Central Europe. It’s the capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic with over 1.2 million people. Situated on the Vtlava River, it’s sometimes called the “city of a hundred spires” and the “golden city.” Tourists come from all over the world to see the famous Charles Bridge, the Prague Castle, and many other beautiful sights. You can spend hours wandering the cobblestone streets through the Old Town Square and admiring the city’s architectural treasures. The Old Town is the best place to buy typical Czech presents for family and friends.

May 28 Day trip to Karlove Vary

Karlove Vary, also known as Karlsbad, was founded in the 14th century by Czech King Charles IV. He discovered a hot spring there and used the water to heal his injured leg. Legend has it that he ordered a town to be built around the miraculous spring. The development of a spa gave rise to the new social and special-purpose buildings. The first public spa house (The Mill Spa) was built in the early 18th century, along with the Baroque church of St. Mary Magdalene. Karlsbad was increasingly becoming an important venue for gatherings, and the spa was visited by the elite of the 19th century, such as Beethoven, Franz Joseph I, Paganini, Chopin, Mozart, Freud, Gogol, Tyl, Purkyne, Dobrovsky and many others. Karlove Vary remains popular among the contemporary VIPs. Even stars such as Jude Law, Antonio Banderas, John Malkovich, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger and others show up there regularly.

May 29 Boat trip on the Vtlava River

See Prague from a different perspective—a river boat! During the trip you will see the most significant sights of Prague such as St. Agnes Convent, Prague Castle, Rudolfinum, the Charles Bridge and the National Theatre. Depending on your preferences, there will be lunch on the boat or a Czech folk dinner and dancing show. You will have free time to explore Prague before attending a soothing jazz concert in the evening with famous local & international artists.

May 30 Day trip to Karlstejn Castle

Located close to Prague, is one of the most stunning castles in the Czech Republic. This large Gothic castle founded in 1384 has a unique role in Czech history. It was built by Czech King and Roman Emperor Charles IV as a place to safely house the royal treasures, especially Charles’ collection of holy relics and the coronation jewels of the Roman Empire. Over the years the castle was reconstructed numerous times to reflect late-Gothic, Renaissance, and neo-Gothic styles. On your trip you’ll tour the castle and from the Great Tower you can see the breathtaking view of the national forest that surrounds the castle.

After returning to Prague, you’ll enjoy a special Farewell Dinner.

May 31 Departure from Prague


$1850 per student

*All prices are based on a minimum of 5 participants in a double occupancy room. Prices will slightly increase for groups smaller than 5.

What’s Included:

-Airport Welcome

-Bilingual Program Director throughout the trip

-Welcome dinner in Krakow

-Accommodation in 3-star hotels

-Breakfast at the hotel

-Ground transportation (trains, taxis, etc.)

-Guided tours and trips included in the above itinerary

-Welcome dinner in Prague

-Riverboat tour or folk dinner

-Farewell dinner in Prague

-Airport drop-off

-Basic travel and accident insurance

What’s Not Included:

-Lunch and dinner

-Round-trip airfare to Krakow/from Prague

-Spending money

Contact us to apply!

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Stacy Garske’s Travel Log 9

A Day in Poland

We are at the end of my first semester in
Poland – how time flew!  The experience has brought many new ideas and
ways of living.  I felt that to cover most of the adjustments, it would be
best to describe a typical day here in Poland.  I chose a Thursday because
it encompasses both school and work.

The day begins at 6:00 AM. Breakfast normally consists of muesli (cereal) with
milk along with coffee to drink.  On special occasions, we stop by the
bakery located near my bus stop for a fresh, chocolate filled croissant. We
leave the house at 7:00 AM to make the 15 minute drive to Katowice. Marcin
usually walks me to my bus and stays until the bus leaves at 7:30. He then
makes the 25 minute drive to his work in Tychy.

The bus is a large Greyhound style bus with cushioned seats and air
conditioning.  The drivers speak some English but normally it isn’t
needed.  I say “Jestem studentka” to tell them I am a student in
order to only pay the 12 zloty ($4) each ride versus 14 zloty. This is usually
followed by a “dzi?kuj?” to say thank you.

I always have the best intentions for the 60-75 minute ride to Krakow. Studying
or reading are among my most ambitious; however, I usually fall asleep.
This isn’t that uncommon as the bus is full of about 50 sleeping
individuals.  On one instance, a young man discovered in line that I spoke
English.  He asked if he could sit next to me in order to practice his
English.  We just made small talk for the ride so he could practice.

Once the bus leaves the highway and enters Krakow, I stand up and walk to the
front. The bus driver stops at a bus stop near the office so I can get off
before the main stop in Krakow.  After leaving the bus, I walk a short
distance of about 7 minutes to the office building and arrive about 8:45 AM.

The office building is large with numerous floors. Nexteer’s office occupies a
small space on the first floor – a short walk across the lobby will bring you
to our security badge activated door. Once inside, a small kitchen is located
on your left, a conference room straight ahead and cubicles to your right.
Within the office we have Marcin, Agnieszka, Ewa, Monika S, Iwona,
Andrzej, Aneta, Malgorzata and Monika.  I listed the names
to reiterate the Polish naming tradition mentioned in an earlier

I work with Malgorzata who is the purchasing leader for the BMW group at
Nexteer. She is an outstanding person who has really encouraged me
to excel and find my potential.  One of characteristics I admire
about her is her strive for improvement. She speaks fluent French and English,
along with her native Polish, as well as a growing knowledge of the Spanish
language.  Learning from Gosia (short for Malgorzata) really gave me the
motivation to surpass expectations and reach potential in my future career.

With this working experience, I was able to
explore a different department within Nexteer.  With Gosia’s guidance (and
patience!), I was communicating with suppliers globally, helping to organize
and execute a conference for international attendees, along with discover my
strengths and weaknesses in the workplace.  Many thanks go to my U.S. boss
for allowing me the opportunity to grow.

At noon, I transform from trainee to student
and begin my route to school.  I make the short walk back to the bus stop
where I had been dropped off earlier and wait for the next auto
bus to arrive.  My walk and wait usually allow for a quick lunch of a
sandwich and apple.  Once the bus arrives, I ride to a nearby bus stop,
get off, climb the stairs to the tram stop and wait for tram number 13.

The tram is normally empty because of the
location of the stop but by the end of the 25 minute ride, it is crowded.
I exit at the tram stop Wawel (named after Wawel Castle in Krakow).  This
is my favorite class building because it is located across from the caste in
the king’s old armory.  After entering the building, you are presented
with a large, winding staircase which ascends to four floors.  My favorite
element is the view through the aged windows in each classroom. Wawel castle
stands large and expansive just outside of the glass centrifuge.

On Thursday, my 1 PM class is Polish
literature taught by a visiting Polish professor from the University of
Chicago.  This is a very deep, discussion driven class which I find
extremely enjoyable.  The class normally dismisses just in time to allow
me the 10 minutes needed to walk up Grodzka St to the main square where my next
class is located.

Krakow’s Main Square is such a thrilling
experience.  The Square consists of a large, open area with a towering
market located in the center.  Restaurants, bars and small shops circle
the Square – many with outdoor seating and umbrellas filled with chatting
customers and good smelling food. A blog should be written just of the Square
so I am afraid my few sentences do not do it justice.

My favorite part of walking along the Square
is hearing and smelling the horses as they clomp along the brick paths, pulling
carriages of tourists.  When I have extra time on the Square, I enjoy
walking along the line of waiting carriages located on the far side of the area
and seeing the massive creatures with their drivers dressed in traditional
driving apparel.

Once I reach the area, I weave through the
crowd to my school building nestled in the surrounding buildings. A small hallway
takes me to a twisting staircase which creaks and moans as I climb the few
levels to my floor.  The classroom is set up with too many chair-desks and
barely allows for room to find a seat in the back area.  In this
classroom, I sit through 2 hours of Poland and the European Union alongside a
very diverse crowd of students from Spain, Ireland, France, Germany and many
more countries.

My Polish language class is the last class of
the day and is located on Grodzka Street which means I return to the school
building where I was earlier in the day.  My language classes are more
relaxed and talkative than the other lecture-style classes.  In my class I
have fellow students from Germany, Russia, Romania and USA. Once the class ends
at 7PM I return to the Wawel tram stop and take Tram 10 to the local mall,
Galeria Krakowska. After the 10 minute tram ride, I walk past the train station
and through the mall.  The mall is connected to the train station
platforms and the passage exits at the bus station where my bus (Unibus) leaves
every 30 minutes to Katowice.

The ride home usually consists of talking with
U.S. friends.  I have a pre-paid phone which only costs 10 zloty per month
(~$3) for unlimited data usage.  This allowed for an app which allowed me
to text with my friends and family back home.  My ride home is usually the
perfect time to talk as it was early afternoon in the States.

Marcin would be waiting for me at the bus stop
then we would make the 10 minute drive back home to Sosnowiec. Dinner normally
consists of salad with tomatoes, pickles, cheese and meat alongside a nice warm
mug of tea.

Each day was an adventure to me because of the different customs, people and
food.  I really see how an open mind is a must in
order to intertwine with another culture.  A big adjustment of mine was
changing my reactions to the different customs from “that’s weird” to
“that’s different.”


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With an extended weekend due to Corpus Christi, we decided to head for
the Polish mountains. Bieszczady is a mountain range which runs
through Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia..

The trip began on Wednesday night (Marcin’s birthday) from Krakow. We
loaded the car with necessities for camping and hiking – sleeping
bags, suitcases, gear, and Broken Friend. The six hour drive brought
us to a very small town,Ustrzyki Górne, about 3 AM on Thursday
morning.  Once at our destination – a shelter within the town – we set
up tents and rested in preparation for the day.

Shelters, places to stay in the mountains, are a very new experience
for me.  These are buildings located in areas of mountains, in which
people live permanently and rent out the rooms, yard area and even
floor space for travelers. When the buildings were first described to
me I was picturing the introduction to a murder novel; however this
past weekend has lightened my mood on the idea. Bathrooms equipped
with showers (but not warm water) were our main involvement with this

After waking and eating a breakfast of pierogi, we begin our hike up
Polonina Carynska.  The exploit began with a short walk on wooden
planks through a small marsh but quickly turned into a steep trail
which weaved through the forest. My salvation was a small pavilion
about 45 minutes up the hill. There we ate chocolate for energy and
wine for … well, wine.

The rest of the hike lasted about two hours on a path which laced
through trees then opened into valleys – varying between slight and
steep inclines. The last 30 minutes of the hike began at an opening in
the trees where the path could be seen weaving through a sea of
rhubarb plants.  Once through the valley of plants, it rose with each
rising hill up and up until finally, reached the top of Polonina
Carynska at 1234 meters.  I admit the ascend of the path itself sounds
more charming than my lumbering ascend so that is why I chose to
highlight its rise instead of my own.

Once to the top, the view was spectacular.  Layers of mountains with
varying heights seemed to fight for your attention to its magnificent
view – each at a different height to show their independence.  Benches
were located at the rocky top of the mountain but just a step off the
path brought you to long, inviting grass. We spent about 45 minutes
relaxing on the crest surrounded by the breathtaking landscape
alongside fellow hikers also enjoying a rest and frothy beverage. In
our backpacks, a bottle of cherry vodka had been packed for the
occasion along with some snacks.

Just when the sun was beginning to send me into a light slumber, the
wind picked up and rain drops began to fall.  From the top, we had
three choices: 1) take our previous path, 2) continue the path to
another crest after about 5 hours of hiking, 3) take a new path which
fell at a steep slope across the side of the mountain. Our choice was
the slope off the side for the remaining 1.5 hours of our hike.  Once
towards the bottom of the hill, we found another shelter where we
stopped and had a quick bowl of soup before continuing.

The end of this hiking adventure is another first for me – hitch
hiking. I debated writing about this topic in the blog because I knew
what the reaction would be from my family. The good news is I am still
alive. 🙂  We walked along the road for less than 3 minutes before two
young men stopped to offer us a ride. With Broken Friend and Marcin
there, I felt safe.

After returning to the shelter, we set out for a dinner of Placek po
wegiersku – hashbrowns with beef stew.  The night was spent exploring
the small town and ended with a bonfire at the shelter with the
company of other Polish hikers and Marcin’s guitar.

Friday we hitch-hiked to a nearby stable to see the mountain ponies.
We were unable to ride but it was still a treat to see the stocky
animals who were built for the mountain terrain.  After returning to
the shelter, we packed up our gear and headed for the lake. About a
two hour drive through small towns and forest landscapes brought us to
Solina Lake.

Solina is a beautiful lake located within the Bieszczady mountain
range.  Shortly after arriving at one of its beaches, we rented a
paddle “car” and set out to survey the lake from atop its surface. The
open view was stunning with the setting sun casting perfect light to
nearby sailboats and crafting the still water into a rippled
glass-like plane.

After my leisure boat ride and the boys workout (as they were the
“drivers”), the trip continued to our next and final destination of
the trip – Rudawka Rymanowska.   Broken Friend directed us to this
jewel of a destination due to his acquaintances with some of the
resort’s staff. We were greeted warmly and with much enthusiasm.

Osrodek wypoczynkowy Rudawka is nestled within the Bieszczady mountain
range off a discreet back road.  A pasture with two “fluffy” cows and
a couple horses is your first view of the resort while driving to its
entrance.  The next is a wooden building followed by the long driveway
which brings you to the heart of the place – the main office. The
building’s exterior is made of rustic logs and large, inviting
windows.  Once inside, a large stone fireplace greets you on the far
side of the building.  Sausages were being cooked on a grill above the
fire which added the final touch to the homey atmosphere.  Large,
circular tents – each with wood stoves – were located throughout the
resort.  The largest, located outside the main building, was for
recreation while the others were available for groups to rent.

We spent the next day and night lazily exploring the resort. We took a
walk around the resort to see the fluffy cows, horses and bubbling
water attraction.  The night was spent socializing with the resort’s
manager – a friendly man with exceptional storytelling abilities which
could make me laugh at stories even when they were told in Polish and
I had no idea of its content.  To end the night, Marcin serenaded
fellow visitors with his guitar nearby the outdoor fire pit.

After a night in our small triangular cabin, Marcin and I took a short
walk down the road to a nearby attraction – an expansive rock.  The
rock was large and displayed many marks and glittering blemishes of
its long existence. The stream was beautiful and had a small waterfall
off its shore.  Unfortunately, the waterfall was nestled in the trees
on the opposite bank. Marcin wadded his way across to the natural
beauty but I decided the water was too cold. 🙂

After a breakfast of eggs and bread, we began our journey home –
stinky and happy.

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Stacy Garske’s Travel Log 7

Scotland Blog


When presented with a week off of work and school due to Poland’s observance of Labor Day (May 1) and Constitution day (May 3), Marcin and I decided to explore Scotland. We flew from Katowice, Poland to the capital of Scotland in a little less than 2 hours. We arrived to Edinburgh late in the night so we found our hotel and prepared ourselves for the following day.

There was so much to explore in Edinburgh so after grabbing quick breakfast of buttered rolls with eggs, we headed to the Edinburgh Castle. The castle had so much to explore including an armory, dining hall, prison cells for captives, prison cells for their own men, and many artifacts from Scotland. An interesting display in the Edinburgh Castle was the small dog named Bob. He became well-known due to his habit of chasing cannon balls at the battle of Inkerman. He received a metal for his courage and the whole regiment adopted him.

Throughout the day we explored more of the capital city. We saw many monuments scattered through the town as well as sampled real Scottish whisky (Unfortunately, we are not very experienced in this drink so we left it to the whisky expert to match us with a malt of his recommendation).

Following the tasty experience, we explored the Museum of Scotland. There we found displays on Dolly (the first clone), tire display (Scottish invented the rubber tire), and many other elements of Scottish history and past innovations. Among our favorite rooms in the museum was the animal wing. The grand display was on the ground floor but looking up you saw three levels of continued display spanned over three surrounding terraces of the room. I say this was our favorite because Marcin was able to see his favorite animal (Alpaca) and I, mine (rhino). With our appetitive growing as much as our favorite animals, we decided to eat the traditional UK meal – Fish N Chips (deep fried fish and French fries). This meal was consumed numerous times throughout our journey due to its popularity.

The rest of the day included a visit to the Writer’s Museum and to Rose Street (street equivalent to Rush Street in Chicago or to be more specific – Midland Street in Bay City, Michigan). One of the most interesting stops we made on the street was to The Standing Order. This was an expansive restaurant which consisted of a large room with high cathedral ceilings. Large wooden tables were scattered throughout the space with a long, curvy bar situated on the right hand side. Different brews from around the world were displayed and offered here. So this leaves the question burning…what beer represented America, and which Poland? From Poland – Zywiec; while the USA had representation from Brooklyn Lager, Dixie, and Samual Adams. I know Michigan readers; I am surprised they didn’t have Busch Light too.

Day three brought the most exciting challenge of the trip – driving a right hand drive car. Marcin did a great job adjusting to the other side of the road and steering from the opposite side of the car. I believe it was my singing of “Always drive on the left side of the road” (tune from Monty Python’s Life of Brian) that kept him focused. We drove to the city of Stirling where we visited our favorite castle. This castle was an outstanding experience due to its refurbishment of how it would have looked in the days of its glory along with the interactive activities (ex. Dressing up as kings and queens). Following the castle, we visited the William Wallace monument. Luckily, Marcin had me watch Braveheart before the trip so I was able to understand why Mel Brook’s character was so monumental.

We then drove through the mountains to our next destination. The drive was breathtaking. Mountains surrounded the winding road and fenced us in from all directions so as to create the feeling you were being swallowed with their ridged splendor. Sheep were scattered through the uneven scenery and added life to the picture perfect landscape. The town we stayed in was located within this mountain area and we took advantage of the location to hike a small mountain and watch the sun setting over the small town. Dinner following the hike involved the ever famous, Haggis. This Scottish dish is made from sheep intestines; however do not let the ingredients stray you, it was a very tasty food.

Day four began with another first experience of the typical Scottish cuisine. For breakfast we had eggs, toast, baked beans, sausage, bacon, and black pudding. The black pudding (contrary to the picture of being served in a dessert dish with whipped cream as I had planned) was served on the plate as a circular black object. The shape was like a hockey puck with the width cut in half and the texture was rough. It wasn’t until the end of the vacation (and daily consumption of this food) that I learned the ingredients of the dish (those I asked told me they would tell me after the meal…but never followed through).

The day involved more beautiful driving and castle visits. We visited three more castles along the way to our next stop at the Loch Ness. Our stay in the small town of Foyers, located on the Loch Ness Lake, was another great location for hiking (to a waterfall this time) and watching the sunset from the bed and breakfast’s back patio.

After a quick breakfast of porridge on day five, we drove along the lake – looking for Nessie, the Loch Ness monster the whole time. We drove along the Road to the Isle and, of course, visited more castles along the way. An exciting road side stop was at the “Harry Potter” bridge. The bridge is shown on numerous Harry Potter movies as the author is Scottish and includes scenes of Scotland. The location proved to be a very nice place for photos.

Day six brought us to my biggest challenge – climbing Ben Nevis. This is one of Scotland’s most popular mountains to climb. The path started in the middle of a sheep field and ended in a snowy blizzard about two and a half hours after starting. The path varied between small rocks, big rocks, and boulders to climb over at inclines of slight or extreme. We crossed two streams next to waterfalls but due to the weather of rain and wind, did not create any extra dampness to our already drenched hiking gear. When we were about 30 minutes of hiking from the top (and I was 5 minutes from turning into a Popsicle) we turned around after being informed groups were at an impasse and needed ice picks to reach the top. Though we didn’t make it to the top of the 1,344 meter mountain, it was still an exhilarating experience for me to walk through mud, snow and rain, sleet, and wind gusts because it was my first big mountain experience. To be inside a cloud and feel its airless presence engulfing you is thrilling; but to feel it and know you reached it by your own two feet is even more exciting.

The rest of the day was spent drying out and driving to our next bed and breakfast in Crieff. Crieff is a beautiful town with many shops and restaurants (unlike the very rural places we had been staying). The bed and breakfast itself was superb. We were greeted by first names at the door by our host, Mike. After dinner we stopped for a drink at the local bar and were treated with such familiarity, as if we were frequent visitors. Each local who stopped in would say hello to everyone in the bar passing through.

The last day we spent in Scotland we drove to see the Falkirk Wheel. This was really a great engineering structure to see. The wheel connects two canals by rotating in less than 10 minutes to bring a boat from point A to point B. We were able to see the wheel bring a boat from the bottom canal to the top one.

In summary, Scotland is a beautiful country to visit. I would sum up Scotland with the following points:


Sheep (they are everywhere. Seriously)

Castles – they are everywhere too

Moody Weather (light rain and wind on most days)

Tasty Cuisine but an open mind is a MUSTBeautiful Landscape – mountains, lakes, waterfalls

Driving – a great experience!


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Stacy Garske’s Travel Log 6

Zakopane, Poland

Recently, I visited the “winter capital of Poland.” The city of Zakopane, which is famous for its mountainous landscape, is located in the Southern part of Poland. We took the three hour drive from Sosnowiec to Zakopane mid-day on Saturday – stopping in Krakow to pick up “Broken Friend.” 

To stray from the topic, but still inform of the Polish culture, I would like to explain how Broken Friend has obtained his name.  The Polish culture names their children from a traditional list of names – the women’s names typically ending in “a” and the men’s most popular being after Saints. Therefore, I have met many with repetitive names – the most common so far being Marcin and Michal (pronounced “me-how”).

 In an effort to create the least amount of confusion for me, Marcin has provided other names for his friends.  Broken Friend (Michal) had broken his leg this time last year so when Marcin would include him in stories, he was described as “Broken Friend.” Other friends include Norway Friend (often works in Norway – aka Lukasz), Fatty Friend (not actually fat – aka Marcin), Warsaw Friend (lives in Warsaw- aka Michal), and Miner Friend (works in coal mine – aka Marcin).  Also, his nephew, Filip, is most commonly referred to as “the kid.”

To return to the topic, we picked Broken Friend up in Krakow on a Saturday afternoon and made the journey to Zakopane. After arriving, we visited the mountain Gubalowka.  As mentioned above, Zakopane is known as the winter capital of Poland – rightfully so with its mountains for skiing and hiking. However, we were visiting towards the end of the season so skiers were not so common.

We bought tickets and a large enclosed shuttle took us up the mountain – about a three minute ride. The drop off point had a large wooden lodge where beer and food were served with the view of mountains surrounding.  Unfortunately, the view of the mountains was only apparent on a large map instead of from my own eyes due to the heavy fog present that day. 

We walked through the tourist attractions located on this mountain – a small lane with booths, games, and activities on each side.  While the town is known for its winter activity, it is also very popular in the warm weather. We visited between the two tourist seasons so the area looked of a deserted carnival with its booths empty and attractions covered in snow.  I would like to visit again in the summer to see the booths open (selling meats, cheese, souvenirs, etc) and see the beautiful view of the surrounding mountains.

Following the descend of the mountain, we met with Norway Friend and Justyna. Norway Friend was raised in Zakopane and offered his parent’s house for the night. The house was large, 3 stories, and made of wood panels. The house was heated with wood which produced a warm temperature and burning wood aroma.

When hearing about Zakopane, those living there are referred to as “the highlanders.”  The reason for the name is not only because of the elevated city but also the customs and language – which are the originals of the Polish culture. I had the opportunity to visit Norway Friend’s grandparents, allowing me the chance to experience the people who preserved some of Poland’s earliest traditions and language. 

Their house smelled of burning wood and coal – a scent I love about Poland. We sat in a room just off the large breezeway around a small table positioned in the center. The room had a sink, bed, television, and coal oven with a large, restaurant style stove on top.  The far side wall was decorated with a large blanket, Catholic crosses, and numerous pictures of Popes – many of John Paul II.

Most of the older generations throughout Poland only speak the Polish language so translation was necessary to communicate. Norway Friend’s grandmother showed me a picture of her wedding day. The picture was of about 15 people, all dressed in the traditional Highlander formal apparel. Her husband told me a fact that I have confirmed with many, that in order to have a good wedding – there must be a fight. Before leaving, his grandmother told us long awaited news – that spring was coming. Her reasoning was due to a headache which had started within the last couple days. The Polish believe the mountain people have the best sense of changing weather. Her prediction was correct within the following week.

After having dinner at a local restaurant, we traveled to one of the most interesting bars I have visited. The bar was off the most famous street in Zakopane, Krupowki, known for its many shops and restaurants.  The bar, Piano, was nestled off the normally crowded street which had now turned into a passage filled with the steady night life.

The bar had rustic log furniture to provide a homey and comfortable place to share in a drink and fellowship. Instead of the typical tables and chairs, the furniture was more of a house’s – couches, loveseats, ottomans, and relaxing chairs. While this was all a new and fascinating idea for me, I found the actual bar area to be the most interesting. Instead of bar stools, each person sitting at the bar was sitting on swings suspended from the above ceiling. Each swing was equipped with a rope positioned horizontally across the persons back to provide a more relaxed and safe drinking experience.

 The bar top was made of a glass top allowing for a close view of the flourishing greenery planted in soil within the bar.  The scene was even complete with small dirt creatures living in their own earthy wonderland. While sitting at the bar, company could be found with the two older bartenders or with the cat who sat proudly on its perch behind the bar.

On Sunday morning, after having a breakfast which included the city’s famous sheep cheese, we said goodbye to Norway Friend and headed for a hiking adventure to Tatry Mountain. This mountain is Zakopane’s winter capital.  The ride there took about 25 minutes – a path of winding roads and slight incline. Once parking at the base and paying the small fee, we began our hike.

Within minutes of observing the interactions between our small group and the steady flow of hikers traveling up and down the mountain, I noticed one factor which was uncommon to Poland – greetings were exchanged between passing persons. This is extremely uncommon in Poland because exchanges are rarely made on the streets, public transportation, or anywhere else to someone you are not previously acquainted with. Marcin and Broken Friend explained that “people who hike are a different type of person.”

The hike up took about two and a half hours of walking. The trail was mainly a large paved path with snow banked on each side to a considerable height. Horse sleigh rides were available to those looking for a quicker, easier way to the top; when we heard bells, we knew to step to the side. Our specific path, which was advertised by markings on the trees, was mainly on the paved path with the exception of a small, one man trail which took us at an inclined walk through trees for about 10 minutes then resumed back to the paved trail.

Once to the top, we walked a short distance longer to a large shelter positioned on a beautiful lake.  These mountain shelters are common for hikers or skiers to eat, drink, or rest overnight.  We took the opportunity to warm up with tea and have Oscypek (the sheep cheese mentioned earlier).  I enjoy the Oscypek – you can taste the smoke it was made with and the texture can only be described as “squeaky.”   The lake was frozen over but still provided a beautiful view while we warmed up.

We decided to take a horse sleigh back down in an effort to save time. We paid 90 zloty ($30) for all three of us to ride the 25 minutes down.  We were covered in a sheep hide blanket which amazed me with how much warmth and protection of the flying snow it provided.  The horses were at a fast trot all the way down.  Due to our front row seats, we were enjoying the avoidance of flying pellets of snow and ice – I even put on sunglasses to serve as eye protection of the flying snowballs! The ride down can be described as romantic – warm blanket, snow covered trees and path, the scent of horses mixed with the fresh mountain air. The mountain city was a beautiful destination for the weekend with its landscapes, scents, and wonderful traditional people.

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Stacy Garske’s Travel Log 5

Easter in Poland


While every day is a new learning experience of the Polish culture, participating in the Easter traditions was among the most rewarding and fruitful.  We began Good Friday by not eating meat. With most of the Polish country being Catholic, when I explain the traditions and events of the holiday, the religious and cultural customs will be intertwined. Refraining to eat meat on Good Friday is a Catholic practice.  In an unrelated note regarding this particular Friday, Marcin and I celebrated our one year of dating.  It is worth mentioning that on our celebratory date, we did not eat meat. 🙂


On Saturday, Marcin’s mother prepared baskets filled with eggs, meat, sweets, and other edible items to portray the year’s meals.  It is the duty of the youngest to carry the basket to the church and have the contents blessed. I was given a basket along with Marcin’s nephew, Filip, who just turned four years old. We made the short walk as a group – Marcin, Filip & his parents, and I.  One element I enjoy about Poland is the involvement in traditions. There is much consistency and mass involvement in customs. I saw this element on the walk to church. There were many families making the walk – all with the youngest, basket in hand, leading the way.


The churches, in preparation for the amount of people, preform the short blessing service every 30 minutes.  We arrived just in time to squeeze into the last remaining pew spaces about two minutes to 3 PM.  The priest came out, said a short prayer and sermon, and then put water into a large bowl.  When told that the priest would bless our baskets with water, I wasn’t sure how I expected him to do it so I was watching with very curious eyes. I must admit that when he lifted a small straw broom, I was both surprised and nervous.  The broom was about two feet long with handle and looked like a mini version of the wicked witches’ flying broom. The priest started with one side of the aisle, dipped the straw in water, flicked it in the direction of one pew at a time, and re-wet every 2 or 3 pews.


I was on the side of his return so this allowed me ample time to watch the first row of reactions as the water splashed. It took me only a few seconds to realize that Marcin had tactically placed me on the aisle, therefore, serving as his splash guard.  When the priest made his way to our pew, he flicked the freshly dipped broom and I was blessed straight in the face – I am impressed with the amount of water the little broom can absorb. Fortunately for my short height, Marcin was able to receive some blessing too.


After our short lived shower, the group began to exit. Some formed small groups outside the church and others began to walk home.  I discovered quickly what the small groups intent of gathering was when our small group stopped as well. After the blessing, all food in the basket is free game, including the meat.  Many of the basket carriers were the youngest in the family and not accompanied by their parents, so they took the opportunity to indulge in some of the tasty contents.  It was a tasty treat for the walk back to Marcin’s parents where we ate one of my favorite traditional soups, Zurek.


Easter Sunday took my stomach’s capacity to a level it has never been before – and it loved every bite of it.  Breakfast began at 11 am at Marcin’s parent’s house. Extended family such as his grandmother and uncle came along with his sister’s family who we had shared the basket activity with the previous day. The table was filled with two meat platters, numerous salads (in America would be considered cold casseroles), eggs, different sauces, and bread.  Marcin’s mother began the meal by passing around a sliced egg that had been in the blessed baskets from the day before. Each guest took one and ate it in anticipation of being blessed with ample food for the coming year.


We drank small glasses of wine with brunch and toasted often. My favorite dishes were the salads – they included many different ingredients such as corn, pineapple, potato, carrot, apple, etc mixed with a sweet mayonnaise. I was encouraged often to try every type of meat and salad so you can understand my comment of expanding my stomach’s capacity. It was all so tasteful! One mistake I made was assuming the horse radish sauce was…well, NOT horse radish sauce. I put too much on some bread with meat and WOW – it was very, very fresh (my nose is burning right now as I think about it).


In an effort to share my traditions with those who are sharing theirs, I prepared an American Easter basket for Filip.  Thanks to the care packages sent by my family, I was able to include pop rocks, ring pops, balloon on a string, and a Pez dispenser.  Marcin’s father took the liberty of hiding the basket and we sent Filip on a game of “hot and cold” to find the basket. This was a learning experience for me because I had to tell him “hot” or “cold” in Polish. The pop rocks were an interesting addition to the Easter brunch as they do not have this candy in Poland. This meant that the whole family, including grandma, tried the exploding candy with curiosity.


After it looked like most of the family was done eating the brunch, we cleared the table and set out different varieties of dessert along with tea and coffee. There were cakes, cheesecakes, breads, etc. Marcin’s grandmother brought a cheesecake that was cooked in a coal stove and perfected with 85 years of experience. It was very delicious! We finished eating around 2:30 PM (three and a half hours of eating).


The last tradition I must comment on because I find it the most interesting. On the Monday following Easter, it is tradition for girls to be splashed with water. I was warned about this custom by the other ladies in my office, so I knew what to expect. I was told stories from their pasts on being covered in water from boys who had water balloons on the street, water guns, and even a bath tub dunking story. These stories caused me to be on guard Monday morning when I heard Marcin filling a cup of water in the kitchen. Luckily, he was nice and simply sprinkled me with water for the tradition’s sake.


The holiday is when I really felt the distance between my family and me. It was really when I thought the most about home – mostly the tastes and atmosphere of Easters in the past.  While I miss my family, I really appreciate having a family here to share in their traditions with!


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Stacey’s Travel Log 4

Thanks to the offer from Study Abroad Compass, I was able to explore more countries and cities in Europe during my study abroad experience.  The weekend expedition was originally planned for the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava. However, due to the short 30 miles between Bratislava and Austrian capital, Wien, the trip was planned to include both locations. The combination proved to be an exciting adventure.

Marcin and I started the venture from Sosnowiec, Poland early on Saturday morning. The drive to the Slovakian border was about two hours and then another three once across to Wien.  I was not aware that Wien was the Austrian spelling for the capital city – I am accustomed to hearing English version, Vienna. No matter the spelling, the activity and beauty of the town is conclusive. 

While the streets and numerous churches were attractive in themselves, my favorite place to explore was the Belvedere Palace.   I could have spent the whole day walking around the palace and all of its landscaping taking pictures, however, the inside proved to be just as handsome.  After paying a small fee, guests were welcome to explore the three floors of art in the palace’s expansive rooms. Each room of each level contained art of all types and eras. Among our favorite pieces were The Kiss by Gustav Klimt and a version of Napoleon Crossing the Alps or Bonaparte at the St Bernard Pass by Jacques-Louis David. This palace created a beautiful setting for the different talents within Wien with its elegant rooms and spacious floors.

We left Wien feeling as if we saw much, yet, still only the surface of what the city has to offer.  Our decision to visit Wien during the day and then arrive in Bratislava in the evening proved to be a good idea.  After finding the hotel, we set out for some Slovakian cuisine. The capital city was alive with night life. Most places were filled with exciting chatter of many different languages – giving the night an exciting boost.

The restaurant, Flag Ship, was suggested to us and was the most interesting experience.  When walking into the restaurant, a large cloth is pushed aside and you are introduced to a few tables at the bottom of a sprawling staircase, along with birds chirping in cages located in the corner.  The soft music and birds don’t last long after you climb the stairs. The upper room of the restaurant is a massive area that has two levels. Outlining the room are numerous large wooden tables, with the one side being an expansive bar. Any open space has been filled with a table, covered in checkered cloth, allowing for such a sprawling crowd.  In the middle of the grand room is another wooden staircase. The tables are long, reaching from one side of the room to another. Even with such an enormous crowd, the service provided was efficient. I have included a picture of the restaurant, however, it is from the website and not my own.

In the morning, we awoke early and ate in a small bistro of the main square. Unlike the night before, the town was calm and not many people on the streets.  With the infamous Danube River running through this capital city, a walk to see it was a must.  The river is the second longest in Europe and goes through many of the popular cities. While standing next to the river was a good site, we decided a view from the castle would be better.

Based on good arrangement from Study Abroad Compass, our hotel was situated about 10 minutes from the castle. The castle is located on the top of a hill in Bratislava and allows a beautiful view of the city.  The path to the castle was an incline the whole way and then stairs followed once on the grounds. After reaching the castle, the view of the magnificent building proves to be worth the climb. The building has been maintained over the years and is in very good condition.  This is the main castle in the capital city.

While this castle was preserved nicely over the years, the next castle we visited in Devin was much older and far less “there.” In fact, it was more so visiting the Devin Castle ruins. The castle has much history and at each point of the walk through, informational boards are present to tell about the sections of ruins.  Rooms and windows could still be deciphered and were a beautiful site. I liked this scene very much because it was easy to imagine the way it looked in its glory days, instead of being renovated to be a gallery or museum – it was its own display. It also provided a spectacular view of the river located behind its walls along with a beautiful view of the city of Devin.

The trip was outstanding and, as always, too short. It is a very exciting thought that I was in three countries over the course of a weekend.  I find it entertaining that to cross from country to country in Europe is the same as crossing state to state in America. It is very cool. J

A special thanks goes to Study Abroad Compass for encouraging the Bratislava location and providing the hotel room for the stay. 

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