Willing Workers On Organic Farms is an international organisation which aims to bring together those of like mind, in order to provide unpaid labour by the volunteer, in exchange for food & accommodation by the host...
Rumour has it that some folk have managed to travel the planet at no other expense than their travel fares, by moving between WWOOF hosts for shelter & sustenance...
Having grown-up in the countryside with some experience of the sort of work skills required by hosts, I thought this scheme would be an ideal way for me to see more of Europe...
Poland is 1 of the easiest countries to reach from London, because of the daily coach departures by the Sinbad operator...
Membership of WWOOF Poland was free, so I joined in 2012
At the time there were about 50 host farms on their list & I applied to those which claimed they received English-speakers, some of which also claimed they needed practise with speaking English...
I did not receive a single reply; & after about a fortnight, an American member posted on the forum to say she had also received no replies to her applications...
Another American, & myself answered to say that this had been our experience, & to date I have never heard from any of those WWOOF Poland hosts I had approached with volunteering in mind...
Apart from the hours spent going through the membership list, I had lost nothing, so I considered other eastern European possibilities, knowing from experience it was also easy to reach Bulgaria from London...
So I joined WWOOF Bulgaria for 5Euro, & applied to their hosts, who were a mixture of Bulgarians & English/American ex-pats, who had bought up cheap property there...
I had 2 replies;
1 invitation from an English host, which I agreed to, but then he detoured from the conditions of the WWOOF volunteering arrangement, & started pushing me for extra personal information ...
My opinion of my own race is to be honest, not very high, especially in regard to arrangements concerning money, or work in lieu of (see separate Ukraine tip - DOUBLE-CHARGING...)
I already had a series of negative experiences of WWOOF hosts in my own country (see separate WWOOF UK tip...)
So, when I left England for Bulgaria, I was then in the position of having 'all my eggs in 1 basket', with just 1 agreement to meet a native host in Sofiya...
However, he did not arrive to meet me in the capitol, so I was obliged to book into the HO(S)TEL there, instead (see separate Sofia tip...)
I have not bothered to arrange any further travel plans involving WWOOF hosts, because according to my experience, they are not to be replied upon...
I still do not understand why none of the WWOOF Poland hosts ever answered me, but the organisation there continues to advertise itself, so supposedly they are taking volunteers of some nationality, but it would seem, not English-speakers (?)Related to:
- Study Abroad
- Work Abroad
- Budget Travel
You Might Get Laughed At For What You're Wearing
In America, we have so many different styles, that no one looks at you weird for dressing a certain way. Well, in Poland, this is not the case.
In Gdansk, I was laughed at by a group of Polish girls and guys, for wearing my signature Indiana Jones hat. A hat I wear almost everywhere I go, and have NEVER been laughed at for it. Even one of my guides gave me a weird look when she saw it.
In Malbork, there was a group of school kids, and they heard me and my uncle speaking Polish and one of them said, in a stunned tone, “Those are Poles?” He did not believe we were Polish, because we were dressed differently.
Than I was laughed at by a drunk local, walking to the train station.
I avoided wearing the hat for the majority of my 3 month visit, because I knew this would happened.
I’ve been to 14 countries and 24 states, and have NEVER been laughed at for what I wore.
Don’t get me wrong, I was in Southern Poland for 2 months, in both big cities and rural villages, and didn’t get laughed at once, but one of our friends went to Lodz, and said she also had similar experiences. People were criticizing what she was wearing, and giving her weird looks.
The local style is fancy shoes, long jeans and shirt (long and short), sometimes leather jacket, even in 90 degree heat, for guys. Shorts are rare. And for girls, skirts, short sleeves, sandals, high shoes or heels, and flip flops. I even saw a lady hiking in high heels.
Whatever, at least we dress weather and terrain appropriate.
Just ignore them, and dress however you want. At least you won't look like an idiot wearing high heels for a mountain hike, or jeans and leather in 90 degree heat.
TIPPING DO’S AND DON’TS !
Would you be willing to give a tip to a waiter or waitress that is more than your total bill? Follow these instructions or you may just lose your money! Tipping is on the minimal side here. Leaving small coins in a restaurant or bar is fine. Taxis – never and count your fingers and rings when getting change back. For very good service you can add on 5% or so. If you try and leave a tip on a credit/debit card the wait staff do get it, but have to pay tax. Obviously a cash tip would be better.
Now the problem. If you say the word for Thank You in Polish when paying the bill – the staff will keep ALL the change! Be careful! Ask for the bill and hand over the cash and use the work for ‘Please’. Then collect your change and leave any tip. The 3 important words are:
* Rachunek (ra-hoo-neck)
* Proszê (pro-sheh) – Bring me my change!
* Dziekuje (jen-koo-yeh) – Take all my money I didn’t read DAO’s tip!
If you do make a mistake, do ask that the money be given back and do tip something.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Polish Game Show Scam!
There are a lot of scam artists in Poland, and some of them have gotten jobs in Polish television. I myself fell for one of these scams. It seemed too good to be true, but there was that part of me that believed it. I guess you can call me naive. Here is what happened.
I came upon this live "game show" called, "Dziewczyna z Fortuna" (Girl With A Fortune). It looks like a real game show at first, but as you will soon learn, it is nothing but a scam.
The show works like this, the girl will give some sort of puzzle, and offer a cash reward to anyone who can solve it. They give you a phone number, and state that there is a 4 zloty connection fee, and anyone can call in, and guess the puzzle. I started watching one episode out of curiosity, and I stumbled onto the answer pretty quickly. I was waiting for someone to call in, so I could see how it works, but no one did. Being as naive as I am, I thought I was the only person in Poland who could see the answer. I think the reward was 1500 zloty. I thought I would give them the answer, and increase my travel budget. After several minutes of hesitating, I finally picked up the phone, and dialed the number. They said I have to answer a question, to get in touch with the studio. They told me to press 1 for "yes", 2 for "no". The question was, "Is Russia a member of the EU?" I pressed number 2, the correct answer, and they told me it was wrong. That's when I knew it was a scam. Everyone knows the answer to that question is no.
I watched a few more episodes, and figured out how it works. They pretend like no one knows the answer, they raise the reward, and give clues, to make you want to call in. They pull the show 'til the very last minute, so they can get calls, but you're never actually put through to the studio, and in the meantime, they collect 4 zloty from you. I did watch one episode where they did receive several calls, but no one gave the correct answer 'til the very last minute, so what is probably going on, is they have people from the studio calling in, to make it seem real. But I have also seen shows, that have received no calls. Most times, I didn't stick around to find out.
This show is on TV 4, and is nothing but a scam. Don't fall for it.
The worst part is, they‘re not doing anything illegal, because they mentioned the fee, and they don’t have to put you through to the studio. I still don’t know how they are allowed to do this though. They would be shut down and fined in America.
Polish identity crisis?
I have crossed Poland 8 times now, from its border with Germany, to that with Ukraine, & some of the places along the way are etched into my memory, yet I cannot name a single 1 of them, because of the frustating absence of namesigns...
Even in places where the coach stopped, in roadside laybays, I made a point of walking around looking for some sort of place name, but there is nothing informative whatsoever...
In Germany, the autobahn truckstops, not only have the name of the place, but a helpful map to locate where you, & give a sense of local history to wherever you might be passing through...
In Ukraine, there is never confusion as to where you might be, because even the smallest village bus shelter, has a clearly identified placename, legible even in passing, from a coach window...
Poland really is pathetic when it comes to displaying even the most obvious information anybody unfamiliar with the place, needs to know to pursue their journey, locally...
The only roadsigns just give motorway numbers & the names of the cities they lead towards, but as far as suburbia, let alone rural places are concerned, they just remain anonymous...
Poland is an EU member state, & though some will tell you it's an impoverished place, the fact is, it's 1 of only 2 European economies which did NOT enter recession in 2008
So why the deplorable lack of simple signs to identify the picturesque places aside the motorways, to any traveller taking a road trip through its forest highways?Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Study Abroad
- Road Trip
Beware of pickpockets!
Beware of pickpockets especially in large cities like Warsaw and Krakow or popular tourist destinations like Zakopane, Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and Wieliczka Salt Mine. Be extra careful when in areas where there are large crowds especially at market squares, shopping centers, cafes, bars, restaurants and crowded buses, furnicular and commuter trains. Do not carry your rucksakes or travelling bags behind your back. Just carry them in front of you so that you are aware of what is going on in front of you. Be aware that the thieves may work in pairs or in groups!Related to:
- Family Travel
Speak Polish or stay in the tourist areas!
I just got back from a visit to Wroclaw in Poland. (Used to be Breslau in Germany before 1945.) I know we English speakers have heard from everyone to not worry about not speaking the language, just go." EVERYBODY SPEAKS ENGLISH." Be forwarned. Yes, if you stay and confine yourself to the designated tourist areas and sites you will most probably not have a problem. However, step out of that safety zone and you are immediately in trouble if you do not have a "working" knowlege of the language for the country you are in. By "working" I mean you can think and be able to come up with a question or answer in the native language fast and understand most of what is being said. No phrase book, no electronic doohicky(yet) will save you! Unless you are a natural at learning another language count on and invest a year or more of daily, hourly study of the language or you will experience an EPIC HUMILIATING FAIL. If you can't do that either don't go off the beaten path or take someone with you who can translate for you.
I was visiting a family far away from any tourist area in Wroclaw. I found out that the only family member that had a rudimentary grasp of English was the father. The mother had about almost no English and their one daughter who could speak good English wouldn't because she is 15 and has better things to do. I stayed in their home for 10 days and it was tough on everyone. In the end nobody enjoyed it much. None of their friends spoke any English or wouldn't with me. I often sat for hours not knowing what was being said and just ignored. Not a good feeling. When I was at the mall or supermarket nobody came to my rescue so don't count on that in Poland. I spent 3 months studing Polish and felt embarrased that I could bearly ask were the bathroom was. I was depending on my apps on my iPod Touch to get me through some rough spots, but believe me nobody is going to wait for you to look up each phrase you need for a rudimentary conversation. I wasted my time, money and ended up annoying people I wanted to make friends with. Don't let this happen to you!Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Acommon1 SAFE JOURNEY ANYWHERE
Common sense Acommon Travel rules as to where ever you go.
#1. Don't go where you shouldn't go.
#2. Follow the rule of law in the country that you reside.
#3. Adhere to the rule of law from your home country.
#4. Respect and "pre-" read up on the culture(s).
#5. Gain some familiarity with the country's national language prior to your trip.
#6. Practice the local language with the locals.
#7. If concerned with lodging then don't do what isn't familiar to you.
#8. Eat what has been cooked.
#9. Drink bottled water that has a seal. Open it yourself.
#10. Know your coordinates (esp. North & South). Memorize the major cross-roads prior to taking your trip.
#11. Have a copy or two of your Passport in a safe place (either on you personally or in an emergency place).
#12. Go electronic (with back up paperwork) when you can.
#13. Be reluctant to share your full plans with strangers.
#14. Be flexible.
#15. How you handle "it" determines whether it'll be a good event or day or not. Understand that something weird, funny, or bad might occur.
#16. Watch your travel companions as they might just as well cause trouble by accident / unknowingly or on purpose.
#17. International travel is not a time for pranks. (Stay away from pranksters that want to travel with you)
#18. Just try to remember that "nothing" is for "free". (This goes for women too! Crazy partying guys should know this.)
#19. Silently meditate as to rehearse (or re-play) plans.
#20. Always be prepared for a back-up exit plan (... where ever you are (and check for exits)).
#21. Travel with flex travel time on the front end but esp. back end of your visit. This'll reduce your frustrations if there happen to be delays.
#22. Pack light while being wise.
#23. Be nimble. (physically)
#24. If you have good judgment with befriending people (anywhere) then be social with out giving away too much information.
#25. Know your money. Where it is. How much is on you. Denominations in order. Minimize coins if possible (don't need to be heard walking around jiggling).
#26. When driving a rental car ... pay the extra for full coverage. (Take it from a guy that has had 2 separate flat tires and locked up engine all in the same trip. Can you guess where?)
#27. Walk like you know where you are going even when you get lost. The best way to not get lost again is to remember where you were when you were lost.
#28. You are not a "stick" in the mud if you choose to stay away from the "loud" crowd.
#29. Avoid traveling during the host country's elections.
#30. Be aware of political and labor union protest. Don't accidently get caught up.
#31. Never walk away from your open beverages and/or food. Once you've stepped away then pass on further consumption as to be cautious.
#32. Ladies and guys, know that you will meet lots of wonderful people plus some not so. Don't be fooled by "beauty" or a "handsome" face. Danger lurks. If you have a bad judgment of character domestically then it is not going to get any better outside of the country.
#33. If you're not considered "HOT" back home then don't be fooled when you are abroad. Money matters. It isn't really your looks.
#34. The money train gets you access but it can also generate trouble.
#35. Make certain Taxis / Limos drivers happen to be locked into the price and directions prior to departure.
#36. Know the weather conditions prior and during your trip.
#37. Read the local newspapers / journals prior to arrival. (seek to understand cultural, social, economic, etc topics of the day)Related to:
- Study Abroad
- Historical Travel
Your heart can be stolen in Poland :)
Lat me write a little more optimistic for all travellers warning or danger tip" about Poland.
I'm a woman so just let me quote a man's opinion.
My friend from Norway , when I asked him after his 6 years which he had spent in Poland while studying medicine , said that one thing to beware most are- Polish beautiful girls , which can easily " steal your heart" with their beauty , intelligence and sensitiveness . He married a Polish girl and now they live happily in Norway
So "beware" of Polish Beauties. One of them can easily steal your heart :).Related to:
- Luxury Travel
- Study Abroad
Lodz- night trains!
Do not use night trains to get around Lodz! You probably won't be able to find seats, while travelling to Gdansk I couldn't find a place to stand, not even in corridor. And adding to that, there is a lot of fishy poeple in the train, drunk, violent etc... So, probably better op[tion to go in a big group or go during the day!Related to:
Via booking.com we booked the Amaryllis appartment in warsaw for three nights. We have used booking.com a lot and always been very satisified - no problems at all.
We arrived in Warsaw about 5 in the evening and thought we would be able to have a relaxing evening in the appartment before two days exploring the city. Using the GPS we got to a huge appartment block - there were 2 securities guards and niether of them had heard of the Amaryllis appartment. So koos phoned the owner , who said the appartment was no longer available because her mother-in-law was sick. She also said that she had emailed and phoned us about it but that was not true. She offered us "a room in a hotel nearby with breakfast" She gave us the address and off we went through the heavy rushg hour traffic. The nearby hotel was in fact a B&B 8 kilometres out of the city! Instead of a private shower and toilet we would have them shared and along the corridor. Koos declined! She kept on and on pressing us to take the B&B.
We think that it was a clever trick to get people who were tired into the B&B which was way out of the city and not very close to public transport. She told us the bus stop was 10 minutes walk.... but 8 kilometres was close by for her. That 10 minutes depended of course on how fast you walked!
We reported the incident to booking.com and they are looking into it, but I would be wary of booking this apparment.
Trains in Poland, racists etc.
I'm happy that Norman has survived (hopefully he wasn't always so stressed in Polish trains).Also Scrumhalf most probably will be fine .BTW It's hard to avoid 'misinterpret it as insinuating anything' here.
I was in Auschwitz/Oswiecim few days ago.There were almost more different skin people than (how to write it in a proper way?) traditional Polish colour skin ones.I exaggerate a bit but I do the same like you also with Eastern Germany (hahaha).
I have also admit that my brother once felt a bit scared in one Chicago district when all people looked at him in a bit strange way (agressive?).He was only one fair (naturally-hahaha) hair guy there -writing it in a politically correct way (hahaha).
I believe that people can be curious (as I'm).I have given a lift to Chineese hitchhiker recently.Probably I wouldn't have found a space for a long legs chick- my wife was with me (hahaha) ,or bold bloke- we were almost full (only one seat left).
Have you got thieves in US? It looks like from movies (hahaha).I guess that you know how to protect yourself against them.
One difference is that you don't look like typical Polish.So a tourist must be more loaded than an average Pole (in thieves logic probaly-I only guess hahahah).But please don't be afraid of Poles- they can be just curious to talk some even if they don't speak English-hahaha) so don't run away always immediately.People were more frindly towards foreign tourists decades ago in Krakow, now we (some) use them as the source of income (pick pocketers always did it hahaha).
The most natural Poland is behind Krakow or Auschwitz Museum (so why not to walk also to Osweicim center and Jewish sinagogue there?)
BTW.If something wrong happened to you here(because of your skin or a wallet) write me (or in public here) please (after reporting it on the police).If not write it as well to stop such biases spreading among tourists.Related to:
Krakow - Fake Traffic Tickets
No surprise! - having travelled thru the middle east unscathed, I finally got nailed with an old scam, but one that is hard to avoid without major inconvenience - that said you certainly can avoid this.
We were leaving Krakow in our rental car (aka - tourist - fair game) and were driving down a marked road only to be pulled over by the Police, bugger - what have I done?
The policeman has "no" english and my Polish was up to even less, so a 10 minute comical discussion about god knows what. It appears we have committed a mortal sin (traffic offence) but the Policeman can't exactly say what. A ticket of 400 zloty (NZD $160) appears imminent.
After much more debate and pointing out that other cars are driving down the same road, it slowly dawns upon us (derrrr... ) that a crafty cash payment will make the alleged offence and "camera" go away. Of course, at this point, if you can be bothered, insist they take you to the Police station and I'm sure you will have no problem.......unless you did in fact do something wrong..........
So, we slip Mr Policeman (who conveniently had put his "book" in my lap below window level) a 100 zloty note (NZ $40) and away we go.
A tax receipt at this point appeared out of the question as did my option of planting the foot and speeding off, the Ozu machine gun he kept fingering during our debates dissuaded me of this plan.
So........his personal revenue generation plan was sound, another day less on the beat as we could not be ass'ed with the time it would take to sort it out properly, it had already taken half an hour arguing the toss with his "no" english, no doubt he had studied an Entrepreneurilism course at Oxford.
All very entertaining when we looked back on it.
Overnight Trains to Krakow
The overnight trains to Krakow offer either just a seat, a couchette or a room. The private rooms are just 5 Euros more than the couchette and if you are a woman travelling alone you should NOT get the couchette. Couchettes are 6 beds to a room and there are not women only rooms. So you could, for example, be one woman in with 5 men - not a good situation. Spend the 5 extra Euros.Related to:
- Women's Travel
- Budget Travel
Wet Monday warning
If you happen to be in Poland on Easter Monday, beware. The old tradition of pouring water on people on that day, which has been practised for years, especially in the country, has now spread to cities as well. But, while in the country the frolics of the young did not affect the rest, in the cities the custom has turned into indiscriminate showering of everybody, including the elderly and mothers with children. In the country you are usually close to your house where you can change. But imagine having to travel back home dripping wet in the cold weather, and Easter can be really cold here.
So beware of gangs of young people on that day with buckets of water, throwing it on passers-by. They can be anywhere: just round the corner, hidden in doorways, at bus stops throwing water at people getting off the buses. And don't hesitate to approach a policeman or a city guard in case of need. It may be a custom but, carried to extreme, it definitely is not approved of by the law.
After finding Sodispar online I was impressed by what they seemed to offer, and the price at which...more
Without a doubt the best hotel this side of Europe! The pinnacle of elegance and style. In terms of...more
Great view from my 9th floor room. [ half way up ]. The room is just what you expect for 450 zloty...more
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