First impressions

We have been in Wroclaw for just over a week. We stayed in a hotel for the first 3 nights that was in the heart of the old town. On Monday on the first of this month we moved into a rented apartment. It is about a 20 minute walk from where we are now to that hotel – we are pretty close the old town centre. The flat is cosy and modern and we were lucky to have found this place. It is a modest sized flat so finding a quiet corner is a bit of a challenge as the wild Bunster is all over the place, running up and down. We spent a lot of time Ubering to shops this week as we needed to buy a bunch of stuff: kettle, microwave oven, towels, blankets, kitchen stuff, etc. We still have a bit of a list left. The one Uber driver was from Belarus. A warm, young man called Leo. We chatted with him in English and Russian. He said he cannot go back home to his country. I imagine there are many young people here with a similar story.

It has not been an easy week, but all is ok. The flight over here from Johannesburg was pretty tiring as the Bunster kept us on our toes. I guess settling in at a new place is never a walk in the park and I assume anyone who has moved to a foreign land always struggles a bit to find their feet. I thought more people would speak English here, from what I have experienced so far, and this creates some extra adventure. We wanted to try and buy some English kids books for the Bunster but the only place to get these apparently is online. This also was a small learning curve – from what people tell us it is best to order from Amazon Germany because it is in the EU and therefore works smoothly. If you order from Amazon UK, for example, then there are things like customs/duties that you need to deal with – admin and paperwork on the Polish side and not in English so best to avoid this for now. There is also an Amazon Poland site but it does not have an English option – the Amazon Germany site let’s you toggle to English. On Sundays the shops are closed – that I did not expect. But I reckon it is a good thing. You see couriers all over the place and we have already had a few Amazon packages delivered to our new flat – it works well. My gut feeling is that online shopping here is like in Kyiv … the norm.

The city is pretty and clean and you see children and dogs everywhere. It seems like a good place for families. I am amazed at how many people we have seen with dogs in the apartment complex we are in. There are bicycle lanes all over and we have heard the city is very eco-friendly. The sign of a modern, forward-thinking place. When we throw out the garbage, for example, there are different trash places for paper and for plastic. So far most of the shops we have been to only use paper bags – no sign of plastic packets. The city appears quite flat and this is probably why bicycles are seen in every direction as well as e-scooters. I took the Bunster on a short flip on a Bolt e-scooter – that was cool. He looked a bit nervous but held on like a champ. The other thing we noticed, well, the Bunster pointed it out, is that there are a lot of sirens blaring each day/night. Like you hear in New York city. Not sure what that is all about. What’s with the sirens?! Do the words “Poland” and “Police” have a connection … ok ok, that is a silly joke.

When I went to get some t-shirts at an H&M in the one mall and I was paying at the cashier on the credit card terminal there was an option on the screen for “donate to Ukraine”. This made my soul smile. There are a lot of Ukrainians here – we see and hear Ukrainians everywhere. Poland has been good to Ukraine during this evil war.

There is a Hard Rock Café in the old town centre. As one friend in America said to me, “You know you’re in a civilized society when there is a Hard Rock Café.” Yeah, it does feel pretty civilized here. It feels like a “safe” place to be, which is ironic considering there is a war raging on across the border.

The city looks well maintained and organized. It certainly has a lot of charm. There are many foreigners strolling about in the old town centre. Germans, Americans and Brits seem to be the biggest group of visitors. Looks like it could be fun place to spend a weekend with some mates. The city appears full of young people. Yeah, there is a youthful and student like feel about the place. There is construction wherever you look and it seems like the entire city is being built all at once. But this is an old, historical city … something interesting is underway for sure. We need more time to absorb this all. But something positive is definitely going on here. All this construction looks like a very big hint.

We ate at a few restaurants. Two good meals so far, one pretty good, and one average. We also ordered some take-out on Uber eats. One good find and one not so inspiring. The supermarket down the road from us (literally a 4 minute walk) is ok. We did also take an Uber to a more fancy supermarket and that was quite good. But there is no Woolies here. We miss Woolies. Nowhere in the world is there something like Woolies. I always find that hard to understand. You can be in the richest parts of America, for example, and still, no Woolies. Kyiv has Good Wine which is also something unique in the world. We miss that a lot. Will be there again soon.

The online weather forecast says it is going to rain all of next week. That is going to be a challenge with the Bunster. But my other thought is, which was inspired by a comment another friend made: imagine living in a time not so long ago where we did not have Google and did not worry about things like the weather next week. When this war is over I am going offline – I am pretty sure of it.