Gdynia, Poland from a Hungarian group’s point of view
Introduction: The small delegation of our school spent seven days in Gdynia, Poland and visited some remarkable places in the Baltic area and the capital city as a part of the Comenius program in March 2012. This short but extremely exciting and mind opening stay gave us opportunity to obtain an insight into the cultural and historical traditions, the educational system and the inhabitants’ everyday life with the help of host families. Let’s see the details! Preparing for the trip, we checked internet lexicons like Wikipedia, just to know what to expect. As part of the guide, we would like to share this objective information, then you can get to know our personal experiences, so the following
forthcoming ones are ours. Gdynia (Kashubian: Gdiniô, German: Gdingen) is a city in the Pomeranian Voivodeship of Poland and an important seaport of Gdańsk Bay on the south coast of the Baltic Sea. Located in Kashubia in Eastern Pomerania, Gdynia is part of a conurbation with the spa town of Sopot, the city of Gdańsk and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the Tricity (Trójmiasto), with a population of over a million people. Brief History: The area of the later city of Gdynia shared its history with Pomerelia (Eastern Pomerania); in prehistoric times it was the center of Oksywie culture; it was later populated by Slavs with some Baltic Prussian influences. Construction of the city: The city was constructed later than the seaport. In 1925 a special committee was inaugurated to build the city; city expansion plans were designed and city rights were granted in 1926, and tax privileges were granted for investors in 1927. The city started to grow significantly after 1928. Education: There are currently 8 universities and institutions of higher education based in Gdynia. Many students from Gdynia attend also universities located in the Tricity.
Sights and tourist attractions: Gdynia is a relatively modern city. Its architecture includes the 13th century St. Michael the Archangel's Church in Oksywie, the oldest building in Gdynia, and the 17th century neo-Gothic manor house located on Folwarczna Street in
Orłowo. The city also holds many examples of early 20th century architecture, especially monumentalism and early functionalism, and modernism. The surrounding hills and the coastline attract many nature lovers. A leisure pier and a clifflike coastline in Kępa Redłowska, as well as the surrounding Reservation Park, are also popular locations. In the harbour, there are two anchored museum ships, the ORP Blyskawica destroyer and the Dar Pomorza Tall ship frigate. A 1.5 kilometre long promenade leads from the marina in the city centre, to the beach in Redłowo. Most of Gdynia can be seen from Kamienna Góra (54 metres asl) or the observation point near Chwaszczyno. There are also two observation towers, one at Góra Donas, the other at Kolibki. Gdynia is also the host of the Heineken Open'er Festival, one of the biggest contemporary music festivals in Poland. The festival welcomes many foreign hip-hop, rock and electronic music artists every year. Another important summer event in Gdynia is the Viva Beach Party, which is a large two-day techno party made on Gdynia's Public Beach, usually held in August. Gdynia also hosts events for the annual Gdańsk Shakespeare Festival.
And now let’s see our experiences! 2
Buildings and architecture: The Polish buildings are very varied and because of this it is easy to talk about them. As we had the chance to visit places different in size, we got a fuller view. First of all, the walls of residential buildings are not just white but colorful or have a pattern and some ornaments which are not too harsh, still make the settlements lovely and stylish. In Warsaw, we saw the Old Town Centre (which was almost absolutely rebuilt after the II. World War), the wonderful Royal Castle and the breathtaking exhibition in it. Then we saw the Copernicus Center which is like the Hungarian Palace of Wonders. You can see it in the picture (on the right) with the Vistula river and a suspension bridge in the background. This building is really modern and high tech. The space used inside the building and outside in the park around it, really sent the message: open your mind! And if you pay attention to it, you really can! Then we went on a sightseeing trip where we could see Warsaw’s highest buildings and the stadium where the European Championship will take place in 2012. After seeing big, monumental city buildings, it was nice to see Golub-Dobrzyń castle which is like a small jewelbox sitting on the top of the hill. This castle is a really romantic place to get to know more of 16th century country life, everydays, crime, punishment and religion. Our trip to Gdansk was another exciting and charm tour. We visited Mary’s Church, (Europe’s biggest brick church) a museum and the city gate, which is called "Golden Gate" too, because there is a beautiful gold decoration on it. Then we walked to the Old Town, which was lately renovated, so that the visitors can see the old buildings’ styles. In this area there are colorful and patterned buildings, which are in the picture on the left. This interestingly renovated church has a different approach on the original building. The 3
striking and extreme style directed our attention to that the destructions of war can be rebuilt, but should not be forgotten because that’s the way we appreciate peace more. In connection with the buildings we found it interesting to see how the old and new town/cityquarters meet and mingle and how important architectural history is for the Polish. Moreover we could witness that development is a remarkable part of the skyline. „No way! Food again?!” Before the journey I already knew that I will have no problems with the long trips and with making new friendships or sleeping, but I really feared that I will be starving, because in foreign countries the habits are different, so the kitchen is different too. I am keen on delicious food, it can make my whole day bad if I can not „eat a good meal”. I have to say that I was unnecessarily nervous because of the food. There is almost no difference between the taste of Polish and Hungarian foods. We tasted very delicious soups: In Gdynia, in the school we got tomato soup for lunch, which exceptionally was completely different and I think cheesier than in Hungary. The picture also shows that it is different in colour too. It is full of vegetables including carrots and potatoes, and I tasted not only the tomatoes but also the variety spices like pepper or salt. Without meat and vegetables eating is not a meal. I was happy when I found everywhere that for the second course they served different kinds of salads starting from the carrot salad through the cabbage salad till the beetroot salad. I tasted potatoes prepared in different way and I ate very tasty meat which personally I was very happy about. In this picture you can see a small pot with chicken breast which was served with cheese sauce. In addition to its taste I liked this food because there was a tea light under the pot and it was heating the sauce not to congeal. In the front you can see carrot salad and in the background two types of potatoes (mashed potatoes and „chips style” fried potatoes) with fantastic seasoning. I can’t make a complaint about the 4
fried meat, meat balls, and either the fish. Everywhere they made meat with different tastes but all of them were mouth-watering.
The quantity, quality and taste of the food was perfect. We often laughed because we still felt our stomach full because of the lunch and we already went to have dinner. At those times Dalma always „outraged” and said: „Do we have to eat again!?” I think everyone had the feeling of being full, but the food was so delicious that you simply could not stop eating because you wanted to feel the heavenly taste. Well, in Poland for most of the meals I felt this. Our host was so attentive providing us with the tastiest that they really set us an example of the perfect hosting.
Fashion in Poland
As soon as we arrived to Poland I noticed how amazingly nicely people dress in Warsaw and in the Gdansk-Gdynia area. Basically there are three main groups of people in the dressing style – just like in Hungary, and in all the European countries. First of all, there are the elegant looking people, whose clothes are always tidy, well-ironed, and if they are men, they are also quite frequently freshly shaved. An example for this kind of people can be seen in the upper right corner. The other main type of people is the alternate dressing ladies and gentlemen. Mainly they are younger people, who are trying to express their individuality by their clothes. I have to admit that they are not just trying to look
good, but most of them also succeed in it, and they look right just perfect. An example for this kind of people can be seen on the left. The third group’s members have to wear school and work uniforms. I especially liked the pretty dresses of the flight attendants, as the dresses for the Hungarian stewardesses used to be like a sack. So they didn’t look too lovely. All in all: Polish people know for sure what style is!
Transport and traffic in Poland
Our trip to Poland began with a plane flight. This was the very first flight for most of the students from us, Hungarians, and actually this was the first one for me too. We really enjoyed flying with a LOT plane, which is a thing Poland can be proud of. The services, and the whole time spent on board was perfect. When we arrived to Warsaw we got to see plenty of trams and buses – these are the kinds of public transport most people choose to travel by. In this picture we can see an other possible way of travelling. These „parking Pegasus artworks” open our mind to alternative ways of travelling too. But you know, it is just a joke.
At my host family I got to see a TV show which featured police in action. I asked them what this reality show is about, and they told me that it is said that Polish people are not that good drivers, so they have this show where police stop drivers and fine them if they drive cars crazily. I found this interesting because I havenâ€™t seen such a show before. And I also found it weird because I never experienced anything like Polish people are bad drivers. All the people who were driving cars around me were extremely skilled, including our bus driver, and I didnâ€™t ever see a bad driver on the streets either. I do love the way Polish traffic works!
On the first day we had a sightseeing tour around Warsaw by bus, and we saw things like the Jerusalem Avenue (where a live palm tree can be seen), the II. John Paul pope Avenue (which is lit with candles all the way long on memorial days) and the Sanctuary lamp at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
after that went to the Old Town and visited the Royal Castle. We had fun in the Copernicus Science Centre which is similar to the Hungarian Palace of Wonders in Budapest. In the evening the host families waited for the groups in Gdynia.
We spent the second day in Gdynia. First the Polish students greeted the guests with presentations about the school and the city. After that we learned a national Polish dance the polonaise which is a slow, walking ballroom or showroom dance. In the afternoon we went to the harbor in Gdynia which is the busiest part in summer and the most famous place in this city. We took a walk near the sea which was a very nice experience for us, as we do not have a seaside and we 7
can see the sea really rarely (ok, it is different on TV). The swans, the seagulls, the boats and yachts waiting for the season, the salty sea wind, the endless blue of the water all enriched us with an unforgettable experience. In the evening Polish students from the drama group had a performance and presented Romeo and Juliet in short adaptations. On the third day we travelled to Golub Dobrzyn and to Chelm. In Dobrzyn we visited the castle where we could try interesting sports like archery, axe and spear throwing and in the afternoon we toured around Chelm. In the evening we had fun with all the groups in a club. On the fourth day we performed our national dance and songs in the local Navy Club. First of all we had the chance to learn Polish songs and teach our national song too which was really funny because of the differences in pronunciation. It was really amusing. After that we had a task: we had to make a poster. The topic was: “Our best moments in the Comenius program”. In the afternoon we had free time and we spent it in the city with shopping and filming ships in the harbour. We are really lucky to have seen the Black Pearl. Although we didn’t bump into Jack Sparrow, we could go onboard and imagine ourselves as part of the crew. In the evening all groups presented their national dance and song. It was also a nice thing as by the end of the week we got to know each other more and more and these shows gave such a new picture of us and all the other participants, that we were surprised about every show. The costumes, the tunes, the dances, the whole atmosphere they created made us even more proud of being in this project. The message clearly came through: Despite the cultural, historical and linguistic differences, through art we get a better understanding of each other and pulling down the barriers we can be more tolerant in every respect. After the show we had a fantastic night near the sea with our new friends. We spent the last day in Gdansk. We met with Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland. It was a special thing for us, as he is a living part of recent history. We had a sightseeing tour and after that we played a game in the street. We had some pictures about the city’s famous buildings and we had to identify them and find the building. I really liked it as I think with the help of this game I will remember the details of the city for longer. After that we went to the theatre in Gdynia and watched a performance titled Shrek. It was a fantastic 8
with enthralling, Hollywood-like effects and charming tunes. The lyrics and lines were Polish, but it was no problem. Actually I had the feeling that I can understand it. All the program was well put together, and thought over taking into consideration every possible need. Info spreading and gathering also worked without any problem.
School and education Our host students learn at the local grammar school in Gydina. They like their school, and their educational system is similar to the Hungarian. They have 5-7 lessons a day, they learn arts- and scientists subjects too. Moreover this is an 80 years old junior high school and they have first, second and third classes. In the third class they have to write a big test from all three years. The students wear uniform every day, this is a special, blue T-shirt with the school’s symbol. A class contains about 25-30 students. We spent a day in their school and we gained access to Polish school life. The school has a great drama class, which performanced the modern Romeo and Juliet play written by the students themselves. It was so good and colourful, because the play’s language was our teenagers’ language and the students danced too. The school has three floors. The building is modern and enormous with a huge gym and courtyard. We danced a Polish dance in the gym. The grammar school has a talented volleyball team which achieves lots of very good sport results. The teachers often use computer to project presentations during lessons. They were so kind and if we had a problem, they always helped us. Our host school’s staff was well prepared for the program and they showed a balanced team. Everyone knew what to, where to, how to do. It was delightful to experience.
„Polak, Węgier, dwa bratanki, i do szabli, i do szklanki.” Now, we already know, that this famous proverb is really true.
Other aspects All the participants in our team appreciated the multicultural environment of the project, still they could go on with the new local environment. This parallel situation gave a new approach to our stay as well. The new and fresh eye of the team, the impetus in the young hearts and the inspiring surroundings gave us the idea of shooting the turned angle pictures below. With these playful shots you might be in trouble for the first glimpse, but then you can figure them out and understand them in your interpretation. They might suggest that if you look at something – even a problem or a boring situation - from an other point of view, you might be surprised at what you see. It is possible that you might be inspired to another solution, or you won’t see it as a problem, just something to learn from or laugh at. As these photos were taken in Poland, they must be part of the report and part of our farewell. We would like to say thank you to all of you for being part of this project. And we would like to say a big thank you to our lovely hosts! It’s been great joy working and having fun with you!
Students: Levente Szabó, Zsófia Borfás, Béla Szalkay, Georgina Kalmár, Dalma Kovács, Petra Boglyasovszky Teachers: Tamás Tóth, Antónia Baloghné Rozgonyi, Éva Csicsek
Report on a Comenius project meeting