August 2006

'What's the difference between today's Poland and that of the wartime occupation?'
'During the war, the government was in London and the people were in Poland. Today, the people are in London and the government is in Poland.'

Well, it's not exactly a thigh-slapper, but the reality is in fact not too far off the mark. And having spent most of the last two years east of Vienna, it was interesting to return to London and discover just how much truth there was in the above Polish joke. Having read all the reports - largest immigration since the 17th century etc. it was still somewhat surprising to see just how many Poles there were in the land of King Arthur. In restaurants, museums, bed and breakfasts and beyond, Polish staff were everywhere. And not just in London, also in obscure parts of the British countryside. Of course, this meant that I could practise my terrible Polish, hence giving the impression to my English companions that I was a cosmopolitan man of the world, (of course, in reality my Polish is as refined as a hippopotamus's mud bath). But like it or loathe it, you really can hear Polish spoken right across the country these days.

By and large, the Brits themselves seem very positive about the Poles. And this went beyond men's appraisals of the charms of Polish ladies. Yet a question that many are asking now in both countries is will the Poles stay? One Polish couple I met were raising money for their wedding and planning to return to Poland in the immediate future. In the past they had worked in New York to raise money to buy a car. A lot of Poles they knew were working towards similar, short term goals. However, a cheerful girl I met in Bath had met her Sir Lancelot and she was immensely happy at the prospect of setting up in Albion for the long haul. She certainly won't be the only Polish girl to walk down the aisle with a Brit this year. Mark our words, there'll be many more - lucky chaps.

All the same, it's not entirely a one way flow. Cracow has an ever-growing community of expats. And many Poles who were forced into exile after the war are now coming back, some just for holidays, others for more permanent arrangements. Cracow is becoming a more cosmopolitan place again, as it was before the war.... All this leads us back to August. And the good news is that this month is jam-packed with fantastic events. Top of the list is the Music In Old Cracow Festival, whilst art fans should head for the Fin-de-Siecle exhibition. Click here for a full calendar.

Meanwhile, backpackers might throw in their lot at the brand new Giraffe hostel or Cinema hostel, whilst Five Marii Curie Street is an inspiring family choice. If you're feeling like pushing the boat out, Cul-de-Sac is worth checking out for a top of the range lunch or dinner. Enjoy the sun as it won't stay long!

Some holiday reading....?!



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