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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the University of Gdansk


Then I landed in Poland again. I think I really do love this country, also the flights are cheap from Norway. This time I didn’t know anyone in the town I was going too(Gdansk), it was an adventure I had promised myself at least once on this euro trip, go somewhere where no one knows you and see what happens. My housemate and I had decided to go there for a 5 day holiday.

We landed and it felt like home. The sun was behind some clouds in the distance but for the first time in a long time this didn’t mean that we were back to freezing. At the airport some guy who was going to Russia came up to ask us how to get the train there and I looked around at all the white faces  and asked him “we’re the ones you chose to ask?”

We had done some groundwork and knew the name and street address of a really cheap hostel we would be living in and all we needed was directions. We came to a university lawn and there were these girls sitting there having a beer picnic at 3 in the afternoon and we asked for directions.

“Well we don’t know where the place is but why don’t you guys go get some beers and come join us."

I immediately I remembered why I like Poland so much. So off on a beer run, a few zloty later and we were back but they were nowhere to be seen, the promise of the day already being clouded over, so we went to another group of girls, this time they were going our way but they said they had to finish their beer first and asked us to sit down and keep them company as they did this.

Apparently polish universities in Gdansk have this long running tradition where the different faculties have week-long parties to prepare the students for exams and we had landed smack in the middle of one of these parties. So we sat and drank our beers and tried to remember their names. Then  they took us off to our hostel, all the time singing all the polish songs i know, one called kokoko that's the official Euro 2012 song. It is a joke song about the sound a chicken makes in Poland and i love how much they hate it. We bought some more beer on the way and we promised to look them up once we were checked in.



The hostel we were living in was a university hostel. A typical uni ofNairobi hostel, there were beds for each of us in a floor filled with a host of college people who had finished their tasks for the week or who just didn’t care enough to finish since the weekend was here and parties were all around. The dorms were all located quite close to each other and so there were gaggles of beer drinkers everywhere. Checking in we were informed that there was a guy from Mozambique who lived in the same dorm and I felt he would be happy to see someone from the home continent but the chances of us meeting him were nearly nil.

“Brothers!”

We had someone shout and turned to see him bearing down on us with a grin that would last for days. Hugo from Mozambique whose mother was polish and father Congolese. He would turn out to be our best friend for the time we were there making sure we went to all the party spots warning us about all the dangers that surrounded us and showing us how to get around. The first night was great; we went back to the party grounds at the university and sat down next to the first people we had met. There are a lot of Spanish people in Gdansk, students over there on an Erasmus exchange; it’s a European student exchange which provides thousands of students with the best years of their lives. You apply, you get accepted and dispatched to a foreign country, they provide your upkeep for that year and you get so few classes and so little exams that all it is an exercise in self-examination and how much partying a young body can really do, well at least in Gdansk.

The day dragged into the night, reluctant to leave and not really gone until 10 pm. The grounds were filled with students; everywhere you turn opportunities for opportunities. Spanish, Polish and English mingling in the night sky with beer burps and vodka yells. There was a wall in the university where those strong of hand and heavy with alcohol would take turns throwing beer bottles. I don’t know what the beer bottles were made of since they would never break on first impact, put your shoulder, your legs and your run into it and still they would just glance off the wall. Sometimes they would get sent back to the thrower as hard as before and only then would they crack showering the ground with wall cries of this-is-how-you-do-it. Once in a while a beer bottle would get stuck on the wall a signature, an autograph and for this cheers would resound.

look close enough and you see my signage


I had forgotten how easy it is to meet people when you are a foreigner, all you have to do is smile and say hello and sometimes, a lot of the time you get offered a seat and a conversation. You get to exchange curse words and compliments in tongues so removed you wonder if they are lying to you.

Next to our hostel, right beneath it there was a club, this is where we finished off the first night. The next night we got invited to a room party, by virtue of being strangers. Then off to Sopot. There are 3 cities in such close vicinity to each other people will take the train from one to the other just to party. Sopot, Gdansk and Gdynia. Before the weekend was over I would make sure to see all of them.

Saturday night we went to yet another room party, sitting with some Erasmus people and talking about life in different cities. This guy from Sardinia gave us alcohol his father had made, he repeatedly cautioned us not to drink too much just taste it, just wet your lips since it’s very strong. Then we made our way over to sopot, the club scene and it really was. It’s been a long time since I was in a club like that. The press of bodies, the sound of music, the heat of expectation and the funny polish smoking zones which are just a room inside one of the clubs. It’s not really for health reasons or anything since the smoke leaks out onto the floor. Maybe its so the club doesn’t get set on fire or just to provide a lounge area where you can go for a talk if you can hear each other past the haze of smoke drifting lazily and pluming out onto the floor. 

Our meals were kebabs. Huge, huge kebabs. We would wake up in the afternoon and make our way over to the shop and order one large. Take it in your arms and begin to much away at the salad, meat, mayonnaise, bread and ketchup. Halfway through your stomach would begin to groan under the heavy load you were shovelling in. Go on and soon it would complain but when you knew that it was the last meal you would have that day all you did was eat.

it looks much better.
On my last night another friend of ours took us to a lookout point. We climbed and climbed this mountain and got to the top of the city. The whole place was arrayed in front of us in all its colours and hues. The lights playing off the night, the sun hinting that it didn’t like to be away, the stars twinkling and shining and turning over and over and over. The height brought the air in gulps of scenery and we just stood there and watched it take us away.

For 4 days I was in university again. Doing all the things a student should do. Talking the night away, dancing the night away, drinking the night away with all pretensions to anything dropped off since everyone around us wore no armour at all. Those four days probably will stand for very long as my favourite university experience.