Saturday, 22 January 2005

Skiing in Poland, & the EU

by Dom Corrigan

One of the reasons that I went skiing in Poland recently is that my very sexy lady friend is half Polish - her Father being a fortunate post-WW2 emigre.

The skiing was good and any falls were cushioned by the inexpensive and excellent mulled wine served everywhere. It was particularly spectactular being able to sky in the evenings, down floodlit slopes.

We flew Easyjet to Krakow, and by the strange virtue of the slopes being a 2.5 hour bus-ride away there were relatively few Anglophones around. The Poles dominated the slopes, though there were a few Germans, the odd Brit (mostly Brummies, actually) and, of course, the ubiquitous travelling Aussies.

Our group stayed in Zakopane 'til New Year's day, which meant finding somewhere to celebrate leading up to midnight. We discovered, though, that the Poles take the New Year celebrations - Sylwester - quite seriously, and start booking their tickets for restaurants and clubs as early as September. We were out of luck and so decided to have a few looseners in our hotel, before joining the revellers in the street.

At midnight, it was evident why many shops were boarded-up - the Poles, armed with arm-fulls of fireworks and empty bottles of 'pop' met the New Year in decidedly high spirits and with a bang.

And the fun didn't need to break the bank either. Everywhere, from the little Communist-style supermarket to the off-licenses ("Alkohole"), booze was frighteningly cheap - even good vodka like this, or like this. Cigarettes too (though you'd be best to avoid the filty Eastern European brands). And proper, old-fashioned, Guido Fawkes, blow-your-arm-off, fireworks. The locals know it too, even if they'd probably struggle to tell you in English, or you to discuss it in Polish.

So, cheap fags, booze, explosives - the real common language of the EU? Maybe, and isn't that what a free-trade zone should truly be about?

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