I think everyone has this certain friend who lives quite far away and you only meet him or her once in a while and text occasionally, but when you meet it´s as if no time has passed at all. I´m lucky to have a few such friends, people living in other countries or even at the other end of the world. I recently told quite a lot stories about my time in China, but for now I´ll write about the hometowns of these friends I mentioned and about them.
I had a certain talent for the Polish language since high school and thus I really enjoyed summer camps in Poland and meeting Polish people. When I came to Munich for my studies I joined a Polish Student´s Club and got to know friends and friends of friends… Back then I would never have guessed that one oft hem would become my best friend. She´s living in Wrocław now, a city with a long Polish-German history and I still remember the first time I came here, long before she moved back to Poland.
Another friend has a flat there and he´s sometimes coming to Poland to meet friends, buy some Polish products and have a fun weekend. When he asked me if i´d like to join for a weekend trip four years ago I didn´t have to think before I answered. It was only him and me and we picked up his girlfriend at the station in Wrocław the next day. We arrived on Friday night and after meeting his girlfriend we brought her stuff to the flat and headed downtown. I hadn´t been in Poland for quite some years and really enjoyed the atmosphere there back then. You could literally see that this place was changing, it was becoming more modern and was inventing itself anew, but still respecting its heritage. Wrocław has a long and difficult Polish-German history and if you´re interested you should definately see this city.
After we left my friend´s flat we headed downtown and walked around in the pedestrian area around the „Rynek“ the Market Square with the old town hall. We walked along the old streets and along the river to the Ostrow Tumski and passed the Leopoldina the University founded by the Austrian emperor Leopold. I didn´t really see too much of Wroclaw on my first trip there. We had some Pierogi in a restaurant by the town hall and still had to do some shopping since my friend had invited some people to his place. We bought what every house party needs, vodka, juices and some food. Well… I met a lot of guys from Poland who could really drink a lot without even looking drunk, thus I was really worried about the fact that my liver wasn´t really trained in digesting alcohol.
When the others arrived we sat down in the living room, talked, drank and made plans fort he night. At that moment I was really worried about the shape I was in, but not the way I expected. I found myself sitting there with buff Polish guys and pretty girls around me and I was the only one drinking my vodka straight. We had bought the Polish classics Żubrówka (a vodka flavoured by bison grass), Citrynówka (a lemon flavoured vodka), Orzechówka (hazelnut flavour) and some normal vodka. After a while of talking and getting to know each other we decided it was time to leave and went to a bar by the market square which was called Bohema. It was in the basement of an old building and I really liked the look of that place. It’s not fancy at all an noone gives a sh*t about your attire or whatever. You just come in, drink and have a good time.
We found a table for all of us in a smaller room on the left, just where the small dancefloor was and got some drinks. I followed the recommendation of my friends and we ordered the bar’s specialty. Shots. Not just some shots, but the bar’s signature shots, “Sernik” and “Piernik”. Sernik is the Polish word for cheesecake and Piernik means gingerbread. Guess what the shots taste like… We sat there drank, talked and laughed and sometime one of the girls from our group and I started dancing, I still remember that some guys were watching us and my friend asked me what I thought about her, since he perceived our dancing as quite sensual. I remember having my hands on the small of her back, smelling her perfume and seeing her smile while we enjoyed the music. She´s a nice and beautiful girl and I that’s exactly what I answered my friend. Unfortunately I never met her again, all I know is that she´s living in Portugal now, following her dreams. We had to go back to Munich the next day, thus it wasn´t too late when everyone said goodbye and we went back to my friend´s place.
My second trip to Wrocław was different. It wasn’t about having a fun weekend and Meeting new people in a city I haven’t seen yet. It was about seeing my best friend and spending some time together. It was about two years after my first trip to Wrocław and she’d already moved back to Poland to start her own business there. I really missed and still miss the nights when we still lived in the same city and met sometimes for Sushi and drinks… in the beginning we met with our common friend who had invited me to my first trip to Wrocław, but later it was mainly her and me talking about life and contemplaining about men and women, about the girlfriends I had and the boyfriend she had. We basically talked about everything and I trust her more than any other person, which my ex-girlfriend absolutely disliked.
But let’s come back to what happened about two years ago on my second trip to Wrocław. I was the driver again and shared my car with my friend and his girlfriend you already heard about and another Polish friend. We stayed at my friend’s place again and arrived late at night. Once more we walked around in the city centre and took a walk by the Odra after we met my best friend and had some lunch. We walked throught the old town, passed the Market Square and walked on to the Leopoldina by the river. We walked along the river and crossed the bridges which brought us to the Catherdral Island Ostrow Tumski. I talked to my best friend about my recent realtionship and my doubts about my ex-girlfriend, we talked about her job and my studies, about my plans about writing my master thesis in China and whatever came to our mind. It wasn´t just the talking and seeing each other, I enjoyed her presence. It felt good to have a person around who really matters. A person I don’t have to talk to to communicate, sometimes a look is sufficient… another fact that my ex-girlfriend was furiously jealous about. In the end of the day we went to Bohema again and had some shots before calling it a day.
The next afternoon we met for the „Festival of Good Beer“ at the Stadion Miejski, which was built for the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship. I got to know some of her local friends whom I hadn´t met before, we enjoyed the sun, some beer and food and had a great afternoon. Later that night we wanted to see a light show at the Centennial Hall and since the others felt a little bit cold they decided to go back to my friend´s flat to grab their coats. My best friend and I didn’t really mind the temperature and just walked around. This was when I told her about what gave me sleepless nights back then… I told her about my travelling and that I had seen more places and had met more people in less than ten years than my whole family in their whole lifes. I told her that I don’t understand how I could be so restless that I always felt I would have to go somewhere and move or change places. I felt like a nomad, I felt like I didn’t have a place I could call home. Her answer really touched me. She said, „Maybe you´re looking for the wrong thing. A home doesn’t neccesarrily have to be a place you always want to return to. Maybe it´s not a place, but a person.“ I wasn´t too happy in my relationship back then and doubted that I would always happily return to my girlfriend, so I still felt like I had no home, but at least I knew where I would always find my best friend. We met the others later to see the water and light show at the Century Hall, which was quite impressive.
Since it was already late and we had to leave Wroclaw the next day everyone wanted to go home after the show. In difference to my best friend and our host and his girlfriend my other friend and I decided not to go home yet and had some more beers at a bar by the „rynek“, which was called PRL (polska republika ludowa) and was furnished in the style of communist times. We talked about women and about my best friend. This was the second time that someone asked me why she and I have never become a couple… I guess some people will never believe that there can be honest friendship between a guy and a girl.
We wanted to meet my best friend for a coffee the next day but the couple I was with was never on time, and my best friend didn’t have too much spare time since she had to work. Thus I was terribly mad at my passengers when we arrived at the café two hours late, not only because they took too long to pack their stuff, but also because they weren´t really helpful in finding the route to the café. I basically thought my friend knew where to go, but he didn´t. After that trip my best friend and I needed more than half a year until we met again… she had planned a New Year´s party at the bar where she worked when she was still a student and asked me if I´d like to join.
It was a day before new year’s eve when I arrived in Wrocław, after an hourlong drive by car. I’ve been visiting my parents for christmas and was looking forward to seeing my best friend. She gave me her address and thanks to my phone I had no problems to find her parents’ place. I left my car on the private car park of the compound and she drove us downtown to check in in the hostel I had booked. Unfortunately her parents weren’t out oft own so I couldn’t sleep in the living room, but I should find out later, that it had its perks to have a hostel so close to the party location. Right after checking in and leaving my backpack in the room under the roof, furnished with three bunk beds, we left and once more took a walk along the streets in the historic city centre and went to the pub where we would have out party the next day. I met some people I had already seen before, when we met at the festival of good beer and also others friends of her. Most of them were regulars and coming here for years, knowing my best friend from the days when she was still working as a barkeeper.
The bar wasn’t fancy or even modern, it’s a classic place to meet friends and get drunk on straight shots and beer. It´s place where the barkeeper isn’t an artistic cocktail mixer, but a friend and sometimes even a psychologist. We talked in Polish and one or another guy who didn´t know me yet asked why I’m speaking their language, if I´m having family in Poland, and wondered when I said I just learned it in school and liked to speak in Polish. We stayed, we drank, we talked and I could feel her former boss’ eyes on me, mustering me and trying to see if I had any intententions regarding my best friend. You know for sure how fast time passes by if you’re having a good conversation and some beers… thus I don’t really remember when I came back to the hostel and fell asleep.
Since she and I wanted to meet the next afternoon to buy whatever we needed for the party, I had half of the day to walk around and take some photos of the city and enjoy the cold air. I thought about how often I had already been here, how natural it felt and contemplained if this could have been a place to return to again and again. The afternoon was all about buying champagne, junk food, plastic cutlery, juices and decorations for the bar and bringing it to the location. Some others had also arrived there and we could start inflating balloons and making the bar look like new year’s eve. When we finished our preparations I headed back to the hostel to have a cat nap, a shower and dress up before going to the party. I wore my black leather shoes, jeans, a white buttoned down shirt and a jacket. She was literally the centre of attraction in her red dress and high heels. She wasn’t short anyways but with her heels she was definately tall, maybe even taller than the most guys at the party. Some other guests and friends brought snacks, salads, bread and booze and we sat, ate, talked and drank once more. I had a ball, I felt happy and it was more and more natural to talk this language, that wasn’t my mothertongue but made it so much easier to speak openly, maybe also due to the alcohol.
We opened some champagne bottles at midnight, said our best wishes to everyone and went outside to see the fireworks… since I was in another unhealthy and unhappy relationship at that time I called the girl, whom I called my girlfriend back then and told her in my drunk state of mind that I was missing her and looking forward to seeing her again after the holidays. It was freezing cold outside, so I went in, danced with my best friend and started a drunk and philosophical monologue about friendship and love and how true friends have a much higher worth than lovers. I said girlfriends come and go, but our best friends stay forever. I also told her that a common friend of us once said to me he’d like to bet that she and I will become a couple if we’re both 30 and single. Her answer was to say 30 is too soon, 40 is better. After this deep conversation her ex-boss took some photos of us and I took some of her and him before we returned to dancing and drinking. I could feel that this night would end badly for me if I stayed longer and drank more. Thus I left, saying goodbye going back to the hostel, which was quite close.
Next morning I woke up with the worst hangover of my life, my head felt terrible, I had barely slept and my throat was sore because last night’s drinks had refused to stay in my stomach. That’s why I didn’t meet my best friend for lunch but stayed in bed until late afternoon, curing my hangover and whining about the effects of alcohol. I was definately not the same well trained drinker I was some years before. But still… I met her in the bar in the evening. Some of the others from last night were there too, having beers and shots, while just the thought and smell of alcohol made me feel sick. I guess it must have been quite funny for them when I ordered a cup of tea. The barkeeper told me I should try some Barszcz, since it was good to cure a hangover, but he didn’t know I hated red beet. I didn’t want to be unfriendly so I gave it a try and got a cup of red soup from the microwave. Since I had spent the most of the day in bed it was already quite late in the evening and I said goodbye to everyone before going back to the hostel. I had to drive back to my university the next morning and didn’t want to fall asleep on the highway.
My best friend picked me up in the morning and we had some breakfast at a café called Nadodrze (Nad Odrze – by the Odra) before she took me to her parent’s place were I had left my car. We said goodbye and I drove back home. I spent nine hours behind the steering wheel until I arrived on campus and about half a year later she spent about 20 hours on airplanes to come to China and visit me in Shanghai.