Janusz has visited Bornholm over 50 times.
He grew up in a poor family on the coast of the Baltic Sea but got in to the hotel business and worked his way up. Today, at 54, he owns 4 hotels on the coast, a giant mansion, 7 cars, an auto camper and a yacht. It was with said yacht that he was able to sail from his hometown of Koszalin to Bornholm in less than two and a half hours, something that he was very proud of. So, during summertime Janusz will spend almost every Saturday visiting Nexø in order to get a Danish Krøllebølle ice-cream.
He picked me up just outside of Gdansk and drove me for a couple of hours towards the Lithuanian border while we swapped travel stories. Janusz loved to go on road trips and had gone on some amazing journeys. Last year him and his son had driven his jeep all the way from Poland to Mongolia, where it was currently sitting in a garage waiting for them to come and drive it back through Russia in October. In 2014, he had taken that same Jeep around the Black Sea, crossing the Russia-Ukraine border at the height of the Crimea crisis. During the trip, he kept trying to call his daughter and talked about how her and I was the same age. I thought that was a bit odd until the end of my ride. As I was getting out of the car, he gave me his business card and asked me to come by his town on my way back through Europe, so I could meet his daughter, whom he assured me was both very beautiful and very single. So, if I ever end up as hotel magnate in Poland, you’ll know where it all began.
Janusz’s offer was just one example of the kindness and hospitality I was met with from the Polish people. When I first planned the trip, I had just seen Poland as a “gateway country” Something I had to pass through to get to the interesting countries. However, at this point, I think Poland might just be the most underrated country in Europe. It has a beautiful rugged nature with deep forests, great summer temperatures, well-preserved medieval cities, cheap prices and some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. It also doesn’t hurt that the PJ and Michael were right and Polish girls are some of the most beautiful in the world.
Later that night, I was trying to make up some of the lost ground from East Germany by hitchhiking through the night. It was around 1 am and I had been standing at the same crossing for about an hour or so, when two road workers came up to me. I assumed that they were coming to throw me away because I was standing too far out on the road. Instead they suggested that it might be easier for me if I walked to next cross as it was bigger and then they made me a sign with some cardboard and their spray-paint. I took the advice and walked about 1 kilometer to the other cross. Half an hour later I saw their van drive up to me again. They just wanted to give me a reflective vest so the cars could see me better.
Despite all the help I had gotten, I still couldn’t get a ride, so I unfolded my sleeping mat under some trees by the side of the road and got a couple of valuable hours of sleep, intent on catching the morning traffic.
I woke up around 6 and got a ride from the 10th car that passed me. The driver, Adam, insisted on buying coffee and water and giving me ten Euros for my breakfast. The rest of Poland went smoothly and I am currently enjoying the three Baltic capitals which I will update you on in three days’ time.
I feel somewhat ashamed of the prejudices I had about Poland and especially the Polish people before seeing it. I think many Danes have the same and if you are one of them, I can only encourage you to come here. What you will find is a beautiful, friendly and proud people living in a country that has endured more hardships and challenges than almost any other European nation, but whose inhabitants never lost their sense of national and cultural identity. The beer is also crazy cheap.