Szczecin (shcheh-cheen) is a cute, port city located on the Oder River, one hour’s drive from the Baltic Sea, in Northwest Poland. The city has a population of a little over 400,000, making it one of the largest in Poland, and although you would never know it walking through the streets of the old, quiet city center, Szczecin is a busy port city offering much to do and see!
1. THE PEOPLE
When I first moved to London over three years ago, I didn’t know anyone. As a 30-year-old expat living in a bustling foreign city, I found it intimidating to make friends – until I met an outgoing Polish girl named Kasia. Just two weeks after we met, Kasia organized a lunch with 15 of her closest girlfriends (most of them Polish), and before I knew it, I had met a handful of amazingly kind, fun, real friends who happily welcomed me into their group.
Last weekend, after years of friendship, Kaisa took me to her hometown, Szczecin, to show me where she grew up and to meet her friends and family. After getting to know her parents and her childhood friends, I realized that like Kasia, Polish people, in general, are straightforward and honest, kind and very fun! Most of them also speak English, especially the younger generations, who were taught it as their second language.
2. THE FOOD
Polish food is delicious! They eat a lot of bread, potatoes, cheese, butter and cream so you might go home with a few extra pounds, but your taste buds will be happy! Kasia’s beautiful mom, Halina (she looks like Elizabeth Taylor), lovingly cooked us most of our meals. My favorite was the Polish pancakes (Nalesniki). She made sweet ones with cottage cheese and strawberries, and savory ones with spinach and feta. And one night, we ate out at a great restaurant called Clou Winebar, where I had the best salad of my life! The produce is very fresh and tasty in Poland, so between the delicious vegetables and all the cheese, I was in food heaven!
3. THE BALLTIC TALL SHIPS REGATTA
The most beautiful and most famous ships from around the world meet in Szczecin for the Baltic Tall Ships Regatta. The Tall Ships Races are an annual tall ships regatta, which is organized by Sail Training International. The ultimate goal is “sail training” – educating young people and developing essential life skills on tall ships. But there are also many fun events and parties surrounding the Regatta, one of which is the Boom Boat Party.
Szczecin is surrounded by water making it an ideal location for the event. The city of Szczecin hosted a Regatta in 2003, and was the final port for The Tall Ships Races in 2007, 2013 and 2015. Each event attracted around two million visitors to the harbor.
4. THE PARKS & WILDERNESS
Szczecin is called the “green city” because of its lush vegetation, beautiful parks and gardens, and surrounding forests and rivers. Kasia and I spent hours walking through Park Kasprowicza and Różanka Rose Garden. It was so peaceful!
There is a short, direct flight from London to Szczecin Airport, and from the airport to the city, is an easy and beautiful 40-minute drive through gorgeous green forests and wide open fields.
Have you been to Poland? Please share in the comments section below!