This past weekend I put my keys on the table and locked the door to my first apartment here for the last time. We’ve had quite a ride together but it was time to bid adieu and find a new place to call home in Krakow. This, my friends, is a farewell to the place I began this journey. I’ve learned many lessons since I first moved in and I’ve lived a lot of great adventures. The time to part with that apartment was now. You might think I’m a tad out of my mind with an entire post dedicated to my first apartment abroad but I think that it has shaped me. To be honest, I know I am going to miss it.
My arrival in Poland was very chaotic and hectic. First of all, moving to a new country alone for the first time is a bit scary. It’s exciting but terrifying. Finding somewhere to live was a big stressor and I continually thought of it on my journey over the ocean. You see, we had 3 days in a hotel and in those three days we were supposed to find an apartment to live for the next year. This is a big task for anyone but apartment hunting alone in a city you’ve only been in for a day or two is so much work. We completed an information sheet and sent it to a realtor but I never heard back from her prior to arrival and the first time I met her she said she didn’t have anywhere picked out for me. She hadn’t looked at my sheet yet! I only had three days and one of those days was a holiday where we couldn’t look at any apartments! This made me stressed to the max!
Fortunately a colleague of mine was looking at a lot of places and invited me to go with. As we pulled up to Skawinska, she told me she didn’t want either of the apartments inside. Instead, she had added them to her list for me to look at. I was annoyed with her overbearing nature but grateful that I would at least get to look at something. We walked up to the third floor (apparently in the US you would call it the fourth floor… idk) and I arrived huffing and puffing to what would be home. I walked in and saw two giant rooms, a small kitchen, a small bathroom and a mirror inside the shower! What? It wasn’t too bad… It was big and awkwardly spaced out with lots of room and limited furniture but I knew that I could make it work.
Two Bedrooms, One Kitchen
My friend Emily and I affectionately referred to this apartment as two bedrooms, one kitchen. While my friends all moved into fancy newly built apartments with security and elevators, I moved in here. Usually the front door of my building was propped open to allow a breeze to enter. There was no elevator. No one collected my packages if I wasn’t home. I didn’t have a TV or anything fancy inside. Even though some of my friends didn’t like my apartment at all I appreciated my little place. It suited me. This place was one that really helped me find my way as an expat. I cried many tears on that bed but also celebrated many successes with wine in the living room. This apartment got me through.
The location was wonderful. It was located within 5 minutes of all of my friends and all of my favorite bars. It was tucked away from the hustle and the bustle though. It was quiet except on some Sunday mornings when mass was projected through the streets on a giant speaker. It was peaceful and right along the Vistula river, a great place to walk and clear your mind. Two bedrooms, one kitchen was a great place to be.
There are so many memories inside of this apartment during my first two years living in Poland.
- The Cancelled Trip– One of my first memories here was cancelling a trip to France with Emily and another girl. One coworker invited Emily and I on a trip to France. Of course we wanted to go! She pitched this whole vacation and seemed to have the whole thing planned out. We sat down with her to book flights, trains and hotels only to realize she had none of it planned out. She wanted to spend a ton of money on a trip to France! It was insane. I have been to France and I haven’t spent that much money. Last summer I went on an fun but whirlwind trip with my parents and the three of us did not spend as much as she wanted to spend! Emily and I met at my place and devised a plan to let her know that this trip to France was not happening.
- The Lone Wolf– The whole first year there was constant construction across the street. They were building a GORGEOUS new building. Seriously! Emily and I would frequently creep out the window and watch the progress. One construction worker would never work with the others. We nicknamed him the lone wolf and made up hilarious (at least we thought they were funny) stories about him and his construction friends. If you followed me on snapchat at the time, you know all about the lone wolf!
- Frankie– Frankie was the French Bulldog that lived on the first floor (again, apparently the second floor for Americans). Emily and I befriended Frankie and would see him all the time heading out for his morning walks. One day his owner told us the worst lie I have ever been told. He said, “in one year there will be a lift (elevator).” Guess what, there is still no lift over one year later! UGH! This lie got our hopes up and helped us get through the day. I dreamed of not having to lug a suitcase up all those stairs after a trip but the day never came.
- Fireworks– For some reason Krakow loves fireworks. I mean, I also love fireworks but they LOVE fireworks. There were always fireworks. Frequently I ran down the stairs, out the door and to the river as fast as I could to catch a glimpse of these fireworks. It was really magical but when you just wanted to sleep it was terrible!
- The Firetruck Bed Incident– Remember that yellow door that a wonderfully kind family lived behind? One day they trapped me in my apartment for an hour because of a bed. Their young son was getting a firetruck bed and for some reason they built it in the hallway outside of my door. When I opened the door to meet Emily for lunch I was very surprised that I could not get out. I closed the door and called her laughing hysterically. Just then they knocked on the door apologizing for the bed but explaining it would be one hour. When they were all finished they knocked and I was free again!
- Emily moving in… and out and in again and then out…– A lot of my time at Skawinska included my best friend as my roommate. Through many unfortunate housing incidents she often set up shop on my couch. I will admit that the couch is a terrible couch but a very comfortable bed. Having Emily around only doubled my usual shenanigans. We held countless middle of the night dance parties and, much to my pleasure and that of my neighbors, she sometimes serenaded us on my microphone.
- Summer Construction– After the beautiful new building across the street was finished the owners must have decided the other buildings looked terrible (they did) and decided to give our entire street a makeover! At first, I was so excited because I just knew in my heart that it was the lift that Frankie’s dad had promised BUT it wasn’t. SUCH A LIAR! It was just a fresh coat of paint, a new trash shed, and some shiny new street letters out front. What a let down! For almost the entire summer my apartment windows had scaffolding up next to them and a tarp over that. That meant no breeze, oh maybe I forgot to mention, there was no A/C. There was then, no breeze. I literally spent my summer sweating it out on the couch. Then the awkward part of it was that there were always construction men hanging out outside my window. They witnessed many a dance party and saw me walking around talking to myself as I worked out blog posts. There is also nothing like forgetting to shut your windows at night and waking up to a man trying to shut them from the outside so he can get to painting… whoops! I will say that the scaffolding came in handy when Emily and I accidentally set our laminator on fire and put it out on the scaffolding to cool down. Do not worry, nothing was harmed during this incident!
- The music– Across the river from my apartment is a very cool bar with a wonderful garden. A lot of festival-ish events are held there and they play a lot of music. Now, during summer vacation I don’t mind hearing the music so loudly but during the school year? During the school year when there is still music playing at midnight I am not a happy human. At the beginning and end of the school year, the times you need the most rest, the music would last until all hours of the evening. There seemed to be no rules about quiet hours.
On To New Adventures
Skawinska began my journey in Poland and put me on a wonderful path. I know that my first two years here were glorious in part because of my apartment. The places we live play important parts in our journey and I won’t forget Skawinska soon. The time has come for us to part. I have learned what I needed to learn and lived how I needed to live. Now I’m off to live with a microwave, a landlord that responds to messages, a well-decorated apartment, and a security guard who always makes sure to say hello when she’s on duty. I’m ready for an upgrade!