March 19, 2017
Maybe it’s just my imagination, but traveling through Europe in winter seems to be much cheaper than in summer. This probably has to do with the chilling cold. Skiing aside, no one wants to freeze their butt off. Everyone wants to stay at home in front of the fireplace.
For me personally, however, I can’t resist a good deal. And so a little while back I flew to Gdansk in Poland. A place that just jumped out from the screen because it was … right, very affordable. Gdansk is in the north of Poland; it’s a port city on the Baltic coast. Departing from the north of the Netherlands, it was a one-hour-twenty-minute flight. I had to leave at an odd time of day, but the price was definitely right. I paid a mere €25 for this (round trip). You try to beat that.
The Airbnb I stayed at was good value too. It was €50 a night for a 60-square-meter (650-square-foot) apartment right in the heart of the city. The water was a five-minute walk away. Of course there were cheaper options, (especially in a relatively unknown city like Gdansk), but I can’t do the hostelling anymore. I’ve passed all that; no more bunk beds and noisy corridors.
Anyhow, to pay for my expenses on the ground I needed some cash from the Automated Teller Machine. I’ve never been a huge fan of ATMs, (e.g. they’re often too low and therefore hard to read and whatnot), but the ones in Eastern Europe seem to be … beyond bad. This is because it feels like that someone is out there to get you.
In Gdansk I used one at the airport. The thing is that you have two ways to settle your fees and exchange rates; make the wrong selection and you easily pay 10 percent more. I found this out the hard way.
Option one is that you settle it all right away and lock in a fixed, given rate … to play it safe basically. Like this is your one shot. Almost like if you don’t, you’re stupid. The unknown is scary after all.
However, you need option two. Option two is that you wait and let your card issuing bank settle it, the unknown fees and rates, at a later date. Option two will save you the 10 percent or more; simply because they will, somehow, give you a more fair, actual rate. It’s all a bit tricky. Be careful!
Of course, “money” is just part of the experience. A place can be dirt cheap, but if it’s not for you, it isn’t. Having said that, I like Poland. It was cold, around freezing point and the weather was depressing, but I liked it.
Maybe it was grandpa with his cane who, when I asked for directions, told me to follow him. I have no clue what he was saying in Polish, but his smile and gestures were heartwarming. The same for the lady in the stationary store when she made a detailed drawing. Very kind.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses at one of the main streets did speak English though. These fellows are always polite, (I seem to meet them everywhere I go), but not sure what to do with them. I mean, all these touchy-feely topics they want to discuss is just mind blowing. And how come they always seem to want to convert you into an even better Christian? It never seems to be enough.
“How do you view the future?” they asked while handing me a flyer. And my response was an immediate, “Great! How about you?” That’s one thing I do like about me a lot. I am an optimist. My glass is always half full (and not half empty).
Anyhow, for the rest of my short stay I tried various snacks and wandered around for the perfect Instagram shot. And then, at the end of the weekend, hours after I witnessed Donald J. Trump’s inauguration on a nice flat screen, I hopped in a cab back to the airport at 4 AM. And that was the end of it. I do plan to go back though. I’ll likely do so this summer and stray a bit more to the south. I’d like to visit one of those WWII Nazi concentration camps. I’ll keep you posted.
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