Life in Poland

Welcome to Hel

I’ve been warned all my life that I’d wind up in hell. Who knew it was such a beautiful place. The sand is a lovely white color. The water is clear. The weather changes from minute to minute, but the air is fresh and crisp. We had a good time.
It was our first trip with the girls to the Polish seaside. They really enjoyed the beach, the go-carts, and the waffles with whipped cream. There was a moment of disappointment when they realized that the water was cold. Then they discovered jellyfish in the water, and all was forgotten. The water is cold. The wind is cold. It rains almost every day. Be prepared. You can get sunburnt even on a cloudy day as my red legs can attest to. I was not prepared.

Here was our stanowisko. We didn’t have the windbreakers (parawany) which are extremely popular on Polish beaches. I’m not sure if they are popular because they actually do break the wind or if they just appeal to Polish people’s love of fencing themselves in or rather fencing others out. 

our humble homebase 

Daddy, why the windbreaker? There’s no wind. —-But there are fellow Poles.

After five minutes on the beach, we were already on a ciocia-basis with our closest neighbor. She requested joining her parawan with our beach blanket to create a more private zone which she defended tooth and nail. Our kids began playing in the sand, and they were lost to us for most of the day.

cold, clear water

a jellyfish delicately returned to the water
one of many sandcastles

We let our kids run, jump, swim, sunbathe on the sand, pretty much do whatever they wanted. From some of our closest neighbors I observed a different philosophy of beachgoing. The philosophy of taking kids to beach and not letting them swim. There are two schools of thought apparently- one, it is too hot to swim – the other, it is too cold. The same ideology applies to eating ice cream as well. The next part of this philosophy involves taking frequent breaks with mother sitting on a beach towel, not the sand, never sit on the sand according to this philosophy. Additionally don’t walk in the sand because you’ll have sand in your shoes. This said to a child already on the beach. Said child stops walking, frozen in the conundrum presented to him by his mother. How can you take a kid to the beach and not let the kid swim I wondered as one mother tortured her child while all other kids were having fun. “Why did you even bring me here?” asks one 10 year old girl. I wanted to ask the same.

Our girls found some like-minded children with normal parents and spent the time being happy and having fun.

I was very happy to be on vacation. Not that I don’t like my job. I love it. It is a very people-oriented job though, so it was nice to not have to talk to anyone or listen to anyone or correct anyone. I’m pretty sure Ciocia from the next parawan was trying to get some English lesson out of me for her grandson, but I just disappeared into my book.

Not everyone looked happy to be on vacation. People were literally running the path to the beach, not because they were excited to get to the sea, but because they were worried about finding a place. I wanted to scream – There’s enough beach for everyone! Once they got to the beach they eyed up the other beach goers with unfriendly looks. When new holidaymakers arrived, they told them to move on, there’s not enough room. People! We’re on vacation. Smile at each other. Enjoy yourselves. Enjoy the (fleeting) sunshine.

One gentleman behind the next parawan was thought to be sleeping by his family but instead required immediate medical attention. The lifeguards did their Baywatch run down the beach, and then the EMT’s arrived. Nothing like a possible death on the beach to snap people into perspective and to realize that it is an amazing thing to be alive, to be on vacation, to have our little piece of the good life no matter how small it is. The man was revived, and we saw him on the beach the next day. 

What’s a trip to the beach without getting buried in the sand?

an evening on the beach and Rosie’s solution to cold water

port side of Hel

sea side of Hel

that frisbee was an excellent source of fun for all of 3 zl

our attempt at a selfie

Lighthouse in Hel from afar

from a bit closer

evenings on the beach were my favorite – kisses from Tatuś

we dropped a lot of money on go-carts

the fokarium with seals

the beautiful beach

We stayed in a private apartment. It was located close to the Cypel and gave us easy access to the beach from both the port side of Hel and the sea side of Hel. The apartment was adorable in a kitchy kind of way. Enjoy.

I had to sleep under this and…

…under this.

a little nautical theme

with a pinch of religion 

and a smidgen of art

and a sprinkle of kistch

basically awesome, that’s the owner in his younger years

We also visited some military stuff, bunkers and whatnot. I gave myself a good scare when I shined my flashlight in the prisoner’s hole in a door in one of the bunkers and met the eyes of another tourist that I did not realize was already in there. A lot of the bunkers, etc. have been used as toilets by other tourists so visit at your own risk.

All of Hel is a kind of kitschy, touristy place. If you are expecting elegance, go somewhere else. If you are expecting families with kids, ice cream, fish, french fries, beach volleyball, windsurfing, kitesurfing, disco polo bars, military museums, fishing museums, boat rides, lighthouses, seals – then Hel is a good place for you. One thing we didn’t find and we were looking for were t-shirts from Hel. We saw a lot of t-shirts such as – I don’t need you, I have internet – Eat cupcakes for breakfast – This is my hangover t-shirt – but not even one Hel shirt. People in Hel must have a sense of humor, I mean the bus to Hel is #666. Do Polish people not buy t-shirts when they on vacation?

We’re back home, and we miss it already. Now it’s time to clean up all the sand we brought with us.


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  • Reply
    July 26, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    I hope you didn't smile, from what you said you scared these Poles bad enough:))) How can you let the kids do whatever they want? You should be a parent and NOT let the kids be kids. I'm glad you had a great time regardless the weather.

  • Reply
    July 26, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    The best Mom was the one who told her daughter not to swim over there, but over here only because over here the water is clear. Mom of the year :)If we go again I'll pack better. I won't pack more, but I'll definitely pack more than one pair of long trousers. Somehow we didn't know that it was going to be cold. We inexperienced beach goers.

  • Reply
    July 26, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    I love your writing, Christa. I've enjoyed \”going along\” on your vacation. This journal is a treasure that will grow more valuable, especially to the girls, as they get get older. What great memories you're building for them.

  • Reply
    July 27, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Ha ha…sounds like some very Polish moments! I'd often be out with my friends and their kids in Warsaw and they would get scolded or tsked bc their children were out running around without jackets/hats or babies had no socks on. Come on! It's hot outside…let the kids run free. 🙂 Once in September, I was wearing jeans, a tshirt and flip flops while a baby was stuffed into like a winter snowsuit already. Maybe 18C that day. That poor child!We never made it to Hel, but I would have liked a tshirt as well. \”I've been to Hel and back. How about you?\” 🙂

  • Reply
    July 27, 2015 at 8:44 am

    smiling needs a lot of hard work from muscles, you can't do it just like this, just because you are on vacation, and certainly not without a proper training. 😉

  • Reply
    July 27, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    I've been known to smile too much if that's possible. It's partly the American in me and my attempt to overcome the BRF I suffer from (bitchy resting face). So let's say I've had years of proper training 😝

  • Reply
    July 27, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Takie upały były ostatnio a Wam pogoda nie dopisywała? To dziwne, może na morzem chłodniej było. Bursztynu nie szukaliście? Ja przywiozłem kiedyś znad morza słoiczek drobnych bursztynów.

  • Reply
    July 27, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Me – it was 33 in Wroclaw but 23 in Hel 🙂 I'd love to dig up some bursztyn. I think I'd need some guidance where to look. Do you know all the secret places? I can exchange information on where to find wild blackberries and super mushrooms 🍄

  • Reply
    July 28, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Niestety, ja byłem lata temu w okolicach ujścia Wisły do morza. No to szkoda, że nie-letnia temperatura była wtedy na Helu. Może następnym razem. Ale muszelek to nie powinno zabraknąć gdziekolwiek nad morzem więc może chociaż to…A tak poza tym to zgłaszam protest 😉 wobec rzadkich wpisów (zaglądam do Twarzoksiążki, ale konta nie mam więc nie komentuję tam).

  • Reply
    July 28, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Gosh, love your post. I couldn't stop laughing. Last Sun we went to Spring Lake, NJ. The beach there is awesome, with many kids and not so many teenagers 🙂 Emma had so much fun with other kids, and we could finally relax. no CIOCIAs though 😉

  • Reply
    July 28, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Me – I have good intentions to write, but my free time and my intentions can't seem to meet. I was trying to figure out your translation of Facebook for longer than I want to admit 😉 Misiu finally joined but still says social networking is for communists.Justyna – No Ciocias? What a pity. Any windbreakers? I've been scanning my American friends' holiday pics and I haven't spied any yet. I've never been to Spring Lake or any part of the Jersey Shore which is a shame being so close there in PA all my childhood. Our kids have announced that next year they want to go to a beach with warm water, sand optional.

  • Reply
    July 29, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Pamiętam te matczyne rady z Polski. Ciepłe lody dla dzieci- czy jeszcze jest taki wynalazek???Cieszę się, że moje dzieci spędzają wakacje w Stanach, ruszają się tyle ile chcą, a ograniczenia są narzucane przez mój zdrowy rozsądek. Mam nadzieję, że zdrowy….

  • Reply
    July 30, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    Ciepłe lody are still available at the local bakery. My girls said it's \”gross\”. I wish my girls were spending their summer vacation in America. It would do wonders for their English. For sure your rozsadek is zdrowy;)

  • Reply
    August 3, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    What kind of godless people lived in that apartment? No picture of The Pope? You know, the real one?

  • Reply
    August 4, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Exactly! Where's our Pope?

  • Reply
    August 24, 2015 at 8:00 am

    Film z urbanistyczną analizą \”parawaningu\”.Pozdrawiam

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