Your Prizes are a Toy Animal or a Liter of Vodka

Trip Start Jun 08, 2008
Trip End Jul 09, 2008

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Flag of Poland  ,
Saturday, June 14, 2008

Luckily for the people of Stany, their village isn't too isolated.  The small city of Nowa Sol is located about 6km away from Stany; nearly every resident of Stany goes to Nowa Sol pick up groceries/supplies or to go to school.  Some of my cousins, who at one time lived in Stany, have made the move to the "city" (as the locals call it) due to work.  The locals of the surrounding areas refer to Nowa Sol as the "city," an amusing adjective for a town not much larger or more populated than any suburban town in New Jersey.  But for a person who has lived in a village their entire life, with no more than ten other houses, it is definitely possible that Nowa Sol may start to become a city in their eyes.
Nowa Sol apparently has a bad rap in Poland for being quite a haven for the criminal kind.  One day I began to ask my cousin Gosha about the stereotypes people have of Poles from various cities.  According to her residents of Szczecin are just Germans who speak Polish, residents of Krakow think they are better than everyone else, residents of Warsaw are just villagers thrown into a fake city, and residents of Nowa Sol are robbers, thieves, con artists, and swindlers. 
There is even a joke about Nowa Sol that is known across Poland; it goes like this: "Why does a German take a train back home from Poland?  Because his car was stolen in Nowa Sol." 
After hearing all these awful things about Nowa Sol from my family I was just a little bit nervous when we were goings there to spend the day.  Right before getting out of the car my cousin then turned to me and said, "Erik, be careful and watch out.  In New York City you can usually tell who is going to rob you.  Here you can't because everyone is white."  A tad bit racist, but it definitely didn't help ease my jitters.
Our first stop on our journey around Nowa Sol was my cousin Asha's beauty parlor.  It seems that there is a beauty parlor on every corner of every street in Poland, yet each one is always packed with people.  We also spent a few hours visiting some other family in Nowa Sol's towering commie blocks; anyone who has ever been to Eastern Europe knows what monstrosity these buildings are.  The communists wanted to provide housing for the masses, so they built enormous buildings higher and higher but cheaper and cheaper.  So the end result is these decrepit old buildings that haven't been renovated in years, yet are still somehow livable.  Walking into the "lobby" of these commie blocks is quite the experience, there aren't any lights (making entering at nighttime a real treat), the smell of urine permeates the air, and the walls are covered in graffiti.  The elevators are old fashioned gate-door elevators, which make the ride up these towering death traps even more exciting.  But when you enter one of the apartments, you find yourself in a totally different world; the apartments are spotless and beautiful.  I asked my family members why the lobbies and exteriors are so shitty as compared to the apartments, their answer was that the owners don't care enough to fix the lights are paint the walls because "someone will just steal the light bulb or write on the walls again."  I call it laziness.
After spending some time in the commie block we all decided to head out to the Nowa Sol Summertime Festival.  At first glance the festival seemed just like ever other fair held here in the States, there was food, drinks, games, and rides.  But upon closer inspection you noticed something was different, very different
For starters the "festival food" wasn't your run of the mill corn dogs and funnel cakes; everyone was eating a snack that seemed like they would induce heart attacks within minutes.  I don't recall the name of the delicious food, but it was made in the following manner:
    1.  Take a large slice of rye bread and lightly toast it.
    2.  Take the toasted bread and smear one side with slightly melted down pork fat.
    3.  Cover the fat-smeared bread in onions that were fried in garlic and butter.
    4.  Now add a final layer of dill pickles on top, and enjoy!
Everyone was eating this heart attack snack, and I must say it looked delicious.  However, my stomach had gotten the best of me in the morning and I wasn't prepared to try another sampling of local Polish food.
As if the food wasn't different enough, I then found the best carnival game ever.  We all have played the games where you shoot water at a target and win a little stuffed animal, right?  Well, in Poland they play that game a little bit differently.  In some beat up, broken down trailer, a man set up a miniature shooting range.  Upon entering the "range" I was given a rifle that would shoot out BBs; I then used this gun to hit this small metal sticks next to the prize items.  At first I only saw the small prizes like stuffed animals and t-shirts; but then I noticed it...  On the top shelf there was a large one liter bottle of Polish vodka, the most amazing prize ever.   Beer cans were also spread throughout the range as well as quite the selection of knives; I ended up only winning a few cans of beer, the vodka had escaped my shots.
Only in Poland would the prizes at a carnival be beer, vodka, and knives.  If you ask me it is an awesome combination that would only lead to even more awesome times.  
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