Cultural Musings

How to survive winter in Poland

I’ve lived here for just about 7 years and I have to say that I dread winter in Poland every year with every part of my being. It’s not the cold that bothers me so much. It’s more the dreary lack of sun that makes me want to jump off a bridge. And then, when there’s a tiny ray of sunlight, I stand in the window soaking it up while I can because by the time you’ve put on your jacket, boots, hat, gloves and scarf, that ray of light has disappeared and you’re left alone again in the dark, overcast sadness that is Polish winter. So what can you do to make it a little bit better? (note: above picture is not representative of Polish winter – it was taken at the end of April!)

This is a better representation

Avoid cabin fever and get an outdoor hobby.

Ok, admittedly, I only snowboard because my husband makes me. Despite my terror of the possibility of flying off the mountain, I somehow manage to slide down the mountain at a turtle’s pace, as I like my bones unbroken, and at the bottom I realize that the fresh air and perhaps a little mulled wine makes me feel a little less zombie-like.

Eat, drink, and be merry.

Thank god Christmas is in winter but when that’s over and it’s mid-January blues (I can’t possibly be the only one) then you’ve gotta replace sunlight with something else that brings a little light to your day. Some yummy foods, a little drinky-drink and time with family/friends should hold you over until spring. I recommend miód pitny (alcohol made from honey), a drink I just discovered and have to say is really delicious.

Get addicted to some good tv series.

My recent favorites are the Marvel series from Netflix – Luke Cage, Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Mindhunter. Another thing we do each winter is start a marathon of some saga – usually Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. They make for a nice and cozy wintery atmosphere and again some mulled wine to go with doesn’t hurt.

Visit some Christmas markets.

Lots of European cities hold Christmas markets, which make you feel warm and toasty even though it’s below freezing out. Poland has really nice Christmas markets in Wrocław and Kraków – those are the ones I know of – but I’m sure there are plenty in other big and little cities alike. They have massive kiełbasas and smalec sandwiches with onions, sour cucumbers and bacon, and again, hot wine to warm you up. But the markets in Germany and Austria are really close to Poland and definitely worth visiting. I’ve been to the one Dresden (polecam!) but I’ve heard Vienna is supposed to be the best. Stock up on all the fun holiday events you can as come January you’ll be in a gray hell with zero cheer.

Smalec with ham and onions

Stock up on summer goodies for the winter.

Each summer I make my own jam and kompot. I also freeze berries and veggies like asparagus so that come winter I have a little bit of summer saved up. All that vitamin C will up your immune system too! Another thing you need to survive the winter.

When all else fails, go on a trip to some place sunny, not necessarily warm.

I’m lucky enough to be from Florida and I usually visit in the winter time. My last two trips being in February and November. It helps a lot but it’s brutal to return to. This time we were wearing shorts the day we left and came back to Poland with snow on the ground. A bit shocking but it makes the time there so damn sweet.

So in short, wine helps. What do you do to survive the winter? My mom always tells me to get a UV lamp and I’ve also heard from some people that going to the tanning salon helps. Has anyone ever checked this? I’m afraid to go because I have fair skin, and also I don’t want to be associated with people who go to tanning salons, but if I thought it would help I’d probably go. Any thoughts?

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  • Reply Aga 23 December 2017 at 21:04

    Tanning salons are really unhealthy :). I mean there is no harm if you use them seldom. What helps me is skiing in the mountains during some nice sunny day. I sometimes also visit some hot pools at Bukowina Tatrzańska.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 24 December 2017 at 16:11

      Hi Aga! Yeah I think they’re unhealthy as well but if you went for like a minute or two and it helped in winter it could be worth it. But definitely doing something outdoors on a rare sunny day is the best. Hot pools sound really nice. I’ve never been!

  • Reply Ali 24 December 2017 at 01:25

    Have you tried vitamin D3 supplementation? From November to February there simply isn’t enough UVB in sunlight (in areas above latitude 42N – that’s most of Europe!) to make vit D in skin, and what’s absorbed from food isn’t enough. The winter blues you mention is how the deficiency manifests – lack of energy, chronic fatigue, sleepiness, headaches, troubles concentrating, etc. I have no idea why this isn’t common knowledge – it literally affects millions of people. I’m against mindless supplementation, but this one actually makes sense. You can have your blood tested for vit D deficiency, and choose the dosage accordingly.

    I wouldn’t recommend the tanning salons…

    As a sidenote, it’s funny how Polish winters don’t faze me at all, but hot, freakishly humid summers? These were a total nightmare back when I lived in South-East Asia for a while. It was like getting hit in the face with a wet cloth every time I went outside. I’m getting chills just thinking about it, ugh. I’ll take the gloomy cold over melting heat anytime 😉

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 24 December 2017 at 16:13

      Hey Ali! Hah I guess it just depends on what you’re used to. I’m totally used to that sticky wetness in humid places as I’m from Florida, so it doesn’t bother me as much. You always have air conditioning in those places so it’s not a big problem. At least there’s sun! That’s the most important for me. I do supplement with D3 – especially nowadays. I didn’t for years though, which is so stupid! I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I just never had to think about it in Florida so I didn’t think about it here either.

  • Reply Bebok 24 December 2017 at 09:05

    I like optymism from this post 🙂
    You can go to solarium for just a couple of minutes, it will not change youre skin color but will make You fill better thanks to Vit. D 🙂

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 24 December 2017 at 16:13

      Yeah that’s what I’ve heard! I guess people do it 🙂

  • Reply Piotr 24 December 2017 at 13:56

    My best way to survive cool months is keeping body in warmth-hoodies with long sleeves and zipper, fluffy cotton socks. And some wool cap and winter coat must be worn when going out! Gloves don`t hurt as well! When I`m really cold, I have a mug of hot sugar and lemon tea-really helpful! If my legs get frozen, I cover up with a blanket from top to toe ;-). The big and thick books are my best friends during never ending winter evenings and nights-my relatives and friends are permanently shocked how quick I read and how many writers I have known already! Well, I am a typical bookworm! Unfortunately, I can`t recommend concrete novels-I don`t know if any of them are available in English in Poland. I love Stephen King`s horror stories ( weird thing to read in the dark, I know) and reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon tetralogy – The Cemetery of Forgotten Books – was a real pleasure too. All the best for coming 2018 to you and your family-especially your son and husband! Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays Leah!

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 24 December 2017 at 16:15

      Hey Piotr 🙂 A big, thick book sounds like the perfect winter remedy. I don’t read much lately because of my baby but honestly I miss it. I love a good book and it’s always good to have recommendations, so thank you! I’m getting better at this winter thing every year honestly. Now I actually go out on walks when it’s not raining/snowing with the baby and it’s helping I think. Hopefully that lasts all winter. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too!

  • Reply Sven 5 January 2018 at 15:41

    Hi Leah,
    Did you ever try the full spectrum lamps, that replicate the “sun” at home?
    My trick is simple: I have generally a positive attitude and good mood. But I agree, that it does not always work, especially when you have this “snow-mud-mix” outside and your shoes are wet and you are cold and everything sucks.
    What also works for me quite good are meeting people: here in Katowice there are some nice possibilities like multi-language-meetings, where also those “rudimentary-polish-speakers” like me have possibility to have a great chat and time with others. These meetings happen weekly and are either organized for a certain language separate or even as one big for many people/languages. BTW: also people from Gliwice come to Kato for these.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 8 February 2018 at 14:52

      Hey Sven – do you have a link to a facebook page or where I can find info on those meetings? It sounds interesting. Maybe I could meet some people who also have rudimentary Polish skills like myself 🙂

  • Reply Jordan 7 January 2018 at 06:00

    Fiance just left back to Pl and it was warmer in Poland than Tennessee!

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