Poland - a business trip
Updated: Aug 25, 2020
7 years ago we made a decision which changed our lifes quite a bit. We started to build our own company in the field of natural energy systems. To be more precise, we sell solutions in the field of alternative heat generation (hot water and heating). After a tough start business in running smoother now every year and since 1 year we have a new business partner for a special segment. And this business partner has its head office in Lodz in Poland.
So it was time for a business trip. We needed some training on the products and wanted to visit our partners in general. So here our first blog of a business trip. Unfortunately, I did not have enough space in the luggage to take the good camera, so sorry for simple smartphone pictures.
In the early morning hours of 4 am we went by car from our hometown near Thun in Switzerland to Basel Airport. Time was short but we managed to catch the flight at 6.30 am (it was a 1,5 hours drive). Luckily the walk from the parking to the terminal was really short, otherwise we would have missed the flight. So here we were, sitting in the easy jet flight to Warsaw without having had breakfast or a coffee. The much too expansive and bad coffee on the low budget flights was no option. So when we landed in Warsaw we were in need of a breakfast. So we picked up our rented car which was an easy affair and drove in the direction of downtown Warsaw. Without any preparation on the touristic side of our trip we had no real clue where to go. Luckily, google maps was working on the phone without WIFI connection and navigating was easy. The Palace of Culture and Science popped up on the map and we thought, well, there might be a coffee shop. We had no ideas that this was one of the major tourist spots in Warsaw. And yes, there was a nice coffee shop inside having even vegan sandwiches. What a surprise! We had expected to have a hard time finding vegan food in Poland. So luckily we enjoyed a huge cup of nice coffee and some tasty vegan sandwiches. What a surprisingly positive start! Slowly, our were geeting more awake and
consious that we are in a new country on our list. A country we had no idea what it could be like - and a country a lot of negative prejudices exists (well, at least in Switzerland and Germany). As we sipped our coffee we watched the world passing by inside the Palace of Culture and Science. This Palace was a former gift from the Soviet Union to the city. And the look-and-feel of it really has this special strange communism touch. It was a first time to experience this for Markus and a reminder for Nina having roots to former eastern Germany and having visited this region also during the Cold War.
People looked very busy, with serious expressions on their faces. Well, if you look at the history of Poland, there is indeed no reason why people should look relaxed and happy. It is a tough history of a country that worked a lot, was robbed of the wealth many times and had to get up again. But underneath this surface we realised that people are superfriendly and welcoming and really happy to show you around. As we were at a touristic spot in town we took the chance to quickly take the elevator up on the top floor to enjoy some fantastic views of the city. Wow, Warsaw is a big city with many many modern buildings. It seems to
have never ending constructions going on in the town. Next to some old communist buildings there are supermodern high rise buildings - interesting. And what amazed us: there is free WIFI everywhere - on public squares, in malls, in restaurants. It is free and fast. Before we left the town we went to a supermarket to get some fruits and snacks and, of course, to simply have a look at it. We love foreign supermarkets and when we are in a country the first time, we always have a look around them. Gives you a nice feeling of the country. And again a big surprise: there are many biological products on offer, many vegetarian and vegan things. Nice!
But soon it was time to hit the highway which was crowded. But it was a pleasant 1 hours drive to Lodz anyway. In this area Poland is really flat. And it showed us a much poorer side of the country. But still, everything was clean and organized. By arriving in Lodz we realised that this is a poorer town. Well, at least on the first sight. But the reason for it is that we arrived in town from former Litzmannstadt Ghetto. A working class area where all the jews were forced to live and where all the former textile fabrics are. Some of the industrial buildings are renovated and used now for hotels, shopping malls, entertainment or offices. But some look still the same since WWII. Same with the old living buildings for the workers. Some are nicely renovated and in use, some are only in use (and not really renocated) and some are just abandoned. And they stand next to each other - quite an interesting feeling which makes up for an kind of interesting first impression of a town. And we did not see
anything else first, as the appartment we had bookd was exactly in this area of town. Well, we were a bit irritated, maybe shocked. Because when we arrived at the address for the appartment we found ourselves in front of a really rundown former industrial building with many graffiti all around. At least, there was plenty of free parking (we were releived that we had booked the full insurance - so no worries for the car). So we used the modern security system with a code which we had received when booking the appartment. We entered the rundown building, went up on the second floor and there was a key box. With another code we got our key and opened the door of our home, which is called Textil Apartment Lodz. And another world opened for us. The creepy, spooky entrance and hall of the building was left behind and we stepped into a supermodern, cosy and stylish appartment. How amazing was that. The decoration is in an old fabric factory style with sewing machines all around the appartment. Everything was well kept, super clean and really comfortable. We had a bedroom, a living room, a bath romm and a kitchen just for ourselves. And it was cheap! There were many candles around, towels, soap, WIFI, all you need and much more. Great!
So, we settled down and prepared ourselves for the following business day. Also some work was waiting for us. By the time evening was approaching we went for a walk in cold and windy Lodz. From our appartment it was a short walk to the heart of the city, the famous Piotrkowska Street. Lodz does not have a central square but a 3 miles long street (mainly pedestrian) where people walk, meet, eat, have a coffee or a drink and shop. Along the street are beautiful houses which show the wealth the textile industry had brought to the town. Many of the houses are still rundown, but each year 100 houses are being renovated. And there are some beautiful examples already all over! When you look into the side streets, however, you can also find some examples of ugly communism buildings. Overall, it makes a certain charm of the city. We walked the street for quite a while and also came across the Holly-Lodz stars on the pavement. Lodz now is the center of the polish filming industrie and many famous regisseurs, artists and writers are from Lodz - for example, Roman Polanski. Therefore, on Piotrkowska street, you will find stars on the pavement like in Hollywood. We had a tasty and healthy dinner in Greenway, a polish restaurant chain with vegan food. Wow, they had amazing smoothies freshly made and so cheap! Also food was nice and fresh.
Later on we, on our way back to our appartment, we stopped by the Manufaktura. It is the biggest shopping Mall and entertainment district in Poland. And it is built on old factory grounds and in old buildings. At night it really gives a nice atmosphere with special lights everywhere. It is a town in itself with its own feeling. Normally, we are not fans of such areas, but indeed, it was nice, the mall is huge, everything is super modern, prices are moderate and we were simply amazed to find everything here. When looking for a place to stay we first had thought about staying in a hotel here. But we were lucky to have chosen our appartment as it gives you another feeling of the town.
After a good nights sleep we got up early, made ourselves breakfast in our kitchen and went to Aspol, our partner. The office is in an industrial area of town. We got a warm welcome followed by a training on the products, a tour of the company. People were all really friendly and even had organized a vegan lunch for us which was set up in the meeting room. So the whole export department had vegan food with us for lunch :-). Amazing. No-one would do this in Switzerland! Our meeting continued till the afternoon. Then we went back to our appartment to get some urgent work done. Yes, it is a business trip - things have to keep
moving in terms of business. Later on, we were picked up by Marcin, the sales director, and together we went to town. He showed us around Piotrkowska Street a bit more and explained some things before we went to an amazing fully vegan restaurant called Tel Aviv with very tasty polish and israelian cuisine. What a treatment for us! And an adventure for Marcin as he had never eaten vegan dishes before. It was a great evening and we had really been treated like kings the whole day. It was definitely worth coming over in terms of business - as we have set up many important things for a future together.
Next morning, we go up really early. We did not have any appointments any more, but we wanted to take the chance to see a bit more of Warsaw before going back to the airport. So, after a quick breakfast we left Lodz on the highway and arrived in Warsaw a bit more than 1 hour later. We got lost in the traffic first but finally found our way into the old town. Well, Warsaw and especially the old town was completely destroyed during WWII. But the old part was built up again completely. We parked our car and the first stop was a much needed coffee. Close to the city wall there is a lovely coffee shop called "Out of Africa" (in polish - sorry, I cannot remember the long word for it). They have about 52 varities of coffee from all around the world, including civet coffee. The decoration is african, mainly with things and pictures from Kenia and Ethiopia. And the coffee is amazing! Really tasty! We then walked
past the Barbakan (old tower of the city wall) into the old part of town and just walked around lovely streets with beautifully houses. It was a week day, so not so many people around. But we were surprised to find many tourists, mainly asians in this part of the town. The square around the Kings Castle is amazing. But it was freezing cold with a strong wind blowing. Anyway, we were happy for this short but nice insight in Warsaw. It gave us a first impression of the country, which we really enjoyed. In the early afternoon we already flew back home to Switzerland. It was a short, intense but interesting trip to a new country on our list. Do zobaczenia w Polsce - see you again in Poland!