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Benedict Cooper

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Track Records: Poznan, Poland, Is Tough And Freaky

Posted: 07/02/2012 7:00 am

I had just checked into my hostel in Poznan, Poland, and was preparing to have a wander around this strange new city where I knew no one, when my date for the evening introduced herself.

Would I like to go to a free concert in the town square, and for a few drinks in one of the best bars in town? Sure.

So me and Anna, a student from the North of Poland, set off to do the town. The relief and instant elation of having an unofficial tour guide, interpreter and bar buddy for the evening was immense.

We got to the square just in time for the last concert at the Euro 2012 Fanzone -- another bit of good fortune, the circus had left the town several days before, this was just a party for the locals.

I must admit, I hadn't heard of Die Antwoord before. That particular blend of rap and techno isn't my normal cup of tea, but seeing the crowd of almost entirely Poznan locals and students going crazy for big hits in Poland, like "I fink u freeky," was something else.

We danced in the middle of the crowd for about an hour then ducked out just before the end to avoid the rush to leave. Then we headed to the Dragon, or Klub Dragon to be more precise.

Forget the image you might have of a Polish bar. This would be a hot spot in any city you could name and it was packed to every corner and perch inside, where there are odd little rooms dotted around four floors and in the courtyard that was humming with people after midnight. We sat and sipped our beer in the warm evening as a stream of great hits old and new played around us and Poznan partied the night away.

I don't know why I have to learn this so many times; that it's when you least expect something out of the ordinary to happen it will. Perhaps this trip will teach me once and for all.

Because I had arrived in Poznan from Berlin tired and anxious. I was feeling jittery and guilty about not even knowing how to say "Hello" in Polish and, frankly, planning to spend a nice relaxing evening in the lovely Blooms boutique hostel in the center of town, in a little bubble. I owe Anna and Poznan and thank you for taking me out of myself.

I'm not saying Poznan is the most welcoming of towns: It's got a certain hardness about it, at least on the surface, and you might not be all that impressed when you get off the station.

It's a fairly forbidding, grey part of town where mean-faced cops march around and definitely run the show (I thought I was in serious trouble when two of them, guns in holsters, approached me and began barking aggressively in my face, until I realised it was a long winded way of telling me to pick up the cigarette butt I'd just dropped).

The people carry themselves with a strong spirited demeanour and bright, sharp eyes that fix you firmly as they brush past. The few I spoke to were warm and lively with loud voices and big laughs, and I felt instantly comfortable.

So now as I sit in the middle of a busy train compartment, still no English to be heard, booming down the tracks towards Warsaw, I'm filled with a strange sadness about leaving Poznan behind.

This is the last ride on my Interail ticket and it's been a wonderful adventure through Europe, a ticket to an infinity of possibility and experience.

The cities are getting a little tougher, the seats harder and the whole process that little bit more trying, but if I'm lucky there's another freaky town or two waiting for me there down the tracks.

 

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