I spent my birthday in a city I couldn’t pronounce

We all know that your birthday means your day, the only day of the year when you can decide what to do and how to spend it, and everyone would respect your decision no matter what. When I was younger I used to party with friends, but recently, I enjoy more to have a quiet birthday and celebrate the day in my own way, it could be hiking, strolling around or taking a short trip.

This year I decided to arrange a trip with my husband to go somewhere new but I didn’t have a clue where. I knew for sure that I wanted to visit a place in a country I haven’t been to yet, but I had too many destinations on my bucket list. So I decided to narrow down my options based on a few conditions.

The search started

My birthday was over a weekend in October, therefore our trip had to happen during a long weekend, Friday to Monday.

I set up a budget of 200 pounds per person for a three-night stay including flights from London and accommodation. The destination didn't have to be very popular and busy, but at the same time worth a visit.

Szczecin in Poland

Since I knew what I wanted I started searching the cheapest flights on Skyscanner, then I checked the deals on hotels and flights on Expedia. After a four-hour search, I ended up with a list of five destinations to choose from. I had a read about them and I eventually ended up booking flights and a hotel with spa in Szczecin in Poland.

Where was I going? Hard to say the name!

Szczecin is a city in the north-west Poland, close to the German border and the Baltic Sea. I have never came crossed a polish word before, so I didn’t have any idea how to pronounce the name of the seventh-largest polish city. I got some help from Google, but I kept forgetting how to say it or made mistakes. Anyway, we were going there despite being unable to find the right pronunciation.

Kasprowicza park

Spending 30 mins at passport control

It was Friday evening and time to say bye to London. Surprisingly, the flight was fully booked and apparently, I and Bruno were amongst a very few non-polish passenger on the flight. I started to feel homesick as soon as I stepped into the plane (a bit of exaggeration). Everyone was speaking polish including the crew and it seemed they all knew each other.

The flight was like a trial to get used to the situation we were going to face for a few days. When we arrived at the airport we stayed in one of the three queues for the passport control. Everyone in front of us was going through quite quickly till it was my turn. When I showed my Iranian passport. She said something in Polish which I couldn't of course understand. She picked up the phone and started speaking with someone, then another woman appeared in the Kiosk, who was supposed to know English. She asked with some broken English for my return ticket flight and a hotel reservation. We were staying there for a while and were watching the other queues getting smaller. After the initial awkward situation, we followed her into a room where there were a few border officers with a smile on their face, we knew there was nothing wrong. We were there for a while, but no one could explain us the reason since none of them could speak English. At the end, we found out they just needed a copy of my documents. Apparently, they were surprised to see an Iranian tourist who couldn’t pronounce the name of her destination, in their city. Luckily, we were released in time to catch the last shuttle bus to the city centre.

Following the red line

The following day we went to the hotel reception to get a map or other information about the city, but we didn’t get anything helpful for our journey. Although we did a bit of research, we didn’t know what to expect.

We left our hotel to explore Szczecin by ourselves. The first mission was to find a cafe for breakfast which was the simplest thing to do. There were so many nice pastry shops and cafes. Polish pastries and sweet are so good and huge compared to the ones we have in London.

After breakfast, we strolled into the city and walked around without purpose until we reached a castle where there was a Tourist Information office. A girl in the office could speak English fluently. She gave us a map of the city which had three different coloured lines. We had to follow the red line on the pavements to see all the attractions in the city. Most of the attractions were old buildings with a history and a few monuments, for instance, the very first buildings we saw was Burghur house which was built in 1547 and an old church. The red line took us to a few museums. We are not big fans of museums, but since all the museums were free of charge on that particular day, a good coincidence on my birthday, we stepped into one of them, which had a collection of old polish coins, weapons and paintings.

Birthday cake and dinner

The city is small enough to go around by walk. We followed a track until we reached a shopping mall where we had a break and had a very small birthday celebration. We ordered two different slices of cakes: chocolate and apple with cinnamon. We continued our journey until we almost visited all of the attractions. By following the track we ended up back at our hotel and went for a swim and spa. The evening was relaxing and romantic, and we didn’t want to spoil it by going out. Thus, we had the birthday dinner inside the hotel. By that time, I could finally successfully pronounce the city’s name.

Birthday Cake in Poland

Little Paris in Poland

A Cosy Cafe  in Szczecin

We started our second day by having a coffee in a very cosy and beautiful cafe. We left the red line and went to a square, known as “Little Paris”, probably because it was designed by Georges-Eugene Haussmann who also planned out Paris.

We continued our way towards Kasprowicza park, the city’s main nature attraction. The park was green and gorgeous. We strolled around until we ended up next to a river where there was a small remote-controlled motor boat competition. The boats had to go through the barriers inside the river as fast as possible. We took some photos and then took a tram back to the centre, where we found out we missed two attractions on the red line, next to a very well designed waterfront restaurant. I wish the food was as good as the view, but nevermind, we still enjoyed our time and our last dinner in Szczecin.

This piece has been written by Mansoureh Farahani, Founder of Travel With Mansoureh 

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