Thursday 22 March 2018

Could you write a winning travel story?

Ann Dinan

The ‘Irish Independent’ is looking for Ireland’s next top travel writer. So, get to your keyboards and tell us all about your latest trip. You could see your story in print and win a pair of return flights courtesy of Aer Lingus to any of their destinations in Europe.

This week's winner is Ann Dinan from Malahide, Co Dublin.

Ann became the proud grandmother of two little girls in the last two years and, thanks to them, she's now smitten with Poland.

My Polish pearls

I recently whizzed down the left-hand side of Poland. I have two little grand-daughters, Saoirse (two) and Yagoda (one), who are half-Irish, half-Polish, and I wanted to get a sense of their Polish identity. This is a whistle-stop account of my whistle-stop tour.

Leaving the girls with their Polish grandparents, I set off alone on a local bus from the border town of Guben.

It grumbled its way through pine and birch forests, past old trees leaning knee-deep into green canals and the careful gardens of small houses. In this part of Poland, all the Kinnegads seemed beautiful.

In Zielona Góra, I am entranced by this wonderful part of Old Europe. Its shabby squares and ancient buildings have never known paint. Because it's not on the tourist trail -- and I'm not recommending it as a must-see -- it carries the wistful air of the less loved.

The train to Poznan was a rust bucket hurtling through miles of long-limbed white birches intermingled with golden beech trees. They reminded me of the Guben forests Saoirse and Yagoda have swapped for the tangled fuschia hedges and empty beaches of their home in Connemara.

They are lucky to be inheriting two enchanted landscapes.

I am struck by the youth and vibrancy of Poznan. On Monday nights, all hell does not break loose but you can have a delicious Italian meal with wine in Molino's for less than €20.

My criteria for accommodation are the three Cs (central, comfortable, clean), the three Ps (peaceful, price reasonable, good plumbing) and the two Ss (small and secure). The Royal Hotel in Poznan meets most of them.

The next day, I travel to Wroclaw and book into the Dwor Polski, a great little hotel that meets every one of the Cs, Ps and Ss.

With its wide-eyed squares and umpteen fountains, Wroclaw is not touristy but it's delightful. The local people are a joy, exquisitely polite and helpful.

My next stop is Krakow. It's late on a Wednesday night when I arrive and the city is buzzing, dazzling and freezing cold. Ancient pianos play Chopin all evening in the main square.

The Trecius Guest House at 18 St Thomas's Street is difficult to find, but the best stay yet and just €60 a night for two.

I'd love to spend a month here, but on Friday morning I catch the early train back to Guben -- just in time for a wild-mushroom hunt with Saoirse and Yagoda in the sunlit forest.

I hope this will be the first of many trips to Poland we make together.

Irish Independent

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