What: Study trip to Poland
When: 6-17th July
Where: Warsaw – Krakow – Zakopane – Opole
Warsaw greeted us with sunny weather. On Sunday, to get to know each other and make some crazy memories, the group went off on a scavenger hunt. Dancing Macarena on the market square, singing Polish songs with Polish people, kidnapping members of the other teams- just a short summary of what we did that day.
The educational part began on Monday, when we visited EuroCities (a department of Warsaw City Council) and WWF office. The day focused on the issues of climate change and nature conservation in Poland. The country is developing renewable energy sources, partially due to EU goals, and partly to limit its dependency from fossil fuels. This is, however, a huge challenge as over 90% of electricity is generated from coal.
On Tuesday, the representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and of the Dutch Embassy’s Agricultural council enlightened us on the issues concerning Polish agriculture, the policies that try to regulate it and the recent agricultural land reforms in Poland. 93% of Polish territory is classified as ‘rural’, including agricultural and nature areas, with almost 15 million people living in these areas. Challenges in managing this vast territory includes poverty, lack of accessibility to markets, migration of people out of the rural areas and abundance of small-scale subsistence farms.
We left the sunny Warsaw for Krakow, a lovely, busy city. From there we went to Auschwitz. Our guide calmly told us about the terrors of the camp: inhumane, unimaginable and unbelievable against the backdrop of peaceful blue skies. Next day we went to Tatra National Park, located south of Krakow; the park is a transboundary nature reserve and boasts of impressive landscapes, flora and fauna. It also deals with numerous challenges to protect these from tourists, as well as being home to Gorale – or ‘highlanders’ – indigenous people whose culture is being altered by globalizing world.
The trip was concluded by two days of WOOFing (Working On an Organic Farm) in the Opole region. Jens and his wife made sure we had a lot to do in these two days. So we built a fence for the pigs (the double fence is now a requirement from the EU), built a Kräuterspiraal (spiral herb garden; here the water supply is in the lowest part, and different types of herbs grow depending on water availability) and did some plain old weeding of the fields.
We learned a lot about the challenges that the rural communities in Poland are facing at the moment and how the government is trying to conquer these. We caught a glimpse of Polish history and got an introduction to its present difficulties and opportunities. Poland is definitely worth a visit in the future.