It is very easy to write blog posts about fun and sustainable things to do in places like Denmark and the Netherlands, the poster children for eco-friendly living.
On our recent trip to the continent we spent most of our time in Poland, and I was pleasantly surprised by just how easy it was to find plant-based food and cycle around there too.
This isn’t about to become a travel blog (although I may have a few more travel posts planned), but I thought it would be fun to share a few highlights from the trip.
I didn’t really pick out the places that we would travel in this trip as we were travelling to Poland for a wedding. Nevertheless, I found Wrocław to be a delightful city (even in my sleep deprived state following our ridiculous travel arrangements involving a 4.30am start and an overnight bus – see my previous post for more on that trip).
Visit the botanical gardens. I love visiting gardens and these were particularly lovely with meandering paths and artwork throughout.
See adorable gnomes everywhere. I did a bit of a double take the first time that we saw one (as much as it is possible to do a double take on a bike). We kept seeing the gnomes everywhere throughout the city and it turns out they are pretty iconic, acknowledging the Orange Alternative, an anti-Soviet resistance movement from the 1980s.
Eat pierogi! It is hands down my favourite (Polish) food. I was sad that we never made it to PieRogi Vegan, but the traditional potato or mushroom and cabbage varieties are nonetheless delicious and veggie-friendly.
Get around by bike. Every Polish city we visited had sharebikes provided by nextbike, so we could conveniently use our accounts from Cardiff. I even saw a child-size sharebike in Wrocław and sharebikes with baby seats in Poznań. The cycling infrastructure was surprisingly good everywhere we rode (much better than most of the UK and Australia!) with separated bike lanes on many roads.
Gdańsk and Gdynia
We didn’t have too long in Gdańsk, just passing through on our way to get the ferry to Sweden. However, there were a few places worth highlighting.
Visit the European Solidarity Centre. Honestly one of the best museums I have ever been to, it tells the story of the solidarity movement (which to be honest I hadn’t heard of at all before looking up things to do in Gdańsk). A most enjoyable way to spend a rainy afternoon while filling in some gaps in my knowledge of European history. And some very cool rooftop views as well.
See the longest pier in Europe (we haven’t actually verified this claim made by a Polish chap we met). Unfortunately it was bucketing down rain pretty much the entire time we were in Gdańsk, otherwise I would have loved to visit the Sopot Pier.
Eat vegan burgers. I had the most delicious tofu burger of my life from the vegan burger store opposite Gdynia station (and I’m not even that much of a tofu fan usually!). In fact I was generally really impressed with the availability of vegan and vegetarian options everywhere we went in Poland. I was last there eight years ago and basically subsisted on veggie pierogi. I certainly wasn’t complaining about it, but it was nice to have a bit of variety this time.
Get around by bike or foot. As mentioned above, there seem to be nextbikes everywhere in Poland. The same scheme seems to operate across the three cities of Gdańsk, Sopot and Gdynia. We didn’t need to use them because Gdańsk is so walkable. Public transport between the three cities and to the ferry terminal was also really good.
I have previously been to Copenhagen in winter but in summer the city really comes alive. The sun was shining, the jazz festival filled the streets with music and the locals were so friendly and welcoming to this hive of sustainable living.
Visit ethical and sustainable clothing stores. We are still really lacking places to buy new clothes in Cardiff so it seems to have become a habit to buy clothes while on holiday (although there are lots of charity shops and Ripple stocks a select range of clothing). Luckily Copenhagen is basically the capital of sustainable fashion so I tagged a few places from this Ecocult list to check out as we explored the city. I didn’t need anything this time, but thanks to Be A wear, my partner now has a pair of non-holey jeans.
See amazing rooftop views from the round tower. Travelling around Europe we have climbed a lot of towers for views, but this one is a little different because it is basically a spiral ramp the whole way up. I particularly enjoyed seeing the offshore wind farms in the distance juxtaposed with the old domes and towers of Copenhagen town centre. (I have recently been pondering on whether I enjoy the view of wind farms for their own sake or because I see them as a symbol of the low-carbon transition. I haven’t reached a conclusion yet but I still enjoyed the view!)
Eat porridge! There was a Grød just down the street from our Airbnb (we stayed in the most adorable Vesterbro apartment while the usual occupants were on holidays for a few days). We went for lunch on the first day and returned for both our subsequent breakfasts. I tried the risotto, açai bowl, and of course, the porridge! Who knew porridge could be so exciting and delicious?
I was also very excited to try vegan soft serve from Banana. They make it from bananas that would otherwise go to waste due to their appearance. (Although it was a bit of a zero waste fail on my part, I was completely unprepared and they didn’t serve it in cones so I’m hoping the Danish waste management system will doing something useful with the compostable cup and spoon I used). I’m not sure I would go out of my way to pay 45DKK (£5) again for something that I make myself for pennies, but the soft serve was delicious and it is a very neat idea.
Get around…by bike! (This is Copenhagen after all, what did you expect?) Ahh, I really enjoyed cycling in Copenhagen, and cycling in real “Copenhagen bike lanes” (the stuff of every cyclist’s dreams). Even more exciting, Bycyklen, the official city share bike system, is made up of GPS-enabled electric bikes, so good for tourists! At 30DKK (£3.60) per hour they aren’t as cheap as using a free nextbike, but the price is comparable to the bus and they are so! much! fun!! To the extent that I got up at 6.30am on our final day in the city just to squeeze in a final sightseeing ride (love those long Scandinavian summer days!).
If you haven’t read it yet, I wrote a blog post about our epic overland journey to avoid flying to Poland. We travelled on to Copenhagen via ferry and train. Ferries certainly aren’t perfect and use some pretty dirty fuel, but the greenhouse gas emissions per litre are still less than flying (0.019 kgCO2e per passenger kilometre for a foot passenger compared to 0.16 kgCO2e per average passenger kilometre on a short-haul flight, based on UK Government emissions factors). We then flew back from Copenhagen (*sigh* first flight of the year!).
I also wrote a post about our trip to the Netherlands last winter, also full of sustainable fun!