*Okay, so I know this post is late…really late (ugh) but I’m trying to get allllll caught up, so bear with me if you’re interested!**

Going into these 10 months abroad, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do or see, but I did know that I did not want to come home for the holidays.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I absolutely love my family and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are my most favorite holidays with them. The traditions, the laughs, the banter, the good times – why would anyone want to leave? I knew that this would be my first time in my life not celebrating in the same traditions that we had every year, not eating the same food, not seeing all of the amazing people I love. However, I wanted to take the few weeks I had to enjoy something new and also equally as important: Alex’s family in Poland. It was the perfectly opportunity to meet his family and friends there and to also see where he grew up and what was important to him. So, I had a completely new, different and somewhat nerve-wracking kind of excitement and was ready to take on the new adventure!

My first day was spent in Warsaw just relaxing for the most part and then we took a bus to Kielce to stay at his cousin’s and to spend Christmas Eve and Day with his family. We had an absolute blast spending time with his cousin’s family and their Cane Corso puppy having drinks after dinner and being shown around the city. It isn’t anywhere near as vast as the capital, but it had it’s own unique charm and you could see the history that lied within.

On Christmas Eve, we went to his aunt’s apartment to have Christmas dinner. Polish tradition is that you eat dinner when you see the first star in the sky and they make 12 different kinds of fish along with beet soup and other side dishes. Afterwards we exchanged During the dinner, I was a little emotional thinking of my family back home and missing them, but we were able to Facetime from the apartment and it was great to see everyone at least!

In Poland, Christmas Day is a much quieter day than Christmas Eve. People typically eat left overs and families go to mass, but presents are not given. We just relaxed, saw the town of Kielce and enjoyed each other’s company.

A few days later, we left Kielce with Alex’s dad and went to his grandfather’s village in the middle of the woods. It reminded me a lot of home with the man-made lake, farm equipment, and the large home built to accommodate so many people. Dinner with his family was warm and cozy and full of more delicious homemade food and desserts. It was so nice and welcoming and I hope to see those people again one day.

After a quick stay, we took a train to Krakow for a few days. Alex planned the whole trip out and it was an incredible stay! The first day we went to see Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. This was one of the most important things for me to see for so many reasons. All I can say that it was the most powerful, soul breaking place I have ever been to, but anyone who has the opportunity to go, should. The next day, we went to the salt mines and it was amazing. All of the carvings and the chapels carved into the salt were stunning.  Unfortunately, I became quite sick during the travels here and was not able to see much else. It was so cold during our stay it made my whole body hurt. However, I do hope to go back to Krakow one day and see more of the truly beautiful city.

After our train ride back to Warsaw, we eventually checked into our room at the Marriott to celebrate New Years Eve (the same room that we stayed in during my first time in Warsaw). In the evening, we went to the top-floor club of the hotel where they have a reservation-only party. It was fabulous! We had passed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails until the clock struck midnight. From the club, we had the most amazing view of where the city’s celebration is as well as the fireworks show. Not only were they being shot off at the center of the city, people were shooting off huge fireworks all through the city as well 0 even between skyscrapers! It was absolutely stunning and incredibly romantic. I felt so fortunate and happy and loved.

A few days later, we left from Warsaw to go to Amsterdam. We spent most of our time walking around, enjoying the city and each other’s company. A few of the standout experiences were taking a canal tour at night during the lights festival, seeing the windmills outside of the city and taking a ferry to a rooftop bar overlooking the city.

It was the most fun, interesting and immersive break I’ve ever had, and I was so fortunate to have this opportunity. Thank you, Alex, for taking care of me, showing me your country and seeing the world with me. You make everything look a little brighter and a lot more fun. <3