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Poland Travel

GINGERBREAD CHRISTMAS IN TORUŃ

Christmas in Poland can be truly magical. Over the last 14 years of living in England I only had a chance to spend a few of them back in my hometown in Chełmża and visiting Toruń during that festive time became a sweet tradition. This time, however, I decided to do something I have always wanted to do- bake my own gingerbread.

Toruń Old Town

Everyine agrees that Christmas decorations are the best way to get instantly transported into the festive spirit. Toruń does deliver when it comes to that. Walking around the High Street and the Old Town, you can’t fail to notice many light displays, have a picture with a REAL Santa and…

..and of course a stunning, huge christmas tree that always brightens the Christmas nights for Nicolaus Copernicus or rather the famous astronomer statue standing by the corner of the Town Hall.

There is nothing better on a cold winter evening than to find the most delictious, chewy, warm mountain-style cheese with a cranberry sauce called, Oscypek. Toruń Christmas market is full of tasty treats and of course mulled wine and beer 😉 Shame I was driving and couldn’t have a sip- in Poland there is zero tolerance to driving after alcohol (unlike in the UK where I can go out to a pub or a restaurant and have a small glass of wine or a beer).

Warm Oscypek with cranberry sauce- mniam 🙂

Having sat down on the throne in Brama Świątecznych Życzeń (the Gate of Christmas Wishes), I only had one wish for the upcoming year 2019. To live in love, spread love and help others find love within themselves. Having published my memoir ‘Polish Girl In Pursuit of the English Dream’ in March 2018, I was thankful and grateful for the love it received and all the love it was able to give. We never know what each new year is going to bring but being brave to follow our dreams couldn’t be more rewarding. Better to risk losing than to risk never gaining at all.

Walking along Toruń High Street I met this amaaazing man, he proposed to love me as long as he can, so till about February time (or for as long as it’s cold) and I said; Yes! That’s longer than some of my relationships with other snow-men melting away at the first signs of…well whatever they used as an excuse 🙂

After meeting the snowman, I met this guy. He took my hand and said: ‘Do not fear my love, I will be back to see you again very soon and put a smile on your face… next year’. I replied’ ‘Oh that’s amazing, thanks, I am looking forward to it. Most men I knew never came back or if they did, it wasn’t to spread love and gifts….’ ‘I know my dear’ he replied- I read your book ‘Polish Girl’ 🙂

After eating a huge dougnut, drinking coffee and of course eating oscypek, I noticed this- the sweets heaven- oh I wanted to have even one of these gorgeous creations but I stopped myself at the very last minute and thought…I am sweet enough.

I couldn’t be more excited when I enetered the gingerbread making class in the Museum of Gingerbred. We were all given a gingerbread dough ball that we had to work on untill it turned really sticky and then we could use the tools to roll it out and place it in the wooden block with a carved design.

Once it was taken out of the wooden heart, I carved out Pokochaj Siebie at the back of it. After all, that’s what I managed to find for myself and that’s what I wish upon everyone to find. To Love Yourself.

I was so, so excited and happy with my own handmade gingerbread. It was now ready to be placed in the oven so that we would walk around the museum. The only downside to this- it’s not an edible but decorative gingerbread which may be a good thing. At least it could end up as a Christmas tree decoration, rather than being eaten in 2 seconds 😉

It was fascinating to listen to the tour guide telling us a little about the history of gingerbread production in Toruń. The spices that were needed for it were transported from far, far away and were very expensive. Supposedly at some point in Toruń, you could buy your own house for just a few nutmegs or pepper corns. Can you imagine that?? Now we take pepper for granted and don’t consider it a valuable thing. Times change and we change but maybe we should start appreciating such small things more, especially once we get a bit more knowledge about them. Why living whole life without learning such exciting facts? A huge waste…

I was also very lucky to stumble upon a Real Man 🙂 Gustaw Weese. He and his family actually owned this 19th century gingerbread factory which later turned into the contemporary Confectionery Factory “Kopernik”. (that’s were I get all my chocolated coated gingerbread from) Gustaw was a real gentleman, he invited me for a coffee and then to his office. He was a bit surprised by the choice of my hat..but I told him that we need to go with the flow and he agreed. He was a true buisnessmen who travelled around the world and he knew that progress was part of human existence.

Gustaw Weese and me 😉

In his office, he had to a few things so while he was working, I was answeting the phone, taking new orders for gingerbread. After all, Weese’s products have been known all over the world since the 19th century and they were even exported to such remote countries as Japan and Australia. It is thanks to him and many people over the years involved in the production of ginderbread we can now enjoy the taste of Toruńskie Pierniki.

Gustaw Weese’s office and his assistant

I also managed to see the different wooden forms, carved out so beautifully by very skilled men, some of which looked like old Toruń townhouses or carriages or angels (Toruń symbol) I also met this young boy whose job was to measure the exact time was needed for the gingerbread to bake in the oven. Since they didn’t have clock there, he had to stand there and say many Saint Mary’s to measure the time…what a job!

I was then asked to cook some dinner but..I wasn’t sure how to use this old equipment work so I just smiled and said..Next time 🙂

When I saw this lady I thought she was holding my baked gingerbread heart but I quickly realised she was just selling them out of the box. I was very impressed by the till she used, not sure I would know how to!

Before we finished our tour, I had to jump into the classic Żuk car and shout; ‘Get out of my way! Polish Girl is on its way to rescue the world from the lack of self-love!

And finally the moment of truth about my gingerbread baking skills arrived. I hope you agree- I am quite good at it, especially with carvig inspirational words on it #pokochaj siebie #loveyourself

Having finished my tour around the Museum of Toruń Gingerbread with a bag full of all types of chocolated coated beauties, I stopped by my Guardian Angel…I must say I was very happy for him to show his presence to me, reminding me that he is alwasy there when I need him. I know I should know that without his reminders but sometimes we do need a bit of a visual to just..know 😉 I hope you enjoyed joining me on my Christmas visit to Toruń and the museum. If you ever get a chance to do it, don’t hesitate 😉

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POLISH WINTER WONDERLAND INSPIRATION

When was the last time you had a fun day in the snow? When was the last time you had a fun day at all? Snow has finally fallen upon my gorgeous little hometown Chełmża and I decided it was time to just… enjoy it. Snow gave me some inspiration and I hope you will find it refreshingly motivational too, to be able to just enjoy days like this, no matter what weather, no matter where you are, there can always be a happy snow day if make it so, enjoying fresh air, stunning views, fun with a dog or just on your own. It gave me some time to reflect and clear my mind, prepare for another wonderful year, 2019. And maybe, just maybe if you do the same, you will get inspired to write a book? I think I know where I am getting my inspiration from for my new book ‘Finding Tree Love’ 😉 and I am sharing some naughty little secrets here with you.

Chełmża covered in a delicate blanket of freshly fallen snow Yesss;)

Snow- or just frozen water, falling gently from the sky, covering us in the most unique veil made up from flakes, each irrepeatable, each irresistable. When we are children we scream and jump high in the air every time we see it. But when we grow up we think it’s something inappropriate and we try to behave…big mistake. Why not wake up this inner child in us every time we get too serious about life, forgetting about our worries and just enjoy having fun? And simply get inspired on life?

Maybe it’s good that life doesn’t always go our way, without it we wouldn’t learn so many other ways to live it. The key is to see each change as an opportunity to grow as a person. What do you think?

When was the last time you had a snow day like this? A day to sit back, relax, take in all the beauty surrounding you and feeling warm sun rays on your face, even on a frosty, winter day? Exactly. Maybe it’s time for one or two or three?

Meet Runo, Amara’s superwolf. More to come in my upcoming book in 2019 ‘Finding Tree Love’

When was the last time you touched the snow to your face? So cold, so sensory, so fun, so.. Deliciously making you feel alive kind of thing. If you don’t remember, it’s a sign you don’t have enough fun..ot maybe you live where snow never falls…it’s ok, rain is just as good. I love all types of weather now, ever since I felt a huge appreciation for myslef, life and the whole world. You can feel it too, only if you want to…

‘I closed my eyes to finally see’ – Monika Wisniewska, ‘Polish Girl In Pursuit of the English dream’ Yess, I actually wrote that and I referred to the moments of meditation when I felt at one with the universe..it’s so easy, so simple, so powerful, try it.

When you are Snow Queen and call upon your biggest forest helper… Runo, the superwolf! Soon to be featured in my new book ‘Finding Tree Love’ …ups 🙂

Our heart can only be filled with one prevalent emotion at a time. We either fill it with unconditional love for ourselves and the world or hatred for our imperfections and miseries of the world. Which one will you choose? It is…a choice.

It’s cold outside my love, but it’s still beautiful.., don’t you think? See with your heart and all will be crystal clear…

Love starts withing you, as You #loveyourself

Can a dog be your best friend? I think Bruno is mine..I mean Runo 😉

You are so perfect in being imperfect. Accepting yourself for who you truly are is the first step to unconditional self-love. No judging, no criticising, no blaming or hating yourself. Only pure love from God for yourself.

We as human beings can break down more times than we can count, but what matters is how we deal with these meltdowns and bring ourselves back up. Never give up. You are strong. Remember that!

Thank you for this amazing day, trees around me standing tall, snowflakes resting on my nose. Thank you. Now, what are you thankful for today?  And every day?

We are only stuck between Heaven and Earth for a short moment after which we go back to who we truly are.. Eternal loving spirits..,

As we say goodbye to the old year and welcome the New Year, I would like to share my intention I have set out with all of you, to continue working on a mind, body and spirit balance and to live a joyful, blissful life, inspiring others to do the same. Let’s all make it the best year yet, filled with unconditional self-love that overflows to everyone and everything around us. Let’s all become better human beings one day at a time, more loving, compassionate, tolerant and less critical, judgemental, hateful and immature. Let’s all make 2019 the best year yet. Let’s all fall in love with ourselves and life.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! LET’S MAKE IT THE BEST ONE YET!

Love,

Monika Wisniewska

Poland Travel

TORUŃ – GINGERBREAD AND ASTRONOMY

Toruń is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Poland. Picturesquely located on both sides of the Vistula River at an intersection of ancient trade routes, it has been promoting its vibrant cultural heritage to the world for nearly 800 years. I love walking along the beautiful streets surrounded by majestic Gothic buildings at least once a year, or each time I go back to Poland, and the relaxed atmosphere never ceases to surprise me. Summer or Winter,  Toruń truly is a magical town. Here are a few things that you may not have known about it.

thumbnail_IMG_20180918_144429_135The Gothic buildings in the medieval Old Town were added to the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1997 and I am always very happy to be walking along the same streets that the merchants and bakers used to walk along in the medieval times. If you wish to experience time travel, just come here.

thumbnail_IMG_20181026_194556_879The city is the birthplace of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus whose statue stands prominently in front of the Town Hall. Why was he important enough to receive a statue? Well if you know Latin, you can easily find out from the inscription: “Nicolaus Copernicus Thorunensis, terrae motor, solis caelique stator“. But if you are like me and can only speak two languages, neither of them being Latin, it simply means: “Nicolaus Copernicus of Thorun, mover of the earth, stopper of the sun and heavens”. Copernicus introduced the idea that it was the Earth that orbits the Sun and not the other way round as it had been thought of until then. He published his theory on his deathbed and supposedly passed away shortly after reading it for the first time in print. Now that’s both a happy and sad event. Happy that the author was able to see his book published and sad it was for the first and last time in his life.

thumbnail_IMG_20180918_144717_528Did you know that gingerbread comes from…Toruń? Or most likely from there since that’s what the city is famous for. The visit to the Gingerbread Museum is a must because that’s where you will be able to make your own gingerbread dough according to the medieval methods and then bake it in the traditional mold. Now, how cool is that?

thumbnail_IMG_20181108_114144_481You can also just buy tons (if you wish to 🙂 of different flavours of chocolate or glaze coated gingerbread in the official Kopernik shops in the Old Town. I always leave with a bag of my favourites; Katarzynki (the heart-shaped gingerbread) and the ones with strawberry and apricot fillings. They are soft and flavorsome, and the chocolate melts on my fingers before I eat them. Just one of the simple pleasure in life. Nothing better to improve the mood than some chocolate, right? The factory is proud of its 250-year-old traditional method to make them. Now that’s a heritage to be pleased about.

thumbnail_IMG_20181108_114355_638Once your bag is filled with gingerbread, you can have a photo taken with the statue of a gingerbread lady who also has a basket filled with these delicious treats, apparently to commemorate the biggest gingerbread factory opened in 1751. Another time travel experience. Two women with baskets filled with gingerbread, only a few centuries apart…

thumbnail_IMG_20181106_202415_519The donkey with a spikey metal on its back may look like a cute attraction but in fact, it was designed to look like a similar wooden donkey which was used as a torture device for soldiers. They were forced to sit on it (and obviously suffer in a certain area) as a punishment for disobeying or other smaller crimes. Not the most humanitarian way to treat ‘bad guys’ but hey, medieval times had its own rules…

thumbnail_IMG_20181106_202514_714I always look forward to one more experience whilst visiting Toruń. Dinner in the best pancake restaurant in the world, Manekin. The choice of pancakes filled with savour or sweet filling is simply mouthwatering and after having my favorite one with kebab and a tomato sauce, I always share a chocolate banana one with whipped cream with my mama.

 

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Within a short walk from the city centre you find yourself on the river bank of Vistula River which at night reflects the beauty of the town buildings in its calm waters. It is very lively in the summer when the locals enjoy their evening strolls alongside it or have a drink in one of the bars located on board the static ships. It is also a great way to burn off some calories from the pancake feast!

thumbnail_IMG_20181108_122004_629The remains of the Teutonic Knights’ living quarters along the other side of the river are a beauty to look at and the legend has it that the flying dragon used to hide in these walls. Now that’s a mystery to be explored by the adventurers!

thumbnail_IMG_20181026_195057_264The Old Town at twilight turns into the spectacular show of lights. Now that’s the time to really admire the beautiful architecture of the Gothic buildings while sitting in an open-air cafe, sipping a cocktail or a traditional Polish beer.

40269687_10211424237390842_1187309795917430784_nThis year I was lucky enough to experience the yearly event called the ‘Bella Skyway Festival’, or simply the festival of light. What better place to turn into the fairy tale magical display of lights than the streets of Toruń! The light installations turn buildings into stunning light shows and the real fire and water installations from international artists around the Teutonic castle grounds were breathtaking. I could feel the heat from the torches as I walked by and the white vests with inserted candles which were hanging on the trees seemed out of this world. I would have never expected that! So if you can plan your trip to Toruń around that time, the festival will make you gasp from amazement. Unlike anything, I have ever seen.

39942834_10211404313452756_1155841940634206208_nThere can be many things said about  Toruń but there is one thing I can say with confidence. It is a truly magical place, full of history and it’s worth visiting at least once. If you feel like going back in time when strolling through cobbled streets, there is no better place in this part of Poland. The closest airport is Bydgoszcz. So what are you waiting for? How about some gingerbread, Polish beer and a medieval vibe?

 

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Poland Travel

THE HEALING POWERS OF SALT- ONLY IN CIECHOCINEK

Would you like to spend a day in a town where the air can make you feel reborn? Well, you will have to come to Ciechocinek, the world-famous Polish spa town in Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, around 12 miles from the city of Toruń.

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I am very lucky because Ciechocinek is within an hour’s drive from my hometown, Chelmza. I try to visit it at least once a year and I always leave it refreshed, relaxed and appreciative of the incredible wooden structures which turn salty water into a mist whilst it slowly drops down the wooden sticks, creating a magical and healthy microclimate. I love breathing in the gentle mist deep into my lungs, turning the walk around these massive structures a meditative ritual.

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The three long, wooden structures are called ‘saline graduation towers’.  Saline water from the natural springs in this area contains chloride, sodium, iodide, and bromide which is used in many medical treatments.  The frame towers date back to the 19th century and are the town’s greatest attractions. These three ventilators measure 1741 meters long and 16 meters high. The framework was built of large wooden timbers and the centers are filled with dry blackthorn shrub twigs and branches laid horizontally.

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The saline water is pumped to the top of the structure and allowed to flow down through the branches. Natural breezes pass through the structure effectively turning them into giant ventilators. Iodine and ozone from the water are picked up by the gentle winds and released into the immediate area with proven therapeutic results.

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The area of the three graduation towers is surrounded by many parks and fountains. Hundreds of people spend weeks and even months in the local health spas which offer various medical treatments.

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The visit to Ciechocinek cannot be without the iconic picture with my mama where we look like a couple ( I never want to be the guy! 🙂

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The town is very touristy, especially in the summer season so it’s good to visit it on a weekday to be able to appreciate the beauty of the area. It’s also much easier to find a table in restaurants offering delicious Polish meals. This time I chose the cod with potatoes and salad. But be warned, you will only know how much to pay for the fish once it’s cooked and weighed before it lands on your plate. The price in the menu when you order it can be a bit misleading. It is something I have never experienced anywhere else in the world so it must be a Polish ‘thing’ 🙂 Still very delicious though!

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The summer is all about…ice cream or at least it shouldn’t be without it. And since it can be eaten whilst inhaling the healing air, it is not so naughty after all. And everyone deserves a bit of pleasure now and again, right?

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There is one more temptation I need to warn you against… It’s called ‘GOFRY’ so waffle-like creations covered with a mountain of whipped cream. Yes I know it’s a lot of calories but a visit to Ciechocinek cannot be without it. My level of feeling guilty- Zero 🙂

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I love my yearly visits to the tranquil and relaxing Ciechocinek and I think you might like it too. So if you ever find yourself in the area, remember about the magical healing powers of the salty air. After all, we cannot underestimate that every breath we take equals life. Without it, we will not live for long. It is an effortless process that our bodies do for us and appreciating its value for us as human beings can only make us happier and healthier. So next time you take a deep breath, think about the air that fills it and be thankful for the wonderful gift you receive with it called LIFE. Here is to every breath we take!

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Poland Travel

CHEŁMŻA- A POLISH TOWN, AN ENGLISH DREAM

THE PLACE WHERE MY DREAM TO LIVE IN ENGLAND WAS BORN

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Chełmża is a small town in the north of Poland, in Toruń County and Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship. It is placed by a stunning lake called Jezioro Chełmżyńskie which reflects it’s architectural beauty. This small town is one of many in Poland and it probably wouldn’t mean too much for many people around the world but for me it is my hometown and where many years ago my dream to live and work in England was born, the dream I followed and described in my ‘Polish GIRL: In Pursuit of the English Dream’ memoir. It took me many years of living abroad through to truly appreciate its beauty and many things I so enjoyed about it. Here, after 14 years of living in England I want to share some of the things I love about my hometown and as much as it is an interesting post for you as a reader, it is also my own testimony of how much I love my hometown.

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Chełmża has a long history since 1277. It experienced the Teutonic wars, was taken over by the Kingdom of Prussia and later German occupation. For me, the town’s focal point is the gothic cathedral which can be visible from a long distance while approaching the town in the car and it gives the feeling of grandness and elegance. It is beautifully reflected in the calm waters of the lake while walking around it. Just as much I could never be bored with the view of the magnificent Windsor Castle when I pop into Windsor, I can never be bored with this view, especially from the other side of the lake.

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When I visit Chelmza in the summer, I love stretching my body on one of many beaches and swim in the warm waters of the lake. There is something very relaxing and calming about it and even though I love the seaside, this is definitely a great replacement. It would take me about 2 hours to drive to of the seaside resorts near Sopot or Gdansk so being able to just jump on a bike and end up on a beach within 15 minutes is a plus. No stress of traveling anywhere, just pure relaxation. The water is warm and clean and some beaches around the lake are so secluded that there are hardly any people there which means it’s…quiet. When I dive into the water I feel like I become part of it, as if melting into the water with every molecule of my body. It always gives me a sense of unity and being part of nature and the universe. It also gives me a feeling that I am not alone, that we as human beings are all connected to the whole universe on a subatomic level. It’s only when we are ready to appreciate it and ‘feel’ it, that we can truly enjoy each moment. With no worries, no problems, no stress, just ‘being’ in the warm waters of the lake, looking at the clear blue sky above. It is a very cleansing experience for the soul for sure.

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The lake is surrounded by stunning nature, including many little paths leading through a forest. It never ceases to amaze me to see the view of the cathedral from different angles and location. It also means that I can choose to be on a different beach with a different view each day. Being so close to nature recharges my battery and gives me a huge sense of peace. Spending time in solitude helps too. It means I can look within my soul, recognize different thoughts and feelings that dwell in it and decide how to react to them. Being able to control my emotions more is thanks to spending time alone in nature. It gives me a fresh perspective on my life, problems and it is easier for me to find solutions to any problems. The newly found skill I love to practice is ‘knowing that there are no problems in the present moment’ and I remind myself to stop worrying about them and enjoy the views of the lake, smell of the forest and feeling of the gentle breeze on my body. It is something I learnt recently ever since my spiritual awakening and I truly believe that anyone can feel and experience it, only if they try and make the effort to stop, relax and let go.

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The newly built bridge on the lake is also one of my favourite locations. There are benches along its whole distance and the views of the town are magnificent. It is also an attractive place for fishermen who seem to gather at many spots specifically designed for them. The lanterns lit the bridge at night and make the atmosphere very..romantic and nostalgic. There is always something magical about bridges, water and lights at night.

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There is a great restaurant in town called Mistral and it could not be situated in a better location, right by the lake and the town beach. The restaurant offers traditional Polish food which is different each day, including vegetarian dishes and many locals hire this venue for birthday parties or weddings. The terrace provides amazing views of the lake and the cathedral.

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Mistral Restaurant

The nearby marina has a few boats for rent and for a small charge one can enjoy the vastness of the lake whilst rowing and catching the afternoon sun. The yearly Sailing Regata takes place here too where sailing enthusiasts from the whole country compete with each other. It is one of the main attractions of the town, just like Days of Chelmza where different performers and singers entertain the locals for a couple of days. This year (2018) we had the pleasure to host the five times winner of the World’s Strongest Man title – Pudzianowski who was now a judge in the Polish Strong Man competition.

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Chełmża Riviera 🙂

What I really like about my town is that it is easy to get to all the places on foot. Whether it’s the post office or a local bakery with gorgeous smelling bread or a cake shop with the most delicious orange, lemon, chocolate or cream cakes, or even the butchers selling the local smoked sausage. There are also a few street sellers with freshly delivered fruit and vegetables from the local farmers, at a fraction of a cost in shops. There is something endearing about these small specialty shops and even though we do shop in supermarkets, we choose to buy fresh produce in those shops, supporting the local businesses as a result.

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There are many reasons why I love my hometown but I wanted to highlight a few benefits of living in a small town. Maybe it is in the very fact it’s small and where its biggest charm lies in? Maybe it’s not always about big and famous London, Warsaw or New York? Maybe we should be able to see the beauty everywhere we look, even if it means our small local town or village? It took me many years to truly appreciate my town after having lived in England for so long and travelling around the world. Just because we do that it shouldn’t mean we forget about our roots, where we come from and that it was the place where our dreams as children and teenagers started, including our dreams to emigrate to different countries and seeing the world.

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Dream Do Come True

I truly hope you also appreciate where you come from and that you are never ashamed to admit it.

After all, we are who we are also because of where we came from.

Let’s celebrate our own hometowns and give them the credit they deserve!

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