5 Things You Must Do In Warsaw

5 Things You Must Do In Warsaw

Pierogi and pączki aren't all Poland has to offer.

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This summer, I finally had the opportunity to go to Poland and visit my family, a trip I was always desperate to take but couldn't due to finances or simple bad timing. My entire family lives in the country, so, as a resident of America, I never had the chance to meet my grandmothers, my cousins (I have over 40 of them), any relatives at all.

Fortunately, in the summer of 2018, I took a plane and met everyone (or as many as I could). There is truly no feeling similar to seeing an aunt that you only knew through a few brief Facebook chat, or seeing the town that your mother's lived in as a child that she always described to you.

I was initially frightened to enter Poland, because although my Polish is pretty good, reading the language is often difficult for me. I did not know how I was going to navigate my way through the streets, especially in a bustling city like Warsaw. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that almost everywhere you go, English translations are easily accessible. This is what made me realize that Warsaw is basically the perfect vacation spot, and after exploring virtually the entire city, I figured out the best places to go.

Explore Łazienki Park

Also known as Royal Park, this is truly one of the most breathtaking areas I have ever seen. It was once one of the many houses the King owned. As you walk around the park, you will not only see beautiful fountains and flowers everywhere you go, but you have the opportunity to view the inside of the building where the King resided. The area holds a lot of historical significance for Poland, and it's the ideal area to get your Instagram photo.

Visit the Center for Contemporary Art

This is the type of museum that I have never been exposed to in America. Although it may seem a little scary or creepy at first, the exhibits are so enticing and intricate that one could literally spend hours investigating just one piece. It makes you appreciate art and the broad spectrum that word includes. From disfigured human sculptures with two heads to dark rooms filled with balloons meant to replicate limbs, the center provides viewers with an experience they could not forget even if they wanted to!

Shop at Blue City Mall

The Blue City mall is the best place to get some of your own European style clothes or to get a gift for your friend back home. It's over seven stories tall, so you can really spend all day there. There are plenty of food courts with international cuisine (if you're already sick of pierogi), clothing stores, and even an area to mini golf! No matter what age you are, you'll find something you enjoy in the Blue City mall!

Eat at Tel Aviv Restaurant

For my fellow animal lovers who think that Poland won't have any options for them, Tel Aviv is a perfect restaurant for both meat-eaters and tofu enthusiasts! Located in what's known as the "Vegan District" (or, as my Polish uncle refers to it, the "Hipster District"), this is a great area to pick up a delicious dinner. The Mediterranean style food is not only delicious, but both kosher and vegan! When I visited, their specials included dishes such as an "Insta-Friendly Salad" and an "Anti-Trump BLT Sandwich."

Walk Through the Old Town Market Place

The Old Town Market Place is traditionally referred to as Rynek Starego Miasta, located near the center of Warsaw. After World War II, the entire area was completely destroyed, so it is incredible to see how everything has been rebuilt into a bustling district filled with activity. Whether you prefer listening to street performers play the accordion or just need a place to get your pączki, the Old Town has everything Poland has to offer.

Wherever you end up in Warsaw, there is always something entertaining to see or do. Baw się dobrze!

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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7 Dream Vacations That Will Inspire You To Keep Working Hard

Just a list of dream vacations I like to think of going on after I achieve my goals.

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College can be a really overwhelming place to be. You're out of high school where life was planned out for you, but you don't have a job or a career yet. You're stuck in this middle ground of being a child and being the person you have always wanted to be. Because of this, thoughts start creeping into your head about why you're taking the classes you are or if you can even handle the life that you've been dreaming of. When these negative thoughts start creeping into my head, I like to think of dream vacations that I would want to take. Then it reminds me that I'll be able to finally go on at least one of these if I keep working hard for the life I want.

1. Me time at the Maldives.

I swear that I'm a people person, but a dream self-care vacation of mine is to go to the Maldives by myself. I would stay in a little house on the water with a glass floor. I'd bring my books and my phone and a speaker and spend at least three days taking in the crystal clear water.

2. Family vacation on a European cultural cruise.

Viking River Cruises are luxurious cruises where you can discover Europe, parts of Asia and parts of Africa. I always imagined that I would take my parents and sister on one of these cruises and we would spend almost two weeks floating down a river in the middle of Europe, exploring different countries and learning about their cultures.

3. Best friends take on Peru.

Peru has a beautiful Incan history that has always been intriguing to me. Machu Picchu is the most famous tourist attraction in Peru, and it's always been a dream to go there and explore the city with my best friend. And then, explore the rest of what Peru has to offer of course!

4. Lay under the stars and the northern lights of Ireland

The Northern Lights are a collision of gas particles that this girl can get with. Seeing this simple phenomenon with a boyfriend or girlfriend would be one of the most romantic experiences I can think of. And in a country like Ireland, nonetheless!

5. Explore the beauties of Botswana.

Botswana is an African country right above South Africa, known for its beautiful plant and animal life. I always imagined coming here with my sister and experiencing the incredible nature and culture that Botswana has to offer.

6. Gaze upon the pyramids of Giza.

These three pyramids have been a symbol for beauteous Egypt for as long as I can remember. I want to see these structures with my family and learn about the rich history of ancient Egypt and their emperors and empresses.

7. The Galapagos Islands.

As an animal admirer, the Galapagos Islands have always been a dream of mine. I want to see the sea lions and turtles. Better yet, I dream of being to touch one!

Now, it's time to get back to work so I can go to maybe one of these destinations one day!

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