I’m not a big fan of the Polish countryside. I went there once and found the experience of being repeatedly bitten by insects many miles from a bar not to my liking. I tried nonchalantly sitting at the table outside the village shop with a beer but a guy with one eye suddenly wanted to be my friend and a goat ate my bag. I think they were working together.
When you live in a proper city it’s relatively easy to avoid the countryside. Krakow, however, isn’t a proper city. Any place you can cycle out of in half an hour isn’t a city in my book. Consequently it’s almost impossible to avoid finding yourself in the big green from time to time. It’s the social equivalent of Brownian motion.
The Polish countryside can be very pretty, but you have to be really careful where you point your camera.
Much to my horror, this weekend I found myself deliberately stepping onto one of those loathsome minibuses and buying a ticket to Nowheresville. A mere one hour and thirty-five minutes of non-airconditioned swerving, rattling, and unadulterated armpits later I was somewhere out in one of those empty bits between proper places on the map. There were trees everywhere, also those smaller green things that look a bit like trees and those even-smaller green things with flowers on – pansies or something.
By breathing slowly and repeatedly into a paper bag I was able to retain sufficient composure to make the following observation.
Planning regulations, what planning regulations?
I’m not sure what the planning regulations are for building in the Polish countryside but I suspect it goes something like this:
Pole: I would like to build a house.
Planning officer (let’s assume they exist): I see. Do you have planning permission?
Pole: What’s that?
Planning officer: I’m not sure. I was hoping you could tell me.
Planning officer: Damn. Nevertheless, I must ask you a few questions.
Planning officer: Are you planning to build a concrete shell and then abandon it for years with piles of half-consumed building materials all around it?
Pole: No… well, maybe a bit.
Planning officer: Okay. Are you planning to eventually build an architectural monstrosity festooned with fake columns, bright red windows and random sticking-out bits that will give the casual observer a headache.
Pole: Well I wasn’t, but that’s not a bad idea.
Planning officer: Congratulations!
The Polish countryside is very pretty, at least the hilly parts down here in the south are, but there seem to be no restriction whatsoever on what you can build or where. There are hideous eyesores, many of them permanently half-finished, scattered on every hillside. I understand that people don’t necessarily have the funds to complete their houses in one go, and that you can’t deny people the right to improve their living conditions but seriously Poland, you’re screwing up some lovely places in an irreparable way.
The author and some chick re-enacting communist agricultural propaganda