mmmintroduction Introduction - Buying Property in Poland
Buying Property in Poland
The Definitive Guide to
Buying Polish Property

Introduction

This is a preview to the Introduction from the book Buying Property in Poland by Tim Hill.
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We all like to travel to a country worse than our own from time to time. We might want to deny it but it makes us feel good. Not conceited arrogance but a sort of thankfulness that we got a birthplace a little more fortunate than someone else’s.

So when I set off to visit Poland for the first time I did not expect to find a country so impressive that I would be making plans to move there within 48 hours of arrival.

My ignorance, and that of so many others, stems from the Cold War when we were told that countries under the socialist yoke were fed propaganda while we had the BBC and we got the facts. In truth we got some of the facts. A specially selected collection to ensure Poland looked worse than Britain, France or any other Western country. Perhaps those in power felt this an important portrayal. After all it would do no good to the cause of democracy if life in a Warsaw Pact country looked more attractive.

On an August day in 1996 I took my first hitch fully prepared for the grey, cold, industrial, polluted country of Poland littered with concrete blocks of a communist occupation. 40 hours and 14 hitches later I arrived at Frankfurt Oder and everything seemed to be in order.

The border crossing was made up of the grey V shaped shelters that I had seen so often on the news. Beside them sat a large concrete block, the paint peeling from its window and doorframes. Beyond passport control a row of decaying, self built wooden huts sold everything from food to clothes to US dollars.

I waited for my next hitch, trying to avoid a Russian woman who wanted to sell me a leather jacket, when a yellow 2CV van drew up. The owner, Olaf, was on his way to Estonia to find a girl he had met in Holland but, like me, he also wanted to see Warsaw.

We started off down the bumpy road towards Poznan, both of us quietly confident that we knew what Poland was all about. But something was wrong. The road wound through forest, and more forest and even more forest. Beautiful, green, lush, primeval forest. Occasionally it gave way to well kept fields or small towns with their diverse buildings that ranged from well crafted cottages to ancient and breathtaking churches. We drove in stunned silence. The BBC had not said anything about this.

By the time we arrived at the campsite in Warsaw we were deeply confused. The roads may not have been motorways but they were large, fast and usually lined with mature trees. The petrol stations were often more modern than the ones in Western Europe and we had seen a greater number of new houses than concrete blocks. Olaf was so curious
he decided to travel on with me to my destination, the South Eastern city of Lublin where my girlfriend lived.

After a night in Warsaw we headed on, once again experiencing clear roads, clean towns and picturesque villages along the way. Three hours later we arrived. Koncertowa Street was, at first glance, what we had been waiting to see and what we had been expecting. Large, grey apartment blocks dominating the landscape. They were the kind of
buildings that, in Britain, you avoided if you wanted to keep your wallet and your health. Olaf nervously locked his van as we set of to try and find my girlfriend’s flat.

Even in those first few steps it became quickly obvious that this was not social housing. The walls had no graffiti, the communal areas were covered in trees, lawns and pathways and people of all ages sat peacefully chatting on the benches dotted here and there. It was as if someone had taken Manchester’s most notorious council estate block, dropped it into middle England and everyone was pretending not to notice.

Within 24 hours almost everything else I or Olaf had previously conceived was fast evaporating. The pubs and bars were vibrant, friendly and often set in impressive medieval buildings. The city centres were well lit and the locals exceptionally friendly and generous. The food actually tasted of something and the weather was, well it was hot.

This was not a country brimming with wealth, but it was a country bursting with energy and confidence about the future. For me it was obvious Poland had a huge part to play in Europe and would one day become a powerhouse of the region.

For the romantics among you who can see this story is not quite complete. Olaf drove on to Estonia and did meet the girl he was looking for but things did not work out and a few years later he married someone else in Holland.

My girlfriend, Agnieszka, and I did get married, settled in Poland, and started what has now become one of Poland’s most popular property portals – Mamdom.com.
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