As someone who seems to be perpetually single, I have never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day. All of the Valentine’s Day hype – endless TV and radio commercials, restaurant specials, overpriced roses everywhere, and big red paper hearts – blurs into just one more over commercialized event on our North American calendar.
In the days leading up to it, I didn’t see many signs of Valentine’s Day in Krakow. My hotel advertised a special Valentine’s Day menu, and a red decorating scheme materialized. However, it is a big hotel, catering to foreigners and is part of an international chain.
I did see a few red paper hearts in some store windows, but a walk through one of the downtown malls didn’t reveal much more. And when I stopped by a chocolate shop in the main square Sunday afternoon, there was no sign that Valentine’s Day existed.
On the day itself, I pretty much forgot about it. That is, until I tried to find a place to eat.
I took a cab from the office to a restaurant in the center I had been meaning to try. When I walked in and asked for a table for one, I was turned away, the hostess saying I need a reservation. I had been turned away from another restaurant a few days later for the same reason, so I thought nothing of it until I started looking for another place to eat.
Everywhere I tried, I got the same response. Reservations only.
Then I started to realize that I was surrounded by couples. Most walking hand-in-hand, and almost all of the women holding single roses, which oddly enough, they held upside down. Some were even carrying red gift bags. I was right in the heart of Polish Valentine’s Day!
After a few more futile attempts to find a place to eat, I gave up and headed back to the hotel. I ended up eating in the hotel dining room, which was also full of Valentine’s Day celebrations. Young couples stared deep into each other’s eyes, while several older couples were also out celebrating the day.
The next day I asked my team if they celebrated Valentine’s Day and everyone emphatically answered yes. “Of course we do”. The men stated they’d be in big trouble if they didn’t.
I guess some things are just the same everywhere.