As seen by a WYD veteran and Polish native!
BUYING THINGS IN EUROPE
Flip-flops Americans love for flip-flops needs to stay in America. Streets in Poland and Italy reflect centuries of historical development from medieval towns to modern metropolis without the luxury of space or in-advance planning. The surfaces are a hodgepodge of asphalt, cobblestone, curbs, steps, etc. in narrow crowded winding streets that go uphill or downhill. Swift crossing a street or navigating crowds are but two pedestrian adventures that will become nightmares if you wear flip-flops.
You can keep them though for the use in overnight accommodations – your tired feet will thank you.
The world looks at the Polish custom of wearing socks & sandals and shudders. The Polish look at bare feet in sandals and shudder. Put a pair of socks in your pocket because you may reconsider which side of the debate you are on once your sandals have rubbed your bare feet one painful time too many. Besides, Polish people believe that sweated bare feet stink uncontrollably. You’ll be the judge.
Needless to say – your sandals need to be sturdy.
Europe and walking around the city are synonyms. For uneven surfaces, see: flip-flops. This and more speaks for comfortable footwear. The big downside of it is that you might not want to take your sports shoes off until you are in close proximity of soap and towel.
Make sure you pack shoes that you have used for a few weeks before the trip. New shoes can ruin your trip if they are not yet adjusted to your feet.
Vow on everything sacred to you that you WILL NOT buy anything than would not fit into your pockets!! And then, NOT MORE than three items. Three items PER TRIP. Otherwise:
First off, why do you want to take pictures while at WYD? Silly question? Well, read on.
If you are planning to come back with a photographic portfolio for an exhibition of your genius and talent, review first professional photographs of Cracow or Rome available on-line. Professional photographers carefully chose vantage points, calculated the sunlight timing, boarded helicopters, and dedicated entire days in order to get great shots which you can then purchase in artistic albums and on postcards in kiosks, newsstands or souvenir shops on every street corner in Europe. For a few bucks, you can have really artistic takes of Rome as souvenirs, while you focus your energy and time on getting the real experience, which is looking at real stuff with your real eyes in real time.
If you get all passionate thinking of posting photos on FB of you (and only you) with the old town views of Assisi in the background, you need to lie down with a cool towel over your forehead and keep counting until the passion is gone. Forever. It will be too crowded for that in Europe. Do you seriously expect hundreds of people to respectfully stop dead in their tracks while you are posing, clicking and re-clicking in front of some ancient church? And do not do that for others either. Buy a postcard.
If people want to be wowed by awesome pictures of Krakow, they will google them instead of asking you to show them your clicks.
If people want to get a better understanding of the architecture of Assisi, they will go to Wikipedia instead of asking you to show them your clicks.
Someone famous said that in modern times it is easier to make a thousand photographs than to find one person who is willing to look at them.
If you are planning to capture your experience of WYD as it is seen through your eyes, then it does make sense to do a few clicks now and then. You have a unique opportunity to show something through your eyes and if anyone is interested in looking at your pictures, they will not be looking for quality resolution or breathtaking angles, but for exactly this: your experience in your perspective at your eyelevel.
What does this mean in practice?
WYDs have a reputation of at the same time bringing thousands or millions of young people together and being very safe experiences for all involved. As always, local governments chase away any beggars or hoodlums and muster up scores of additional uniformed and plainclothes police for the occasion, so the already safe Poland will be even safer during WYD.
In Rome, we will be very vigilant for pickpockets but it will be no different than being in any American city, especially in touristy places. We will have a thorough conversation in groups about it when the time arrives.
Europeans do not carry guns. If you are ever approached by a robber, it will typically be an emaciated wuss who is banking on your American-tourist naïveté. In the US, you are better off handing off your stuff. In Europe – not necessarily. Besides, you will be with us all the time, in crowded conditions, in broad daylight. Just raise hell and elbow your closest companion to do so too and the wuss will disappear, with the ever-present police hot in pursuit. We will all have a thorough conversation about it once we set out for the day trip, but we absolutely do not expect trouble.
The statement above is valid as long as you stay with us and follow instructions. If you choose to dismiss common sense, nobody will be able to protect you from yourself.
We will almost always be in well-guarded places filled with pilgrims/tourists. With our tight program, we will almost never have enough time to even think of wandering away on our own and possibly get in trouble.
We will always travel and wander about in groups. If this is not how you plan to enjoy WYD, we do not want you to join us.