I stopped studying the German language in 1987 after making a somewhat embarrassing semantical error. As my college major required a language competency, I chose to switch to the Scandinavian language of my forebears. This decision, in turn, led me to schedule my junior year abroad at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. As part of that program, I studied Scandinavian government, economics, history and culture. I was also, as a Danish university student, given the opportunity to travel behind the Iron Curtain and visit the countries of Poland, East Germany, USSR (Russia), Latvia, and Lithuania.
I entered Poland in October 1989 from the sea. Denmark and Poland had established a joint ferry service which alternated trips between the countries using Polish and Danish ferries. As our vessel traversed the Baltic Sea, the weather began to worsen and, as the Poles could not afford stabilization systems on their ferries, the ship began to pitch back and forth, at times rather violently. To my surprise, this did not detour the majority of the passengers from entering the duty-free shop below deck where they were tossed about while trying to purchase various consumer goods (cigarettes, liquor, cosmetics, etc).