My 14TH visit since 1996
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Sunday, May 10, 2014
Warsaw to London (overnight) to Boston to Dallas
1,574 miles driven (2,534 km)
Gasoline = $365.97
Tolls = $12.49
Cell Phone SIM card = $6.73
Exchange rate = 2.97 złoty to one U.S. dollar (average)
Stork nests = 102
Photographs Debbie = 1,899
Photographs Dave = 223
Part One: April 16 - April 23
April 16, 2014, Wednesday
PREAMBLE or RAMBLE, if you prefer.
I figured out by the time we arrived in Warsaw we had been awake for 6 days. Only kidding it only felt like it had been 6 days. But it was more than 24 hours.
We did something different this time (aside from being in five airports). We used our frequent flyer miles to fly First Class from Dallas to Houston and Houston to London, and then Business Class from London to Warsaw. The mini-cabins in First Class had beds which lay completely flat, a real mattress, duvet and PAJAMAS! Pretty cool. Using our frequent flyer miles added an extra stop going to, and returning from Poland though, making the trip longer.
It was just my gene-valet (Dave) and myself again. We were to be in Poland for 25 days starting in Warsaw (visiting Kasia) going to Solec Kujawski for a week, which included Easter. We were very excited about seeing our friend, Barbara, and her son and daughter-in-law in Solec Kujawski because the "kids" are expecting their first baby in November. I had a very difficult time not buying any baby stuff before I left home but since they didn’t know the sex of the baby I decided to wait.
I mentioned to Dave that we might have to make an unscheduled trip back to Poland in early 2015 as I do not want to see the baby when it is already walking.
After Solca we headed south to spend one to two nights in Budzyn, Zielona Góra, Tomaszów Bolesławiecki (to visit a farmer whose stork nests are on web cam), Wrocław, Kraków (visited Monika), Sanok, Kielce and back to Warsaw.
I hoped to get in some research on the non-Bukowsko side of my family while we were in the Bydgoszcz area (Solec Kujawski). I took lots of photos around Poland of villages and parishes that are new to us. In "Bukowsko" I had to re-shoot (will this ever end?) some record pages, do a little investigating about Jewish building locations (destroyed), check with "new" family for old photographs, photograph headstones in cemeteries that we've not done previously (for transcription), visit old friends and family, and attend the First Communion of Robert Koczera's daughter Paulina, 9.
We were to do some touring as well. I like to visit places we've not been to before. My goal is to visit every capital in the old województwo; that's a total of 49. This year we're picking up some areas in western Poland and Kielce in south-central Poland. I think we will only have nine more to go!
In the April, 2014 issue of "Travel & Leisure" magazine there were some interesting facts about travel in Poland!
1. The average price of a five-star hotel room is lowest in Warsaw, $124.00. I find it hard to believe that price. It seems too low. We don't usually stay in these hotels anyway. To $$$$
2. Gallon of gas is $6.30. (Hope I packed enough cash.)
3. Big Mac costs 35% less in Poland than in the U.S. (I Googled the price of a Big Mac and it's $4.00 in the U.S.!)
If this is your first time traveling with me you should know that I make all of my own arrangements and we drive ourselves around Poland. Driving in Poland (for me) is like this: drive, stop, photograph a church, drive, turn-around, photograph cemetery, drive, stop, photograph a shrine, drive. It takes us about three times as long to get from point A to point B because of all the photo stops.
In case you don’t know this, I am not fluent in Polish. In some villages I have friends who will translate for me or if necessary I hire someone. But when we're on the road (from old woj. Bydgoszcz to Kraków, for example) we fend for ourselves. It's never been much of a problem. I know the important phrases to check-into a hotel, ask for a menu, the check, the toilet, and so on. I travel with two small phrase books, one Polish-English dictionary and several pages of helpful phrases I've collected over the years. I usually learn one or two new phrases before each trip but I didn't do that this time. I will work on that while in Poland.
This year we're visiting the farmer in Tomaszów Bolesławiec who has several web cams aimed at stork nests on his property. I contacted the farmer ahead of time and he's agreed to meet me. I did warn (Uwaga!) him that I don't speak Polish. It should be interesting.
My trips to Poland are different than most people's. I am here longer, I cover more ground and I photograph records and places that will interest others, not just me.
April 17, 2014, Thursday
After a nine hour flight we landed in London on-time with about two hours until our flight to Warsaw.
A few months ago we purchased Global Entry and TSA pre-check came along with it. We did this so we wouldn't have to stand in the U.S. passport control line for two hours after traveling for 15 hours. This also means we don't have to take off our shoes, remove our computers from carry-on or remove (allowable) liquids from our carry-on. This system works in the U.S. but not outside of the U.S.
Even though we never left a secure area when we arrived at Heathrow airport in London, we still had to go through security again. Our TSA pre-check meant nothing so we had to remove the computer, scanner and liquids. My carry-on was pulled aside. There were at least five carry-ons ahead of mine waiting for individual attention. The agent was slower than molasses in January! People were getting upset. I couldn't figure out why my bag had been pulled aside. After about 15 minutes other agents came over and started to go through the other bags including mine. The only thing the agent and I could figure out was that I was carrying a complete set of U.S. state quarters (a gift for Karol) in a coin folder made for them and the person at the x-ray machine was suspicious of so many little metal circles.
This left us with about 40 minutes until our flight left. At Heathrow gates are not announced until about 1/2 hour before departure. Your gate could be at the opposite end of the terminal from where you are. Keep your running shoes handy.
We chose to go to American Airlines Admiral's Club to wait. We could have had liquor, coffee, tea, juice, food, cookies, etc. etc. "for free" but we were both still full from breakfast on the plane so I just had coffee.
We walked the “mile” to our gate and waited for the bus that would take us to the plane. I think there were more Americans on the plane than anyone else. There was a group from Dallas who were going to Krakow (probably to Wadowice where Pope John Paul II lived) and then onto Rome for the canonization.
The flight from London was 2 1/2 hours. We arrived in Warsaw at about 10:30 a.m. Chicago time/5:30 p.m. Poland time. I had been up for 26 hours. I think I catnapped on the plane. We had four suitcases, two carry-ons and my personal bag. We gathered up our luggage, stopped at the kantor to change some money and bought a SIM card for Dave's phone, all at the airport. We walked across the street to our hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott. It's a great location when we're not spending a lot of time in Warsaw, which we're not. The weather was a little cool walking from the terminal to the hotel.
No problem checking into the hotel. I said, "Dzien dobry. Ja mam rezerwacja, Debi Grinli," and handed the clerk my confirmation. He spoke to me in Polish and that's when I said, "Nie mowię dobrze po polsku." He laughed and welcomed me back, in English. Apparently, my accent is good enough to fool people into thinking I speak the language. As you can see though, I can only take that so far.
We went up to the room and unpacked a bit and I tried to reach Kasia, the Polish administrator of Polish Genius. Our plan was to spend Friday with her and her kids and to give her a suitcase full of stuff. We’d leave the suitcase with Kasia to do with what she wants. I paid Goodwill $5.00 for the suitcase with the intention of leaving it in Poland. The other suitcase will travel with us to Solec Kujawski and Bukowsko.
At 8:30 p.m. Poland time and I tried to go to sleep. Breakfast is from 6:00-10:30 so we would be there at about 9:30 a.m.
April 18, 2014, Good Friday
Weather: 63F, cloudy and overcast. It eventually rained in Warsaw but we weren't there when that happened.
I love the beds at this hotel. Our room over-looked the entrance to the airport terminal. The rooms had enough sound-proofing that we didn't hear the traffic or airplanes.
Up at 7:00A.M. and down to breakfast by 9:00 a.m. Just when we started to walk the buffet, Kasia called and we set-up an 11:00 a.m. time for her to pick us up at the hotel for a day "out."
This hotel has a really nice breakfast buffet with both Polish and American selections. The breakfast buffet consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, kielbasa, potatoes, tomatoes, pancakes, oatmeal, cereals, fruit, cheeses, herring, salmon, multi-grain breads, croissants, yogurt, juices, tea and coffee.
After breakfast I took a few minutes to check emails.
Kasia picked us up and after loading her car with a large bag and a suitcase full of gifts we headed east out of Warsaw. Everyone was leaving Warsaw to spend Easter in their home villages. The roads were packed which meant driving was slow.
Old województwo Biała Podlaska:
We drove through Węgrów on our way to our first stop in Liw which is a parish. The interesting thing about this village is that the houses have shutters and they are painted. Big deal, right? Well, shutters aren’t normally found on Polish houses. We visited the zamek (castle) which is a pretty interesting museum.
Next stop was Sokołów Podlaski and I took a few photos of the church. We drove to Mogielnica to view the Bug (boog) River (reminded me of the book, "Beyond the Bug") from a high look-out point. We couldn't find the right spot so we drove into a wooded area in the direction of the river. Clearly cars had been this way before because there were tire ruts in the dirt. We did have to walk 200 feet to the edge of the river; not exactly the look-out spot we wanted but we saw the river as well as some unfamiliar flowers and vegetation, and lots of little frogs (zabawa) hopping around.
Drohiczyn was next. Taking pictures in Drohiczyn I realized we'd been there before. I recognized a war memorial and the church. I brought a list of all the villages (from my web site) that we'd visited on previous trips to Poland so I wouldn't visit them again. Yep, Sokołów Podlaski and Drohiczyn were both on the list. I apologized to Kasia for not realizing this sooner.
Our next stop was Mołożew where we had planned to stop for lunch. Unfortunately, the restaurant was not yet open for the "season." We drove on to Siemiatycze hoping the restaurant Kasia had picked there would be open - it was. We were in the Podlaski region so we chose to have foods that were specific to the area. Kasia and I had placek ziemniaczany podlaski (huge potato pancakes filled with chopped meat) and Dave had kartacze (hollowed-out cooked potatoes filled with meat). The food was very good. The restaurant was part of Pensjonat Cezar (small hotel) and the staff was preparing the dining room for a baptismal party on Easter Sunday.
We stopped at two churches in Siemiatycze, one Roman Catholic, the other Orthodox. This area is heavily populated with Poles of the Orthodox faith. We wanted to look inside the Catholic church but a Mass was being said and the doorways were blocked with people; it was Good Friday, remember.
We checked-out the cemetery (what else?) which held graves of Catholics and Orthodox. The cemetery had a chapel and a round building which houses old, old crosses from graves. This building was being used as a museum, though I expect it was originally a chapel (and there was a new chapel in the cemetery). I couldn't help but notice that on several granite/marble graves were "ads" for the headstone engraver. I, of course, took photos of this.
It was clearly spring in Poland; trees had green and white buds, pansies and begonias had already been planted. We couldn't help but count stork nests while we were driving around. Though you won't see any within an hour or so of a big city (Warsaw) we counted 36 nests, most of which had occupants.
Our last stop was in the city of Bielsk Podlaski to see a beautiful wooden cerkiew (Orthodox church) painted blue. I'd never seen a painted wooden church. Members were filing inside the cerkiew. Women covered their heads inside the church. In the center of the room was a "coffin" covered with a heavily embroidered red drape with a "gold" Bible on top and surrounded with flowers and candles. This represented Jesus' tomb. Each person would kneel down in front of it and touch their forehead to the floor. They would then approach the coffin, kissing it three times and making the sign of the (Orthodox) cross. Although it was getting dark outside (8:00 p.m.) I was still able to take a few photos of the cerkiew and city. Photography was not allowed inside the cerkiew which was filled with icons.
It was a long ride back to Warsaw. We stopped once for coffee and a bathroom break at a gas station. It was close to midnight when Kasia dropped us off at our hotel. We were all tired but we really enjoyed our little tour.
For some reason I could not fall asleep. I think I was awake until after 2:00 a.m. -
not good since we were getting up at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday and I had to drive
to Solec Kujawski.
April 19, 2014, Holy Saturday
Weather 70F clearing skies.
Up at 7:00 a.m. and ready by 8:30 a.m. Dave asked why we got up so early. Well, I wasn't sure how long it would take me to get ready for heaven’s sake!
Same breakfast buffet as the day before. Since the car wasn't delivered until 11:00 a.m. I had time to move my photos from my camera to the computer and to write up one day's "diary."
While in Warsaw I received an email from a "new" distant (Bukowsko) cousin who wanted to meet us while we were in Zielona Góra. Great! That meeting would happen in about a week.
Friday, our car rental company called to confirm Saturday's rental. We arranged to have the car brought to the hotel. Parking at the hotel is ridiculously expensive so we rented the car from the day we actually needed it to drive to our friend's home in Solec Kujawski, located between Bydgoszcz and Toruń on the Wisła River.
Slight issue renting the car. It was arranged that we would pay cash for the car but we didn't have time to exchange money ahead of time. Dave checked with the airport kantor but the exchange rate was 2.29 złoty per $1.00. We decided to use our credit card instead of exchanging money but we had to drive to the car rental office in order to do this. It turned out that the exchange rate using our credit card was 2.90 złoty per $1.00. Even with the transaction fee our bank charges, this would be cheaper than if we'd exchanged money at the airport. However, we found out later that many businesses have the option of charging your credit card in złoty or U.S. dollars which means no exchange rate fee.
Mirosław, the young rental agent spoke enough Polish to handle the transaction. What I didn't know ahead of time was that there was very little gas in the car and we were to bring it back "empty." We left the rental agency and immediately stopped for 100 złoty worth of gas. Our next stop was to find a kantor "on the street" which we did. I felt much better. Now we could leave Warsaw.
Kevin Spacey, the actor, is on almost every billboard in Warsaw advertising a bank. He's also done a TV commercial for Polish TV.
Though we usually have our routes planned out before we leave the U.S., this time we decided to plan as we drove. I had a large map of Poland, city map of Warsaw and my "Polska Atlas Drogowy" with index so planning our routes would not be a big deal, except in Warsaw where they continue to add freeways.
Once we were out of Warsaw we stopped to fill-up the gas tank with diesel fuel, the cheapest gas in Poland. We used the bathrooms (never pass one by), bought a new road map of Poland since there were many new highways, and a cup of coffee - forgot to buy the map. Once we were in Włocławek we stopped at another gas station to buy a map and use the bathrooms again. The bathrooms were out of order. Really? We called Karol in Solec Kujawski to give him our estimated time of arrival and got back on the road. There is a new highway (A1) open which we picked-up in Włocławek. We took it all the way to Toruń though we didn't go into Toruń. Even with the stops and having to wait for two trains (15 minutes) we made good time. We arrived in Solec Kujawski after four hours. I hate to say it, but we didn't take any photographs along the way.
Though I counted stork nests, we only saw 9 in four hours but this was due to our driving through several big cities and along the Wisła River. We did see three prostytutki though while driving on a main road through a forested area.
Barbara (Karol's mother, who is my age) met us in front of her house. Hugs all around and greetings. We took all of our luggage into the house and unpacked immediately while Barbara prepared obiad. Every time we have visited there has been a change in the house. This time the downstairs dining room and entrance- way had been changed. The wood paneling had been removed from the walls and ceiling and there was now white paint instead. The floors had new laminate flooring with a semi-circle of ceramic tile in front of the downstairs bathroom. New flooring was also in one of the downstairs bedrooms along with new, bright white furniture. The house was even decorated for Easter. Everything looked lovely! Barbara had already been to church to have her Easter basket of food blessed.
Karol and Natalia arrived about 1/2 hour after us. We congratulated them on being pregnant. The baby is due in November and of course, everyone is thrilled.
We sat down to an immense amount of food cooked by Barbara and Natalia: cheeses, breads, several fish dishes, several salads, eggs, babka, a butter lamb, kielbasa, salt & pepper, hot tea. (The kielbasa was for us since no meat is eaten until Easter.) Everything was delicious.
After dinner we handed out presents. Barbara gave us gifts as well including two huge Styrofoam eggs which were decoupaged with chickens and roosters. These were decorated by the next door neighbor. Of course there was some imbibing during the gift exchange. Everyone except Natalia drank Metaxa. Not exactly a Polish liquor but our friends wanted something different. I had brought a package of Hostess “Snoballs” as a treat but no one seemed interested in them. Maybe it was the coconut.
Natalia and Karol left for their own flat at about 10:00 p.m. The rest of us cleaned
up the kitchen and then went to bed; about 10:30 p.m. We had decided that
breakfast would be at 10:00 a.m. on Easter Sunday.
April 20, 2014 Easter Sunday
Blue sky approximately 65F.
Barbara attended the sunrise Mass at her church, which is one block from the house. Dawn was way too early for us though. We slept in. We had decided the night before that breakfast on Easter would be at 10:00 a.m. This would allow Karol and Natalia to also sleep in.
Dave and I slept downstairs in what used to be the rooms of Florentyna and Waleria, Barbara’s mother-in-law and aunt-in-law respectively. Both died several years ago. Sleeping in these rooms meant we could use the downstairs bathroom which had a modern shower. Barbara slept in her upstairs bedroom which has a bathroom next to it with a tub (hand-held shower, no curtain) and the washing machine. It’s a big room.
We awoke at 8:00 a.m. and were ready by 10. Barbara had returned home at some point and had been busy getting breakfast ready.
Karol and Natalia arrived just in time for breakfast. The table was full of kielbasa, various sliced hams (who knew there was more than one kind of ham), deviled eggs, breads, zurek, karpatka (cake), babka, candy, tea, juice. It is a tradition that the oldest pass around a plate containing the foods which were blessed by the priest on Saturday. David was the oldest so he started passing. We had to take one of each item that was in the basket including some masła and salt and pepper. Barbara then gave the blessing thanking Jesus for the food and asking that He join us at the table.
The breakfast was delicious - but too much! At noon Karol and Natalia went to Mass. While they were gone I looked at Barbara's garden and took photos. When the "kids" returned we drove to the cemetery and visited the grave where Stefan, his mother Florentyna, his aunt Waleria, and his grandmother are buried. We bought candles from a vendor at the entrance to the cemetery. Karol suggested to his mother that they plant flowers around the grave so people wouldn't be walking on "someone." While we were talking about that, Dave stepped backwards to take a photo, tripped on a grave curbstone, and fell flat on his back on the granite slab that topped the grave, scattering flowers and candles in all directions. Other than the mess to clean up, no harm was done to either the grave or to Dave except perhaps for his pride.
After we paid our respects at the cemetery we drove around town. Driving slowly this would take about 15 minutes. Even though Solec Kujawski is a gmina it is not a really big town, but it is growing. We walked down to the Wisła River. Karol said the government was going to start barge traffic again on the river. Out loud I remembered the first time we walked to this river. It was in 1996 and Karol was only 13 years old. Now he’s married and expecting a child. We were there with Karol, his father and his grandmother, both now deceased.
We went back home to visit until it was time for obiad. When we got out of Karol's car he asked if I knew that our rental car had snow tires on it. No! I thought the car felt funny when I drove it but Dave had said the tires looked OK (not, being from Texas, ever seeing snow tires before). Karol said I just needed to be careful while driving. This was a matter I would bring up with the car rental company.
Upstairs Karol brought out a candy bar that I had sent at Christmas. His mother had never eaten it though Karol had tried the one I sent him. It was chocolate with jalapeno and yes, it was hot. We each took a little piece deciding to save the rest to “share” with other guests. The heat surprised everyone.
At 5:00 p.m. Natalia went home because she was tired. Karol stayed and translated. It started to rain hard at about 5:30 p.m. The neighbors from next door came over for kolacja; Darek, Grazyna, Daniel (17 yrs), Dominika (15 yrs) and Jakub (10 yrs). More food on the table! All three children were learning English in school but the older two were a little more comfortable trying it out on us. Jakub's favorite toys are Legos and he had his newest plane with him. He apparently watches a cartoon show on TV about science and is learning a lot from the show; he's not allowed to play video games. His father, Darek said he thought Jakub would become a doctor but Jakub said he wanted to be a sniper!!! Daniel is learning to work on cars and motorcycles. Dominika is still in high school.
We first met these neighbors in 1998 just after Karol's family moved into their house. Darek, like most men at that time, physically built the house by himself. Daniel was just a baby then! Darek never plastered over the outside cement blocks he used to build his house so the house still looks unfinished. Within the last two years however, he built a tree house which connects from the tree in their yard to the tree in Barbara's yard.
The neighbors left at 9:00p.m. The children didn't have school until Wednesday and the adults didn't have to work until Tuesday, Monday being another holiday.
We all cleared the table and cleaned up the kitchen. Karol went home and we went to bed. Marian the cat, however, had decided that my bed was her bed. Yes, I know Marian is a "boy's" name and she even had a litter of kittens but when the Tomalski's first found the cat, they thought she was a he so the name Marian stuck. Barbara shooed Marian out of the bedroom but the cat would not go outside because it was still raining. I guess Cody, the dog slept in his dog house. He's not allowed in the house. He has long, tangled fur which will be cut off soon.
If you need to translate the Polish words I use, go to https://translate.google.com/#pl/en/
April 21, 2014, Monday
Weather cloudy skies 55F.
The Polish tradition Easter Monday is for girls to hit boys with a pussy willow switch and for boys too "sprinkle" everyone with water. No one had said anything about this and when asked I was told that some folks had gotten carried-away with this tradition and people were being drenched (see these videos) so this sport was not practiced by many any longer.
We awoke at 7:30 a.m. (I know that's really interesting) in order to be ready for 9:00 a.m. breakfast which consisted of kielbasa, ham, eggs, mixed salads, cheeses, breads, babka, tea, kawa naturalny for Dawid and cappuccino for me. Kawa naturalny is made by pouring boiling water directly over very finely ground coffee. You let it steep for awhile and then stir it with a small spoon to cause the grounds which have risen to the top of the cup to fall back to the bottom. It's one of the things Dave looks forward to when coming to Poland.
Conversation was light because Barbara doesn't speak much English and my Polish isn't much better. I keep my two phrase books and dictionary close-by though to have slooooow moving conversations.
Karol and Natalia drove to Grudziądz to visit Natalia’s family. We drove to Barbara's sister's house in Czernikowo. We have known Zofia, Janek, and their daughter, Paulina, since 1998 and always enjoy visiting them. In 1998 the Zuchowskis still owned the family farm. Janek had to sell it though because of his own physical problems. The family bought a house in "town" and are happy about this move. Everyone has a job.
The son, Tomasz married Marta in 2010 (see that Trip Diary) and they had a son, Lucjan last July. They would also be visiting today as they lived with Marta's family in Biskupice.
Even though we had brought two extra suitcases full of gifts, I had sent a big box ahead (using Polamer) to Barbara's house which contained gifts for the Tomalskis (Barbara, Karol and Natalia), gifts for the Zuchowskis and gifts for Monika, a friend in Kraków. So, before we left for Czernikowo I packed up the gifts and candy for that family. I didn't realize that Tomek, Marta and the baby would be there so I was glad I had brought extra gifts.
The drive (in Basia's car) to Czernikowo was pretty quick as we took the toll way! It cost 2 złoty (66 cents) for 3 kilometers. Of course taking a toll way or any of the new fast highways means you by-pass all of the charming villages. A difficult choice: charm or speed.
There wasn't much conversation but I was able to ask Basia a few questions in my broken Polish - she understood so my grammar couldn't have been too bad. We only saw one stork nest but two flying storks.
We arrived at 10:30 a.m. after a 50 minute drive. Guess what? Time to eat! Oi. This is not unusual, though, and we knew it would happen. Everyone was already at the house. Kisses (three) and hugs were given and "Dzien dobrys" all around. Janek still kisses my hand, a very sweet old custom.
Paulina, 25, was our translator. She had learned English in school and did pretty well. We both had our dictionaries though just in case. In addition to our visits, Paulina and I occasionally exchange emails.
After a few minutes of conversation, everyone except Paulina, Dave, and myself went to church. Paulina did not know why they went to church the day after Easter. This is not the custom in the U.S. so I had no idea why it is done in Poland. Paulina and I talked a lot (Dave took a nap) about the family, her friends, job, and her current beliefs about the Apocalypse. Paulina is a receptionist for a doctor's office. I think she's had this job for about a year now. Her birthday is Tuesday, April 22. She is the same age as my youngest son, Joszue (Joshua). Pope John Paul II was to be canonized April 27. Many priests and parishioners made the trip to Rome for this very special occasion. Barbara and Zosia had decided they would see more on TV at home and chose not to go.
When the family returned from Mass we ate, and ate, and ate. We also drank homemade bimber! Boy, that stuff is strong! We also had natural apple juice. It has no preservatives and tasted like liquid applesauce. Since it was "natural" it had to be used-up within a few days.
Food on the table: I wish I could remember all of it; Kielbasa, chicken wrapped around something, mushrooms wrapped in meat, gołąbki, breads, meatballs, kielbasa biała, two salads, green salads, boiled potatoes, juice, herbata, kawa and cakes. Zosia's favorite TV show is "Master Chef" so she tries out new recipes on the family. She's a very good cook, just like her older sister, Barbara.
Lucjan, the baby, "walked" around in his little walker. He is such a cute and happy baby!
Grzegorz, the son of Adam and Jadwiga (Adam is the brother of Basia and Zosia) had come back to the house with everyone after Mass. He speaks a little English so Basia saw this as an opportunity for him to practice. Grzegorz is about 28 years old and single.
At church Zosia bought a book about the parish of Czernikowo printed in 2014. It's a really nice history book with lots of pictures. In fact, there were two photos of Zosia as a little girl in it. That reminds me, a lot of parishes in Poland have histories written about them which are usually available at the parish.
After dinner, Paulina left for Mass. Basia, Janek, Grzegorz, David, and I drove to Steklin (15 minutes) where Basia's brother, Adam lives. Adam's home is on the family's ancestral property. As the oldest son, he inherited the land. We had met Adam and Jadwiga several times before. They have a daughter, Beata (24 yrs?) and an older son, Roman who is married.
I was unprepared for this visit as it is not a regular stop when we come to Poland. We were greeted with "Witam" and ushered inside for... cake and tea! Grzegorz and Beata took turns translating. We all made good use of my dictionary though. Adam, who is retired, is a farmer now and he was interested in U.S. and Texas farms. I explained that most large farms in the U.S. were owned by companies and that farms and ranches in Texas were becoming smaller due to the drought. We also talked about Texas oil and shale drilling which is coming to Poland. During today's visit I reminded Adam that he had given me a Polish folk costume book (Stroj Ludowe) the first time we visited their house in 1998 and that I still had it.
At about 6:00p.m. I took some photos of the family and we said our goodbyes. On the way out, Jadwiga gave me a chicken salt shaker as a gift. She did something similar the last time we visited.
As soon as we arrived back at Janek and Zosia's we were offered more food and deserts. Tomek and his family left shortly after we returned so I gave them their gifts; a scarf for Marta, Budweiser cap for Tomek and jean shorts and a shirt for the baby. I asked Marta (in my Polish) to give my regards to her parents.
As soon as Tomek and family left I gave Zosia and Janek their gifts. They in turn gave me a beautiful candy bowl, four "Polish" glasses and Dave received a flask (for bimber?). Paulina came home from Mass at that point and I gave her gifts as well. Unfortunately, the two shirts I gave her were too small. I don't know how that could be though. She's no bigger than a minute! I had also given her a purse, bracelet and flip-flops. I wrote down that she wears a size small for next time.
I took photos of the family, we said our goodbyes (Zosia said, "Zapraszamy") and we drove home. It was 7:30p.m.
The ride home was pretty quiet again. Once home we decided to go to bed. It was 8:45 p.m. but we were all pretty tired. I took this opportunity to check my emails and write-up two "Trip Diaries."
Dave was lying in bed watching some old American TV programs on his iPad. It was pretty chilly in the house but the comforters (I can't remember what they are called, not pierzyna) kept us toasty warm at night and by the time it's morning we're actually too hot.
The big question for Tuesday was, "What are we going to do?" Basia took the whole week off work but I told her she didn't have to babysit us. We could visit villages and take photos, visit interesting towns not too far away, or I could do research. The decision had to wait until morning. I was too tired to think about it.
April 22, 2014, Tuesday
Blue sky and temperature was about 70F at 10:00 a.m.
Did I mention that the sun comes up at 5:00 a.m. over here? In the summer it rises even earlier! The roller shades in "my" room are not adequate to keep out the sun. I am glad I brought my sleep mask.
We awoke at 8:00 a.m. showered and started to get ready for the day. At 9:00 a.m. Barbara received a call that her six month old great nephew was having a seizure. Basia went right over to her niece's (Marta, but not the same Marta as yesterday) house to help. Basia returned around 10 saying the baby was taken to a children's hospital in Bydgoszcz. This baby was born hydrocephalic and anencephalic. After giving birth Marta was diagnosed as an insulin dependent diabetic. Apparently medical care for this baby is expensive and not covered by the general medical care OR the family wanted private doctors to take care of the baby. We were told that the baby had epilepsy but this may be the translation they found for a baby having seizures. As of this evening the baby is blind and still in the hospital. This is a very sad situation. Natalia would not talk about this because it would be bad luck for her own unborn child.
Since we're on the subject; a friend of Paulina Zuchowska has liver cancer. He is 26 years old. The doctors removed half of his liver but have not proceeded with radiation or chemotherapy. Apparently the translation for aggressive is "angry" because several times we have heard the expression (in English), "angry cancer." Paulina’s friend has angry cancer.
Another young person we know in Poland has Hepatitis B and has been treated with Interferon for the last 12 months and has 4 more months of treatment to go. I’m not this is Hep B is treated in the U.S.
Back to our day, after Barbara returned from Marta’s we had breakfast. Barbara was going to stay home in case she was needed by her sister's family. We decided to go to the civil archives in Bydgoszcz and then onto Potulice, where Nazis took Polish children to Germanize them. Today an active prison is there.
We didn't have too much trouble finding the archives: I had the street address! The archive is on a busy one-way thoroughfare. Our real problem was getting back TO the archives and then finding parking. This took about 1/2 hour! I now know which streets to drive down to get to the archive, having explored every street, alley, and dead-end passage around it — twice in most cases, four times for some. The street on which we finally parked had a Parkomat parking machine. We put in 7 złoty for 1 1/2 hours. I parked with my two wheels on the curb because everyone else on the street did that and I knew from experience that I had to do the same thing.
We were only a block from the archives when it started to rain. I decided we'd continue on even though we didn't have our umbrellas. The Archiwum Państwowe is pretty unassuming. We walked up the outside steps, opened the door to nothing; an empty hallway. There was a door and a hall but no signs. I decided we'd go upstairs. Once there we walked to the end of the hall. I saw a sign on the door that looked promising, not that I could read it. I knocked and opened the door. In Polish I said I did not speak or understand Polish well, said my name, that I was from Texas (Teksasu), and I wanted to do some research. A nice young man (with limited English) showed us the lockers where we put our jackets, purse, backpack and hat. He then gave me a form to fill out with my name, address, passport number and what I wanted to do there. I already had the information written down about the records I wanted to look at; tax records from 1744, Inowrocław powiat, Dziewa village. In about two minutes he had the record book pulled-up on the computer. The tax book had been digitized. I expect it won't be long before it is online. They did not have the capability to print out materials but I was allowed to photograph all I wanted - free. This was quite pleasant! There were four other researchers in the room, one was looking at microfilm and taking photographs.
I went through the records taking pictures. I would have to analyze what I found when I got home. Dave read a book on his iPad so he didn't mind waiting for me. We left the archive after 1 1/2 hours. It was too late to go to Potulice, so we headed back to Solca. We saw two stork nests on the way, but only because we drove the "back" way and stayed off the highway.
We arrived home at 4:00 p.m. Basia was preparing obiad. A few minutes later Natalia and Karol showed-up. They had just returned from Natalia's family in Grudziądz. "Lunch" consisted of beef rolls, pork, cucumbers in cream, warm kapusta, boiled potatoes, gravy, bread and butter. Another smaczny meal.
After dinner we moved to the upstairs living room for tea but we didn’t have tea we had cognac. Basia called her brother, Piotr to come over as he apparently likes us. Surprise! Piotr and his wife were in Slovakia! We know all of Basia’s brothers and sisters.
Karol and Natalia gave us cologne for ourselves, our sons, and the girlfriend of my oldest son. The also gave our "boys" a Manchester United cap, and a No Fear cap. These gifts were purchased based on Aron and Josh’s interests. I thought it was really considerate of Karol and Natalia to buy a gift for Aron’s girlfriend as well.
We discussed what to do on Wednesday and decided on a couple of things. Basia and I did two loads of our laundry. Once washed they were hung on racks over the tub in the upstairs bathroom and on a rack downstairs. Hopefully, our
jeans would dry before Friday when we were to leave.
We visited with Karol and Natalia until they had to leave. Karol had to be at work at 10:00 p.m. so he needed to take a nap. Wednesday they were scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. appointment with their baby doctor. Yes, 7:00 at night! I'm pretty sure there isn't a doctor in the U.S. who takes appointments that late. Karol and Natalia are seeing a private OB/GYN rather than using the national healthcare system.
After Natalia and Karol left we moved to the downstairs dining table and finished off the "cognac." Then we were hungry so we nibbled on ham, kielbasa, bread and pasztet. That was great! Rather than use my phrase books and dictionary, Barbara and I used Google Translate and, I have to say, it did a really good job though we had to change words once in awhile to make sense. We just passed the laptop back and forth. We were able to "talk" about everything!
At 9:00 p.m. (How old AM I, going to bed so early?) we decided to go to bed. I checked my emails and did some writing before actually going to bed at 10:30 p.m.
April 23, 2014, Wednesday
Blue Sky, some billowy clouds, 70F
We awoke at 7:30 a.m. We both slept well but I could have slept longer. Showered, etc. Barbara had to go into the office for an hour between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. As soon as she returned home she turned around and walked to the "corner" store. I'd sent Basia a Swiffer mop and the wet pads several years ago; I add to the supply of pads when I send packages. I decided to take the opportunity to mop the room I was staying in because we had walked in there in our shoes (more about that next) - only to help her, not as a comment on her housekeeping. I had to do it quick so she wouldn't see me.
It is the custom to take off your shoes when you enter someone's home in Poland. I adopted this custom in my own home years ago to keep 80% of the dirt out of my house. I'd rather work on genealogy than clean house. I tell people it's a Polish custom and provide them with slippers. Most people don’t balk.
Breakfast consisted of steak tartar (Dave didn't have any) with onions and chopped up ogórki; kielbasa, bread, ham and tea.
Basia's niece’s son, Antoni, was still in the hospital. A doctor over-prescribed medicine for the baby and now the baby had to detox! They expected the baby to stay in the hospital until the following Thursday at least.
We left the house at 9:50 a.m. for Krąpiewo, northwest of Bydgoszcz, to see a Cold War bunker. We would then go to Potulice and perhaps Fordon. We stopped for gas on the way. Dave "jumped" out of the car and started filling the tank. Basia went inside the station. I wanted to pay for her gas so I went inside to stop her. "Basia, nie. Ja mam pieniądze." Basia mówić, "Nie. (something, something)." I lost that one.
We took Road # 10 from Solec Kujawski through Bydgoszcz then north at Kruszyn. There is a heavy German influence in this part of Poland. It can be seen in old buildings and churches. Most homes are built with beton, aerated cement blocks which can be plastered over on the inside of the house and the outside and then sometimes painted. New roofs can be of ceramic tile or what looks to be fiberglass, in bright colors. The radio in the car is always on RMF-FM (you can hear it on the internet as well) even in our car. I have noticed that many American songs have been "covered" by Polish singers who record the song either in Polish or English while using the exact same music. We passed huge fields of yellow flax and many turbines. This week high school children are dressed-up to take their exams. Boys wear suits and girls wear dresses.
There is a lack of signs for the Cold War bunker, operated as Centrum Militarne Krapiewo, but we after asking an old woman in Krąpiewo, we found it. One narrow gate was open: so narrow that it was a good thing we were in a small car. We drove into a lot that had a tank and an old army truck along with what could have been mistaken for a small restaurant building. An old man came out to greet us. Basia introduced us, paid him the entrance fee and we went inside the small building. We immediately headed downstairs but stopped because it got so cold after a few steps. Dave went back to the car for our jackets. The lighting in the bunker was dim but there wasn't all that much to see. From the pictures on the wall and listening carefully, we were able to get the gist of most of the man's explanations which were in Polish. This bunker was built by the Communists to withstand a 100 ton atomic bomb. This bunker was recently opened to the public even though all of the aluminum, copper and other metals had been removed by either the Communists or thieves.
Afterwards we drove to Potulice through Trzemiętowo and Gliszcz where there is a large horse farm. We passed over the Bydgoszcz canals. This is all countryside, with many farms. The roads did not have white lines on the right side to indicate the edge and no street lights which means driving at night is difficult.
We found the palace in Potulice as well as the prison, which during WWII had been Potulice Concentration Camp, after the war the Central Labour Camp in Potulice a Stalinist camp for political prisoners, and then in 1961 a regular prison for criminals. This is one of the camps where Polish children were brought by the Nazis to become Germanized. The prison is still in use today. We were looking for a large monument to the children but couldn't find it. I suspect it was in the middle of a large block of apartment buildings.
We drove to Fordon's Valley of Death (Śmierci Dolina) where the Polish intelligentsia of Pomerania were killed. We had to stop a couple of times to ask directions but we finally found the memorial. The "Valley of Death" is in a wooded area, up a hill. A Calvary (Kalwaria) was added to the memorial with 12 stations of the cross winding up the hill. Very impressive. We did not walk all of the stations.
Basia received several phone calls from work and we drove home in a light rain. This rain meant our clothes, especially our jeans which were hanging inside the house, would take longer to dry. Clothes dryers are rare in Polish homes. They are too expensive to run.
Barbara started dinner while we started our preliminary packing. Obiad (even though it was about 3:30 p.m.) consisted of beef rolls, pork, kasza, zurek, bread. Barbara and I "talked" using Google Translate again. At 5:30 p.m. we drove to the centrum to have lody (yeah!) and kawa in a converted train car. The train car was refurbished very nicely and we enjoyed our treat. I was able to beat Basia to paying for the treats. Our ice cream sundaes had fresh fruit mixed in. This type of sundae is very common in Poland. So, the dessert is actually healthy! Afterwards we drove around Solec to see all the big new homes. Some were very impressive. It's quite obvious that this gmina town is growing rapidly in industry and population. I would think very few people are unemployed there.
Back home we "talked" and had tea, wiśnia (cherry sherry), Krupnik, and kielbasa przekąska (appetizer). When Basia said we were having przekąska, David asked, "To what?" Sooo much food.
Karol and Natalia did not come over tonight because they had an appointment with their obstetrician. The doctor would run some tests and do another sonogram.
Basia received a phone call from her next door neighbor inviting us over for a tour of the house. The parents, Darek and Grzyna had allowed us to tour the house when they first started building it in 1998. Back then I got upstairs using a wooden ladder. That was when I first learned that Poles typically built their houses with their own hands. At the time Darek and Grzyna had an infant son, Daniel. The family finally moved in 10 years ago with two more children. They owe no money on the house, which is something Poles are very proud of. The house has five bedrooms, a couple of bathrooms, an open-concept kitchen/living room. The home was very nice with lots of beautiful wood.
We sat down to tea, ice cream (!) and cookies. Daniel was our translator. He'd clearly gained some confidence. I asked how he practiced his English and he said through on-line multiplayer video games! Well, I suppose something good can come from playing video games. We stayed about two hours. It was still raining when we went home to.. kolacja! In bed by 9:30 p.m.; no diary posting that night.