Part Two: April 24 - April 30



April 24, 2014, Thursday


Clear sky, 60 F

Śniadanie was at 8 a.m. and we left the house at 9. Breakfast was kaszanka, kielbasa, cheese, bread, rolls, and tea.

We had to be up earlier today because we were going to the "school" where Grzyna (Basia's neighbor) teaches in Bydgoszcz. The school is sponsored by Caritas, a Catholic church charity. Mentally and physically challenged adults come to this school/day care five days a week for about six hours a day. They learn real-life skills and how to make things with their hands. The art work/crafts were incredible! The art is entered in major contests — not contests just for mentally challenged people — and the best student has won numerous awards.

An ex-teacher provided English translation while we were shown each room of the "school." Each class only had five people because each person needs different but individual attention. Some were making paper baskets by rolling strips of newspaper ads into tight rolls and then weaving those rolls (straws) into a basket. Others were painting, doing cross-stitch, making beautiful greeting cards and boxes, throwing pottery, fixing and refinishing furniture and some were working in the kitchen. Another class was working on computers. Everyone is expected to be on-time and must sign-in just like at work. Grzyna loves her job and wants to stay there until she retires.

I bought several birthday cards (Polish ones are impossible to find where I live) and a box. We took several photos. When we left Grzyna gave me a ceramic anioł that one of the students had made. It is so cute and I was so pleased to receive it. Dave commented that the most wonderful thing about the school was that all the students seemed so content, fulfilled, and self-sufficient and that there was a sense of joy and optimism about the place.

We had hoped to visit a glass works factory in Tur but they were closed for renovation. We have visited Barbara so often that it is becoming difficult to find new things to show us. I imagine that eventually we will visit and do the yard work, house cleaning and laundry - if I can ever figure out how to use her washing machine.

We were back in Solec by 11:00 a.m. We stopped at a cell phone store so Barbara could replace her SIM card which had stopped working. Back home we moved our jeans to the front porch so the breeze would dry them. Dave had to deal with some unexpected issues from his own job. We had coffee and babka. Barbara had DVDs of Tomek and Marta's 2012 wedding to give us but she couldn't open them on her computer so she never sent them to us. Dave worked on these too and although he could open them on his computer, he couldn't get them to work on Barbara's computer. He even tried to get them to work on her TV but the picture was either all one color or black and white. She decided to ask Tomek to have another set copied for her and gave us the ones Dave had worked on.

Barbara had received some supermarket ads in her mail. I took photos of some of the items to post on Polish Genius. Basia gave me her McDonald's coupons too. We seldom go to McDonalds in Poland any more since Josh is too old for Happy Meals but we might this time. If not, I decided I'd give the coupons to a friend with children. Oh, the coupons were for a huge amount of food. One Big Mac, another sandwich, a large drink, frytki, and a sundae. Geez, seems like McDonalds wants to fatten up the Poles.

At 12:30 p.m. Basia and I drove to Ela's (Basia's best friend) son's house which was being built a few blocks away. Marcin, his wife, Kasia and their son, Mateusz have been living in England since 2004 but have been building this house a little at a time since 2007, paying as they built it. Not something you can do in the U.S. The house is going to be beautiful. We arrived while they were discussing the stairs with the carpenter. This was rather interesting. The carpenter had drawn out on brown paper a life-size “model” of how the stairs would look and how much room they would take up. The house is on a good sized lot and will have four bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, 2 1/2 baths, laundry room, a room for the furnace, and a separate garage. It has a red ceramic roof which, I am told, will not change color. The house should be finished within a year and then the family will move back to Poland. Ela's daughter-in-law speaks excellent English and was our translator.

I can't believe how easy it has been to find someone to translate during this trip. Both Barbara and her neighbor, Grzyna were taught Russian in school (they grew up during Communist control) but now-a-days the children learn English, though it is the British English.

After we returned home Barbara and I walked to the small corner sklep. It was one block away and is the bottom part of a house. This store was jam-packed with items and about 10 ft. x 2 feet of walking space. We had to buy some cheese, rolls and ocet per Karol's dinner request.

We ate obiad at 2:00 p.m.: schabowy (pork cutlets), boiled potatoes, cucumbers in sour cream, and bread.

Karol arrived at 3:00 p.m. He'd taken a nap after work and came over for obiad/kolacja. Natalia had to work until 7:00 p.m. Karol was still so excited about seeing the baby in the sonogram the night before. The baby had all of its fingers, toes, ears, eyes, and nose. They heard the heartbeat too. The baby was very active but they still didn’t know the sex. Barbara made dinner for Karol, who doesn't eat meat; fried cheese, cucumbers in sour cream, and boiled potatoes.

At 5:30 p.m. we drove back to the "train" kawiarnia to see the rest of it. The owner bought the railroad water tower which was next to the train, removed the tank, and rents it out to groups of 18 or fewer for parties. No food is served, only drinks. This too, was refurbished and decorated very nicely with a great 360 degree view. We went back to the train and had ice cream sundaes. I also had a cappuccino and Dave had piwo, no ice cream. We bumped into Marek, who owns Solbet the largest company in Solec Kujawski and one of the main producers of beton in Poland. He's probably the richest man in this town. Both Barbara and Karol work for Marek and he is their cousin. Marek knows us and he enjoys “discussing” the situations in the U.S. with us. This time was no different. He did not waste any time asking about the crisis back home. "What crisis?" I asked. He asked if we thought it would eventually be a problem if the U.S. continued to send its armies all over the world. He just can't give it a rest. I pointed out that since Poland does not have a reserve army, the U.S. would be right here if the Russians decided to make a move (crisis in Ukraine).

Solec Kujawski has a JuraPark (Jurassic park), water park, and sporting stadium and is rebuilding its Dom Kultury. There are two Turbines in Solec which are owned by Solbet (Marek).

We drove to an old dilapidated house and barn which was probably built in the early 1900s. For some reason the property owner won’t sell the land. Clearly people had been using these buildings for other things. We saw several men using metal detectors around the area.

On the way home we stopped at a cukiernia for Karol. OMG! More sweets!

Natalia arrived after work and we talked about the baby, maternity stores (expensive), and "stuff." I asked her to send me photos of the baby. Karol said they wouldn't send photos so that I would have to come back to see the baby. I told them we would probably have to visit in January, 2015, anyway to see the baby. Must put this on the calendar and start planning.

Natalia and Karol left at about 8:00 p.m. Karol had to go to work at 10:00 p.m. Hugs and kisses all around. I told them how happy we were that they were going to have a baby.

Basia had agreed to pick-up her other neighbor from the Bydgoszcz airport at 9:00 p.m. I knew she didn't like to drive at night so I told her I would go with her. We were told that Grzyna and Daniel (her son), the other neighbors, would be coming over to give me something. They arrived at about 7:45 p.m. and gave me a black and white print of art work created by one of her students. I was shocked. It was beautiful! At that point I was told that Grzyna and Daniel would keep Dave company while Basia and I went to the airport. I wasn’t sure what this was all about but it was fine with me. Perhaps Daniel wanted to practice English. Maybe he had questions about the United States.

Basia and I got into her car. What I didn't know was that the nephew of the woman we were picking up at the airport was coming with. No one had mentioned this. I didn’t have to go with Basia, she would have had company anyway.

We left the house at 8:00 p.m. and arrived at the airport by 8:20. The plane wasn't due until 9:00 but was late by a half-hour. Bydgoszcz has a nice, small airport with restaurants, stores and car rental companies. I checked out the rates at Avis just for grins. Too expensive. Ryan Air flies into this airport from Birmingham, England. That doesn’t help me. Since U.S. flights either go into Heathrow or Gatwick, a person would have to fly or take a train to Birmingham in order to fly directly into Bydgoszcz.

Rafał, the neighbor's nephew is 25 years old and will move to England to live with his girlfriend in August. The neighbor arrived with very little luggage. We were introduced, as I’d never met her. We got back home at 10:15 p.m. I had hoped to churn out a diary this night but that didn't happen. Basia asked, "Kolacja?" “Nie, dziękuję.” We all went to bed.

Barbara's house: when they first bought the house in 1997 it was for five people; Stefan, Barbara, Karol, Stefan's mother and Stefan's aunt. Now there is only one of them. The house now has four bedrooms, a kitchen, downstairs breakfast room, two bathrooms, upstairs living room and dining room, and a small room that has a large bookcase and an ironing board and a door that leads out to the roof. There's also two or three more small rooms downstairs that are unassigned. The washing machine is in the large upstairs bathroom. A two car garage was built a number of years ago though Basia prefers to park her car on the street. The kitchen was remodeled about 3 years ago and now has a small dishwasher. This one appliance has given Basia more time to do other things. Basia has two pets, Cody the dog and Marian the cat.


April 25, 2014, Friday


Blue sky, 70F

Today we would be leaving Solec Kujawski for Budzyń through Piła. Perhaps a stop in Chodziez to "look" at porcelain. My grandmother's china was made in Chodziez so I like to see what's new in their production lines. In the past they have made porcelain Christmas ornament balls. Why spend a night in Budzyń? Well, we would be spending two nights in Zielona Góra so in order to arrive there at a decent time, I didn’t want to have to drive too far to Zielona Góra. Remember, it takes us about three times as long as other people to travel any distance because we stop so often to take photographs. Bydzyń seemed a good place and it appeared to have a decent hotel - another requirement.

We woke up at 8:00 a.m. and had breakfast at 10:00 a.m. We were almost all packed before we had śniadanie.. Basia made kielbasa biała, scrambled eggs, ham, cheese, bread, butter, coffee. She also made knapka for the road and included kielbasa biała and some frozen kielbasa. She didn't want us to go hungry on our five hour trip to Budzyń. LOL. Basia always packs traveling food for us. While she was busy with the provisions, I mopped the bathroom and the two bedrooms we used and put our sheets and towels near the washing machine. If I could have figured out how to run the machine, I would have started the laundry. I swear that atomic reactors must have simpler control panels than that washer.

Basia gave me two icons made by the students at Grzyna's school, to give my cousin, Ela, whom Karol had met during one of his visits to the U.S. and with whom Basia had talked on the phone. My plan is that WHEN — I'm not allowing any IF here — Basia visits me she will fly to Chicago. I will meet her there. Basia will stay with my cousin Ela and I will take them sightseeing. Then Basia, Ela, and I will fly to Texas where we’ll sightsee some more. This way Ela will get to visit my home and she can translate for Basia and me.

After we ate Basia and I "talked" using the computer. I told her how much we enjoy visiting her and how generous and kind she was. I asked her to seriously consider coming to the U.S. We packed up the car and said our goodbyes. Tears and long hugs. It's always difficult leaving Barbara and she is always sad to see us go.

We headed west past Bydgoszcz. Our first stop was in Mrocza at the Biedronka grocery store to buy glass cleaner and paper towels. I couldn't stand looking out the car's dirty windows. We made a later stop at a gas station to use the restrooms and buy coffee. There was a time when you couldn't buy coffee-to-go in Poland.

We drove through many small villages taking photos; Kruszyn, Dąbrowka Nowa, Sicienko, Samsieczno, Witosław, Łobżenica, and Śmiłowo. In Łobżenica we saw a sign advertising “fajerwerki.” If you know how to pronounce Polish letters you should be able to figure out what that is in English.

We drove through Piła but didn't take many photos. Piła is a large city with a population of about 75,000 and it's always difficult to take photos in cities this size due to the traffic.

We drove on taking photographs in Ujście. That's what we do! Drive, stop, take a photo. Drive, stop, turn around, take a photo. Drive, stop, take photo, etc. etc. As we drove we ate the sandwiches Basia had made for us.

Our next stop was in Chodzież. We've been here a couple of times before with Barbara and Stefan and had even taken a tour of the factory. I originally came to this town because my grandmother's china (porcelana) was made here and I have that set now. We drove around the city trying to locate the stores that sold Chodzież porcelain but we couldn't find any of them! We spotted the store where we had gone before with Barbara and Stefan, but it was empty.


We decided to give up and headed out of town. As we passed the edge of town, we saw the sign pointing to the factory and decided to drive down to it to see if anything had changed. Lo and behold there was a new company store. I bought a few pieces to compliment a different pattern of porcelain I had been collecting, having received some pieces as gifts. There were many beautiful sets of china but who needs more than one set? Maybe when one of my sons marries…

We drove to Budzyń, which was only about ten minutes from Chodzież, and arrived at 5:00 p.m. Keep in mind that it is only 124 kilometers from Solec Kujawski to Budzyń. That should be about a 2 1/2 hour drive. It took us six hours. I had printed off a map from the hotel's web site so we had no trouble finding the Hotel Habenda. It was supposed to be a four star hotel and looked better on the internet than anything in Piła or Chodzież. We checked in with no problem and the desk clerk and a waiter carried our luggage up to our room! That was a first. Both spoke very good English. Budzyń has a population of only 3,500 so hearing any English was a big surprise!

The hotel is relatively new but it doesn't have an elevator (only two floors) nor air conditioning. I expect it would be warm in the rooms in the summer even with the windows open.

We left our stuff in the room and drove into town to look around and take photos. We easily found the church, cemetery, some shrines and the rynek. There were quite a few new houses being built. Oh! We also saw an old wooden windmill almost completely intact. You don't see those any more in Poland.

We drove back to the hotel for dinner. The restaurant was very pretty. At that point we were the only guests. I had a Chevas Regal and water (23 zł) and Dave had a Lech beer. I ordered kangaroo!!! I am not kidding. Yes, it was flown in from Australia. Dave ordered zurek and Osso bucco. The waiter brought out complimentary pate on toast. YUM! Dave said the zurek was the best he'd ever had. The presentation of food was very pretty and impressive. The kangaroo was light in flavor and similar to beef. It was good. I took photos. I also had a sundae. Now that I've had lody, it will be hard to stop.

After dinner we went back to our room and unpacked for the morning. I also re-packed the suitcases so we would only have to open one of them for the next six nights. Polish "Dancing with the Stars" was on TV.

Breakfast would be available until 11:00 a.m. (the weekend)! Hooray, I can sleep in. It's now 11:45 p.m. and I have finished three days' diaries. The problem is I can't get them to send from this hotel for some reason. I don’t think my email program likes me sending emails from Poland. Dave will have to figure out a work-around.

April 26, 2014, Saturday


Cloudy, 68F

Our room at the Habenda Hotel had two beds, a couch, table, 2 night stands, desk with refrigerator, chair, closet and plenty of lighting. The bathroom was very modern with plenty of shelf space but the shower didn't have any place to put shampoo, etc. One pillow on each bed with a chocolate on top. A pierzyna was our quilt. The windows opened at the top or the side. We left ours open all night.

We walked into the breakfast dining room at about 10:30 a.m. A table was set for us with a mini-buffet on it. A waitress (also the morning desk clerk) asked if we wanted scrambled eggs and coffee or tea. We both had scrambled eggs. Many Polish cooks do not scramble the eggs enough and then don't cook them long enough so I don’t order these very often. The buffet on our table included Brie, goat cheese and other cheeses, tomatoes, watermelon, salmon (lox), pastries, great rolls, bread, butter, dzam, yogurt, and juice. Breakfast is held in the room above the main dining room. We were the only ones in the restaurant.

We checked out of the hotel at 11:30 a.m. and headed for Świebodzin. We drove through Szamotuły and Pniewy on our way to Świebodzin. Villages along this way (secondary roads) were few and far between but we were able to stop a few times and take photos of parish churches, cemeteries, shrines and monuments.

We stopped once for fuel (one tank took us 643 kilometers), to use the bathroom, and buy coffee and a Pepsi.

We've crossed the Wisła, Oder, Warta, and Obra rivers so far. The bridges which span the highways in Poland are quite different than those in the U.S. These are pretty fancy.

We arrived in Świebodzin at about 2:30 p.m. Our reason for coming was to see the tallest statue of Jesus in the world: even taller than the one in Rio de Janeiro. I could see the statue way off in the distance. We drove around the city taking photographs and then drove to the statue. It is huge and surrounded by golden fields of flax. Stations of the cross encircle the statue. Like the basilica at Licheń, I don't understand why so much money was spent to build this statue. We spent a few minutes here but decided to leave when a couple of tourist buses pulled up.

We bypassed Poznań because we had been there before and we didn’t want to get stuck in the city traffic. We drove past an ostrich farm. We were still counting stork gniazdo but will won't give a total until the end of the report. Our ostrich count for the trip is about eight, however.

We arrived in Zielona Góra at 4:00 p.m. It's about 214 km from Budzyń where we slept the night before. We drove some of the distance on the freeway so I was able to go 140 km per hour (87 mph). That helped make up for the times we stopped to take photographs.

We didn't have much trouble finding the Ruben Hotel in Zielona Góra. The parking lot attendant told us, in Polish, to park there after I told him I had a reservation. The desk clerk gave us each two coupons for beer and wine in their bar. This hotel had an elevator! That's one reason I picked it. The room was pretty nice, though it could have used a little more furniture to take up the space. Two beds, small table, "easy" chair, desk, desk chair, two night stands, TV, phone, the closet and a mini-fridge. No drawers but the closet had shelves. A common set-up in Polish hotels. The bathroom was modern but again needed someplace to put shampoo etc. Plenty of shelf space in the bathroom and a towel warmer (common in Polish hotels). The room supposedly had air conditioning but we left it for about two hours and there was no difference in the room temperature when we returned. This is a problem in hotels that have "central" air conditioning. They don’t.

We unpacked some and I called Emil, my "new" (Bukowsko) cousin to arrange a meeting Sunday at our hotel. Emil lives in Gorzów Wielkopolski which is an hour from Zielona Góra. Dave and I walked to the rynek taking the long way. Somehow Dave misread the city map we picked up at the hotel's front desk. It's not like we didn't need the walk though!

Zielona Góra is the Magpie capital with over 500 pairs of these birds, though I think pigeons are taking over.

The rynek reminds me of Poznań 's rynek. The ratusz sits in the middle and is surrounded by buildings with shops and restaurants. Pedestrian only streets radiate out from the rynek. Almost everything was closed since it was after 2:00 p.m. Only cafes, dessert restaurants and lody shops were open. Works for me! We stopped and had two scoops of ice cream. I had snick-snack (Snickers?) and raspberry. Dave had ron (rum) raisin and coffee. The flavors in the ice creams are so rich. We had to walk more so we could eat dinner!

At one time Zielona Góra was famous for it's grapes and wine production but at some point it ceased. Wine production has started up again and the city capitalizes on that fact. All around the rynek are little bronze statues of Bacchus in different situations; one was reading, one was skating, one was using a computer. There’s a big Bacchus festival each year.

I stopped in a księgarnia looking for a new “Polska Atlas Drogowy”, 1:200 000 scale that shows churches. A man asked if he could help and I tried to explain in Polish, what I wanted. This did not go well but I knew they didn't have what I wanted. A woman seated at the front of the store asked if I spoke French. I said in Polish, "Gymnasium, sto lata" (gymnasium is the Polish term for high school).

People on this side (west) of Poland, especially older people, learned German when they were children due to the proximity with Germany.

We decided to eat in a restaurant on the rynek and found a place that looked promising. As we walked to an outside table I noticed a woman and her daughter eating something that looked really good. I asked the woman, "Co to jest?" She responded, "Kebap." I asked, "Gdzie?" and she pointed back from where we had just walked. I thanked her and we went to the Kebap (Shawarma) place for dinner. I had trouble understanding the choice of sauces though so I pointed. It was pretty smaczny! We took the shorter way back to the hotel and went upstairs for awhile.

After about ten minutes (9:00 p.m.) we went down to the bar for those free drinks. On the way I asked the desk clerk for a light bulb for the lamp and two more pillows. We accomplished all and went to bed at about 10:00 p.m.

April 27, 2014, Sunday


Cloudy but clearing, 57F

We'd been in Poland 10 days now.

Awoke at 7:30 a.m. after a good night's sleep with the window wide open.

Today is the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. In Poland Pope Jan Paul II’s canonization dominates the news and TV stations. Yesterday I was in one church that was preparing for Jana Paweł Drugi's canonization. At the front of the church was a large portrait of the Pope. Along one side were pictures drawn by school children and hung between pillars. Many homes and buildings are flying three flags; the white and red Polish flag, the white and blue Roman Catholic Church in Poland flag and the white and yellow Papal flag.

Went down to breakfast at 9:30 a.m. What a spread! Cereals, fresh and dried fruits, nuts, breads, rolls, croissants, scrambled eggs, deviled eggs, sausage, bacon, grzyby, paprika, seven kinds of cheeses, three kinds of cottage cheese, yogurts, sweet rolls, lox, cold and hot vegetables, cakes, olives, tomatoes and mozzarella, juice, coffees, teas. The mushrooms were cudowne! Hungry?

We ate leisurely since we were so early. Emil and his wife would not be here until about 11:00 a.m. They live in Gorzów Wielkopolski, in the old województwo of the same name north of Zielona Góra. Emil's family is originally from the Bukowsko area. Emil had contacted me after I was already in Poland or I might have made different arrangements and stayed in Gorzów Wielkopolski. Approximately 20 families from Bukowsko moved to Namyślin (west of Gorzów Wielkopolski) in 1946 after the village was burned down by UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army). Consequently some Bukowsko Triangle "family" is in that area.

Dave and I waited for Emil and Małgorzata in the hotel lobby. They arrived shortly after 11:00. We gave the traditional three kisses and introduced ourselves. Emil and Gosia are a little younger than us. How old is that? Let's just say I remember Pope John XXIII.

Emil and his wife gave us a big box of chocolate covered plum candy! It looks so good. We went into the hotel restaurant for coffee and herbata and talked. We talked about our ancestors and current families, people we know on the Bukowsko Triangle list and we drew a map of a street in Bukowsko where Emil's family lived - right next to Jan Perkołup who had died a week before and who we had visited on our 2012 trip to Bukowsko! I was glad to get the map information especially since Emil's ancestral home was not rebuilt after 1946. One of my ancestral homes was also not rebuilt after the fire.

Emil also said that Antoni Chrząszcz, a relative, immigrated to Minersville, Pennsylvania in 1909 and changed his surname to Jones! Why did he decide on that name? Because it sounds very similar to his original surname, Chrząszcz. I expect I will have a lot of fun trying to locate Antoni Jones on!

Emil suggested that we drive to the skansen in Ochla near Zielona Góra. I didn't even know there was a skansen in the area! At 12:45p.m. we left the hotel and drove to the skansen. We were given a guided tour of the ethnograficzne but it was in Polish. Most of it was easy to figure out but Emil and Małgorzata translated a lot of it for us. This was a very nice skansen with lots of buildings from different areas of Poland. I purchased three postcards to send home. I usually do this as soon as we arrive in Poland but I was lax this time. I'm sure my sons were checking their mailboxes daily for my postcard. <grin>

We left the skansen at 3:00 p.m. and drove back to the hotel to leave the car so we could walk to the Palmiarnia. We didn't mind walking - anything to walk off some of the calories. The Palmiarnia, a giant conservatory/restaurant, is surrounded by grapevines. Zielona Góra produces a dry wine. We took the elevator to the top of the Palmiarnia and walked down the steps to the bottom, walking around the different levels to view the tall palm trees, cactus and other large, old trees inside the glass building. On the bottom level were several aquariums. This was a very interesting excursion.

Soon after we arrived back at the hotel Emil and Gosia (pronounced Goh-sha) said they had to go home. Both had to work Monday. Again we kissed and we expressed how much we enjoyed meeting them and spending the day with them. Emil said that he would be our tour guide when we return in 2016 and visit Gorzów Wielkopolski where he lives.

Dave and I went up to our room to rest for awhile, deciding to eat dinner in the hotel restaurant and use up our last two free beer and wine coupons. We went downstairs to the restaurant at 6:30 p.m. The waitresses spoke English. I ordered a Chilean Merlot and Dave had a Tyskie beer. I decided to stop eating so much so I ordered a przystawka; Carpaccio di Manzo: "of sirloin with Parmesan, with capers, artichokes, a pinch of herbs, green salad, sprinkled with olive oil." 80 grams in weight. This is their English translation in the menu. Dave ordered the Fritto Misto appetizer: "roasted calamari, prawns, and anchovy served with a lime sauce" and a leg of lamb.

We were served warm bread before our food arrived. I wrote three postcards while we waited for the rest of our food. After dinner we both had coffee but I also had "Raspberry Malinowe: Raspberry crumbles with Halvah flavored ice cream." The waitress also brought us complimentary glasses of Adwocat. Wow, was that good! Dave wanted to buy a quart and sit outside drinking it. I nixed that! I could see us easily getting drunk on it. Everything was very good though.

A team of some sort was staying at the hotel and they finished eating dinner just after we arrived. The men were all tall and I noticed one black man was speaking American English though the rest of the team seemed to be Polish. I think this was a basketball team.

Back up to the room hoping to get to bed early. Breakfast ended at 10:00 a.m. so we had to get up earlier. I sent an email to the farmer we would visit the next day in Tomaszów Boleslawiecki letting him know where we were and that we'd stop in Boleslawiec before meeting him at about 1:00 p.m. He apparently understood my Polish because he wrote back, "Jest OK."

Dobra noc y'all.

April 28, 2014, Monday

Breakfast ended at 10:00 a.m. so we had to be up at the crack of dawn, 7:00 a.m. <grin>.

Again, a big spread for the breakfast buffet. The music played in the restaurant during breakfast and dinner was "Lionel Richie's Greatest Hits." This is the first restaurant that has artificial sweetener along with "beet/white" sugar, cane sugar and natural sugar. Sugar cane is imported from Cuba and processed in Poland.

I've been told our white tennis shoes are like waving the U.S. flag. White shoes don't stay white very long in Poland so I think most people buy darker colored shoes.

Often we will be handed Polish menus depending on how I greet the host/waitress. I've noticed that most menus are in Polish and English though.

After breakfast we finished packing and checked out of the hotel. It's nice to have the use of an elevator when we have two big heavy suitcases. The Hotel Ruben was built in 2009 and still looked new. We paid our hotel bill, I grabbed a cup of coffee to go and we left town.

Today we had a special stop; Tomaszów Bolesławiecki to see the stork nest on the gospodarz farm. Before I left home a little ptak told me to expect to spend more time there than I originally planned. That ptak did not tell me the real surprise, however.

We took photos of Zatonie, Studzieniec, and Borownia. I went back and forth on whether to stop in Bolesławiec, the city known for its ceramic pottery. I have enough pieces at home and it's so heavy. I couldn't resist. We stopped at the first factory store. Bolesławiec is on the way to Tomaszów Bolesławiecki anyway!

WOW! So many different colors, patterns, and styles of, everything! People were in the store buying dishes by the boxes. I am sure they were going to re-sell them. We picked up a few individual items, cup and saucer for Dave, two little ceramic spoons, eggs, little bowls for me and as gifts. We had to wait so long in line that I went outside and called Mieczysław, the owner of the farm. He doesn't speak English and as you know, I don't really speak Polish but I knew enough to tell him that we would not arrive until 1:30 p.m. He said that was O.K.

Back to the store to wait our turn. There were quite a few people buying all kinds of ceramics. If I didn't have to cart that heavy stuff home I might have bought more.

Bolesławiec has pottery decorations throughout the town instead of statues. Really cute. There are either several different manufacturers using similar designs or there is one manufacturer with many factory stores. I think it's the former. We wanted to check out some other stores but time was not on our side.

We arrived at Klekusiowo right at 1:30 p..m. It was easy to find because Mieczysław (pronounced mee-ITCH-is-wahv) has little billboards on the road. We turned into his driveway and drove to the end. I parked next to the fence that enclosed two horses and the stork nests. Both storks were home! I had checked earlier and read that there were two eggs now.

Mieczysław and a younger man walked towards us from the barn. The younger man was Kuba, 21, who spoke English. Mieczysław is probably in his 50s. I introduced myself and "Moj mąz, Dawid." (DAH veed) I told Mieczysław how happy I was to be there and I thanked him for allowing us to visit. We talked about the storks and the farm/business, while we walked around the property. Did you see me waving to all of you on the webcam? While we were outside I noticed that Mom and Dad bociany were making more babies.

Mieczysław took us to the barn where he kept several parakeets, his horses and a cat. His two dogs sat inside the fence to Mieczysław's home. The barn is beautiful! Almost nice enough for a human to live in. We then went into a room on the other side of the barn which is command central. This is where Mieczysław controls the cameras and an employee does work on a computer with the aid of the cat. I am not sure what business Miecyzsław is in but I think he rents equipment. He has several employees. While we were in the office Mieczysław showed us his internet film of 200 storks flying over his house last year on their way to Africa. Unbelievable! It is on the web site under "AKTUALNOSCI" somewhere.

I told Mieczysław that he was certainly kind to all of his animals. He said sometimes it was easier to be kind to animals than humans. His "farm" is really something. He has a little pond with fish which attracts bugs, frogs and other tasty items for the storks. Apparently many people come to visit. Kuba told us that last year there was even a bociany festival there.

Oh, the female stork has a band on her leg and she's the one who sits on the eggs most of the time.

I gave Mieczysław a t-shirt and Budweiser cap. In turn he gave me an 18 inch stuffed stork and a beautiful book about storks which he autographed. I was so taken aback! I never expected anything more than a short tour of the stork palace. We took lots of pictures and I promised to send him some once I returned home.

Mieczysław's wife owns "Pizzeria Pomodoro" (Tomato) just down the street. In fact, we noticed it when we drove in because it has a big tomato on the roof. This is where Kuba works. Mieczysław invited us to eat there. Great! We walked back to our car and Mieczysław noticed that our rear right tire was flat. Gówno! He called one of his employees from the "barn" and while he walked to where we were, Dave and I unloaded the back end of the car and got out the spare "donut." Kuba had to return to work at the restaurant. Mieczyław’s employee returned but he could not get the wheel off the car! How embarrassing!

We loaded the car back up and the employee filled the tire with air and we drove to the closest tire repair place. No one here spoke English. The tire repair owner was able to get the wheel off after using WD-40 and a sledgehammer. An inch long, 1/4 inch wide piece of metal had pierced the tire so the tire could not be fixed. I called the car rental company and had the repairman talk to the agent. The agent wanted the tire repaired. Neither the repairman nor I was interested in this because we both thought the repair would not hold. The spare tire could only go 80 km per hour and that was just too slow. The repairman told the agent he would put on a used tire. I then called Mirosław who actually rented us the car and told him the problem. The company wanted us to bring the tire back with us (What, and leave a suitcase here?) and I didn't think we could do that but it was placed in a plastic bag and we put it in the back seat of the car. I asked Mirosław if we would be reimbursed for the tire and he said he'd have to talk to his boss and we would discuss it when we returned to Warsaw. That would be interesting. Dave thought they would want us to pay for the original tire. Really? Mirosław and I would discuss the fact that they left snow tires on the car and that the wheel was rusted onto the car, plus we bought a tire. We planned to call it even if they got nasty with us.

I was thankful that the flat tire and stuck wheel happened while we were at the gospodarz' and not on the road.

So, the tire was finally on the car and we drove to the "Pizzeria Pomodoro." Mieczysław and his wife, Anna, greeted us. Kuba was behind the counter making pizzas. We were told we could order anything we wanted. I knew that meant we were not to pay for our food. Hmmm. I had not counted on this especially after all the help we'd received with the flat tire. How to get around this?

Kuba had been trained by a pizzeria in Sanok on how to make and spin the dough. He practiced with a circle of rubber dough. He spun it over his head, behind his back, under his legs. It was fun to watch. The pizza recipe they use is from Italy and Anna is justifiably proud of her restaurant. Apparently they teach kids how to make pizza during parties. Cute idea.

We ordered a 32cm pizza with chicken and it was very good! Anna and I talked a bit with the help of Kuba. I told her where Dave and I were born, how often we visit Poland, where I had relatives and friends in Poland. Anna invited us to stay with them in two years when we return. Really nice people!

Mieczysław and Anna left before we were finished but not before I asked if we could make a donation to the care of the storks. "NIE!" Hmmm. OK, "What about paying for the employee's time to work on our car? "Nie!" Hmmm.

We talked to Kuba about his life and he asked us some questions. He is a very nice young man who speaks English very well. When we were ready to leave I asked Kuba for the bill but he said he was instructed not to give us one. He did show us a little stork bank which is where we put a donation in thanks for everything. Kuba asked if I was on Facebook. Instead I gave him my card and asked him to give one to Mieczysław. We said do zobaczenia and drove around Tomaszów Bolesławiecki taking pictures of two churches, the cemetery and of course, the "Pizzeria Pomodor" and the delivery car. We actually left town at 4:00 p.m. We were there a lot longer than I had planned.

We fully intended to drive straight to Wrocław but after a false start turned around and went back to Bolesławiec to look at more ceramics. We went into two stores and bought a few things in each. So much for just looking. On top of one building was an old car painted with the original Boleslawiec pattern of "Mosquito" aka "eyeballs."


© Debbie's Polish Pictures

OK, now we were really finished shopping. We took the highway all the way to Wrocław. I drove between 120-140kph so it took us one hour and 20 minutes to go 120 km. We stopped once along the way to buy coffee and use the bathroom, arriving in Wrocław at 7:10 pm. It had been 14 years since we'd been here. We didn't have any trouble locating the Mercure Hotel as I had printed out the hotel's map from its web site. It is attached to the Mall and the parking for the hotel which cost 30 złoty per night, is in the mall's garage in a separate section.

We checked into the hotel, unpacked and walked next door to the mall to grab something quick to eat. The mall was open until 9:00 p.m. Dave had Kebap again. I had a "quritto" from Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was sort of like a quesadilla. While we ate we were approached by a woman with a baby. I assume she asked us for money. We ignored her as did others in the restaurant. This was probably the third person who'd approached us for money since we'd been in Poland.

I couldn't pass up a gałka of currant (the fruit) ice cream. It was delicious! We also checked two bookstores in the mall for a Polska atlas. No luck but they were both small stores. Stopped at the kantor in the mall and exchanged more money. We are getting about 2.97 złoty per $1.00. Gone are the days of 4 złoty per $1.00!

We walked back to our hotel and went to our room. The room was pretty nice but certainly not worth the $132.00 we were paying for the second night (first night was $100).

April 29, 2014, Tuesday


Clear, blue sky, 72F

Sto Lat, Joszue! Real nice that we're in Poland for our son's 25th birthday, right? It's not my fault. It's Dave's. LOL

Our room is a bit small and it's supposed to have air conditioning but I think during summer it would not cool enough. The room has a safe, fridge, WiFi, coffee maker and a nice functional bathroom except that my mirror placement was an issue here. I bring a mirror along that hangs on a rectangle of Masonite which has several holes in it. I put a Command removable hanger on the wall. My mirror contraption hangs on the Command hook and can be hung lower or higher using the holes in the Masonite. The mirror is tied to the Masonite using long twist ties. I use this mirror set-up to see the sides and back of my hair when I travel. I bring lots of Command stickies and a couple of extra hooks just in case. Glad you asked?

Most hotels only give you two bath towels, two hand towels and a bath mat. The laundries don't use fabric softener. The towels at this hotel are a little thin too. There is one pillow on each bed but an extra one in the closet.

Most hotels now use coffee machines in their restaurants for breakfast. The machines grind coffee beans and make various kinds of coffee, but make it on order one cup at a time. If there’s a large crowd this can really slow things down.

Breakfast ended at 10:00 a.m. during the week so we were up at 8:00 today. Breakfast buffet consisted of: eggs to order, including Eggs Benedict, hams, cheeses, pate, sausages, fish pate, herring in oil , deviled eggs, hard boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon, naleśniki, fresh fruits, dried fruits for the cereals, yogurts, beans in tomato sauce, slice your own bread (common), rolls, two kinds of marinated grzyby, two kinds of cottage cheese, ogórki, mixed salad (no lettuce), sweet rolls, jams, Nutella, peanut butter, four juices including black currant, rice cakes, butter, tea, coffee.

All of our hotels had bars, in case you were wondering. We only stayed in one hotel that did not have a bar and it is a pensjonat in Kraków. The Mercure Hotel in Wrocław has a container to discard used batteries! It's placed just outside the elevators. I've never seen this anywhere! Our hotel is across from Św. Katarzyna Church.

After breakfast we walked to the Panorama Racławicka. It is about 2 blocks from our hotel. The panorama depicts the war between the Poles and Russia which was led by Tadeusz Kościuszko. It was painted between 1893-1894 by several painters. It is pretty impressive and is housed in its own building. There were many people visiting the Panorama including groups of school children. It cost us 18 złoty each which is the senior citizen rate.

Afterwards we walked in the opposite direction of our hotel to the Stary Rynek. Along the way I stopped in a poczta to send the postcards I'd written the day before. I had stamps already but I asked (in Polish) how much it cost to send a postcard to the USA. I had enough stamps but they were so big I couldn't fit all of them on the postcards so I had to buy more stamps. It cost 5.20 złoty per postcard. I decided to give the stamps I brought to a priest friend in Bukowsko.

The rynek is really big with a ratusz (city hall) in the center. Apparently there was a concert that evening because a huge stage was being set-up. I asked several people if they knew who was going to appear but no one knew. Wrocław has little bronze dwarfs around town just like Zielona Góra had little Bacchus. I had fun looking for them and photographing them. Dave named them Św. Gnomiusz. Get it?

While walking around the rynek we were approached by the same beggar woman who approached us in the mall the night before! She was still carrying an infant. Other than that we enjoyed walking around the whole rynek. Most of the buildings are restaurants, very few shops and perhaps three little souvenir stores. At about 2:00 P.M. we stopped for cappuccino and lody. That was lunch and it was great! I chose porzecka, my favorite. We sat outside under a canopy and watched people walk by. There were a lot of people on the rynek and I think it was because the weather was so nice. Most seemed to be locals but I did hear a few Germans. We saw a Cinnabon store (!), Pizza Hut, and a Marilyn Monroe star on the sidewalk just like in Hollywood. This had no context.

On one side of the rynek is a very interesting water fountain display with large green glass panels. If you go to my web site and scroll down to Wroclaw you'll see photos of the rynek I took a long time ago. (We were there in 1998 or 2002.)

After lunch we walked to the "Stare Jatki" (Old Shambles). These were life-sized bronze statues of pigs, a goat, duck, rooster, goose and rabbit. These are a reminder that on this little street which now houses small stores, was originally butcher shops. I stopped in one and bought Josh a t-shirt, "Wroclaw, the Meeting Place."

We visited two churches and bought a "Polska Atlas Drogowy" in a bookstore that specialized in maps. The one we bought shows where churches are. This will make things much easier when I am flying through villages. Now we will know if a village has a church before we go through it and then have to turn around.

We walked back to the hotel to get the car so we could drive to Hala Stulecia (Centennial Hall), an exhibition/convention center built 1911-1913. The outside of the building is what is extraordinary as an architectural achievement. Unless you check out the Wikipedia article, you will have to wait a few months until my photos are uploaded to my web site. We drove around forever trying to get to the parking area for Hala Stulecia. The problem: there is major street reconstruction going on in the area. The one way streets and bridges don't help but Dave loves bridges. I think he had me crossing them just so he could see them twice! Near Hala Stulecia is the "Four Domes Pavillion." I don't know what goes on in there because the whole building was under renovation. On the same grounds is a huge, beautiful basin with dancing fountains surrounded by lawns and a pergola. Dave, who loves architecture — and especially early 20th Century modernist architecture — was in Heaven. There is also a Japanese garden on the property which is just beautiful too. It cost us two złoty each to enter the Japanese Garden. This was the senior citizen rate. We walked through the whole garden and then headed back to the car.

We drove back to the hotel and arrived at 5:00 p.m. We were tired because we'd walked quite a bit today. We had a drink in the bar, something we usually don't do in hotels. The young female bartender knew her liquor and she knew the right words, "On the rocks?" "Double?" Unless you ask for ice in your drink, you won’t be given it. We enjoyed the leisurely drink and talked about what to do with the rest of the evening. We decided to walk to the mall for dinner (yes, again) because we didn't want to eat in the hotel and there weren't any restaurants close to the hotel. Driving and parking in a big city like Wrocław, Warsaw, Kraków can be a pain. There are too many cars now and not enough parking lots!

So, anyway, we walked around the mall a bit just to see what stores were there. We ended up eating at Kentucky Fried Chicken. We also had a choice of McDonald's, Pizza Hut, North Fish, Kebaps, Sushi & Grill, or Chinese. Most of them just served too much food. We went back to the room and called our son for his birthday. I then checked emails and we relaxed. Wednesday we would leave for Kraków, 270 km on high speed highways and toll ways.

April 30, 2014, Wednesday

In Wroclaw the day started out overcast but the high was to be 73F. In Kraków, the high should be 70F

Awake at 7:30 a.m. We got ready and went down to breakfast. There were quite a few other guests having breakfast.

The previous night I went through all of my photos, deleted "bad" ones so I wouldn’t have so many to go through once I returned home.

After breakfast, we checked-out of the hotel (30 złoty a day for parking!) and left town at 10:45 a.m. for Kraków. For some reason we've almost always taken the toll road between Kraków and where ever we were going that was west of Kraków rather than take regular roads. It certainly is faster but we by-pass a lot of villages. I suppose some day I will re-route us when we make this drive, but not today! When we left Wrocław we had already driven over 1,000 km.

Note to self: New Hilton Hotel attached to a mall with parking being built in downtown Wrocław.

One of the things you really need to watch out for if you drive, especially in the big cities, is that pedestrians REALLY have the right of way and may step out when you least expect it. When approaching a bicyclist, a car should move way over to the left (even into the other lane) to give the bicyclist plenty of room. Headlights must be on 24 hours a day in Poland. The car we had didn't have automatic on/off for the lights so I had a note over the speedometer that read, "LIGHTS!" so I didn't forget - again.

We stopped for gas at 1:00 p.m. outside of the west side of Katowice. My lunch consisted of two pieces of bread (from breakfast) and an ice cream bar. The station where we stopped was selling pierogi in a cup. LOL I considered buying this but decided that this was STILL gas station food.

We took photos in Żerniki Wrocławskie, Turów, and the bridge into Katowice.

We arrived in the city of Katowice at 1:45 p.m. We tried to get to the rynek and to see a sky scraper built in 1934 but at least 10 streets downtown were under renovation and we couldn't get anywhere! Streets that used to be one-way were now two way going nowhere. We left the city at 2:15 p.m. and decided Katowice was a waste o' time. We will have to see it another time.

Driving on the toll roads is fun. I consistently drove between 140-160 kph (87-99 mph) and cars still passed me! We paid 29 złoty to use the toll road between Katowice and Kraków. We did have one issue with this particular toll road. It took us about 15 minutes to get through the toll booth! I don’t know what the problem was but there were a lot of cars.

We arrived in Kraków at approximately 3:50 p.m. We stayed at U Pana Cogito, a pensjonat we like, and have stayed in several times. It's across the river from Wawel Castle so it isn't as expensive and it has air conditioning that works! This pensjonat has two buildings with rooms. We've stayed in both but our room this time had its own private entrance around the side of the main building. We unlocked the outside door, went up the stairs and unlocked the door to our room. The rooms are not fancy but they are functional. Did I mention that they have real air conditioning? The air conditioner is on the wall and has greater output than the central air conditioners used in the five star hotels.

U Pana Cogito also has free WiFi, free breakfast and free locked parking. The room had two beds, desk, 2 chairs, 2 night stands, 2 little tables, TV, phone, fridge with cheap snacks (!), and the typical closet with shelves. The bathroom had a tub with a hand-held shower and a shower curtain. We are not big fans of this set-up (though we strongly prefer it over the other version which is the same but does not have a shower curtain!)  but for one night we would deal with it. The bathroom was a good size with plenty of shelf space, hair dryer and a bidet. The windows, like most in Poland are hung so they can open from the side or the top. The curtains in this room were too thin to keep out any light. (All hotels so far have had hair dryers, shampoo and soap. Most had Kleenex. Some had shoe shine kits, clothes brush, shower cap, slippers, and/or robes.)

We unpacked as little as necessary for the one night stay and drove to the Kazimierz district (old Jewish district) to meet a friend of ours at 6:15 p.m. Monika is an English professor at Jagiellonian University. We first met her in 1996 when the priest in Pieranie (an ancestral village) called on her to translate for us during our visit with him. We have stayed in touch all these years and always visit Monika when we are in Poland.

We were early and had no trouble finding a parking spot near the restaurant, Zalewaika. We bought a ticket at the Park-O-Mat and placed it on the car dashboard. The instructions on the Park-O-Mat are in English. We walked around a little to see how things had changed in Kazimierz in the last 10 years. Lots of restaurants and "foreign" tourists. Dave and I had a drink outside the restaurant while we waited for Monika. Poland has a zero tolerance law about drinking and driving but I figured a glass of wine 2 hours before driving again would be OK.

Monika was right on time. We ate inside the restaurant as it was getting chilly. Monika ordered gołąbki, Dave ordered golanka and I ordered pierogi with mushroom and kapusta. After dinner we drove to Monika's new condo. It was up four flights of stairs. Gotta love that exercise! Monika's new flat had two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, bathroom, and toilet room. Her old flat was an efficiency so she really gained a lot of space. The condo had lots of storage space and was really nice. Monika is not quite finished decorating and furnishing it yet but I am sure when her Mom visits (from Inowrocław) that will change. I took photos of Monika’s new place.

We had tea and conversation at Monika's until about 10:00 p.m. We drove back to our hotel with no problem. We've been to Kraków so often that we pretty much know our way around.

Around the corner from the hotel is an all-year carnival and a balloon with an observation deck. I've never seen anything like this. The balloon was completely round and would rise up a few hundred feet so the people inside the "basket" could view the area.

Back at the hotel we had to ring the bell to gain entrance to the parking as it was after 9:00 p.m. I was pretty tired so I got ready for bed immediately.