POLAND, JULY 2010
PART THREE: July 10 - July 15
JULY 10, Saturday
Awoke at 7:45 a.m.! It felt good to sleep in. I like to watch the Polish news on TV in the morning so I can sort of know what's going on and to see the weather forecast. TV at the Jagielloński Hotel was HD and had some US channels (HBO) in English and some US channels (Cinemax) in Polish. There were also British channels. We went down to breakfast at 10:00 a.m. As usual the breakfast was buffet style but the kitchen was again taking requests for scrambled or fried eggs. I was hesitant but I ordered the fried eggs and they were well-cooked. On previous trips we found the scrambled eggs to be way undercooked but it looks like a chef has gone around Poland and shown the cooks how to cook eggs.
After breakfast I asked the desk clerk to call the museum at Zyndranowa to find out if it was open. It was, so we decided to go. We had wanted to go to this museum during our previous two trips but hadn't the time. We drove to the post office down the street first. Dave dropped me off. I'd been in Polish post offices many times before so I knew this was also the place to pay bills, buy postcards, candy, perfume, and other non-postal items. There were about 9 windows but only two were open so I got in line. A woman with a baby stepped in front of me but I remembered that Karol (getting married soon) told me women with babies could go to the front of the line. He also told me that young girls would borrow babies just to get to the front of the line.
I gave the package for Micheline to the postal clerk. She asked if I wanted it to go by ground or air. I didn't exactly understand her. My interpretation of what she said was an assumption so I said samolot (airplane). She told me the cost and I gave her the stamps I had plus a little money to pay the difference on the postage. I stepped outside and looked for Dave. A man in a car parked on the side walk behind me (yes, it's legal), said in Polish that my husband had turned left on the next street. I was able to understand almost all of what he said. Really! In a minute Dave drove up and we were off to a place we'd been trying to get to for a long time.
It took us one hour to drive to Zyndranowa. This time information is important so remember it for a couple of paragraphs.
Zyndranowa has a small Łemko museum/skansen. http://www.zyndranowa.org/
It was started several years ago by one man. There are several buildings filled with Łemko items including WWII memorabilia. There is a cerkiew down the road and a Jewish museum (closed this day) behind the cerkiew. There were about six Jewish headstones in the yard of the Jewish museum. I said the Jewish museum was closed. Actually if I’d translated the sign I would have realized that I could have walked a short ways down the road to find a man with a key to the museum.
At the skansen there was an older woman unlocking and locking the doors to each building for the visitors. I asked her how much it cost to go through the skansen and she said it was 10 złoty for the two of us. She asked, in Polish, if I was Łemko. I told her no, I was Polish but I had friends who were Łemko. (How stupid does that sound?) I bought a few postcards. She had quite a few books and brochures but they were very expensive. We were in Zyndranowa for about an hour.
It took us four hours to get back to Sanok due to photo stops along the way. This is how we usually travel through Poland. When people ask me how long it takes to drive from one Polish city to another I can't say because we travel differently than most people. We take back roads and stop a lot to take photographs.
We took photos in Wisłok Wielka. This small village is spread out down gravel roads. We took photographs of Czystogarb which seems to sit only on one side of the main road. The cerkiew in Komańcza which burned down two years ago is still being rebuilt. Men were building curbs that went from the top of the hill where the cerkiew sits, all the way to the bottom. Dave thinks these curbs, which were made out of bricks, were put in place to guide rain water as it cascades down the steep hill to the main road. We were able to look inside the other cerkiew in Komańcza but through glass doors. There was a sign indicating no photographs should be taken. We really think these signs refer to flash cameras so we took a photo not using a flash. The inside of this church is absolutely beautiful. If churches aren't going to allow photographs then they need to sell postcards or something. While we were there a group of about 8 people showed up to look at the cerkiew. They came in two cars and spoke Ukrainian.
We took some photos in Daliowa, Turzańsk and Kulaszne. The road to Turzańsk was terrible but the road really has to be impassable before I turn around. We drove up the single lane road to the wooden cerkiew in Turzańsk. There were several hikers there taking photos and looking around. We decided to go a little further into the village but were stopped by a man in a car driving in the opposite direction. He said something and I gave my usual, "Nie mowie dobrze po polsku." He said, "Church?" in English. I responded, "Cerkiew?" and he said “Tak!” I assumed he wanted to open the church for us and I was right. We turned around and went back up to the cerkiew. Did I mention the road was actually wet grass and steep? When we were finished we had to turn around in the church courtyard but we followed the lead of the man who unlocked the church doors. The inside was quite old, built in 1803. Again, no photos were allowed! We dropped a few groszę in a basket, thanked the man and left. Here is the only place in Poland that we saw a horse drawn cart carrying hay. Clearly, these vehicles are a thing of the past. We’ve seen fewer and fewer horse carts each time we visit Poland.
In Turzańsk, Wisłok Wielka and Komańcza there were big flies that bit. They seemed to swarm the car and every time we opened a door or window a half dozen would fly into the car. I never thought to bring our bug spray!
The Kulaszne church was built in 1912 as a Greek Catholic cerkiew. It burned down in 1974 and a Roman Catholic church was built over the foundation. In 2004, the building reverted back to Greek Catholic, so it is now, once again, a cerkiew.
After our stop in Kulaszne we stopped and took photographs in Wysoczany and Mokre. On our way back to Sanok we drove alongside the Osława River and several times came across washed-out bridges and roads.
Approximately 120 children from a flooded village somewhere else in Poland, had come to Bukowsko while their parents repaired their flooded-out homes. Of course this wasn't a usual summer vacation for the children as they had to be housed in a foreign school. School equipment was moved out and mattresses moved-in for the kids. I was rather surprised at the generosity of a gmina that is purportedly the fifth poorest in the country. As we'd drive by the school we could see clothes hanging on the soccer goals drying or a young many playing knights with the younger boys. Everyone was trying to make the best of the situation; at least the children were with other children they knew. Keep in mind Bukowsko does not have any sort of theater, cinema, swimming pool or the like.
A bit of historical information. I had heard that 3 buildings survived the village's burning in April 1946 just prior to Akcja Wisła. I knew one building was the church. During this trip I found out which other two buildings survived. What are the odds that my family would be connected to both? 100% since I'm related to everyone in this village! Oczywyście! One house was #48. It still stands as it is almost 100 years old and some government entity will not allow homes/buildings more than 100 years old to be torn down. I think, however, they can be allowed to fall down. In front of house #48 is a much newer house, also #48, which is where my cousin Dorota Kseniak lives with her husband, Roman Radozycki, their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter.
The other house which survived, and this will be big news for the Jewish community, was house #22, which I mentioned earlier . If you're keeping track, my cousin, Helena Hnat Nowaczek and her husband moved into house #22 when they moved out of his family home in Wolica.
I think we had previously mentioned to Robert that I wanted him to meet us at ks. Kudła's place today so I could thank him, say goodbye and give him my personal donation. This happened between a wedding reception and 6:00 p.m. mass. ks. Kudła came home wearing his priest cassock; not something he always wears. He brought two little souvenirs from the wedding but I didn't get to see exactly what they were as they were in boxes. One might have been a piece of cake. I have no idea who got married and I didn't know ahead of time that there was to be a wedding. As an "Honorary Ambassador" you'd think someone would have thought I'd be interested - not to be invited mind you, just as an FMI (for my information). Robert translated my thanks and appreciation to the priest as well as ks. Kudła's thanks to me. Kind of a mutual admiration society thing going on here. We had to take a new photograph of us together (not that Kudła looks any older; he is a pretty good looking guy) and he asked if it should again be under the crucifix. I laughed and said no, it should be under the picture of Jana Pawel II. Robert kindly took a couple of photos of ks. Kudła, Dave and myself. I said “do zobaczenie” to the priest's housekeeper and we left.
Robert was off to watch a soccer game with some friends. Dave and I decided to eat dinner at Soprano's pizzeria. We had eaten there during our previous trips and knew the restaurant had good pizza. It was still warm out so we decided to sit outside in the back of the restaurant. As has become commonplace in Polish restaurants now, there was a small play area for little children. This amounted to a small climb-on fort and a trampoline. These did not interest all of the kids however. Some children (and their parents) thought it was OK for the kids to pick up decorative tree limbs and drag them around the outside eating area. Others thought it was OK to throw rocks at each other.
After dinner we drove by the Hotel Bona which sits on the San River across from the skansen. I was saddened to see the familiar huge beer umbrellas sitting on the large front porch blocking the view from the hotel. This is where we will stay the next time we visit though. This hotel has an elevator and is only a few years old.
Once again we were able to get to bed at a decent hour after a not so action-packed day. As we had to do every night previously, we left the windows open all night with both of our table fans running.
JULY 11, Sunday
We were up at 7:30 a.m. even though we had no particular plans. We packed a little since we had to leave Sanok (and Bukowsko) the next day, Monday. We went down to breakfast at 10:15 a.m.
After breakfast we drove to the Chinski Market (if you can’t figure it out, this is a Chinese store) which sold items, not food, from China. The U.S. has had Chinese imports for years and the items in this store were of the same poor quality first seen when the U.S. started to import things from China in a big way. I was looking for sunglasses for Paulina Koczera. Didn't find any.
I was still trying to locate dried mushrooms to take home so we stopped at Biedronka and Alta grocery stores with no luck! What's up with that?
I decided we needed to get back to work photographing area villages so we drove to Mymon and easily found its new cemetery. The graves were neatly lined up in a row along one fence. There were about 30 graves. Driving in this area meant dodging the hundreds of cars parked along a long, narrow road. People were heading for a river to sunbathe, picnic, have fun and just get cooler. Obviously people from the area knew about the best spots because from the road there was no indication of a good place to hang-out down by the river.
We drove to Pielnia and decided to photograph at least some of the headstones. It was getting pretty hot out and there wasn't any shade in this cemetery. The cemetery is laid out on a terraced hill. It was very obvious that the graves had been "recently" turned over. I questioned whether we should even bother photographing the cemetery since most of the graves were new, but we did. We photographed the right side (as your facing the cemetery) of the cemetery which includes the oldest graves. Most of the oldest ones were illegible however. If anyone has the opportunity to photograph the rest of the headstones at Pielnia, the left side needs to be done as well as the center ones which include a priest's grave and those directly behind his. There are only a few in the center. We didn't finish because it was just too hot and we thought we'd be meeting the Koczeras for dinner.
We drove through some woods to Mroczkowki and came out the other end. This drive was a mile long over 18 in. x 8 ft. concrete slabs, driving in first gear. To say this was a bumpy ride is an understatement. It reminded me of the road between Katowice and Opole. That road was built by the Nazis to hold their tanks.
We drove back to Bukowsko to photograph the dozen houses being built in a new "subdivision" on the road between Bukowsko and Nagorzany. It's not really a subdivision but there is a plan in the lay-out of how the houses are situated. Of course there is not a paved road to these houses yet and some are already inhabited. Seeing these houses in various stages of development brought to mind several questions about how houses are built in Poland as opposed to how they are built in the U.S. for example.
We then drove through Prusiek and Niebiesczany to Poraż, Zagórz and back to Sanok. We met Robert, Anna (pronounced Anana) and Paulina Koczera at our hotel. We were presented with gifts. I told Robert when I gave him gifts that I hoped he would not go shopping. I knew I might have been too vague when I said that but I really don't want people to think they have to give me gifts in return. If I thought Robert would accept money from me that's what I would give him but that puts a price on our friendship I suppose and I don't want to do that nor jeopardize our friendship.
How Anna knew that I had been collecting a specific "old" pattern of porcelana (porcelain) made in Chodzież, I'll never know. Chodzież is located in northwestern Poland and is known for its pocrelain. The Koczeras gave me two tea cups with saucers, a tea pot which sits on a porcelain base in which I can put a tea light to keep the tea hot. I am quite familiar with Chodzież and its porcelain. My grandmother's china is from Chodzież (circa 1975). Here's the incredible part. The pattern chosen by Anna Koczera is the exact same pattern I have at home! The pattern is of old red roses and was started for me by Waleria Chojnacka and her sister, Florentyna Tomalska. The great aunt and grandmother of Karol Tomalski (from Solec Kujawski) who was getting married on 17 July! I could not believe that Anna in Sanok had picked porcelain in a pattern I already owned. I was quite moved. The Koczeras also gave me a green necklace and bracelet made from crocheted balls. Quite unique and popular. Green happens to be my favorite color.
Dave received a beer mug and a fountain pen. Dave collects fountain pens. They seem to take up less room than the ancestors I collect. Robert and Anna also gave my sons pens and they’d never even met our older son, Aron.
We decided to go to the skansen to see the construction of the rynek. We drove to the Koczera's apartment building and dropped off their car. The bridge to the skansen is one lane only so cars must take turns driving in opposite directions. The word is that the bridge is going to be improved. I suppose that means it will be widened.
The skansen is constructing a life-size replica of an 1800s (if I remember correctly) rynek on the skansen property. I think this will be pretty spectacular when it's finished. If you visit Sanok or the area after 2011 you have to set aside a day for this skansen. The skansen has buildings and homes which are from one to two centuries old with Polish, Łemko, Bojko and Hutsul "villages". There are English tour guides available but it is best to make reservations for them.
We didn't really go inside the skansen as it was closing time. Instead some of us had beer and some had coffee. We spent the time visiting. Patryk joined us at the skansen. He walked from the Koczera apartment. Patryk is 13 now but I'm not sure many parents in the U.S. would not let their young teenager walk this far alone. This is a testament to how safe things still are in Poland. People are on the streets day and evening and I think this helps breed the secure feeling I have when we're walking around.
At the skansen we ran into Robert's brother, sister-in-law and their daughter as well as friends of the Koczeras. It was kind of cool to meet more of Robert’s family.
We decided to have dinner at a restaurant near the skansen on that side of the San River. Paulina spent her time waiting for dinner playing on the little playground provided by the restaurant. Dinner, as usual was great! Can you get a bad meal in Poland?
After dinner we walked back to the skansen and had more coffee and beer. Just an excuse to visit some more. Anna understands English but doesn't speak it much. She's a very sweet woman. As most women in Poland, she works outside of the home. We were lucky this particular week because she was off work. As the sun set we decided it was time for the Koczeras to go home and us to go back to the hotel. We dropped them off in front of their apartment building and said our goodbyes with Polish kisses. I really enjoy seeing the Koczeras every visit and appreciate Robert's translation help so much. I also appreciate Anna allowing Robert to spend time with us. I’m always sad when we have to leave them.
Dave and I returned to the hotel and went to bed hoping to get an early start in the morning since we had to drive to Kraków. Granted Kraków is only a few hours from Sanok, but you know how we drive!
JULY 12, Monday
Sunny (do I sound like a broken record?) and dry; 29C in Rzeszów according to the TV weather. When the temperature is in the high twenties I know it’s going to be hot.
We were up at 7:00 a.m. We packed and had our last breakfast at the hotel. Robert called and told us to avoid a specific route going to Kraków due to road closures. He heard this on his CB radio. Mention of his CB radio reminded us that these have been popular since at least 2008 in Poland.
We had our laundry done through the hotel and there was no charge for this. I'm not sure if this is experienced by everyone or if it was because we stay there every trip. It’s kind of nice being recognized by the employees.
I'm pretty sure the Jagielloński Hotel installed a clothes dryer as I saw what appeared to be a dryer vent hose hanging out the basement window.
We left Sanok at 10:20 a.m. and drove to Krosno with a plan to then drive north to Rzeszów then west to Kraków. Driving back through Rymanów we saw that the Cyrk Zalewski (circus) was setting up right across from the Jaś Wędrowniczek Zajazd! Dave was tempted to stop and ask if he could have one of their colorful posters but realized it wouldn't get home in mint condition.
We have never stopped in Krosno to shop in the glass stores/factories until now. Our route just happened to take us right past a glass factory. How could we not stop? We spent about 45 minutes looking for something small, lightweight and inexpensive for Dave's secretary. We found a very pretty vase. The prices were good and there were several beautiful pieces I wouldn't have minded having if I lived in Poland and didn't have to pack them in a suitcase. One glass vase I picked up had a sticker on it for Target stores in the U.S. We didn't buy that one!
We had agreed not to stop on the way to Kraków so we ended up stopping three times: Krosno glass and photos of two villages. I can’t help it!
The road between Tarnów and Kraków was four lane. We were more interested in making good time on these longer hauls rather than taking photographs of villages. Considering the washed-out road conditions we probably would have never made it to our destination at a decent hour if we’d stopped more often than we did. One of the great things about driving on Poland's "highways" is the opportunity to drive 130-140kph. Make sure to convert that to miles per hour (for a thrill). This highway was not completely “access controlled.” Those sorts of roads are few and short in Poland.
We arrived in Kraków around 3:00 p.m. and the temperature was 34C/93F. I am so glad we rent cars with air conditioning.
We drove directly to a pensjonat in which we had stayed twice before, U Pana Cogito. It is across the Wisła River from Wawel Castle so it is cheaper than hotels closer to the action. http://www.pcogito.pl/eng/index.htm
As in most of the places we stay, there is no elevator. There is a main building which has a few guest rooms and another building across a small courtyard. All of this is behind a metal fence with a gate. The gardens are nicely kept and colorful. Our room. #11, was in the other building on the "first floor." Of course this meant we had to walk up two flights of stairs. To our pleasant surprise, U Pana Cogito had added air conditioning to their rooms! Basically they are room air conditioners but do a really good job in small spaces. We needed to have a little more laundry done if we were to have clean clothes for the rest of the trip. I knew that once we left Kraków we wouldn't have time to get the laundry done again so Dave asked the clerk about this and he said it was impossible to have our laundry returned by the next evening. Not sure why that was because I was pretty sure the sun would have dried everything in a few hours on the line. It was a good thing I brought some liquid clothes detergent as I ended up washing our things in the sink - without a stopper. I brought a plastic link chain with clips attached just in case I had to wash out a few things myself. The clothes could be clipped to this chain and then strung-out across a short expanse. Surprise! Our clothes were dry by the next morning.
Before going to dinner we called our friend Monika Mazurek who is an English professor at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and agreed to meet for dinner the next afternoon.
We drove to the rynek just to check out the souvenir capital of Poland, the Sukiennice (Cloth Hall) and to have dinner. Parking is becoming more of a problem in Kraków. The place we used to park has been turned into a pedestrian space with a beautiful fountain surrounded by very modern sculptures. Granted this was a more creative use of the space but Kraków's automobile population has increased so much that the city needs to address the parking shortage. We parked a few blocks from the rynek and walked back to the old square. The parking lot held maybe 20 cars and cost 21 złoty.
Once in the rynek, I noticed that there was a painted grand piano in one corner and thought (correctly, I found out later) that perhaps since 2010 was the year of Chopin, perhaps Kraków had placed grand pianos around the city just as Chicago had done with cows, Zurich had done with teddy bears, Dallas with flying horses, etc.
It used to be that you could buy the same souvenirs throughout the Sukiennice but that they were cheaper at one end than the other. Not so now. I guess that's "Solidarity." I only bought a pair of amber earrings for a friend who turned 60 this year. Souvenirs are getting expensive even though the exchange rate was in our favor and better than in 2008. Several stalls inside Sukiennice sell folk costumes now.
We knew that if we ate inside a restaurant it would be hot and stuffy so we chose the "Virtuoso" restaurant and sat outside watching people and the horse carriages on the rynek. Dave ordered an Okocim beer and I had a Pepsi Light. That was when I spotted the "Hard Rock Café" right next to St. Mary's Cathedral! This is almost sacrilegious! I hope the city at least received a huge amount of money from the Hard Rock for this excellent (for them) location. It probably had air conditioning.
The outside of the Sukiennice is still being excavated - same as two years ago. Archaeologists move slowly. Monika explained later that the plan is to have a museum underground for people to go into so the older city can be seen.
At 7:00 p.m. we heard the Hejnel. It is played every hour and played from each of the four corners (north, south, east, west) of the tower high above St. Mary's Cathedral and the rynek. If you are unfamiliar with the Hejnel and its history you need to become acquainted with it:
Service at the restaurant was incredibly slow but the food was good. Keep in mind that while pleasant, restaurants on the rynek in Kraków and Warsaw are expensive. I couldn’t help but wonder what all the young people around us did for a living.
After dinner we stopped at a stationary store to buy a converter for the fountain pen the Koczeras had given Dave.
We walked around the rynek and checked out two bookstores. Bookstores (księgarnia) and pastry stores (cukernia) are as common in Poland as dry cleaners are in the U.S. It was still hot though. I think we would have stayed longer if not for that. We walked back to our car past a couple of street performers, also a common sight on the rynek. We got turned around leaving the parking lot but found our way back to the hotel without much difficulty. The room was nice and cold. Remember when the desk clerk said it was impossible to have our laundry back by the next evening? Ha! I left our fans blowing on the clothes so everything was almost completely dry after only three hours.
We hit the sack at about 11:30 p.m. Where does the time go?
JULY 13, Tuesday
Sunny and hot 31C/87F
It was really nice sleeping in a chilly room. We both slept very well. Maybe it was the long drive - I was the only one driving and Dave napped at least once.
We awoke at 7:00 a.m. Our wake-up time is often determined by how late breakfast is served. The Jagielloński Hotel in Sanok served until 11:00 a.m., U Pana Cogito served until 10:00 a.m. These are more civilized times than 9:00 a.m. especially when you're on vacation - and it takes me two hours to get ready; it's my hair.
Breakfast was in the main building and we arrived at about 9:00 a.m. No one else was in the dining room though there were a few cars in the lot. Breakfast was buffet style which included fresh breads (not your typical white or wheat varieties either), sausages, cold cuts, three cheeses, cereal, halved hard boiled eggs with and without mayonnaise, melon slices, pasztet, cake, tomatoes with onions, cucumber slices, coffee, tea and sok (juice). We could also order scrambled eggs, which we did. The room was air conditioned and quite pleasant. One wall was all windows and looked out on a nun's convent. Every once in a while we'd see a nun in navy blue float by.
So far there is only one problem with this pensjonat; no elevator. We knew that though. We opted to leave one suitcase in the trunk of the car. We never do that but we just couldn't lug a third suitcase upstairs. Parking here is quite close and not set-up for large cars, vans or Hummers. I mention Hummers because there were three of them in this very lot in 2008. And, if anyone remembers reading about the parking incident experienced by me during our 2008 stay at this pensjonat, you might understand why I was particularly careful here this time.
Oh! There were screens on the windows of our rooms! This is a first! I’d been telling Dave for years that we needed to sell window screens in Poland! Now we're probably too late.
We had no plans until 5:00 p.m. when we were to meet Monika at her building at the university. What to do? We'd done almost everything touristy and otherwise on previous trips. Monika had told me that the city recently opened (June 2010) the Schindler's Factory Museum and since we had driven by it in 1998 before it was a museum, we decided to visit it.
Driving to the museum Dave spotted an Office Depot. We also noted that there are more and more billboards in English; a result of Poland’s joining the European Union (EU).
On the way to the museum we stopped at the Nazi camp in Płaszów. On the map it is shown as being on Abraham Street when it's really almost a footpath. The area was ridiculously overgrown. There was a memorial slab with stones around the base. The area directly around the memorial was mowed but not the rest. Perhaps a better memorial would be to stake out the location of the buildings using short cement pillars and then keep the area mowed. But who will pay for this? Poland is already one big memorial site.
Płaszów is very difficult to find. Dave has a feel for Polish streets so we always seem to find what we're looking for. We also had trouble finding Schindler's museum. I don't know why, but I didn't write down the address so Dave was trying to find it from memory. Well, that didn't work so we stopped at the Urząd Miasto of Kraków. We just happened to pass it. I thought maybe someone inside would understand our question and maybe even speak English. The first two people Dave encountered never heard of Schindler's museum. It was probably his Texas accent and he probably said, "Museum" instead of "Muzeum". The third person he encountered spoke Polish and German. Dave took Portuguese in college. A young man there on business asked if Dave spoke English and looked up the address on his cell phone. The museum is on Lipowa street!
Driving in the bigger cities like Kraków and Warsaw is not for the faint of heart. There were several times that Dave and I had no idea what street signs meant, and they were pictures! You need an excellent map reader and you have to be able to improvise/go with the flow. Parking was again an issue at Schindler's Factory Museum. We decided that next time we come to Kraków and Warsaw we would take public transportation (that would be a new experience) and or taxis. It's just too hard and time consuming to find a parking space in these cities now.
Schindler's Factory Museum: The ticket counter and souvenir stand are in the same place which causes congestion. Tickets were inexpensive and I paid a "senior" price (Dave, not me). Cost of entrance to the museum was 27 złoty. The museum is really done well. It's clear that the museum is the result of the popularity, if you will, of Steven Spielberg's movie, Schindler's List. The museum was similar to the Warsaw Uprising Museum in Warsaw. Very hands-on with all of your senses being involved in the experience. The exhibits were in Polish and English. I can't believe it only took three years to finish this museum. It is a must-see.
While we were at the Schindler Factory Museum I heard a woman say to the clerk at the souvenir stand, "Gotcha" several times, indicating she understood what the man had said to her. Gotcha? Folks, when you're in another country be aware of the words you use. I seriously doubt that words such as "gotcha" are taught in the English language classes in Poland.
There were two situations in the museum that puzzled me. People took photographs of their companions in odd settings. For example there was a barbed wire fence in a scene depicting the Płaszów Nazi work camp. A woman took a picture of her husband standing on the other side of the fence.
Another scene depicted the day when the Nazis came to the Jagiellonian University and arrested all of the professors. The room had a podium with a Nazi hat on it, desks with a coat and briefcase and a professor's chair. A woman took several photos of her husband standing behind the podium. I don't know the nationalities of either couple. I mention the disturbing scenarios as a warning. These were very serious and solemn scenes and not photo opportunities.
At about 3:30 p.m. we drove to a REAL shopping center still looking for dried mushrooms, hairspray and a few other things. REAL is the name of the center. At 4:30 p.m. the temperature was 98F. This was not good.
We picked up Monika from work at 5:00 p.m. Her classroom/office is not far from the Kraków rynek. The main campus of the Jagiellonian University is on the outskirts of the rynek as well. We parked the car on a side street across from St. Peter and Paul Church. We had to buy a parking ticket from a little machine. I've not used these enough to feel comfortable using them by myself but Monika, who doesn't drive, helped us. We only had to pay until 6:00 p.m.
We ate at "Nostalgia" restaurant. Monika and I had chłodyk, a cold beet soup that was wonderful and potato pancakes. Dave had golonka and fried goat cheese. We had sorbet and ice cream for desert.
We had a nice time catching-up. Though Monika and I trade emails regularly, we still had a lot to talk about. I brought Monika some English language books she wanted, a couple of music CDs, and a summer dress. I also gave her money for my bank account and money to wire to the Ustroń Stork Project. Monika gave me 3 of the 4 volume set of "comic books" in Polish and English about the Holocaust which I had ordered. These were written in order to inform the younger generation about WWII. Monika gave Dave four bottles of unpasteurized beer. After dinner we walked around the rynek. For a Tuesday night it was really bustling! I realized there were two painted pianos on the rynek but only had a photo of one. Spread around the city are also covered benches (not bus stops) which play Chopin recordings.
To learn more about Chopin and Kraków's celebration of his life and accomplishments, go to
After awhile we walked back to the car to drive Monika home. As I pulled away from the parking place I noticed a police car behind me and told Monika that I hadn't been pulled over yet. Can you see it coming? Yep! Lights on! I pulled to the side of the street and the police car pulled in front, blocking my get-away. Two policemen got out of the SUV. They both started talking at the same time. I thought it was pretty funny that because they were both talking non-stop, I couldn't even get out my favorite phrase, "Nie mowię dobrze po polsku." I finally did and asked Monika to translate for me. I handed the one cop my license. He wasn't interested in anything else. So glad to pay $20.00 for an International Driver's License! The one cop said that I made a wrong turn. I said, "Nie!" I'd only made two turns and both were OK. They cops went back to their car for a few minutes and then returned saying, "Do widzenie." No ticket! Here's what I think happened. I was driving a little slow. I knew this. I think the policja thought I was drunk so they pulled me over. When they realized I wasn't drunk they made-up the wrong turn complaint. Since they knew I knew I didn't make a wrong turn they let me go. So, my record stands. I've been stopped at least once every time I've driven in Poland. Most stops have not resulted in tickets though. This altercation with the police unnerved Monika I think who is unfamiliar with driving, the rules of the road and the police.
Monika lives in a flat which she owns. For comparison it is the size of a studio apartment in the U.S. Monika invited us up for tea but like us she was going to Łódż the next morning. She had to get up a lot earlier than we did in order to get to Łódż by train, early in the morning so we declined the invitation. Monika would only be in Łódż for the day on business so we wouldn't be seeing her there.
We arrived back at the hotel about 10:30 p.m. Dave got out of the car and rang the bell so the clerk would open the gate for the car. It was a pleasure to enter our air conditioned room again. We were in bed by 11:30 p.m.
JULY 14, Wednesday
Sunny (again) 25C/77F
This is my kind of weather!
Since we had to drive to Łódż today (are you checking a Polish map to follow our routes?) we were up at 7:00 a.m. We slept really well again due to the air conditioning. I didn't sleep all that well in Sanok because it was hot. The fans certainly helped though. It was a good thing we bought our fans when we did because we later found out that
all the fans in Poland were sold out.
The breakfast buffet this morning included pączki and what Americans would think of as hot dogs. We always left a minimum of 2 złoty on the table if it was a buffet. We noticed that this is not customary. If I remember I'll include our hotel costs and so on in my last entry. Bet you can hardly wait.
We only ate breakfast and dinner while in Poland so we ate big breakfasts. When we were finished with breakfast in Kraków we packed-up, paid for the room in złoty and headed for Łódż via Katowice and Częstochowa. We stopped at a kantor to change more dollars before leaving Kraków at 11:10 a.m. and I bought four packages of dried
mushrooms at a grocery store. Hope these will last me until my next trip.
There is a tollway between Kraków and Katowice and then a decent highway between Katowice and Łódż. We had to pay two tolls of 8 złoty each. Kind of pricey! It didn't seem to me that there was any more traffic on this tollway than there was in October 2000 which was the first time I used this high-speed road.
This year's trip was different in that we didn't have a lot of time to stop and photograph villages. I know three weeks sounds like a long time but four days was taken up with the wedding and we "worked" about 11 days in the Bukowsko area. Add, four days for traveling, losing a day on the airplane and we have little time to photograph villages for my web site. This trip was a week shorter than usual. Still it was hard for me not to stop, so I did once in awhile. We seldom use primary roads preferring secondary or smaller roads in order to go through the villages. However, having the opportunity to drive 140 kph on the tollway was pretty sweet. We only stopped once during this leg of our journey and that was to get gas. We made really good time, arriving in Łódż at 2:30 p.m.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel on Piotrowska Street which is a more expensive hotel but a nice old one. This was the third time we'd stayed in this hotel. We use Łódż as a place to spend the night when traveling from one end of Poland to the other. We have often thought that some day we'd spend more time in this city and have a good look
Grand Hotel: http://tinyurl.com/2e68x9b
What a great surprise! We knew this hotel had an elevator so we were looking forward to using it. What we didn't know was that the hotel had been renovated since we were here in 1998. The hotel does not have a parking lot but if there's space you can park right in front of the hotel. This seems odd since the hotel is situated on a pedestrian only street but we parked right in front of the door.
The bellman put all of our luggage and fans on his cart and took everything up to our room after we checked-in. This hotel is typical of the old fancy hotels one sees old movies. Grand, it is. The halls are dark though with very high walls and the floors creak of thousands of visitors since it opened in 1888. Our room was #433. We were very surprised to find that our room was air conditioned and that the furniture was modern.
Amenities included (almost all hotels had TVs, phones and internet): stocked mini-bar, safe, wine glasses, slippers, sewing kit, shower cap, individual shower gels, shampoo, soap, shoe cloth, cosmetic kit, shower curtain (seldom seen in Poland), bidet, sitting room, three phones (including one in bathroom), heavy curtains. The bathroom was really large and had two doors. We received 10% off meals in the hotel and a free aperitif which we later realized was mistranslated and should have read, appetizer. Breakfast was included in the price of our room.
This was a really nice hotel now. I knew we'd sleep well. With the upgrading I decided this hotel would stay on our "places to stay" list for Poland even though it was more expensive.
It didn't take too long to settle in since we were only spending one night. We took a walk up and down Piotrowska street which is pedestrian only. I bought a Manchester United mouse pad and some soccer trading cards for my older son, Aron who is a soccer fanatic. For Josh I bought a punk music magazine which included a CD and a pack of Pokemon cards which were in Polish. Though he long ago stopped collecting Pokemon cards, I knew he would appreciate this gift. Oh, and I bought a Milky Way bar for myself. I couldn't help it.
As we walked we were looking for a place to eat dinner other than the hotel. We didn't find one that appealed to us. Walking back to the hotel we passed a statue of the poet Julian Tuwim of one of Arthur Rubinstein playing a piano. The statue and piano looked about 3/4 size. The cool thing about this statue was that it would play music like a juke box, including Chopin. Why wasn't it playing? I dropped in 2 złoty and nothing. I was disappointed. You can read about both statues and why the music didn't work:
I have to say I have always been impressed by the number of statues, sculptures and outside art which can be found all over Poland. I'm not even considering the number of memorials! I know there are some U.S. cities which have a lot of outside art (Chicago comes to mind) but that's not the case in Dallas/Fort Worth.
You will be able to see a lot of the photos we took during this trip on my web site under the village or city name. It takes a long time to scan my photos, caption them and then upload them to my web site. Please check back if they are not up when you read this.
We decided to have dinner at the hotel though we were the only guests in the restaurant, Malinowa. The restaurant had air conditioning but not enough for this large room which was obviously used as a ballroom. The colors were incredible. Poles like very bright, almost loud colors when they paint the outside of their homes and churches. This was the case in the ballroom. Though there was pastel green and light pink in the room, what stood out were the "Pepto Bismol" pink walls and pillars. While driving through Poland I often wonder, "Was there a good sale on that paint color?"
Dinner was wonderful even though we didn't have traditional Polish food! We each had two glasses of wine. A treat for me since I had not been drinking due to being the driver. Dinner cost us 198 złoty, about $62.00. The food presentation was beautiful. In the states we would have paid over $125.00 certainly. The hotel chain which now owns the Grand Hotel also employs a well-known (in Poland) head chef for all of its hotel restaurants. Polish restaurants seem to always present their food dishes with flair. It is as if the staff really cares and is proud of what they are serving; not just a wilted sprig of parsley or a tomato slice for them!
Monika told us that Starbucks is coming to Poland. Why not? We saw one in the Frankfurt airport. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is in Poland now and of course, McDonald's was the first U.S. fast food chain to arrive. I think McDonald's was there in 1996. Pizza is delivered by bicycle.
I decided I wanted desert somewhere else so after dinner we walked back down the street looking for ice cream. During our first walk we past a store that had large, enticing chocolate figures. It was probably a good thing that the store was now closed. I bought an ice cream cone from another restaurant and we sat outside under the beer umbrellas watching people for awhile. When finished we walked back to the hotel and went to bed.
JULY 15, Thursday
I don't like the direction the temperature is going.
We got out of bed at 7:30 a.m. after another really good night's sleep. We took the elevator to breakfast in the ballroom at about 9:30 a.m. A breakfast buffet was waiting. It included the typical Polish fare but no hot eggs. There was lox, pasztet, Nutella (a first), and hard boiled eggs presented in a very large bowl full of salt. The eggs were still in their shell. I guess the salt was used so the eggs wouldn't roll around on a plate. Shortly after we sat down three young businessmen appeared for breakfast.
Observation: (boy I hope I haven't already mentioned this) Furniture, including beds, is very low to the ground. This is found in Polish homes and hotels. I don't know why they can't make this furniture higher off the ground. Dave thinks it's as simple as, "less wood is used." I don't know how people older than me (and I'm approaching 60) get out of bed in the morning! We recently installed a comfort toilet at home so it would be higher and easier to use. (Too much information?). Also, most Polish homes have sofabeds to sleep on, not regular beds.
We had the bellman take our luggage downstairs. There was a mis-communication so we had to go downstairs and ask again. Pressing the designated button on the phone got us nowhere. It didn't work. When the bellman who spoke English loaded our stuff onto his cart he asked about the fans. I told them they were ours and bored him with the story. He said this was the first time a guest had ever brought their own fans. If we'd known the Grand Hotel had air conditioning we would have left the fans in the car.
We drove straight out of town leaving at 11:00 a.m. We drove to Grudziądz, the site of Karol Tomalski's wedding, arriving at 4:30 p.m.
While driving to Grudziądz I noticed a lack of stork nests and that the cows in the fields did not appear to be as healthy or well-fed as those in southeastern Poland. They also appeared to be a different kind though I'm not a cowgirl so I couldn't say for sure.
Driving through the city of Włocławek we noticed that road building was going on in a big way. A new road is being built through the center of town, not the centrum, but the main road through town from north to south. There was also a new hotel! If I recall correctly there were only two decent places to stay in Włocławek; the Kujawy Hotel, a nondescript hotel (though their web site indicates a renovation), which is across the street from the Zajazd Polski Hotel, which we stayed in during our 2006 trip. Both of these hotels sit right on the rynek. See my web site:
The Młyn Hotel is the "new" one in Włocławek. It doesn't look too bad:
and the prices are very reasonable though the web site doesn't mention whether breakfast is included in the price of the room.
We stopped for gas and a car wash near Nowy Ciechocinek. The car wash was in a little building just like the ones at U.S. gas stations. The difference is that there was no machinery. One young man hand washed the car using high powered sprayers. We paid the gas station 15 złoty for the car wash and gave the young man a 5 złoty tip. He was very surprised. In fact he didn't know why Dave had his hand out to him. Obviously he never gets a tip. Labor is really cheap in Poland and this is the reason we gave him the tip. We knew he wasn't earning much and he probably didn't have much business either. The car was so filthy from driving down all the dirt roads in the Bukowsko area, we didn't want to show up for Karol's wedding with a filthy car.
Driving through the city of Toruń we came across traffic lights that counted down how long it was until the light changed. This was for traffic as well as pedestrians. Kind of a good idea. At least you knew how much time you had before the green light changes to yellow or the yellow light changes to red when you're approaching the light.
North of Toruń we decided to photograph some villages. We knew this meant the trip would take longer but all we had to do that night was completely unpack three suitcases, wrap wedding presents (four tall shot glasses with the initial "T" on them, a silver 5x7 picture frame, bottle of wine and cash in an envelope) and iron our wedding attire. Well, we photographed a couple of villages and then Oops! we missed a turn and got involved in terrible detours which got us completely turned around. Looks like Kujawski-Pomorskie wojewodztwo is working hard at improving and making new roads. This mistake cost us an hour. Because of this error we had to cut-back on the number of villages we stopped to photograph. I'm thinking that we'll need a new Polish road atlas every time we visit Poland due to the continual road changes.
We didn't see any stork nests between Kraków and Toruń until after we got off the "highway" and into the country on secondary roads. I was able to drive 80-100 kph on these roads whereas the main roads were slower going with stop lights and many 18 wheelers.
For some reason we entered Grudziądz on a different road than what I'd marked on the map. It turned out that was better though. The Hotel Energetyk is in the woods and on Lake Rudnickie Wielkie. There were camp grounds with little cabins next to the hotel and the area was full of people camping and trying to stay cool at the lake.
Click on "Wirtualny Spacer" and then on the little symbols to see what the reception hall looked like for Karol's wedding. The colors were not the same but the decorations were similar. The window shades are dark green and the walls are yellow so a person doesn't have a lot of choice when deciding what color chairs or balloons with which to decorate. The floor is stone, a very hard surface if you stand or dance on it for long periods.
Originally, Karol was going to pay for our four nights at the hotel however, during a telephone conversation in May he agreed to pay only for one night and I would pay for three. I explained that it didn't make sense for me to give him a gift if he was just going to give it to the hotel and not "gain" anything.
A two person room cost 140 złoty but śniadanie (breakfast) was 15 złoty more per person. Parking is free and is monitored (cameras).
When we arrived at the hotel I told the clerk that we had a reservation, in Polish. She seemed to have difficulty finding it so I mentioned the "Tomalski i Rams ślub". She checked a list and found us on it. The staff was very friendly. We were shown to a room that I didn't like so I asked for a room with a little bigger bathroom. Of course the bigger one was up one more flight of stairs. I kept trying to remember that going up and downstairs would help counter the effects of all the food we'd been eating while in Poland.
This hotel is quite different than the Grand Hotel in Łódż. In fact 140 złoty a night was too much for this place.
After we settled-in we went down to the wedding reception room which someone had already started decorating. I was counting the chairs when an employee said something to me. Recognizing what I was doing she showed me the contract which listed how many people were going to be at the reception, 110 people. The wedding was in two days.
We had dinner at the hotel since we were too tired and hot to go looking for another restaurant. Afterwards we went upstairs, undressed, I took off my make-up and we wrapped presents and ironed clothes. The phone rang. It was the hotel owner saying that Karol was here to see us. We quickly got dressed and went down to the restaurant. I brought my camera and before greeting Karol Tomalski (27) and his fiancee, Natalia Rams (24), I took a picture of them. Then I hugged and kissed Karol, tears flowing. Natalia and I hugged and kissed too. Dave greeted both of them with kisses. Natalia is gorgeous and she speaks English quite well. We sat down at a table and drank bottles of water and visited. Karol’s home was in Solec Kujawski but he was staying in Grudziądz because of all the arrangements that needed to be made. He and Natalia met at the university in Toruń. We watched this young man grow-up from age 13 and he's stayed with us twice for a total of three months. We have always stayed with his family when we visit Poland. Karol calls me ciocia and calls my husband Uncle David. Funny he calls me auntie in Polish but refers to David in English.
I had all sorts of questions for the soon-to-be-married couple. I asked Natalia if she had email and she said yes. I replied, "That's good because apparently Karol doesn't!" They both laughed. Karol knew exactly what I was talking about. He never answers my emails though he does call me on the telephone occasionally. I know it is because his written English is not as good as his spoken English.
I gave Karol a gift from Disneyworld. We were there the year before. It was a pair of Mouse "ears" with Karol's name on them. Coincidentally, Natalia was wearing a t-shirt with Mickey Mouse's face on it. I told Natalia that when I bought the ears I didn't know she and Karol were getting married. I gave Natalia one of my own handkerchiefs with blue flowers on it for her wedding. Even though she already had "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue," she accepted it graciously. I secretly hoped my own sons would marry a girl as sweet.
Wait a minute! How did Karol and Natalia know we had arrived? The hotel called them.
Karol and Natalia had an appointment to meet the priest for confession at 7:30 a.m. the next day. If I had to be at church at that time I'd have a few more things to confess! After going over the general schedule for the next three days we said goodnight and returned to our room.
The room was really quite small and hot. We ended up leaving the window/door open all night with our two fans running and still it was gorąco. None of the lamps were plugged in due to outlet placement in the room. The beds are against the wall with a backboard which prevents one from using the outlet unless you pull the bed out from the wall. If you look at the photos of the rooms on the hotel's web site pay close attention to the furniture placement. We had a difficult time moving around the room due to its size and configuration. The ceiling light only had three of its four light bulbs working.
We got to bed late and hot.
I need a certain amount of bathroom counter, shelf space and a place to temporarily hang another mirror in the bathroom. Getting ready in the morning is a real pain in the dupa. Many trips ago Dave jury-rigged (I can say that because he's an attorney) a mirror set-up which can be turned so I can see the sides and back of my hair. I use 3M removable sticky strips with a hook and hang this mirror contraption on it. I use this mirror whenever and wherever I travel.
English language shirts in Poland can be pretty funny. They aren't shirts that would be worn in the U.S. I think they are directly from Chinese manufacturers who:
A) employ unqualified translators
B) don't understand the English language or culture and therefore print very inappropriate phrases on t-shirts.
Example: I saw a man wearing a shirt that read (all words were spelled out on the shirt), "Don't even think about f****** here." What? It didn't even make sense!
End of Part Three - Go to Part Four
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