Jo’s Monday walk : Tyniec Monastery (a walk in two halves)

The Benedictine clifftop monastery at Tyniec

The Benedictine clifftop monastery at Tyniec

It was 8 years ago that I was first taken to Tyniec by my neice, Weronika.  Back then, it was all part of the newness of Poland in my experience, and my memories are indistinct.  I barely managed to grab a photograph!  Time to set that straight, but it was not quite so straightforward as I expected.

On a beautiful, sunny day I set out along the river bank of the Vistula, from Most Debnicki, in the heart of Kraków.  The route hugged the river closely and the name of the road, Tyniecka, seemed encouraging.  As I drew further away from the city, the path became quieter, with just the occasional jogger or cyclist for company.  It was wonderfully peaceful.  Too good to be true?

The river bank with Debnicki Bridge and Wawel in the background

The river bank with Debnicki Bridge and Wawel in the background

Looking across the river at St. Augustyna on the far shore

Looking across the river at St. Augustyna on the far shore

It looks imposing

It does look imposing!

In the distance another bridge beckons

In the distance another bridge beckons

What I hadn’t allowed for is that soon after the above bridge, the footpath runs out.  The only option becomes a busy road with no footpath on either side.  For a while I carried on, trying not to mind the passing traffic, but a sign suggested it was still 9kms to Tyniec. The option?  A bus, of course!  No. 112 runs about every 20-30 minutes, and deposits you in the pretty village of Tyniec.  Signs point the way to the monastery.

Tyniec lies 12km south west of Kraków in an area of limestone Jurassic hills, the highest of which is 293metres above sea level.  The first settlement here dates back to 3000 B.C.  In around 1040 a Benedictine abbey was founded by King Casimir the Restorer.  It was destined to have a long and turbulent history.  Aron, the first abbot of Tyniec , became a bishop of  Kraków, with the responsibility to restore order and cement the position of the Church in the newly formed Kingdom of Poland.  In 1259 the village was destroyed in the Mongol invasion of Poland. This was just one of a sequence of assaults.  In the Middle Ages the River Vistula was a political border. The Abbey would no sooner be repaired and extended than it was beseiged again.

When Poland disappeared from the map of Europe, divided between Austria, Prussia and Russia, the Abbey was used as a fortress to hold off the Russian troops.  In 1816 the Abbey was finally dissolved by the Austrian authorities and left to decay.  It wasn’t until July 1939, on the eve of World War II, that the Benedictines returned to their ruin.  Restoration was begun in 1947 and looking at the complex today it’s hard to imagine all that has gone before.

But this is how it looked when it was repossessed in 1939

But this is how it looked when it was repossessed in 1939

And how bleak it must have been in Winter

And how bleak it must have been in Winter

A series of information boards showed the devastation.  I would have liked to take a tour of the Abbey, but these were conducted in Polish unless you had pre-booked an English tour.  I doubted that I would benefit much and opted to simply use my eyes.  The life of the monastery continues uninterrupted from 5.30 in the morning, with the awakening bell, until 20.30 and the beginning of ‘night time silence’.  The website gives details of how a monk spends his day, and much more.

In the centre of a large courtyard sits a well, which reaches all the way down to river level below us. There is a wonderful sense of peace. The most recent additions to the complex include modern reception and shop but they are not intrusive. High on the wall, a small cafe, with beautiful views down to the river.  I know you would have liked to see my piece of szarlotka, but it melted into my mouth too quickly to be caught on camera.  Accommodation is available for guests, and I can’t help feeling that this could be a very special place to spend a few days.

I had wondered if it would be possible to come to Tyniec by boat from Kraków.  Steps lead down through the trees to the river below, and there I found the evidence.  Sadly, only in Summer, on Saturdays and Sundays.  It would make a wonderful alternative route back.

But trying not to disturb the peace

Trying not to disturb the peace

The best view of the monastery would be from the opposite bank of the Vistula, but I saw all that I could.  The path threads beneath the mighty limestone crags and disappears off around the bend.  The temptation to follow it was strong, but ‘home’ lay in the opposite direction.

A colossus in white

A colossus in white

Beside the ferry point there’s a small cafe where you can enjoy a beer and a few Polish snacks.  A path leads back towards Kraków and I followed it for a while, not sure if it would rejoin the ‘main’ road through Tyniec.  A grand looking restaurant sits back beneath the cliffs, and in the distance, views of Bielany.

Satisfied with my outing, I retraced my steps up through the village and back to the bus stop. This time I stayed on the bus back to the centre.  The rest would keep for another day.

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Thanks to everybody for their patience and the kind contributions that still flowed in despite my wandering ways.  There are double rations from a few people this week, and you may have seen some of these but please be sure not to miss any.  If you would like to join me, now or in the future, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo above.  Now please grab that coffee and settle down for a good read.

Drake has two offerings- a beautiful moat and castle :

Royal architecture

Or maybe Lorelei would suit you better :

Between ruins and rivers

Anabel keeps on finding sunshine in Shetland.  A neat trick!

Lighthouses and cliffs: three Shetland walks

Who’s up for a little turtle spotting with Violet Sky?

Fairy Lake

A really good guided walk takes a lot of beating, as Laura will tell you :

Guided through the city

Elisa goes people watching in the rain, in that most beautiful of cities :

A Paris Habit

Lessons in geology, and pure beauty, from my pal Meg :

Eurobodalla beaches: Bingie Bingie headland 

While Ruth manages to combine beauty and practicality :

A bush walk with links to fire management

Whooshy water always appeals to me, and Rosemay is lovely company :

Wild Seas at Canal Rocks

You’ll enjoy this sunset with her too :

Sunset at Cape Naturaliste

Over the hill takes on a whole new connotation with Pauline and her four-legged friend :

Time for walkies 

And you can just picture Pauline and Jack pootling about these stalls :

Market Day at Mullumbimby

Then stopping for fish and chips (not greedy- sharing a portion of chips)

A walk along the river

Jesh shares some of her beautiful paintings :

The Tale of one of my Plein Airs and an Imaginary Walk

And Jill shows us the beauty of her native coastline :

A wander around Ahuriri Estuary

The scenery’s a little more bleak with Jaspa :

Sewell, Chile: UNESCO World Heritage Ghost Town

Tish is known to be fond of elephants.  Combined with bubbles, let’s finish with a smile!

Summer came back on Saturday and took us to the Fair

Many thanks to all of you and I hope you have a wonderful week ahead. (weather prospects in England are good!)  See you all next Monday, when we’ll probably be back in the Algarve.  Take care till then!

The joy of a wedding!

King-sized confetti!

King-sized confetti explodes over Magda and Przemek!

Just how to convey a little of the joy I’ve shared in so many Polish weddings? (this was no. 5!) Each a little different, as times change and individuals make their choices, but essentially the same.  All full of laughter, smiles and a just little mischief.

On Saturday I was in Chorzów, a city in Poland’s industrial heartland.  This link to Wikipedia will satisfy those of you who might be curious.  For the others, it’s enough to mention a ‘Royal’ coal mine and iron works, and the adjoining city of Katowice.

Of course, we start at the church.  I failed dismally to get any good photos of the ceremony. I was even thwarted at the end when, instead of walking back up the aisle towards us, the happy couple departed via a side aisle.  But I have my memories, of the tinkling of bells, and the sun filtering through stained glass windows, bathing the altar and choristers in an amber glow.

My cousin Adam’s car had been spruced up for the occasion, and his son, Łukasz, became chauffeur for the day.  I love the Polish way of decorating wedding cars.

Isn't this pretty?

Isn’t this pretty?


After the ceremony and the confetti, a cascade of coins pelted the ‘lucky’ couple, a symbol of future wealth.  That’s Łukasz, the chauffeur, standing by the wall with a box to collect up the cards of those not going to the reception.

Every last zloty has to be gathered up

Every last zloty has to be gathered up

We pile onto a bus and are driven to the reception.  The venue is a total surprise- Park Sląski, a 13 hectare reclamation project which has transformed the former slag heaps into an outdoor playground on a huge scale.  My jaw probably dropped at the sight of the cable cars gliding across the lake.  A friend of the groom later explained to me that the cars had just recently started operating, and that it was the intention to extend them to link the far corners of the park.  I would have loved the opportunity to explore a little further, but the day was all about a wedding, and we were deposited at the Marysin Dwor Park hotel to await Przemek and Magda.


This is probably a good time to explain that the groom, Przemek, is the only child of my cousin Basia, sister to Adam, with whom many of you will be familiar.  Adam and Basia are the children of my beloved Aunt Anna, there with us in spirit only.  Above, left to right- Adam and his wonderful wife, Marta; the bride and groom; Basia and husband Zygmunt; Łukasz again and his younger sister, Ula. Weronika, his older sister, you may remember got married last May.  She and Wojtek were at home looking after their newborn.

Meet Barteusz, peacefully at home

Meet Barteusz, sleeping peacefully at home

On to the toasts, and then the newly weds threw the swiftly drained glasses over their shoulders and reached for brush and pan to sweep up the mess.  A nice domestic beginning to married life.



A little eating, a romantic first dance, a chorus of ‘Sto lat'(100 years)and noisy demands for the couple to kiss, then it’s time for the d-jay to get folks to mingle.  And they don’t need much encouragement!  Before long we are all hop-skip-stomping gleefully to a combination of Polish and English pop songs.  Till the cake makes it’s flaming entry.

Here's your piece!

Here’s your piece!

The bride and groom set about their task of dancing with every single guest, after we’ve consumed vast quantities of food, toasted the whole world ‘Na zdrowia!’ (good health), and watched a humorous video of the couple’s respective childhoods and meeting.

The night passes in a whirl of dancing, and even Dad manages a little soft shoe shuffle with his stick.  When we finally leave to return to our hotel, it’s to discover another wedding reception still in full swing there.  A wall of joyful sound hits us.

Dad, with Uncle Wlodek and his lovely lady Weronika

Dad, with my Uncle Wlodek and his lovely lady Weronika

If you’re not familiar with Dad’s story you can read about it here.


Jo’s Monday walk : Podziemia

Beneath Rynek Glowny, Krakow's main square

Beneath Rynek Glowny, Krakow’s main square

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago, while window gazing in Krakow, I mentioned a museum beneath Rynek Główny.  I was intrigued by the thought of what might lay beneath Europe’s largest market square, and thought that you might be too.  Just a thought- this walk will not be suitable for claustrophobics.  Welcome to Podziemia! (which means ‘under the ground’)

1000 years of the city’s history are represented here, in a project that took 5 years to excavate.  A medieval cemetery was uncovered and you can take a fascinating walk back in time.

Just inside the entrance you look down at a miniature world

Just inside the entrance you look down at a world in miniature

But then you step back into the past

But then you step back into the past

Between the solid walls of an underground world

Between the solid walls of an underground world

To look at how life used to be

To look at how life used to be

It’s a slightly eerie but amazing experience.  At first I was a little disoriented, trying to decipher Polish signs.  But as I looked closer I realised that there were interactive touch screens that would tell me the whole story (and in English, too!).  I scrolled back, fascinated, then peered over the shoulders of a family intensely reading, eager for my turn at the next exhibit.

There were numerous videos to distract you, and a wonderful small children’s theatre.  Probably my favourite!  A chance to take the weight off your feet and listen spellbound as the crow narrates his story.

Video footage of the Jagiellonian University

Video footage of the Museum of Pharmacy

Dress a medieval lady- interactive play for the young at heart

Dress a medieval lady- interactive play for the young at heart

The crow tells his tale

The crow tells his tale (beware the scary dragon!)

The interactive screens are beside each exhibit

The interactive screens are beside each exhibit

Some of which are very beautiful

Some of which are very beautiful

Like these glass horses

Like these glass horses

After the walk-through there is a tunnel with a sequence of mini theatres and you can sit and absorb more of the history, with English subtitles.  I found the whole experience quite enthralling.  Maybe I would have enjoyed it more by joining a guided tour, but the museum was quite busy that day (a wet one), and I preferred to wander.  If you’re ever in Kraków, I could recommend it.

How the square looked during the excavations

How the square looked during the excavations

I had very little time to put together this walk, so I’m hoping it won’t seem too rushed.  I didn’t want to disappoint and I have some lovely shares for you, but I may not be able to respond.  I am unexpectedly in Nottingham when you read this (I have scheduled it, optimistically!) and will chat with you as soon as I possibly can.  Much thanks for your patience.

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The logo will direct you to my Jo’s Monday walk page and tell you how you can join in.  Huge thanks to all my contributors.


Remember ‘ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross’?  Read about it with Debbie :

Of Cock Horses and Cock-up Bridges

Let’s sashay through the desert with Drake, shall we?

Walk spiced by palms

If pootling about in East Lothian is your kind of thing, you’ll love this, from Anabel :

East Linton to Hailes Castle

Still pootling, but looking for tadpoles?  Geoff’s your man!

The Thames Path- Bablock Hythe to Tadpole Bridge

Beautiful architecture but the plants are the star of this show.  Thanks, Pauline!

A Walk in Windy Wellington 

Here in the UK we still have bluebells.  Yay!!!  Cheers, Elaine :

Looking for bluebells 

Stunning landscape and lovely prose!  Don’t miss Laura’s travels with a donkey :

In the shadow of the Guadarrama

It wouldn’t be Monday without Jude, would it?  Come and drool over this beach!

Kynance Cove and beach

And Jaspa completes his study of a little known part of our world :

A stroll through Old Panama City, part 2- Casco Viejo

Say hello to Paul and find out what a ‘broch’ is.  It’s always good to welcome a newcomer :

A walk through history

Happy Bank Holiday Monday in the UK and have a great week, the rest of you!


5 photos, 5 stories- Day 5

You might remember this, from Weronika's wedding last year?

Weronika’s wedding last year, Dad centre stage, and a whole host of family!

Already we’re at Day 5!  I need to thank Minerva, Nin, Elaine and Viveka for nominating me for this challenge.  They couldn’t have known how much I’d enjoy it.  I hope you’ll go and say hello and read their stories too.

Do you remember Adam, from yesterday? (the gentleman, sitting reflectively, next to the 3 sisters in my photo)  He is the lynchpin to the whole Polish story.

Whenever we visit Poland, we fly into Kraków and Adam quietly and efficiently sets everything in motion.  He and his family gather us up from the airport, feed us, ferry us around and generally ensure that we have a good time.  I cannot thank them enough for their kindness.

Adam’s mum, my beloved aunt Anna and Dad’s youngest sister, died 5 years ago.  I never met his dad, but Adam could not treat his own father with more respect and affection than he does mine. Nothing is too much trouble. So, when I said that I wanted to see my aunt Lusia and uncle Jakub in Bełchatów this trip and had only one week available, he booked 4 days from his own busy schedule to transport me there and back.  Adam owns a bakery and baker’s machinery business. It has grown to international proportions, in partnership with his good friend Tomek.  We joke that, in the family, Lusia has the best potatoes, but Adam the best bread.  You’d never go hungry!

Adam’s large and comfortable home, in the Kraków’s suburbs, was adapted to accommodate his mum throughout the years of her declining health.  Now the basement has been converted into a starter flat for his oldest daughter, Weronika.  Last May I attended her wedding to Wojtek (he was good at sweeping up broken glass).  In July they are expecting a new little addition to the family, a first grandchild for Adam and Marta.  What a welcome awaits him!

It’s simply impossible to tell this story short, even though I have left out a myriad of characters. Dad’s youngest brother, uncle Jakub, and his wife Czescia live in a fine old suburb of Bełchatów, called Groholice.  Daughter Bożena lives just over the road, and sons Andrzej and Krzysztof have built their own homes in the neighbourhood.  All have families.  Jakub’s son Tomek I seldom see- he travels abroad to work and hasn’t ‘settled down’ yet.

Adam binds together and weaves between all the branches of our family.  Extending the hand of peace, he is welcome in every home.  Basia, Adam’s only sibling, lives to the north of Kraków, in Chorzów, with husband Zygmunt and just one son, Przemek.  In September this year Przemek will marry Magda.  I very much hope to be there.

And so the story goes on….  I hope I haven’t bored you and am grateful for the opportunity this challenge has given me to share.  Perhaps I need another 5?  If you can bare to read more, the background is explained a little more fully in Exploring the Polish connection.  Be warned- it always makes me cry.  It just remains to nominate Lynn at Life after 50 (most of us know a little about that!), another lady who loves to travel.  I only hope that she can find time in her busy life. Time now to say, thank you very much for reading.

Six word Saturday


 5 photos, 5 stories- Day 4

Sisters Theresa, Irena and Grazyna with cousin Adam

Sisters Theresa, Irena and Grazyna, with cousin Adam

Today I’m having to combine my Six word Saturday with the 5 photos, 5 stories challenge, which takes place on consecutive days.  It just so happens that ‘5 photos, 5 stories- Day 4’ makes six.

Before I continue with my Polish stories, I must thank Minerva, Nin, Elaine and Viveka for nominating me for this challenge.  I know you’ll enjoy their company and the stories they have to share.

Today it’s the turn of my aunt Otylia’s family.  Lusia, as she is fondly known, is another octogenarian.  The only surviving sister of 4, I’m glad that she can still find so much to smile about.  The photo above includes her 3 daughters, Theresa, Irena and Grażyna.

Theresa still lives at home with her mum, works full-time and helps control their enormous garden.  Her daughter Edyta also lives with them, but is hoping soon to go to university at Wrocław, a couple of hours away.  Sitting on a garden swing seat, I had a long conversation with Edyta (practising for her English oral exam).  Grandma now needs a walking frame, to get around the house and garden she once tended so faithfully.  Aunt Lusia’s potatoes are legendary!

Enter Grażyna and Marek!  For a number of years they have been building a house on half of Lusia’s land, whilst working full-time and living in a high-rise flat in Bełchatów.  It is finally nearing completion, and not before time.  It will be so much easier for them to help Lusia, and Theresa, living here at close quarters.

An occasion with Grażyna and Marek is always one to relish.  A born joker, Marek also loves to sing, often accompanying himself on guitar.  One sunny afternoon, Dad and me arrived at Lusia’s to be met with a lovely surprise.  A family gathering, with Marek firing up the barbecue.

Let me describe the house.  2 stories, with a staircase but nothing upstairs.  A roaring wood burning fire in the lounge.  Bare cement floor, and a sea of trestle table and chairs.  Small fitted kitchen (in full swing as Grażyna and Theresa prepared salads- Irena arrived later with hers, straight from a busy day at work).  The most popular room in the house?  The downstairs shower/loo, with a curtain pulled across the doorway.  Singing on the loo is advisable. Doors are the next job.  And did we have fun?  Didn’t we just!  Aunt Lusia on one side of me, Dad on the other, both in their element, surrounded by smiling faces.

So many stories still to tell but well aware that I have exceeded my ‘six words’ for today, I’ll have to ask you to come back tomorrow.  I’ll just tell you that lovely Irena lives on the other side of Bełchatów.  She and husband Arek have a large home/market garden and a small shop in the open market, selling seeds and ‘all things garden’. (and she has a day job in a sweet factory too) Busy?  Non-stop!

Hard to believe that Debbie from Travel with Intent hasn’t been nominated for the 5 photos, 5 stories challenge yet. Lucky me!  It is my privilege to present her.  Please do say hello before you drop in on Cate with your six words (or 500 +, as in this case).  But most of all, thanks for reading and have a happy weekend!


5 photos, 5 stories- Day 3

Little Nadia- with the shoes her Mum has made

Little Nadia plays with shoes her Mum, Ania, has made for her, while Marta stands guard

Yesterday on Day 2 of my 5 photos, 5 stories challenge I talked about Nadia’s sister, Kinga, and their hard working family.  So far I have focused on the children, a constant source of joy in the lives of my Polish family.  Tragedy and untimely death have their place in the story too, but my stories are more about celebrating life.

I should pause here to thank Minerva, Nin, Elaine and Viveka for nominating me for this challenge.  I know you’ll enjoy their company and the stories they have to share.  As the name suggests, I will be posting 5 photos, accompanied by 5 stories, on 5 consecutive days.

Dad was 1 of 9 children born to Bolesław and Marianna.  Of those 9, there are 2 aunts and 1 uncle that I was never privileged to meet, and a much loved aunt who died 3 years ago.  The land from the original homestead has been divided up between the survivors and their offspring.  My Polish family are lucky to own their own homes, but it comes at the cost of back breaking work. The family all pull together, pooling their skills.  No-one is too old, or too young, to help in whatever way they can. (ok- we’ll excuse Nadia for now, and Kinga is happiest playing on the sand hill outside their ‘soon to be’ home)

In some cases it takes years to finally achieve the dream.  My cousin Ewa and husband Henryk have for many years been trying to build a house on their plot, very close to her sister Jadwiga. Health problems and lack of income have made it hard for them.  At last, with their children all grown up and married, the end is in sight.  They live in an apartment in Katowice, about an hour away. While Ewa works in a hardware store in Bełchatów, Henryk, no longer young, shovels and plasters with whatever labour he can find.  Walking around the shell of their home I felt in need of a hard hat, and a good imagination to see the lovely dwelling that it will become.  Over the fence, Ewa’s brother Piotrek, some 16 years younger, smiles and waves from his fine house.  A carpenter by trade, his wooden floors and staircases gleam beautifully.

The family I have been following these past 3 days are all descendants of my Dad’s brother Zygmunt.  He and Leokadia had 10 children and some of them I know better than others. Zygmunt himself is the uncle I never met.  He died just months before Dad was reunited with the family.  Though he doesn’t seem to have had a very happy life, I can’t help but feel that somewhere he is looking down on all this and smiling.  Leokadia (Lodzia to us), into her 80s, still lives on and looks after the farm with sons Bolek (short for Bolesław) and Jozef.  Daughter Marysia has a beautiful self build, also at Zawady, the family’s home village, and runs a little boutique.

Tomorrow we step across to another branch of the family.  I’ll be taking you to a barbecue at a home that has been a long term building project, but is nearing completion.  I can promise you fun when Marek is around!  My personal A-Z of Poland is the back drop to my 5 stories.  Time now for a nomination!  I was first drawn to Lucile at Bridging Lacunas by her visually stunning header.  Since then I have discovered that her posts are thought provoking as well as fun, and some day I hope to get involved in Photo101 Rehab too.  I don’t know if she can find time for this challenge but I do hope so.  See you tomorrow?


5 photos, 5 stories- Day 2

Meet Kinga!

Meet Kinga!

Yesterday was Day 1 of my 5 photos, 5 stories challenge and you met some of Kinga’s bears. Today I’m introducing Kinga herself- a shy 5 year old, with all the exuberance a child can bring to a willing playmate.

I should pause here to thank Minerva, Nin, Elaine and Viveka for nominating me for this challenge.  I know you’ll enjoy their company and the stories they have to share.  As the name suggests, I will be posting 5 photos, accompanied by 5 stories, on 5 consecutive days.

What does it say about this family when Hubert (Kinga’s dad), who works full time and also is building a home for his family, has taken the time to make this playhouse/slide before their house is even complete?  Well- they like fresh air, that’s for certain, and are planning to make the most of a Polish summer.  The single storey, but spacious, home now has a bathroom fitted, and the family will move in soon to make that final push to completion.

Dad’s father, Bołeslaw Szustakiewicz, owned a good-sized parcel of land, which he farmed with the help of his sons and daughters.  It was one of Dad’s jobs, as a boy, to take the cows to a stream, before they settled for the night. After his father died, the land was divided between the surviving children.  Dad, torn from his home during the war, was no longer a part of the inheritance.  Returning to his homeland some 64 years later, it is wonderful to see how that land has been used.  My Polish family have introduced me to a new way of living.

My cousin Jadwiga is Bołeslaw’s granddaughter.  She inherited a sizeable plot, on which she and Andrzej built their own home, and a lovely garden.  Daughter Ania (Kinga’s mum) has lived, with her family, in an extension of her parents home while Hubert has been building, in the grounds. It’s now their turn to reap the benefits of all that hard work.  As well as raising a family, in her spare time Ania designs and makes children’s shoes.  Tomorrow we might look at some, and I’ll tell you more about the land and its new owners.

Now it’s time to nominate!  I’m offering this to Viv in France, not with any conviction that she will take up the challenge, but Viv does post her brilliant poems very regularly and I’d love you to read them.  The back story to this post is My personal A- Z of Poland.  Hopefully see you tomorrow?