Poland

Reminiscences from Poland, 2

If you read Reminiscenses from Poland, you know that I reached Bełchatów, almost without mishap.  Immediately I was enveloped in a warm Zawady welcome, in the place that Dad once called home.  His only remaining sister, Aunt Lusia, lives there still, daughters and grandchildren close at hand.  A long summer evening was spent in her garden, rabbits proliferating, and a cardboard box sheltering the tiniest kittens you ever saw.  I could feel my ankles being bitten, the pond and the sultry air an open invitation.  All in a good cause.  Her arm tucked through mine, we took a gentle turn beneath the apple trees.  Not long since she was in hospital, with family fearful that she would not recover.

As darkness fell and eyes began to droop, I was returned to cousin Jadzia’s house.  Halfway through my Polish adventure.  I had scoured timetables, and lost sleep over how I would get from Bełchatów to Kraków.  In the event, the problem was solved for me.  Jadzia’s daughter Ania and family were driving to the Tatry Mountains, south of Kraków, for a few days holiday.  If I didn’t mind being a bit squashed, they would take me with them and break the journey at Adam’s house.  I’ve never been one to mind a squeeze.  And so it was that me and 2 little girls, with 2 sunhats and a furry green frog, shared the back seat on a 4 hour journey.

We took the scenic route to avoid roadworks, but it was market day in Radomsko, and the car crawled beside the brimming stalls.  Once out in gently rolling countryside, Hubert slipped a CD in and we sang along to Polish nursery rhymes.  Two year old Nadia’s eyes sparkled as she sang, but all of a sudden they were filled with distress and she was being sick.  Swerving off the road into a field, operation clean up began.  “She’s never done that before” Hubert ruefully observed.  “She’s normally a good traveler”.  Five minutes later, in fresh clothes, she was beaming again, and munching a bag of crisps.

At Adam’s house all was suspiciously quiet.  No sign of the two little boys who lived there, but the playroom overflowed with toys.  A lovely respite for two little girls, who didn’t stop till every shelf and cupboard was empty and there was no space to play.  Out into the garden for a quick burn off energy then, fuelled with coffee and cake, Mum and Dad round them up.  Time to say goodbye….

I had a luxurious hour to myself before the onslaught.  Toys swiftly back on shelves, a peep at TV (Rafa was playing in the French Open) and I was sitting on the balcony, waiting.  Hot and mildly harrassed, Weronika and Marta shepherded two small boys through the gate.  Bedlam!  But in such a good way.  My turn to play with Marti, 18 months old and a happy soul, and his rather more cautious brother, Bartek, aged three.  Gradually the household filled as first Adam returned from work, then Wojtek, Weronika’s husband, and finally my lovely neice, Ula.  One member was missing.   Łukasz now lives with his girlfriend and I was promoted to his bedroom.  The buzz of chatter, and patter of slippered feet on the tiled floors, filled the evening as we ate and drank.  And finally, collapsed gratefully into bed.

Fluffy clouds greeted me through the skylight next morning.  Sniadanie (breakfast), and an outing to the park, followed by wolny czas (free time).  When I returned from the city, preparations were in full swing, the house full of bustle.  Adam’s pride and joy is his barbecue room, a design wonder of wood and folding glass panels.  The end wall is solid brick to enclose the grill and a smoker.  Marta’s pride and joy is her garden and the delicious meals she provides for her family.  Between them they conjure up many a feast.

That evening there was a guest of honour.  A gentleman to whom I will always be in debt.  Tomasz, Adam’s business partner, a warm and generous man and an impeccable English speaker, made the phone call to Dad that reunited him with his Polish family. (A night I will never forget, my tearful Dad hardly daring to believe his luck).  Taste is of supreme importance to Tomasz, and is one of the foundations of the bakery business.  Fond of wine and good company, with many tales to tell, you can imagine how our evening progressed.  Adam provided salmon and garlic bread from the barbecue and smoked sea bass to compliment Marta’s salads.  Wine flowed, and then Łukasz arrived, affectionate as ever.  He had spent the afternoon sleeping after an early shift.  The children played.  Sandpit, bubbles and swing, until it was time to haul them off to bed….

Last day…ostatni dzien… and one last trip into the city.  A tram ride home, stopping to collect a deep red rose bush for Marta, and a bag of cherries.  A whirl of emotions.  Adam, watering the garden after another hot one.  Marta, pottering beside him, relaxed after feeding everybody again.  The children at a birthday party in the neighbours’ garden next door, laughter and occasional tears drifting our way.  The evening settling around us.  Time for more goodbyes… we don’t know till when.  In halting Polish on the way to the airport, I try to tell Adam how very grateful I am.  His eyes twinkle as hugs me….

You must have met Cathy over at Wander.essence?  I’m adding this to her Prose challenge.  It’s the last of my Polish adventures… for now.

Jo’s Monday walk : That bridge, and beyond

Last week I guess I cheated a little on my walk in Kraków. There was a bit too much sitting about at the riverside, but it was a very warm day so I make no apologies.  I knew I’d be making up for it.  ‘Obiad’ was rather special, with a big family gathering for my last night, and all was peaceful in the house next morning.  Time to slip away, and savour my last few hours in the city.

I was warned that ‘Saturday service’ on transport would be different, but I was lucky and bus 178 sped me into town.  Rattling over Most Jozefa Pilsudskiego, I spotted my bridge with the intriguing sculptures in the distance and hopped off.  Walking back on ul. Krakowska, I noticed a plaque commemorating Jan Pawel Drugie, Pope John Paul II.  I hesitated there on the pavement, thoughts of Dad suddenly filling my head.  Pushing open the heavy wooden door, I slipped inside the church to light a candle.  Without him, I never would have been here in Kraków.

Out again, into warm and hazy sunshine, it was on with my quest.  Pausing to look at the map on the bridge Jozefa Pilsudskiego, I was more taken with details of how the city once looked than in absorbing my whereabouts.  A common fault of mine.  I have a hopeless track record on following maps.  Fortunately I’m much better at finding beautiful bridges.

This one, ‘Between the water and the sky’, had called to me since first I saw it.  I was mesmerised.  You do, however, have to beware of cyclists.

I got ‘honked’ at as I daydreamed beneath the sculptures.  Apparently it’s supposed to have a ‘cyclists only’ path.  I’m not the only one to have been captivated.  The ubiquitous love locks have made an assault on the bridge, but nothing can detract from it.  Kładka Ojca Bernatka, or the Father Bernatek Footbridge, was opened in September, 2010, on the site of a former road bridge dismantled in 1925.  The 130 metre structure, designed by Andrzej Getter, has no supports and is suspended upon an arch.  The wonderful acrobatic sculptures are the work of Jerzy Kędziora.  The districts of Kazimierz and Podgórze are linked once more, which will benefit the latter.

Tearing my attention from the bridge, it was time to investigate the corten steel clad building, which turned out to be the former power station in Podgórze.  Now an exhibition space and cafe, as it was 10.45am and opening time not till 11.00, I decided to push on and explore the area.

It’s a bit ramshackle in places, but turning onto Rynek Podgórskie I looked across a huge space at a striking church.  Sw. Jozefa w Krakowie Podgórzu had a delightful surprise awaiting me.  But first, a peep inside.  Dressed all in finery, as befits a wedding.  I dared not linger.

But outside, behind the church, an invitation to a wonderful garden.  Mounting the steps I looked down upon a grotto and out across the rooftops.  A young couple, similarly entranced, were taking detailed photos, so I bided my time.  As I descended a sprinkler played across the flowerbeds, a mist of water catching me out.  You can see the droplets, if you look closely.

A smile still on my face, it was time to retrace my steps across the bridge.  Naturally I couldn’t resist a few more shots.  I needed a coffee, but the big old wooden barge ‘Barka’ was closed, and smart ‘Augusta’ was busy with a conference.  That left me one other option.  A smaller boat with a comfy seat on deck, and a view.  Two guys in a blow-up dinghy drifted by and waved.  I smiled and waved back.

Wondering about cake?  I was good on this occasion, but with a venue for later in mind.  First I had a walk along the riverbank.  Music was drifting across the river from the big stage at Termy Krakowskie, a nicely relaxed vibe, as my son would say.  He’d love it.

Boat hire was quiet, but Wawel Castle looked Saturday busy.  Any ideas where I’m heading?  Hotel Pod Wawelem has a roof top restaurant, as the name indicates, directly below the castle.  No doubt about it- cake with a view!

Fully satisfied, the trip wouldn’t be complete without paying my respects to Wawel.  Even on a busy Saturday, the place is sublime.

‘Home’ one last time.  Just one more Reminiscences from Poland to come and that will be my trip complete.  Already it feels distant.

I hope you enjoyed sharing Kraków with me.  Time to put that kettle on for this week’s walks.  Many thanks, everyone!  Join me here at any time on Jo’s Monday walk.  You’ll always be welcome.

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One of Debbie’s loves is street art.  She was richly rewarded in Madrid :

This is a Square

Drake has been captivating me with a series of photos of the island of Gozo :

When bath rocks

An enigmatic title from Jackie this week :

Snakes and Lattes

Lady Lee sets the world on fire, but don’t worry- it’s quite safe!

Summer solstice bonfire

Gunta shares more of the beautiful, natural world on her doorstep :

A stroll through the meadow

Share some ‘lolling kangaroos’ with Pauline.  She’ll be delighted if you do :

Australia’s iconic creatures

Or hoof it from snow to ‘shy rays of brightness’ with Susan :

Walking a rainforest trail in Olympic National Park

A heart stopping moment, just looking at one of Cathy’s photos.  Don’t miss it!

Ottos’s Trail & The Devils Kitchen Trail at Colorado National Monument

And if you have time to spare you could join Indra on Prince Edward Island :

PIE (PEI) in the Ocean

That’s it for another week.  Can you believe, we have a drop of rain here in the north east?  I’d forgotten what it’s like.  Have a good one!

Reminiscences from Poland

It began with so much angst, and then developed into the most heartwarming experience.  Come with me to Poland?

My 12th floor hotel room in Warsaw was wonderfully luxurious but I slept fitfully, with one eye on the clock, as you do when needing to rise early and excited for the journey.  Tiny beads of red tail lights trailed into the distance until a hazy dawn crept through my window.  Patches of mist nudged the buildings as I gazed down on the city in all its immensity.  I made coffee and the mournful tones of Leonard Cohen filled the room as I showered and gathered together my belongings.  Downstairs in reception a smiling face awaited.  Meg, promptly at 7, to deliver me safely to my coach station, Zachodnie.

Down into the subway we went, that subterranean city maze that bewilders me so, but with Meg by my side it didn’t seem so bad.  The ticket lady understood me, and sunlight beamed down on the tracks at Sródmiescie.  Two stops later we sat side by side on a bench, speculating on which coach it might be.  Trying to cram a world of emotions into dying minutes.  Those hugs may have to last us a long time…..

On the bus my neighbour is an elderly Polish lady, who tells me in minute detail about her health and her family.  No matter that I can only translate one word in ten.  I nod and shake my head vigorously, and attempt a brief family history, and moments later she is fishing in her capacious handbag to pull out a blue and white plastic bracelet with a St. Christopher attached.  She presses it upon me.  Apparently it will bring me good fortune, but I must look very needy, because immediately she’s back in the bag pulling out a red and white necklace and crucifix too.  I am mildly alarmed, wondering if I should offer money or will I give offence and destroy our budding friendship?  I risk all and she merely shakes her head.  We ride in companionable silence but I am shamefully relieved when she gets off at the first stop….

Two hours later the bus stops on the outskirts of  Bełchatów, and lots of passengers climb aboard.  An imperious looking lady demands to know where I am getting off and I mumble ‘na centrum’.  With a toss of her head she declines to sit next to me and moves on down the bus.  She thinks I’m stupid because the bus isn’t going to the centre.  I only realise this when a voice from the back of the bus penetrates my consciousness… ‘Johanna!  Johanna!’  It is Andrzej, my cousin Jadwiga’s husband, waving his arms frantically.  Sent to collect me from the stop, he has had to board the bus to attract my attention.  I have arrived….

Things I can do without language…. almost.  Sit on the floor and piece together a Snow White jigsaw with a 2 year old.  Blow bubbles.  Not so successful with the king-sized version- much twirling and blowing, to no avail, but producing gales of laughter from 2 small girls, so a result in entertainment terms.  Bounce on a trampoline.  Peel potatoes.  Eat strawberries and icecream with Marysia and Pawel.  Take a walk around the neighbourhood.  But the biggest success?  Play dominoes with my Uncle Jakub, rolling back the years to when he and Dad played for many an hour.  He won, of course!  And kiss and cuddle my beloved Aunt Lusia….

Memories….  Andrzej, retired now, with time to ride on his motorbike, feed the rapidly growing ducklings with his granddaughters, and attempt to learn English on his Ipad with Duolingo.  Much scratching of head.  Silly English language!

His wife, lovely Jadzia, drives the bus for the local school for handicapped children.  On an event day in a nearby park, the children flock round her, eager to introduce themselves and curious about her company.  They dance with no inhibitions, inside a tent, and drive buggies, under casual supervision.  Blond and beautiful, Nadia attracts much attention.  Her mind is firmly on candyfloss.  ‘Zielony, prosze’ she insists.  Green….

Cousin Ewa, quietly but proudly showing me the shell of her home, with its rudimentary furnishings.  Her husband Henryk was building it for them when he died 3 years ago, and there is no money to finish it off.  The hardware business she was running has failed and she has moved in to the house to save rent.  ‘At least I am close to family.’ We sit by the open fire in the garden, bottles of beer in hand, turning the kielbasa on the homemade barbecue as evening fades.  Squeals as cousin Marysia plays hide and seek with the children.  And then peace….

The neighbourhood….

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Cathy is throwing out challenges left and right over at Wander.essence.  I thought I would enter this for Prose.  Part 2 will follow next week.

 

Jo’s Monday walk : Same river, different city

You might remember, a few weeks ago, I had the bubbly and delicious company of Gilly on the banks of the River Wisła (Vistula) in Warsaw.  Fast forward a mere 5 days and there I was, beside that same river but many miles further south, in Poland’s second city, Kraków.  A mighty river, this one, it begins its journey on the Baltic Coast and flows south for 1,022 kilometres (635 miles).  How I got there is another story, but my mission today is simply to take you for a wander and, as luck would have it, a boat ride.

Earlier that morning I’d been in Kraków’s green and leafy suburbs, assisting with toddlers aged 3 and 18 months on an outing to the park.  Wilting in the heat, the little family had been glad to return home.  A cooling drink, then I hopped a bus into a city that never fails to delight me.

With no particular aim in mind, as I approached the river it was almost automatic to jump off.  If cooling breezes were to be found anywhere in Kraków, this would be the place.  Truth be told, I didn’t get very far before the notion of a glass of wine and an icecream became very appealing indeed.  What could be finer than sitting on the deck of a restaurant boat, facing lovely Na Skalce (the Church on the Rock)?  The steady hum of traffic crossing Most Grunwaldzki became a soothing murmur.  Hooray!  Here comes the paddle steamer, big wheels churning.  And a burst of speedboat cleaves the water in front of Wawel Castle.

I couldn’t sit there enjoying myself all day.  Time to cross over the river.  But scarcely was I on the other side than temptation struck again.  No, not cake!  The first time I ever came to Kraków I walked my husband’s legs off.  He was more than happy to agree to a boat ride, just to sit down.  Unfortunately on that occasion the ride was accompanied by a light drizzle, whereas this was the perfect day to be afloat.  One of those lovely little wooden boats was about to leave the jetty.  It was meant to be, and 30zł (about £6) for an hour wasn’t going to break the bank.

The boat sailed in one direction along the river, as far as the Salwator Church, then returned to the jetty.  This half hour trip cost 15zł, but if you stayed on board it then sailed in the opposite direction, passing Na Skalce and a sequence of bridges before returning to the jetty.  This second leg I found fascinating as the area was less familiar to me.  An idea was germinating that I might return the following day to explore on foot.

Trams and trains passed overhead, but it was the bridge Kładka Ojca Bernatka that particularly captured my imagination, and I resolved to come back for a closer look at the figures suspended over the river.  A building with an industrial chimney and appearing to be clad in corten steel also caught my eye.  On the river bank, the footpath stretches grandly into the distance, stylish riverboat restaurants just calling out to be visited.

Disembarking, I look wistfully up at Wawel Castle.  No time today.  I am being summoned to ‘obiad’, late afternoon lunch with my Polish family.  Walking back to the bus stop I mingle with school trips, and the riverside coach park bustling with vendors.  Billboards shout holiday destinations, demanding my attention, but who would willingly leave this fair city?

Come with me next week and we’ll explore the world beyond that beautiful bridge.  Meanwhile there are many stories to tell.  Thanks for bearing with me as I flit from here to there.  I’m grounded now, for a little while, and looking forward to my English summer.  I hope you’ve got the kettle on as there are some wonderful walks to share.  I’ll go easy on the cake as I over-indulged at an Open Garden event yesterday.

From high in the Alps to the lovely capital of Malta, with my good friend Drake :

Last morning in the Alps

Little pearl in the sun

You can always rely on Debbie to make life colourful and interesting :

Industry and art come together in Seoul

And for Susan to write beautifully, whatever the weather :

Walking Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

32 years together!  Lady Lee shares a special celebration :

Many thanks!

Share an extravaganza of food with Jackie, and then…

Coffee to go

Jesh takes a look at life, always in her own unique way :

Background Jumps

While Jaspa takes us back in history for a closer look at these ruins :

The Step Pyramid of Djoser – Part of the Saqqara Necropolis, Egypt

Persistence rewarded for Eunice and ruins of an entirely different nature at the end of her walk :

Part 2 – Llanlleiana, Porth Wen, and a long walk

Emma treats us to one of Wales’ great beauty spots, lovely paintings, and even a hang glider ride!

Gower Coastal Walk : Rhossili Bay

Who IS that mysterious lady on the beach?  Walking with Meg always makes me smile :

Eurobodalla beaches : around Tuross

It’s a while since Jude took a walk.  She’s usually too busy in the garden.  Wild orchids and butterflies, a lovely reward :

A Walk to the Lighthouse

Another orchid, I think, from my lovely Gilly, enfolded in lushness with a dramatic dragonfly :

Walking to the mill

And in complete contrast, Cathy finds spellbinding beauty in the desert :

Upper Ute Canyon & the Coke Ovens Trail at Colorado National Monument

A magnificent collection and many thanks to one and all.  Join me any time on Jo’s Monday walk and I’ll try to make you welcome.  The sun is still shining here in the north east and it’s time I rejoined my English walking group.  Wishing you all a lovely week!

Six word Saturday

The nicest rooftop bar I know!

Last Saturday I was saying a fond farewell to Poland in the rooftop restaurant at Hotel Pod Wawelem,  Kraków’.  I can highly recommend it, both for the views and the hot apple szarltotka with icecream.  You’ll have to wait for that photo and the accompanying walk because this is all about Becky’s Roof Squares.  And, of course, to wish you happy Saturday in Six Words (or more).

Apologies to both ladies for the links, as I’ve scheduled this post, while I’m enjoying the high life in Nottingham.

Jo’s Monday walk : An adventure with Gilly

The raw energy of a city is compelling, even if a little intimidating.  Riding into Warsaw on the airport bus, my eyes were on stalks, collecting impressions on every side.  Such a bustling, modern city, the buildings twisting and turning to point to the blue sky overhead.  Anxiety was swept away by excitement.  I was here!  And I stepped from the bus into the warmth of Meg’s arms, those lovely eyes twinkling at me.  All angst was neatly deposited in Meg’s backpack- my tour guide for a day, found!

Turning from her momentarily, the beaming smile of Gilly reached me from across the square, as she descended the steps of the Palace of Culture and Science, arm in arm with her friend Lindy.  Gaggling like geese, we blindly followed Meg as she led us from the centre to a restaurant.  Puzzling over the menu, we laughed when the wicker basket of knifes and forks arrived, bearing chopsticks in an elegant green wrapper.  My efforts to eat my noodle laden broth produced more smiles, along with the slurps.  Two thirds of the way through our meal, a mighty crash of thunder and coin drops of rain pounded our table.  The wide, creamy umbrellas over the tables were scarcely adequate.  More merriment and we scrambled indoors.

In no time, the sun was blazing through the open windows again.  Meg was recovering from a heavy cold, and starting to wilt a little, having been tour guiding all day and shown the ladies lovely Stare Miasto in the morning.  Lindy was struggling too, which left me and Gilly to get up to mischief.  Arrangements were made for early next morning, and Meg deposited us at our hotel.  A swift cuppa, and it was time to hit the streets.  Already it was 6.30 on a warm Warsaw evening.  Fortunately, Gilly was not at all critical of my reckless tour guiding style.  Of course the bus would take us to the river!  And so it did, with just a little walking involved.

The road stretched ahead, seemingly endless, the traffic buzzing past, the architecture varied and interesting.  On the horizon we could see a stadium, which we knew to be on the other side of the river.  Praga was not advisable after dusk, I was informed, but reaching the river the greater challenge was to get down to the riverside.  With the agility of a monkey, Gilly swung around the barrier and scrambled along the bank, hand over hand along the railings.  I followed, more sedately, concerned for my pretty, navy city shoes.

Nobody seemed to notice, and I was immediately at home, with a young crowd blithely enjoying the throng of beach bars, deck chairs and food stalls.  Boats bobbed serenely, while overhead trams clanged past and bikes dominated the footpath.

Appetising smells beguiled my nose, but a drink seemed more pressingly urgent, in the sultry evening air.  Dusk was beginning to fall, the warmth felt heavy with insects and an awareness that we were far from home.  How to get back on the bridge presented something of a challenge, but I dared a few words of Polish and waved my arms at the bridge.  The two young men politely gestured to where the steps were hidden.  Gilly and I agreed that we would not have chanced it after dark.

What else?  Hop another bus to take us nearer to the centre, a little judicious food purchasing and a bit of naughty jay walking.  Subways can get tedious, can’t they?  But please don’t tell.  I’d hate to be in trouble with the authorities.  The bottle top on my cider didn’t look promising, but it did unscrew.  I had no spoon for the delicious yogurt though.  Collapsed in my room with just my diary for company, I really didn’t care.

I hope you enjoyed our adventure.  I really didn’t intend to post today, but realising that next Monday I will be on my way to the Algarve, and that I have a fine collection of your walks ready to share, I thought it best.  Meantime, I’ll be off to see my daughter in Nottingham on Thursday.  And yes, I did manage to get those tickets reprinted.  Thank you all for your concern.

Where will we find Lady Lee this week?

In the country

A treat or two in store, from lovely Sherri.  Anyone else get to the Bash?

Surprises, Diana’s Dresses and the Annual Blogger’s Bash 2018

A bargain ‘two for one’ from Anabel, and both just a short walk apart :

The Kelpies to the Falkirk Wheel

A glimpse of ‘that’ wedding and lots more food, from Jackie :

Beer Money

When Sue shows willing, you simply have to sit up and take notice :

A stroll around Chartwell

‘Join the fun!’ says Jesh.  You know you want to :

Rounding up May

Suzanne delights me with fossils, shells and a little Autumn gold :

A walk to Shelly Beach

The end of Autumn

Calvi and Honfleur- two of the most scenic of places, shared by Drake :

Backdrop but scene too

The sunny side

Remember my lovely rhododendrons?  Eunice has found me some more :

A quarry walk with a difference

And Carol turns up some interesting treasure of her own :

From Trash to Treasure

How do you think of New York?  Jane’s wonderful photos show us it’s calmer side :

Hudson River Ramble

And a wonderfully scenic hike with Cathy ends in tears, but don’t worry- she’s ok!

The Mt. Sanitas hike in Boulder, Colorado

Not too very sure when I’ll be posting again.  Life does seem a little hectic.  Meanwhile, enjoy the sunshine, thanks for your company, and I’ll visit you all as soon as I can.

Anticipation and angst

I can’t remember a trip when I was quite so angst-ridden.  I do angst very thoroughly, and most trips, unless it’s my beloved Algarve, as the date for departure approaches I lose sleep worrying over the ‘what ifs?’  In my head I’m a control freak, but reality is often far beyond my control.

Lake Czorsztyn in the Pieniny Mountains

I well remember being let loose by the Polish family in the Pieniny Mountains.  A trip river rafting in the Dunajec Gorge was in the offing, but where to catch the bus?  My other half always reads timetables meticulously and was unconvinced either that we were in the right place, or that the bus would turn up.  This despite a visit to Tourist Information to enquire.  ‘You’re the one who speaks Polish!’ he said, accusingly.  If only this were so!  The sun beat down, and we waited.  And waited.  Eventually a tiny minibus pulled to the curb, destination unknown.  We looked at each other.  This one?  Fortunately a good-hearted, English speaking couple had witnessed our confusion.  They were going hiking in the Gorge.  “Come on!  We’ll tell you where to get off.”  Huge relief and, ultimately, one of my best ever days in Poland.

But I digress.  What makes this particular trip so worrisome?  I had always known that I would return to Dad’s homeland one day, even though Dad was no longer with me.  The Polish family were so kind, and so accepting when we walked into their lives after all those years of absence.  Dad was welcomed with open arms.  Here I was, going back alone, and still without the benefit of Polish language, try as I might to make sense of it.

You might recall from My Call to Poland that I have elderly family.  The need to see them is pressing, but I want to cause the least possible inconvenience.  This means not flying into Kraków and expecting to be driven 3 and a half hours north to the family home, which is what always happened when Dad was alive.  A wild notion had occurred to me.  My lovely Australian friend, Meg, was back in Warsaw for 6 weeks.  This might be an opportunity to see her again, however briefly.  It all hinged on whether I could find transport from Warsaw to Bełchatów.  When Gilly leapt, with gay abandon, onto the scene, announcing she had booked 3 days in Warsaw and was going to see Meg, it was just the catalyst I needed.

A sequence of emails took place.  Kind Adam, in Kraków, declared that I was welcome in his home at any time.  Lovely Jadzia in Bełchatów said that my timing was perfect to celebrate her birthday with her.  Meg, more than generously, offered to put me up for the night on my arrival in Warsaw.  I didn’t contact Gilly,  hoping to surprise her.  Now all I had to do was pore over online timetables.  Endless timetables!  Until my head hurt.  It wasn’t simple, but finally I secured a prized bus ticket from a Russian company- the small print indecipherable.

And speaking of language, it was again time to seek out my ‘Colloquial Polish’.  I started a course at a local college about 10 years ago and purchased the required book.  The course was discontinued, due to funding, long before I reached the end of the book, but I did acquire a lasting friendship- another lady with a Polish Dad.  Each time I have visited Poland I have started the book again, with renewed enthusiasm.  Never have I reached the last page, but it has accompanied me proudly on each of my visits, and sat on the table as a declaration of intent.  This time it must stay home as I need to travel light.  A pocket dictionary will have to do.

Transferring from Bełchatów to Kraków is equally problematic.  The train service I relied on has changed providers and disappeared.  Buses go in random directions, sometimes taking as long as 13 hours.  I could reach the Pacific in less time.  Angst heightens.  Meantime, Gilly asks questions about my visit.  Nothing to do but confess and hope she won’t mind my gatecrashing her meeting with Meg.  Assuming I can find them in the teeming metropolis.

And just as I’m about to embark on this journey, I discover that I’ve lost the coach tickets to visit my daughter in Nottingham, scheduled just days after my return from Poland!  I can’t reprint them because I don’t have the ticket number.  Much hunting and an email to the coach company.  It can only get better?  By the time you read this I should know the answer.

Meantime I’m linking to Cathy’s Anticipation & Preparation: Spain and Portugal in 2013 on Wander.essence.  It holds many fond memories for me.