Poland

Six word Saturday

Shout it from the roof tops!

It’s June, and Becky’s back again with a brand new series of squares.  Knowing how much everyone enjoyed the last series, I can’t help but feel I’ll be missing out, but I’m off to Poland tomorrow.  Plac Zamkowy (Castle Square) in Warsaw will be my only contribution to Roof Squares for now, but I’ll be keeping a watchful eye on those roof tops.

No Monday walk next week, but I have a post scheduled for Thursday, when I hope to be on my way to Kraków with a fistful of happy memories.  Apologies if my responses are slow.  Till then, have a great weekend and don’t forget to share your Six Words with Debbie.

My Call to Poland

Sukiennice, the impressive Medieval Cloth Hall, in  Kraków’s Rynek Glowny

You might call me unimaginative, but I’d never thought a great deal about Poland until that strange evening, 12 years ago, when Dad got a phone call from ‘home’.  For 64 years he’d had no contact with his Polish family, leaving the farm aged just 15, and in German custody.  That phone call turned our lives upside down.  Until then Dad had been my only Polish relative.  Imagine, overnight, you belong in an enormous family, who don’t even speak the same language as you.  But who welcome you with open arms.

That’s just how it was, and when Cathy asks ‘what is it that draws you to a place?’ then the lure of family surely has a part to play.  Over at Wanderessence she’s been exploring the reasons why we travel, and so much more.  I’ve always had that restless urge, but my first visit to Poland was a revelation.  I’ve never been hugged and kissed so much in my life.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Outside of family and friends, Polish people are not normally smiling nor especially welcoming.  Given their history, they have good cause to hold a little in reserve.  But Dad was the long lost brother, and was treated like Polish royalty, while I followed along in his wake, smiling fondly but often with little real idea of what was going on.  The language barrier, you see.

Coach and horses have right of way in Rynek Glowny

The country looked so very different to the one I was used to calling home.  The chalet style houses looked different, out in the countryside.  One of the things I found really strange was that pipes often ran overhead alongside the country roads, rather than underground, as I was used.  But in the historic centres of the cities, the intricately painted and decorated facades had me stand and gaze in awe.   Kraków and Wrocław- I’ve been privileged to know both of these beautiful cities, because of my family.

Polish eating habits are different too.  Second breakfast, lunch at 3 in the afternoon, and cake before and after almost everything! (that must be where I get it from 🙂  )  In the previous year, I and my husband had acquired a holiday home in Portugal.  Totally different culturally and in climate too, yet I found myself wondering, if we had known of the existence of the Polish family sooner, would I have been looking for a house in Poland?  I suspect I might.  I’ve always had the sea on my doorstep, and Poland is landlocked on 3 sides.  The Baltic coast is too far from family, but I’ve always been drawn to lakes and mountains too.  A visit to the Pieniny Mountain range, and the spa resort Szczawnica, linger in my memory.  Rafting through the Dunajec Gorge was a totally unforgettable experience.

I have shared some wonderful times with my Polish family, and written about them extensively, while trying not to give embarrassment.  The series My Personal A-Z of Poland has many tales to tell.  Dad died in October 2016 and I haven’t been back to Poland since.  But I can still feel the call.  Writing Easter cards took me back into each of their homes.  New youngsters have been born since my last visit, but my elders are growing older and, in some cases, frail.  I’m feeling the need to return, just once more, before starting my new life in the Algarve.

Dad with Uncle Wlodek, at home in Zgorzelec

I’m linking this to Cathy, on her series A Call to Place.  The lady is a human dynamo, seeking to improve her travel writing and to entertain us along the way.  Pay her a call.  She’ll be so glad to see you.

Piotrków Trybunalski

IMG_6661I’d like to spend just a little more time with my Zawady family, before returning you to the big city sights of Kraków.

We sat out, on my last night, under the stars and beside a roaring bonfire.  Myself and Jadzia, with husband Andrzej and sister, Ewa.  I was quiet, letting the conversation flow around me, while Jadzia and Andrzej took turns to stoke the fire, the kiełbasa bursting and sizzling on the grill.  My head was still full of the day’s excitement, with Meg in Łódź.

Broad smiles and hugs had greeted me when I pronounced the day ‘fantastyczny’ on my return.  Ewa was quick to produce a bottle of something soothing to rub on my black eye, which was rapidly developing after the previous night’s misadventure.  How is it possible to walk into a lighted porch lamp?  I’ve no idea, but I knew that an early start was intended next day.

If you look closely you’ll see Andrzej, sitting on the hammock.  For the past 50 years he has wanted a motor bike.  Finally, as he approaches retirement, Jadzia is considering letting him buy one.  And so we went to the Saturday morning market at Piotrków Trybunalski.  The last place it would have occurred to me to go looking for a bike, but sure enough, bikes there were.  And just about every other conceivable thing too.  We stowed our purchases (but not a bike- they were all too old!) in the car, and drove into the town centre.

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Seldom have I seen a sleepier Saturday morning than at Piotrków Trybunalski, yet the grandeur of the main square hints at its illustrious past. Medieval Piotrków was an important trading centre, and much later became the seat of the Sejm, the Polish Parliament.  In between times it was home to the Polish prince’s tribunals or law courts, including the Royal Tribunal, the highest court in Poland.  I knew little of this, as I strolled through the peaceful square.

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Under Austrian occupation in World War 1, Piotrków became a centre for Polish patriotic activity and a headquarters of the voluntary troops, the Polish Legions.  The town had a large Jewish population, and in October 1939 became the site of the first Jewish Ghetto of World War 11.  Fierce fighting took place but the town was subsequently occupied by the Germans for 6 years.  The Great Synagogue, listed as one of Poland’s most notable architectural buildings, was destroyed by the Nazis, but renovated after the war.

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As we wandered, Jadzia pointed out the school she used to go to, catching the early bus from Zawady each morning.  She was proud of the connection with Copernicus, and I was happy to be there with her.

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It was time to return to Zawady, but first a very swish motor bike shop, and a stop to collect cake.  Just one last coffee before we set off to meet Dad, for the journey south.  And then the hugs, goodbye.

Paula has a new approach to Thursday’s Special this week.  I think I might just squeeze this under the heading of Transience, don’t you?  Family meetings and former glory.

Zbiornik Wawrzkowizna

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Life is pretty busy for my Polish family, so when I was bundled into the car for a swift outing, between shifts of work, I didn’t know quite what to expect. Staying in rural Zawady, I seldom did.  Language so often seemed to get the better of me.

With interest I gazed out of the window as we passed through our local town, Bełchatów, and soon after that turned down a path signed Zbiornik Wawrzkowizna.  I know!  Not the easiest place name you ever saw.  Dad insists that Polish is simple.  You just spell out each letter, slowly. Mystified, I followed, as we left the car in woodland parking.  A complex of buildings sat off to one side, and a gate led to a small animal farm and stables.

My cousin, Jadwiga, smilingly explained that she sometimes comes here to ride, and pointed out her favourite horse.  It was dimly lit in the stables, so I can’t show him to you.  Soon though we were out in bright sunlight, beside a swiftly flowing canal and heading towards a vast expanse of water.

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Nestled in amongst the trees were a series of tall, green Toblerone-shaped chalets, several of them occupied.  A few youngsters lounged on the steps, idling the day away.  It felt a little like ‘Center Parcs’ and I realised that it was, in fact, a sports and recreation centre.  In Summer there would be an admission charge, but in low season it was free to wander, and we did.

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It was wonderfully peaceful, with just the odd angler, casting a line.  Fishing competitions are held here sometimes, and in high season there are kayaks and pedaloes for hire.  A small child, well-wrapped up despite the warm temperatures, was digging in the sand on the man made beach. Her Dad hovered indulgently nearby.  Looking out across the lake at a certain point it becomes impossible not to see what everyone takes for granted around here.  Smoke rising from the chimneys of the power station that brought employment to this area. A blot on the landscape.

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It’s rather sad, isn’t it?  But no-one seems to mind.  Jadzia had happy memories of distant summers, spent splashing around in those waters.  And we had no time to linger.  Her husband was off to work- at the power station, of course.

Jo’s Monday walk : Zawady

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In total contrast to my last, extremely urban walk in the city of Łódź, I’m taking you out into the Polish countryside today.  I’m going right back to where my Polish story began, in the village of Zawady, around 60kms south of the big city.  It’s a different world!  Dad was born in this village, more than 88 years ago.

As you can imagine, changes have taken place, but not too many.  The original farmstead is still there, but much of the land has been divided up between the family.  The photo above is the view I woke up to from my bedroom, on my first day back in the village.  Early morning mist burnt off to a beautiful day, and it was time to feed the week old ducklings.

I had been staying in the suburbs of Kraków, so the difference was considerable.  The daughter of a farmer, with memories of driving the tractor with her Dad, Zygmunt, when she was young, my cousin Jadwiga loves her garden.  But growing vegetables and keeping hens has to come second to her day job, and more especially to her dearly loved grandchildren.  They are seldom far away, as daughter Ania lives in a self build bungalow within the grounds.  Meet Kinga and Nadia, with mum, Ania, and Babcia, Jadzia.

For those of you who might have wondered, ‘what is Poland like?’ let’s slide the gate open, and we’ll step outside and see.  Poland is a big country and land is cheap.  It’s not uncommon to see ‘land for sale’ signs in the woods that surround most villages.

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The houses vary considerably, some still old farmhouses, others in a far more modern style.  I peep over the fence at the pond which once belonged to Aunt Lusia.  Now her daughter Graźyna and husband Marek have built a home there, among the cherry trees.

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You don’t have to walk far before you’re at the end of the village, and the woods beyond.  I retrace my steps, on the other side of the road this time, passing by cousin Marysia’s beautifully modern home, and a sign that cautions of the ‘good’ dog that bites!

A crossroads points to Ławy, 1.3kms away, and I am tempted to follow it out into open countryside.  But first I need to complete the circuit, back to the main road through the village.  These decorated crosses are found on many corners, scattered throughout Poland. Number 16F is Ania and Hubert’s house, and the garden design business she runs from home.

As the sun droops in the sky and the children play out on their bikes, I cast one more look at the cherries, and then head off down the lane.

Don’t worry!  I do return, but I wanted to show you the ‘whole’ of Zawady.  It’s not very big!  I hope you enjoyed meeting the place, and my family.

I’ve decided to link this post to My personal A-Z of Poland, which has been sadly neglected in recent times.  Much of what appears there is relevant and will provide good background, for anyone who’s interested.  Time to put the kettle on now, for this week’s shares.

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Many thanks to all of you who make Mondays a bit special for me.  Your support and encouragement sees me through the week.  If you have a walk to share and you haven’t joined me yet… well, what’s stopping you?  Details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo above.  You’ll be made more than welcome.

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Let’s start the ball rolling with Laura, in Costa Brava’s wild spaces this week :

A taste of salt and honey

Pauline treats us to a glimpse of an Eye, through floral abundance :

A Walk through sunny Southbank, Brisbane

Hop off your bike and take a walk in equally sunny California!

My weekly ramble- John Nicholas Trail

Yvette has her own unique and stylish way of doing things :

Jubilant Walk with Jo (Nature Day 1)

And you know that Drake does too!  Welcome to Kayserberg :

Home sweet home

Geoff spent his April engrossed in a challenge.  King’s Cross?  Well, he might be!

X is for Crosses#atozchallenge

I don’t often think of hill climbing and Jude in the same sentence, but… she did it!

Conquering Godolphin Hill

Thanks a lot for your company, and for your friendship.  I know that this was a very low key walk, but I wanted to share a little more than just a pair of boots.  In the coming weeks I hope to give you a flavour of Poland, seen through my eyes.  Take good care, and enjoy your walking!

I almost forgot my good friends over at Monday Escapes.  Maybe something for the Bank Holiday weekend?

Six word Saturday

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Thursday’s still Special on a Saturday

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Last Saturday you accompanied me to a rather wonderful cake shop in Kraków.  Just so you don’t think that I spent the entire two weeks eating cake, I think you should come with me on a little stroll to the park.

It’s a very busy household I was staying in.  Work in the bakery starts in the early hours and often Łukasz leaves home before 5.  Ula combines study with learning the trade, sometimes in the cake shop till 10 at night.   Their father, Adam, is at the helm of the bakery and machine manufacturing business all day long.  Which leaves wife Marta at home, feeding and nurturing, whilst oldest daughter Weronika looks after eleven month old Bartek.  So what was I to do?

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Find a bench in the Park and watch the world at play.  All was peaceful when I first arrived, but soon excited voices broke into my reverie.  A posse of pre-schoolers were being coraled in the playground.  Peace was gone, but a smile lit my face.

Paula makes Thursday special every week, and you know that’s still true on a Saturday.

Hope you have a great weekend. Why not share your six words with Cate, and I’ll be back on Monday with a Polish walk for you.

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Jo’s Monday walk : Meeting Meg

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If ever you need a sweet-natured soul to have a stroll with- or better still, a hug or five and a hoot of laughter- I have a peerless recommendation for you.  I’m a little hesitant in writing this post because I’m not sure that I can do the lady full justice.  If you saw Meg’s post, ul Piotrkowska with Jo, you’ll know that she has already done my job for me.  And that is very typical of Meg.  Swift to offer the hand of friendship, she turned my day in the city of Łódź into something quite extraordinary.

First, let me give you a little background.  The key to Meg’s being in Poland is her wnuki, her grandchildren.( pronounced f-nooki, it’s another of those tricky Polish words)  How many people do you know who would leave their beloved home (think ‘good for the soul’ quiet beaches, and Australian flora and fauna, all photographed by Meg in exquisite detail) to take up residence in Poland’s capital city, Warsaw, for a year?  To be near those children.  Speaking almost no Polish, and reduced, like myself, to a perplexed frown as conversations roll past her, Meg then agrees to meet with an English lady in an unknown city.  To make it easier for that lady, she books 3 nights in the city, alone, almost immediately after a family trip to the Polish lakes.

And now for my part.  I know all too well the frustrations of a lack of ability to communicate.  Occasionally I have thought that ‘signing’ would be a better method than trying to speak the Polish language.  I get by well on hugs and smiles within the family but that doesn’t go down so well with strangers.  Understandably the family are not keen to let this nodding, smiling person go wandering in a big city, where few of them are keen to venture themselves.  How can they know that it is in my nature to wander?  That I thrive on it.  I have even done a little research and know how to get to Łódź.   And beyond that, I will have Meg!

It is with reluctance but great patience that Andrzej accompanies me to the bus stop, and we wait and wait.  When I am almost convinced that it will not arrive, despite his phone call to the bus company and being told ‘Będzie’- ‘it will come’, a small white minibus hoves into view.  Can you imagine the bubble of excitement inside me as the lush green of Springtime Poland slides past my window?

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Enough!  The audience awaits.  I step off the bus almost into her arms and we make it to a corner cafe for much needed kawa (coffee, of course). And there I discover just how delightful a companion I am to have for my day of freedom.  The cafe is situated on a corner of Poland’s longest street, Ulica Piotrkowska.  With unfailing lack of sense of direction I point to the ‘top end’ of the street and suggest that we head that way.  Meg smiles, and points the other way.  Armed with a map from the TI and directions on how to find the bus stop from which I must later leave the city, cameras in hand and huge grins on our faces, we begin to walk.

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As Meg has pointed out in her beautiful post, the architecture in Łódź is ravishing.  There really is something for everyone, whether you favor shabby or chique.  My tendency is always to beauty and elegance, but I can sometimes be won over by the forlorn and unloved.  We are each other’s eyes, and at times it’s hard to concentrate, as smiles and snippets of conversation bob back and forth.  I have never taken photographs in tandem like this, and it is a remarkable experience.  Sometimes I pause to see what Meg has focused on, and later I realise that she was doing the same with me.  How very wonderful to find someone who understands the joy of just being there.

Part of the reassurance I tried to give my Polish family was that I would not be straying far from Ulica Piotrkowska, and there truly was little need to. Our first landmark is Plac Wolnosci, where I dance in delight at the passing trams.  Meg finds this funny.  There is every kind of transport along this street, but trams always bring a smile to my lips.

Looking up, past a rusty old gate, cavorting weasels (or maybe rats?) catch my eye, but I have my sights on Palac Poznanskiego, Museum of the History of Łódź.  Time is precious and the weather superb so, having found our target, we agree to bypass it in favour of a leafy green space.  Meg takes huge pleasure in the soft shadows and gently waving trees.  My best efforts for Jude are rather pathetic, and I start to giggle.

We are at the very top of Piotrkowska, and turn to head back.  On a corner of Plac Wolnosci, the church of Zesłania Ducha Świętego is bathed in bright sunlight.  The door is ajar, and we enter quietly.  There are only a couple of people knelt in silent worship and I manage a few shots, trying hard not to be intrusive.  ‘Are you any good at mosaics?’ asks Meg.  I shrug and try.

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Time to decide where to eat.  There are plenty of choices and we are agreed that an outdoor table will do nicely.  Ordering from the board outside our restaurant, I manage to confuse the waitress.  Or does she confuse me?  Soup, and then nalesniki  (pancakes) with spinach, appear in rapid succession.  I decide to ask again for some wine, and am greatly relieved when it arrives.

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Many confidences were exchanged before we continued along this engaging street.  Rubinstein with his piano vied for our attention with local born poet, Julian Tuwim.  Whimsy there was aplenty, and some quite enchanting sculptures of children.

Nifty little archways and passages lead off Piotrkowska, some of them quite irresistible.  Most lead to restaurants and quiet courtyards, but the art gallery and cafe Surindustrialle was one of our best finds.  Metal art from industrial waste.  Take a look at the website and you’ll see what I mean.

I have so many more photos that I could show you, but perhaps you are getting weary.  Meg showcases many of them brilliantly so, if you haven’t already paid a visit, I hope that you will do so.  One good thing about this walk- it’s almost impossible to get lost.  But reaching the end of Ulica Piotrkowska is another matter altogether.  I don’t know if we got even halfway along its 4.9km.

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All too soon it was time to look for the bus stop that would take me back to the family.  A landmark for Meg in finding her way around the city, the main tram station was chiefly a source of happiness for me.  I had glimpsed it, with curiosity, from my bus window on the way into Łódź.  Just look!

A block further south and our grand street was starting to look a little more humble. A colossal renovation project, it’s hard to know when it will be finished.  But our time together was almost at an end.  The bus stop was found too quickly and we looked for somewhere to conclude our meeting. Not a cafe in sight, we subsided onto the bench and continued to talk.  There was so much to ask… so much to say!  But 45 minutes later the bus revved its engine and I reluctantly got on board.  One last hug and a wave and Meg was gone.  I was both exhilarated and bereft!

I realise that this walk is of a far more personal nature than usual, but I wanted it to be a tribute to a very special lady.  I do hope you enjoyed your walk with ‘us’, and I very much hope that she and I will meet again someday.

Should you be tempted by what you’ve seen, you will find the Tourist Information website in Łódź a valuable source of information.

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Thank you for your patience everybody.  Often I visited your blogs whilst sitting on the sofa, as Dad and my cousins watched TV, but my Smartphone has its limits (or the truthful version- I do!)  ‘Normal service’ should be resumed now.  Welcome to my walks!  Join in if you like.  The details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo above.  Time for a cuppa, isn’t it?

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It always tickles me how many of our place names are the same- Monteith St. for example. Thanks, Anabel!

Toronto: an urban walk

There’s no getting away from it- Susan is a lady after my own heart :

Just for the shell of it

Classical Glass

Yvette always supplies interesting people to compliment her doors (and walks) :

Thursday Doors (walk-ing)

I’m inclined to forget that Becky has an English blog.  Come along with me and learn all about ‘navigations’ :

A lovely English stroll for a Monday

I have done this walk to the Algarve’s Fonte da Mesquita but, unlike Becky, I didn’t see the orchids.  Sad face! :

A happy case of ‘orchidelirium’ on our walk to the spring!

Sue has a warm heart and is a great espouser of good causes, but she likes a bit of fun too!

Where Do Beavers Live?

Nothing I like better than a watery walk!  Geoff chucks in a chateau or two and I’m happy :

Moi Aussi#walking#france

And some London buildings, including lovely St. Bride’s :

H is for Hawksmoor and his boss….

Drake takes us ‘home’ to beautiful Samsø in Denmark :

Here comes the sun

We’re biking again in California, but you can get off to check out the neighbourhood :

My weekly ramble- From my front door

A hint of mystery next and a great yarn, told in Tish’s best raconteur mode :

The Tale of a Hidden House that once hid a King 

And while we’re storytelling, I was delighted to have the ‘other’ Sue for company this week :

Of castles, a dancer, dragon’s teeth and tunnels…

Denzil has found us some green and pleasant land that isn’t England :

Walking in the Voerstreek

And Gilly, England at its finest :

Lanhydrock, a National Trust Stroll

That’s it for another week!  Many thanks to all of you for your support and for walking with me.  I hope that this week brings you much pleasure.