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.
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.