#Wanderessence

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.

The Roman Army Museum

Night watch

Here I am again!  In this god forsaken place.  Standing on the wall, staring into the darkness, and just waiting.  Watching and waiting.  Mind numbing, waiting.

Always this wretched cold!  Biting into my bones and nipping my knees, a woollen cloak no defense against the real enemy.  Boredom.  Oh, for some action!  Something to warm me up.  I’d put paid to a barbarian or two.  If only they’d storm the fort, like real men, instead of hiding in the trees.  They wouldn’t stand a chance, against us trained soldiers.  Training!  That’s all we do.  Day in, day out!  Pitting our wits against each other to stay sharp, in the service of the Empire.

It’s fine for the Centurion with his fancy house.  He never has to stand out here, shivering.  I’m just an auxiliary.  A slave to Rome.  25 years I have to survive this dog’s life, before I can become a Roman citizen.  The days are not so bad.  No time to think.  At least you can have a hot bath and decent food.  Maybe get out on a hunting party for some fresh meat.  Even have a skirmish with some of those savages.  Makes you feel alive, alright!  Anything’s better than this creeping death from the cold and damp.  The mocking whisper of the wind.  Deathly stillness!

From Vindolanda we drove 15 minutes to the Roman Army Museum, close to the village of  Greenhead, to learn a little more.  A joint ticket can be purchased for the two, which compliment each other.  A highlight of this visit is ‘Edge of Empire-The Eagles Eye’, an atmospheric 15 minute film, for which 3D glasses are worn.  ‘Night watch’ was written in response to the film, of which I can only share the trailer.

At the museum I learn that it is Rosalia, the Roman festival of the rose, traditionally held in May.  Curiously, the Romans believed that Mars, god of war and protector of Rome, was born from a rose.  The blooms were worn to honour the fallen.

The displays and information add to my knowledge about the Romans, and their surroundings.  They were very serious about the business of ‘conquer and defend’.  Training was done with weighted weapons to add to the strength and skill of the soldiers.  In battle, wielding a sword would feel so much easier, and inspire confidence.  Training could be brutal, with little quarter given.  The armour and weaponry engendered huge respect for the skill and craftsmanship of these people.

I learnt that discipline was very strictly enforced.  Falling asleep on sentry duty in the long, dark nights was a crime punishable by death, often at the hands of your fellow soldiers, while the garrison looked on.  A background video, running on one wall, told the story of a bunch of young soldiers and how they felt about life in the Roman Army.  Wine and gambling were happy diversions from the training schedule.

A timeline and Hadrian’s interesting story completed the exhibits.  I doubt I would make the journey especially for the Roman Army Museum, but it works well in conjunction with Vindolanda.  When we had left the fort there was a freshness in the air and we were glad to be indoors.  By the time we left the museum it was spitting on to rain, and the skies a dull grey.  The iconic Sycamore Gap looked a little ‘all forlorn’.

I’m adding this post to Cathy’s collection of Prose, over at Wander.essence.  I hoped to give you a flavour of life on the bottom rung of the Roman Empire.  Not always a comfortable place to be, but with its own rewards.  The 3D film made quite an impression on me and I feel like I’ve been living alongside those Romans.  I’m glad you could keep me company.

In an English Country Garden

At the weekend I was at Thorp Perrow Arboretum, near Bedale in Yorkshire.  No need for words really.  Just wander with me, in the warm sunshine.

Many of the daffodils are past their best, but an army of compatriots leap to attention behind them.  I’ve seldom seen such variety in one place.  Arum lilies quietly stand guard over the pond.  The soft colours of Spring are all around me, pierced by the vibrance of Japanese acers.

At this time of year, and with such weather, my Place in the World would have to be in an English country garden.  Ask me in Winter though and I suspect you’ll get a different answer.  Revelling in my surrounds, my intention had been simply to capture an armload of beauty for Cathy’s photographic challenge over at Wander.essence.  But I’m sure she won’t mind to share.

 

Jo’s Monday walk : YSP revisited

Not sure that I’d want to meet this tribe on a dark night, but on a semi-sunny afternoon at Yorkshire Sculpture Park they seemed harmless enough.  I had hoped to find some Spring colour and a whole heap of rhododendrons, but it didn’t look too promising on my arrival.

The sheep were oblivious, despite the antics of a small boy.  I was happy to find that many of the sculptures had been replaced since my previous visit, so off we went, on a mission of discovery.  Over the bridge and upwards, a carpet of bluebells cheering us on.

The ‘rather cool’ tree sculptures, nourished by decaying leaves, had obviously been there for some time.  Up on the tops it was cool and breezy, but you could see for miles, rapeseed fields lighting the horizon.  And then it was down to the Longside Gallery, and a coffee stop.  No, I’m sure you don’t want to see a photo of my chocolate fudge brownie, but I’d earned it.

The small boy was worried at the appearance of a shaggy Highland Cattle beastie, directly in our path to the gazing head.  With scarcely a glance in our direction, it lumbered into the mud and better grazing.  The head, eyes closed, I found very beautiful.

The lake was huge, families strolling peacefully in pursuit of culture.  I could have wished for more information on the sculptures, but it wasn’t until our walk was over that my husband offered the leaflet he’d picked up.  What was that, lurking on the field?  Unarmed warriors, it appeared to me.

I was sure there was meaning.  Fortunately the YSP website explains all.  British-Trinidadian sculptor, Zak Ové, is responsible for Black and Blue : The Invisible Men and the Masque of Blackness.  He seeks to “reignite and reinterpret lost culture using new-world materials, whilst paying tribute to both spiritual and artistic African identity”. In this work, the sculptor uses graphite to explore what he describes as “future world black”.

Ai Weiwei’ s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads has been touring the world since May 2010.  The 12 bronze heads have a historical reference, but Weiwei intends them to be playful and accessible.  I ceased my perusing to head for the Camelia House.  Their beauty was easy to understand.

I kept looking for that telltale splurge of colour, but green predominated.  Returning to the entrance, I was sorry to see that the reflective silver sphere I loved last time was being replaced.  But there’s often light at the end of the tunnel, and so it proved to be.

A dazzling display of soft pink, rhododendron wonder.  Exactly what I was looking for.

Have you been following Cathy’s extraordinary new venture at Wander.essence?  More energy, enthusiasm, attention to detail and pure determination to get it right you will not find in the world of travel blogs.  I have Cathy’s permission to include my walk on her Photography Invitation.  I hope she likes it.  Do join her on one of her many adventures!

It’s a Bank Holiday here in the UK, so hopefully you’ll have time to read and share my walks this week.  Many thanks to all of you for taking part, and for your continued support.  Join me any time- the details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.

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Janet is delighted to lead us into Spring this week.  It’s been a long wait in her part of the world :

Spring walk

I usually have to force my brain to come up with poetry.  Frank makes it seem effortless :

Round the lake (rtl)#1: sea above

Seems Jackie had a bit of a narrow escape the other week.  But, undaunted, she shopped, and ate :

Love food

Drake shares some captivating street art, this week.  A walk in the Black Forest :

Streets with inspiring content

While more of Warsaw’s fascinating history is revealed, in this post from Meg :

I don’t know everything

If you’ve never been there, be guided by Andrew’s wonderful descriptions.  Or even if you have!

Naples, Walking The Back Streets

Another place I’ve been to on my travels, Candy takes a whistle-stop look at Beja, in the Alentejo :

A walk through Beja in Portugal

And here, a sculpture walk very different to mine, from Cady Luck Leedy :

Last Day in Columbus, Georgia

Another poetry walk, and an ‘out of this world’ experience with Suzanne :

Walking in two worlds 

Memories of my son’s childhood recreated for me by Irene :

Railway Garden

Jude, you might enjoy this?  Your neck of the woods.  3rd of 3, with Ceri at Woman Walking :

To the Lighthouse, and other stories

And Emma, simply not letting PTSD affect her progress around the Gower coast :

Gower Coastal Walk: Tor Bay & Oxwich Bay

Another glorious morning here!  I would tap dance my way into the garden, but it doesn’t work with carpets.  Have a wonderful week, all!

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.

My Place in Tavira

Sometimes words tumble around in your head, eager to evade the paper.  I’ve been following Cathy’s latest venture over at Wanderessence with interest, as she evokes a stream of memories.  Some of you may already know that I plan to move to the Algarve, in Portugal, this year.  Estate agents are almost at my door, the spur I need to start sorting through almost 30 years of squirreling stuff away.  What can I not bear to part with?

Sifting through a pile of photos, mostly of Dad and my Polish family, I pull out a couple of battered exercise books.  Evidence that I had tried to learn both Polish and Portuguese, unsuccessfully, I might add.  Several of the pages were loose, and came away in my hand.  I began to read…. not grammar at all, but the story of my early days in the Algarve.  It all came flooding back.

What is it that draws you to a place, asks Cathy?  She suggests that you keep a detailed diary to help you reminisce.  The pages I had stumbled upon took me back to 2004.  Our immaculate navy blue and white, new bathroom had plumbing problems and had to be bashed about to resolve them.  The whole street seemed to shudder and shake as our bathroom was ‘mended’.  It was an agony to listen, so we escaped while sanity was restored.

The previous October we had taken a one week holiday in Vilamoura and done a little scouting around.  I’d never been to Portugal before, but had liked the sound of Tavira.  A ruined castle overlooking the river, and a ferry to take you out to the beach.  Could it be as nice as it sounded?  Autumn that year was a little mischievous, but the patches of blue in the sky made up for the puddles of rain in the streets.  I lost my heart, right there and then.

February 2004 saw us return for a couple of days, to finalise a sale and rush around buying a few basics.  A bed and some yellow canvas deck chairs came first, I recall.  The plates, we brought with us from England, that April, our first proper visit to our home.  The excitement of  first outings and purchases!  A trip to Faro to buy an acoustic guitar, regarded as an ‘essential’ by our son.  The soft magic of the ilha.  And later, in July, a blow-up dinghy which gave such pleasure, as he and a mate paddled across there.  My heart was often in my mouth as a ferry chugged a little close, but they would emerge spluttering and teasing each other.  A repair kit seldom fixed the leaks for long.

The memories crowd in, one tripping over the next.  The joy of Summer fairs, paper flowers bedecking the bandstand.  Our first drive into the Algarve countryside, enthralled by the greenery and the rolling hills.  Balmy evenings by the riverside.  Azulejos, of course!  The pride in showing visitors all of our wonderful discoveries.  That never ending blue sky and sea.  Sunsets on the roof.

Fourteen years later, many things have changed, but our love for Tavira remains undiminished.  Neighbours have come and gone.  Our favourite cafe, Anazu, is now just a memory.  The garden we started so optimistically has fallen victim to the weather.  It’s time to move out there and give it the nurturing it deserves.  I hope I’ve given you a sense of the place, and what draws me back.  Many thanks to Cathy and her legion of ideas on how to enhance the travel experience.  Please pay her a visit.