Wrocław

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.

Jakesprinter’s Sunday Post : Entrance

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I would love to be able to make an Entrance, but I’m more the kind of person who’s prone to falling up the step and making a fool of herself.  I do know someone who can make a superb entrance though.

Lisa and Leo make the perfect entrance to married life

Lisa and Leo make the perfect entrance to married life

And she’s well equipped to make a neat exit too!

As ever, her hand sewing is exquisite.

As ever, her hand sewing is exquisite.

When I first saw the big-eyed girl, looking around the door on Jake’s post this week, I thought of the other meaning of “entrance”- to fill with intense delight”.  Lisa is well capable of this, too.

But neither of these photos are mine, so not really eligible for Jake’s challenge.  My kind of entrance goes more like this:

As usual, click any photo to start the gallery rolling.

I’m very late with this post, and Jake will already be working on entrancing us with next week’s theme, so I’d better hit that Publish button.  No accidents this time!

Come and meet Jake via the links or the lucky snake logo.  His graphics are amazing and all visitors are made truly welcome.

Jakesprinter’s Sunday Post : Captivating

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Can’t resist having a little fun with this week’s subject Captivating.  So many things in life can be captivating, including Jake’s Lucky Snake logo with it’s hypnotic eyes.  It captures my imagination, holds it, and makes me smile- that’s a great definition of captivating.

Me, capturing "me"

Me, capturing “me” and an elephant

I loved this elephant clock, proudly displayed on the mantelpiece at Thrumpton Hall.  I had just waved Lisa off on honeymoon and was speeding through the building, trying to capture as much as I could of this most captivating of venues.  Posh frock packed away, and not expecting ever to visit the Hall again, every click counted.   I didn’t mind being caught on camera.  It was one more bit of evidence that I really was there.  It wasn’t just a fairytale, though it well might have been!

This is how it looks without me

This is how it looks without me- even more captivating!

I find this photo rather captivating too.  All of twenty years ago.

Lisa and James, 20 years ago

Lisa and James, in Nottingham marina

Sentiment set aside, today I’m feeling much more mischievous.  Is this a captivating image?  Who is captive here?  We were sitting on the seawall at Lagos watching the water dogs perform- a very captivating sight.

Which one is me?

Which one is me?

Held captive by the camera!  I’m developing a liking for this kind of shot, though I suppose it belongs more to the subject of shadows.  Just for today, I’m calling it a captive image.

The prisoner, in his pretty jail

The prisoner, in his exotic jail

I found this little fellow somewhat captivating, and his happy friend below.  The gnomes of Wrocław were endearing in the extreme, and I expect I’ll have to return someday to track down a few more.

Friendly, or Wellwisher

Friendly, or Wellwisher gnome

But the photo I find most captivating of all, has to be this one.  I will never forget the moment that I stood stock still and simply stared. Porto, with all it’s crumpled and faded beauty, is a memory that will stay with me forever.

Hauntingly lovely Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, Porto

Hauntingly lovely Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, Porto

I know that Jake’s Comments box is going to be packed full of captivating images this week.  One of my Sunday pleasures, when the chores are done, is to admire the other Sunday Post entries.  Come with me?  Just click on the lucky snake logo or the links.

Cee’s fun foto challenge : water

Do I need a logo?  I’m not sure.  I’ve never taken part in Cee’s fun foto challenge before.  But I do know that I love water, and that’s this week’s subject.  So I’m going to shower you with a few of my damper moments.

Ooh, look Mum!

Ooh, look Mum!

Water feature in the Rynek (market square), Wroclaw

Water feature in the Rynek (market square), Wroclaw

A little warm rain in the botanic gardens

A little warm rain in the botanic gardens

The moorhen doesn't seem to mind

The moorhen doesn’t seem to mind

Japanese water gardens always look so serene

Japanese water gardens always look so serene

Or you can have dancing waters and a musical accompaniment

Or you can have dancing waters, with a musical accompaniment

Especially pretty on a night

Especially pretty by night

I like my water on the wild side too

I like my water on the wild side too

Or lapping gently at a shoreline

Or lapping gently at a shoreline

With a few bubbles in it

With a few bubbles in it, for fun

Or the odd branch

Or the odd branch, dangling down

Or stunningly,as part of a "waterfall" light installation

Most stunningly, as part of a “waterfall” light installation

I probably should stop now.  My eyes are tired, and maybe yours are too.  But I’m not good at doing things by halves, so maybe just a couple of my lovely Portugal to finish with.

Tickling a sunny square in the Algarve

Water tickling a sunny square in Lagos, the Algarve

And sparkling in the Douro at Porto

And sparkling in the Douro at Porto

So many shots I have of that Douro

So many lovely shots I have of the Douro

Time to let the sun set, at Peso da Regua

But it’s time to let the sun set, at Peso da Regua

I did say that I love water, didn’t I?  And I know that I’m not on my own, so visit Cee’s page to join in with the challenge, or view the many other great entries.

H is for Hotel

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You may remember, when I started my personal A-Z challenge on Poland, I gave you the briefest of introductions to the Polish Alphabet?  Well, “h” is one of those letters that is very little used, at the beginning of a word, in Polish.  More often you will see “ch”, which is pronounced as in the Scottish word “loch”.  Thus “chleb” (bread- very delicious in Poland!) sounds a little like “Hleb”.

Are you following me so far?  When it came to choosing a word to represent “H” in my A-Z, I had few choices.  My first thought was “Historia”, but it would take a far better woman than me to tackle Polish history in a single blog post!  So, I had “Hiszpania” or “Holandia”- not very appropriate in a blog about Poland?  Or “huśtawka”- a lovely word that means “swing”; “hokej”- a game I was rubbish at in my schooldays, or “humor”- couldn’t we all use a little of that!

Dad with cousin Irena, on the swingseat (hustawka) on her patio

Dad with cousin Irena, on the swingseat (hustawka) on her patio

It was when I thought back to my first ever Polish lesson that the solution became clear.  I pounced with delight on the word “hotel”, leaping out of the text to embrace me.  Pronounced, of course, in the Polish way, but a familiar and welcome sight, never-the-less.  It is one of a dozen or so words that have been adopted into the Polish language.

To date, I have stayed in three Polish hotels.  I mentioned one of them in my post B is for Belchatow.  Because I am visiting family when I go to Poland, and am made very welcome in all of their homes, I seldom have need of an hotel.  When my husband, Michael, accompanied me, on the occasion of Krzysztof and Marzena’s wedding, we needed a little privacy, and opted to stay for a few nights in the Sport Hotel.  Large and central to Bełchatów, it made a great base for exploring the town.  But then, as now, my Polish was a little shaky, and on a sweltering hot day we were served piping hot soup with our breakfast.  Michael’s faith in my ability to negotiate the Polish language was severely dented.

Water features in the park at the centre of Belchatow

Water features in the park at the centre of Belchatow

Visiting family in Wrocław with my Dad, I again stayed in a local hotel, though Dad managed to squeeze in with the family.  Living in a 3-bedroomed flat, with 3 children, dog, cat and terrapin, private space is a luxury for my cousin, Wojtek and his lovely wife, Agnieszka.  Despite this, I have seldom met a happier, more close-knit family.  I could not have been made more welcome in sharing meals and family time with them.  Both work, but were at great pains to show me their beautiful city, and once I’d got my bearings, set me loose to wander, returning when I was hungry.  I’m not known for my sense of direction, so this sometimes took longer than planned.  I haphazardly changed trams and buses half a dozen times, and walked and walked till I found them again!  But a smile, a hug and a plate of food always awaited, before I returned to the hotel for the evening.  I never ate breakfast at the hotel- goodness knows what I might have ordered!

Wroclaw's colourful tram junction

Wroclaw’s colourful tram junction

You might know I'd squeeze in a boat or two

You might know I’d squeeze in a boat or two

Qubus Hotel, Wroclaw

Qubus Hotel, Wroclaw

The foyer in Hotel Jan Pawel on Ostrow Tumski

The foyer in Hotel Jan Pawel on Ostrow Tumski, Wroclaw

Super stylish Hotel Monopol

Super stylish Hotel Monopol

Agnieszka and youngest daughter, Kasia, on Hotel Monopol's rooftop terrace

Agnieszka and youngest daughter, Kasia, on Hotel Monopol’s rooftop terrace

Rooftop view from the Hotel Monopol

Rooftop view from the Hotel Monopol

My third hotel experience occurred in the small village of Poronin, in the Tatry Mountains area, and was the most joyous of occasions.  Not unlike a large Swiss chalet, the Hotel Weronika (don’t forget to pronounce the “w” as “v”) provided food and shelter for a huge gathering of us on the occasion of Adam and Marta’s Silver Wedding.  The setting was beautiful, and the hotel grounds provided lots of space for the youngsters to use up energy. (theirs, and ours!)  And then, in good old Polish fashion, we ate, danced and drank till we could do it no more.  Adam’s oldest daughter, funnily enough called Weronika, is getting married in May 2014.  What a celebration that will be!

View from our hotel gardens of the church in Poronin

View from our hotel gardens of the church in Poronin

I think that’s enough to tell you about my hotel experiences in Poland, for now. You can find more of the ups and downs of my reunification with my Polish family on my personal A-Z of Poland page.  Meantime, if you’d like to join in with Julie Dawn Fox’s A-Z challenge, the banner below will take you to the main site, where you can have a good look around.

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Sunday Post : Architecture

Architecture : what a huge subject that is!  It’s Jakesprinter’s theme for this weeks Sunday Post, and already I’m struggling!  I mean, how many of you know a song with “architecture” in the title?  The following will be a silent, contemplative post.

What does architecture do for us?  Shelters us, gives us a place to work, to be educated, to worship, to shop.  It enables us to cross from one shore to another.  It expresses both our practicality and our creativity.  Formidable, constantly moving on.  Old and new, both are capable of amazing me.

The battlements and reconstructed “old town” in Warsaw- both old and new

The prettiest of patios in Cordoba

The rooftops of Porto

Thatched housing in the north of Madeira

How about a nice place to work?

Wonderfully elaborate Town Hall in Wroclaw

Or to study?

University buildings- Wroclaw wins again!

Starting out at the “smiley” local school

Where would you prefer to worship?

The tiniest of Greek Island churches?

The cathedral in Porto

Or Wroclaw’s Ostrow Tumski- stunningly ornate!

Shopping- as important to some as religion.  There’s no lack of choice here either.

Lello’s amazing book store in Porto

A simple shop in the Polish suburbs

Or a trendy new shopping centre in Warsaw

I can’t choose between these bridges.  Tradition or modernity.  Can you?

The beautiful approach to Cordoba and the incomparable Mesquita

The Infinity Bridge, Stockton-on-Tees

It seems we are only limited by our imagination.  That doesn’t seem to be a problem for Jake.  I was sold from the very first time I saw the flying dragon logo.  Click on it, or any of the links to see his interpretation this week, and maybe join in yourself?

I’ve been amazed already by some of the entries this week:

http://thirdeyemom.com/2012/11/18/the-sunday-post-architecture-that-melts-my-heart/

http://catbirdinoman.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/sunday-post-architecture/

http://rfljenksy.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/sunday-post-architecture/

http://francineinretirement.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/sunday-post-architecture/

http://50yearproject.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/sunday-post-architecture/

http://adinparadise.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/architecture-hola-spain/

http://the-serenity-space.com/2012/11/18/sunday-post-architecture/

http://traveller2006.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/sunday-post-architecture/

http://ilargia64.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/sunday-post-architecture/

The gnomes have it!

Professor, Pl. Uniwersytecki

Cute little guy, isn’t he?  He’s a “krasnal”- one of a series of about 150 gnomes, some of whom I photographed on my recent trip to Wrocław.  He was appropriately situated outside the University Buildings- a work of art if ever I saw one.  Now there’s a place to study!

Entrance Hall at the University

The Oratorium

OTT? Yes, but stunning!

I had read about the gnomes somewhere, and was half determined to ignore them, but I failed miserably.  Before I knew it I’d purchased the 6 złoty guide (just over £1) and was off in hot pursuit.

Ball-pushing and ball-lifting Sisyphus

These two got the ball rolling (sorry!), on ul. Świdnicka.  This rather bad-tempered looking walker was there too.  But then, you’d be grumpy if someone splashed your beard with red paint!

Walking enthusiast/ health lover!

Still on ul. Świdnicka, any guesses what this handsome fellow is doing?

Florian- he’s a chimney sweep!

By now I’ve drifted into the Rynek, where I get a warm welcome from this little chap.

Friendly, or Well-wisher

Refusing to be distracted by the fountains, I move on to Plac Solny.  I was tempted by the deck chairs, but there were more pressing matters.

A wall of water in the Rynek

Plac Solny, decked out for Summer

No luck in Solny- I’ll have to backtrack later, but ul. sw. Elzbiety yielded this little guy, fast asleep, and the firemen with hoses, trying to wake him up?

Sleepy

Firefighters

Found the butcher next, and his little chopper, on ul. Jatki.  No worries for the pigs and goat.  They were bigger than him.

Butcher

Ulica Jatki

And now we’re back at the University, where the Swordsman tries to protect himself with an umbrella!  Very foolish!  He’s been stolen twice.

The Swordsman

Taking time off from gnomes, I head for the Botanic Gardens, but I have to shelter in the greenhouses when it rains.

Don’t know which cactus, but it’s very pretty

Wouldn’t you know it?  I escape the rain and am accosted by gardener gnomes.

Gardeners in the Botanic Garden

Wrocław is a city with lots of water.  The River Odra flows though it and there’s also a system of canals.  Walking along Podwale is a peaceful option, and there’s a delightful park bordering it.  Of course, there are gnomes too.

Water gnomes, by the Theatre

Odd Guy, representing the Odd Fellows and a “helping hand”

Checking out the shops, I find a burglar gnome!  Turns out he’s an art lover.

Antiquarian, Plac Kosciuski

And there are useful gnomes too.

Recycler

Dispensers- “old style” cash dispensing

Economist, checking the flow of money

But one little chap pulled at my heart strings.  He couldn’t even pop in for a cup of coffee.

The prisoner, in his pretty jail

These fellows have their own website www.krasnale.pl and of course, a Facebook page so you can follow their exploits.  Their origins are explained on the site, but basically they are beloved of the Polish people for their association with anti-communism.  The first of the gnomes in bronze statuette form was Papa Krasnal, sculpted in 2001.  Today he’s happy to pose with my Dad, and niece Kasia, who lives in Wrocław.

Papa Krasnal- the first of the gnomes

I only managed to see about 30 gnomes, so it’s obvious I’ll have to go back.  Can you blame me?