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Published: September 13th 2011
Mobile Bar on Poitrkowska Street
You had to pedal if you wanted to drink beer!
I'd heard that weddings in Poland were not like the average wedding so wasn't too sure what to expect. Many of the usual traditions we have here in Britain are not standard over there but instead they have many more of their own traditions! One thing I was sure of there would be lots of vodka and lots of dancing!
In actual fact Gary and Milena's wedding far surpassed all our expectations
Stan, Sharon and I arrived in Lodz along with Pam and Fred (Stan's sister and husband) on the Thursday before the wedding. We were all booked into the Ibis Hotel in the centre of town in close proximity to the Cathedral and site of the reception.
In a short space of time we bumped into Dave and Claire (my brother) who'd travelled all the way from Australia to be here for the celebrations. We spent the afternoon exploring the main street of Lodz, Piotrkowska Street, and discovered that it was a very lively pedestrianised street crammed with outdoor bars and cafes. The temperature was a pleasant 26 degrees.
That evening Stan, Sharon and I had been invited to meet Milena’s parent at their home. Around
4pm Gary came to our hotel and we all went off to Piotrkowska Street together for a beer before going on the Milena’s home. Milena soon joined us and it was lovely to see her in her own surroundings speaking fluently with the waitress whereas we’d have struggled without Gary’s help just to order 3 beers! Polish is a very difficult language!
Sharon and I had secretly been a bit anxious about this meal as we’re both practically vegetarians and the reputation of the Polish diet is based on meat. We needn’t have worried however; Milena’s mum had prepared a kind of tomato soup followed by breaded chicken breasts (that were beautifully tender) with pureed carrots, beetroot and Polish dumplings filled with a plum mixture. So we got to experience and enjoy a true Polish dish.
Following the main course it was suggested that we go for a walk in the nearby forest in order for our food to ‘go down’ and return later for dessert. It was a beautiful warm evening so we set off for a short walk and were delighted to learn that there was a cute little wooden shack posing as a bar along the
forest path. In no time Jack, Milena’s step dad, was introducing us to a variety of Polish beers. Of course we had to try them all! Mixed with the wine that had accompanied the meal we were beginning to feel quite tipsy! As darkness began to fall we walked back for dessert and more beer!
I’ve no idea what time we left but I do remember waking up next day with quite a hangover! The start of things to come!
Despite a hangover, having grabbed some coffees in the nearby shopping centre we decided to go and explore the Ghetto Area of Lodz, where many Jews had been rounded up during the war.
We approached the taxi driver positioned outside the hotel and asked him to take us, he didn’t speak any English and seemed completely confused even when we pointed to the area on a map, eventually he pulled out his mobile phone, called a friend who spoke English, and through them we managed to establish where we wanted to go.
He still seemed confused and so were we when he dropped us. It seemed like we were in the middle of a suburb of Lodz, after checking
the surrounding street names and comparing them to the area marked as ‘The Ghetto’ on the map we discovered we were indeed in the middle of what had been the Jewish area.
We followed the route described and came across a few plaques along the way explaining what had occurred there but that was all. We ended up at the Jewish Cemetery but it was pretty neglected and run down.
The sky was looking very stormy by now so we decided to jump on a tram and head back to the hotel and get some much needed rest before the planned meal tonight.
Around 6.50pm some of Gary’s friends had congregated in the hotel lobby along with Dave and Claire and Pam and Fred, the plan was to walk to the Mexican Restaurant together. I was concerned that John and Patricia (my oldest sister) had not turned up yet as they were driving from England here and scheduled to arrive in time for the meal. I asked at reception if they’d arrived so we could call their room and was told that there was no one booked in of that name. We tried to phone their mobile but
just got strange clicking noises, I never realised at the time that although we weren’t in England we still needed to add 44 to their number, doh! I never will get the hang of all this technology! Anyway we figured they’d decided to go to a different hotel and would join us in the restaurant later. It turned out that they were booked in the Ibis and they arrived about 10 minutes after we all left. Unfortunately they’d not received the block e-mail saying which restaurant we were all to meet up at so we didn’t actually get together until next day for which I felt really bad about. (Sorry Tricia if you’re reading this!)
Once at the restaurant we learned that the venue had been moved inside due to the threatening storm. The poor waiters had to keep adding tables as more and more people arrived, fortunately one of the waitresses could speak good English and had been put in charge of the whole proceedings.
Eventually when we’d all been wined and dined (well, beer actually, not wine) I went out onto the balcony overlooking the courtyard. Now, call it telepathy or Family intuition but as I looked
down who should I see? Mum, looking rather confused all alone. My youngest sister Wendy and her family along with mum had arrived at Lodz airport around 8pm and planned to join us as soon as they could. As there were 5 in total and couldn’t all fit in a taxi they’d put mum in one and the rest were following on foot. Sheila to the rescue! I leapt down the stairs like a crazy woman and relieved the member of staff who was trying, but not succeeding, to find out what or who she wanted. I settled her on a table downstairs and went back up to persuade the party to join us down there as Mum really struggles with stairs especially dimly lit ones!
Dave and Claire were hot on my tail quickly followed by several others after handing over their share of the bill. Poor Gary was left to figure it all out, not an easy task given that there were at least 35 of us all having ordered different food and different drink!
Meanwhile Dave and I were taking it in turns to walk onto the street to look for Wendy and co, they arrived eventually
after tramping around Lodz for the last half hour getting quite lost.
After a while we all set off back in the direction of the hotel, the party seemed to naturally break up into groups according to age, the under 35s and the over 35s which was fine. Our group ended up in a very strange bar that had a glass floor in the ladies toilet, as you looked down you could see people in the bar below, I just prayed that they wouldn’t actually look up! Very strange!
Despite trying hard not to consume too much alcohol that night I still woke up next day feeling bad. I guess this Polish beer is stronger than I’d thought!
The Day of The Wedding
The day started with me looking for flowers to make into buttonholes for Stan and myself and continually bumping into other wedding guests. By now there were 14 family members and about 8 or 9 friends from England. Whenever I called the lift someone we knew would pop out, and there was always some wedding guest or other sitting in the lobby reading, doing internet or just wondering where everyone else was, it seemed like we had taken over the whole hotel!
The wedding was scheduled for 6pm so at 1pm Gary came to our hotel room to get ready.
He’d been staying at Milena’s but they’d kicked him out for obvious reasons. Sharon and I dashed to Tesco to buy ingredients to make him a sandwich as his stomach had suddenly started to rumble. By the time we got back he’d showered and was waiting calmly for the chaos to begin. I swear what happened next could have been mistaken for a scene from a 'Carry on' film!
By 4.15pm we were all almost ready, just needed to do the finishing touches like making and fastening on buttonholes etc. Not as easy as it sounds! That's when the chaos began, I was the only one with a hairdryer but Wendy was the only one with an adaptor to fit the Polish sockets. The phone was red hot with everyone trying to locate where the hair-dryer and adaptor was and me running from room to room, spread over 2 floors of the hotel, collecting it and delivering it, people answering the door in different states of undress and me getting more and more dishevelled by the minute! Suddenly it was time to leave, the car was waiting to take Gary to collect his bride.
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