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Published: October 25th 2009
I'm afraid it's only half of the zacandsof pair this time. The less hairy one, that is. So, the vibe may be a little different - maybe better? maybe worse? I'll let you decide...
I've set off on a holiday to Poland and Germany. Mum and I have always wanted to visit our rellies there together, and the chance came up cos Mum and Dad have been travelling in Europe together.
As per usual, Air China provided a less-than-comfortable, arduous, 13-hour journey. Highlights were: lack of leg space, the crappiest selection of movies and the air hostesses reminding us that it was cold outside and that we should wear more clothes (typical!). I would also like to whinge about the lack of german efficiency at the Frankfurt airport. I had an hour and a half to do my transfer, and that had me running full pelt to the gate and being that embarrassing person who's last onto the plan. Eek!
Our lovely Polish family met me at the airport in Warsaw, and then we waited for mum. The video cameras were out, people were anxiously waiting, peering over shoulders on tippy toes... and then a gorgeous blonde popstar
appeared. With Mum arriving 5 minutes later. 😊
We checked into Hostel Helvetia and headed straight for Zofia's. Now, those of you who have plodded your way through our series of blogs may remember the Feast at Zofia's... it hasn't changed. Food, food, food, food and more food. We had beautiful pastas soups, followed by roast meats served with pineapple and peach. Huge servings of cakes, and Zofia's speciality chocolate slice (and she's given me some to bring home - though it might be gone by then). Followed by dinner - pierogi and beetroot soup. Amazing, stupendous, nourishing. We shared this amazing meal with Anna, Michal, Tomek, Marylka, Olivier, Bernard and Jadwiga. Zofia also shared with us her massive collection of photos and letters - all of the correspondence that she has had with the family for the last 50 years. She has photos of us all from babies til now, and Mum and I added to that collection with some recent ones. Bernard also brought a fantastic homemade vodka, made with honey - soooo good.
On the second day in Warsaw, Mum and I cruised the old town, gazed at the amber shops, had an espresso with
lemon (yum!) and took a stack of photos. Then, Anna picked us up and we headed west to Sochaczew (close to my grandfather's, Waclaw, original home). Again, the family maintained their 'feast' reputation and we had another amazing meal. This time we met more members of the family - Marta, Zbyszek, Mateusz, Adam, Renate and Maja. Zbyszek nicknamed the vodka, "polish sake" and our multi-lingual dinnertime conversation adventures began! There was an awful lot of arm waving and gesticulating... and a lot of help from Anna, Michal, Olivier and Renata! Cheers!
We were also lucky enough to be able to watch a concert at the Frederick Chopin music school in the town, where Bernard and Marta work. It was a really special performance, celebrating the school's 35th anniversary.It was mostly classical music, but Bernard's big band put on an amazing show at the end! You could see how much Bernard lives and breathes through his student's and his music.
On our 3rd day we visited the Royal Palace in old town Warsaw. Back-up by feast number 3, again at Zofia's. This time we ate "photo soup", the soup that we had put in our blog last time, and more
delicious meats and vegetable salads. We also looked over the family tree that Zofia has put together by hand. She has such an amazing memory for family and history.
Then, we jumped on a train to Torun... it's all a bit confusing though, cos they don't announce the stations!!! So you have to count! A little nerve-wracking, but we got off at the right place! We found our lovely hostel, Orange Hostel, with a lovely taxi driver and settled in. Had an amazingly huge meal with tasty beer - it's been so long since I've had been with flavour.
Our day in Torun was relaxing and quiet. We strolled the old town and it's MANY churches. We're still kinda confused about the ones we visited, but they were all beautiful. Most of the architecture is Gothic and they have this strange style that consists of many altars the whole way up amongst the pews. Amazing paintings on the walls as well with quite funky designs, and one in particular was a simple pic of a boy praying (face-on), but it was really modern in this old church. We also hiked up a whole lot of stairs to the top
of a church tower in the hope of getting a good view, but found that it was only to see the bell. Nice bell, but not sure it was worth the stairs and the 4 zloty. The town hall museum was also a highlight, with great medieval relics and beautiful paintings, all housed in such an amazing building.
I also bought shoes. Ok, that's not such an exciting story, but I went into a shoe shop, found shoes I liked, tried them on, they fit, and I bought them. That never happens to me anymore... so it's exciting for me!
Torun is also famous for gingerbread, so Mum and I bought up. We also managed to skip lunch by accident, but it's ok, cos we managed to have coffee, cheesecake, chocolate cake, the most amazing thick hot chocolate, apple pie and ice-cream along the way, so we're not exactly wasting away.
I am missing Zac's sense of direction though. The whole old-town-quaint-curvy streets confused us a number of times. This is one reason why we're not entirely sure which churches we went to, and we did spend at least half an hour looking for the hot chocolate cafe...
was train adventure day. We set off in the morning, made it to the train station, found our train and headed for Malbork. Marienburg castle is the largest Gothic castle in Europe and it's AMAZING. Luckily, since it's quiet season, we were able to wander around on our lonesome without a tour guide (quite rare, methinks) and explore. Much of the castle was damaged in WW2, but the restorers have done a fantastic job of presenting what it would have looked like, without restoring it completely. Eg. many bits of tombs, pillars and stonework have been just placed around the gardens to create a great vibe for the previous magnificence of the castle, yet still preserving the fact that it was damaged and how it stands to date following it's crazy history (does that make sense?).
We then walked back to the train station, finding it surprisingly fast, found our luggage and kinda bought tickets for a train leaving 4 minutes later. So, a mad dash across platforms, with us being last on the train (!), unable to read our polish tickets and find our seats, followed by us not knowing how many stops there were and us being last
OFF the train, made us seem like very dumb tourists to the people we shared a cabin with. I'm sure they're still giggling about it.
Found our hostel and wandered into Old Town no. 3, Gdansk. Another victim of WW2, Gdansk old town has been rebuilt. It's a collection of the most beautiful ornate, tall buildings, all with intricate designs and paintings. We just wandered around, checked out St. Mary's Church (largest old brick church in the world) and has some yummy .
I have one word about Gdansk, and that is Amber. Amber, amber, amber, amber and a bit more amber. Mum and I strolled the streets of the old town, perusing the billions of amber stalls, looking for perfect pieces to take home. We learnt a lot about amber, particularly that it is very light, but also very expensive. Goes against logic!! As you can probably imagine, we didn’t have enough energy for the Amber Museum.
Mum and I also visited the ‘Monument of the killed shipyard workers’ and the ‘Roads to Freedom’ exhibition. I would recommend the exhibition to anyone visiting Gdansk. I was a
fantastic account of the Solidarity Movement that brought peace and independence to Poland.
We then wandered around the town, ate more cake and ended up at the train station for our overnight train adventure. This was Mum’s first sleeper train in 30 years, and she was a little worried at first, but was very much relieved when she discovered that we were sharing with a lovely Polish woman, who spoke English too! No strange, scary men to make her worry… such a disappointment! 😉
To Berlin we went…
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