Poland Trip - 2010


Over the next few days, we will be updating this page with pictures, videos and stories live from Poland! Be sure to check back often!!


Greetings from Poland 2010!

June 14/Mon - Our flights from Cleve-to Chicago to Warsaw were relatively uneventful other than the fact that it was packed. According to Mitch Benia, our tour director, Poland’s Lot Airlines has cut back by half the number of flights it flies out of Chicago on a weekly basis. As a result the demand for each east is pretty high. Our flight was full of children talking about going to visit their Babci (grandmothers).  The other item of interesting note is that the plane was full of Polish nationals going home versus Americans going over as tourists.

D’Ella my 10 yr old daughter who is traveling with me, is fascinated by all things related to the flights and a bit unnerved. I didn’t know that she has no recollection of ever flying until we are arriving at the airport. When people speak to her in Polish while standing in line she is intimidated and a bit overwhelmed despite taking Polish class this semester etc.  She falls asleep before the plane to Poland even leaves the airport. I am not awake for much longer. Midflight I awaken to see Mitch buying huge bottles of vodka. Not wanting to be left out, I inquire and find out that on plane purchases are available for 50% off the normal. So for $10 a buy a big bottle of Zubrowka in honor of our friends at Bison Grass vodka and go right back to sleep.

June 15/Tues - We were met at the airport this afternoon upon our arrival by our van drivers, Pawel and Henryk, and our tour guide, Jacek. I managed to sleep virtually the entire trip despite the cramped space so am feeling pretty good. As we wait for other members of our party to arrive D’Ella and I tackle the ATM machine and then have our first retail experience.  We proudly handle ordering espresso and incredibly tasty mint ice cream all in Polish. Yeah! Our drive to the hotel takes us thru some rush hour traffic since Warsaw is a real city. The group and I find ourselves attempting to translate even signs and billboards as Jacek gives us the highlights from a historical perspective. We check into our urban, modern hotel and get 30 minutes to freshen up before we gather again. We head around the corner to a tiny shop where we change money—1 dollar is equal to 3.25 zloty today—without the clerk saying a word or cracking a smile. He is quite unlike everyone else at this point…Then it is off to dinner at a charming place called Folk Gospoda. It is all old fashioned peasant food presented in the atmosphere of a village house. It is very charming and makes the wheels start turning in my head for a destination restaurant in NE Ohio J I talked a couple of people into sticking around for the Gorale folk band saying we can sleep when we get home. It is a great way to start our trip. We are so happy to be here!

June 16/Wed - I probably sound ridiculous but why is in light here all the time? Seriously, the sun comes up at like 4AM and stays out until 9:30 or something. I could get used to getting this many more hours in a day! Hee hee Well we made use of every minute today too. Breakfast at 8 AM to grab something before our day of sightseeing turned out to be unlike any normal hotel breakfast. Not only was it HUGE it offered an amazing variety of items we consider lunch only. Things like kiszka, kielbasa, hot dogs, famer’s cheese, fresh vegetables and cheeses were there with oversized rolls, croissants and rye bread. My favorite item was this funky make-your-own soft-boiled egg machine. I hadn’t eaten an egg out of the shell since I was D’Ella’s age so it was fun showing her how it was done with the tiny spoons provided. I noticed the American items I missed however when it came time to get the in the van for the day and there were no travel mugs. Ugh! It was on that last of things to pack that got overlooked. Our day of sightseeing in Warsaw started with the Warsaw Uprising Museum.
This modern museum is only 5 years old or so and was created in the model of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.  It attempts to first give you the climate of that time, recreate the atmosphere, to show not only the military history of 63 days of fighting, but also the daily life of civilians. It is obvious that their main target group is youth because it is full of interactive stations. Today it was also full of middle and high school students who were doing their end of school year trips. For the record, they were surprisingly well behaved and attentive…perhaps a nod to their style of education? Don’t know.  The natural sounds of bombs, gun shots and sirens is a bit overwhelming, especially since it doesn’t start out with an FYI film or anything. I was never taught anything about this event so was really starting from scratch.(Polish Arts has an event on this topic planned for October 2010) The Katyn section however was more familiar since we did our film and talk last month. It was handled disturbingly well with visitors entering a secluded room by passing a group of mannequins in Polish Army coats and hearing the sounds of single gun shots in the distance. The floor is covered in grass and mulch and bird sounds can be heard intermittently. It really takes you into the moment. They also have an very realistic recreation of the sewer system. A little too much for D’Ella and some of the others in the group. We retreated to the period designed café as a respite and talked about the exhibit while listening to musical performers of the period.
From there we went to the Uprising Monument. This oversized monument grouping depicts a group of insurgents in battle and another faction retreating into the sewers. I can see why it was controversial when it was unveiled in the late 1980s but even critics would have to admit it really gets the feeling of the struggle across quickly.
From there walked to  the Marie Curie Museum which is located in the town house where she grew up. The most striking thing about the traditional exhibit was how she only seems to be smiling when next to her scientist husband, Pierre, or when in the lab. When he dies in a traffic accident, the life seems removed from her face.
We excitedly headed inside the walled city of Old Town after this, already tempted by the unique shops and vendors than we began to see as we got closer. But Mitch and Janek had other ideas. By passing painters,wood carvers and other artisans we dutifully headed to the Historical Museum of Warsaw. Despite our grumblings about hunger, it was worth it. There we were able to see the only newsreel-style account of this city once called "Paris of the East" in a real before and after format. Even D'Ella commented after leaving and looking around at the square, "it is hard to believe that this was flattened and all rebuilt to look just the same."
From there we walked the Royal Route to the Warsaw Cathedral where many of the country’s noteables are buried. In fact, Jacek was quite adamant that Pres Kaszcinski should have been laid to rest here, not at Wawel in Krakow with the royals. The one I noticed was composer Paderewski.
From there we headed to the Presidential Palace and the memorial display to the victims of the recent crash. We noticed right away how the building was seemingly tucked between two other buildings on the main street as if the President was right there with his people,  even more so than the White House was before 9/11. We were assured, however, that the security was quite stiff just not visisble. In front, was a photo display of the Presidential funeral. While we were there, people came by and left candles and prayed. I don’t have the impression the President was beloved, but the level of respect for his position and efforts was noticeable considering how we seem to attack our politicians of late.Down the street is the beautiful Bristol Hotel. One of the only examples of pre-war architecture, the ornate exterior gives you a taste of what Napoleon enjoyed in his visits to Warsaw. It was spared during the destruction of the city because its beauty and accommodations where even attractive to the Nazis who made it their headquarters.
My six year old Millie had made few requests for this trip from which she was excluded. So when she asked us to go see the place where they have Chopin’s heart I could hardly deny her. So next we trekked to the Church of the Holy Cross. At the time of the composer’s death, he was living in France and is buried in Paris. However, it was his wish that his heart be returned to the city that was so special to him. Jacek says that he was not alone in this bizarre request. Wladyslaw Reymont, author of the quintessential historical novel, Quo Vadis, had his heart in the church and his body in another Warsaw cemetery.  The church itself is well-known for its statue out front. After the bombings, when people returned to the city, they found the figure of Christ carrying the cross, laying pointing to the heavens as if calling God to task for the destruction.
At this point, our hungry group demanded a rest and headed down an alley-like street to a Pierogarnia. All over the city there are these tiny little cafes, also known as pierogi domowe, offering a variety of pierogi, drinks and perhaps nalesniki, crepes, filled with a variety of tasty fillings. Although D’Ella wanted to stick with the familiar potato, I experimented with a spicy meat and Hungarian pepper variety. We were quite tickled when it showed up and was bright orange! As I mentioned before, I was feeling quite full of myself with my Polish speaking. So I was interested in trying the fruit-filled dessert items since Agi Khoury’s were so good when she shared them one time. So when Jacek tried to help me order I reprimanded him saying that I can do it myself. Well, such pride is always rewarded. When my order came, instead of 3 blueberry filled periogies, I received 3 platefuls of six pierogis each!! Seeing my face, the owner was nice enough not to charge me, and all of us enjoyed some delicious, delicate dessert with creamy light sour cream. All of us except Jacek, who enjoyed a laugh at my “just dessert.”

Refreshed, we met the vans and drove over to Lazienki Park. This 17th Century complex of heritage gardens was considered the summer palace for the kings. But while pulling up I saw something familiar and stopped Jacek before proceeding into the park. Indeed I was right! It was the image that had become quite familiar during our time with Polish Youngstown...the Belvedere Palace! Not as big a deal to others in the group, but I knew my friends would appreciate the value we put on this attraction :)

At this end of the park is the famous Monument to Chopin. It is there that a special set of concerts will commence this weekend and run every weekend throughout the summer. This is standard seasonal fare, not just because of the 200th anniversary. In honor of that, they have installed  new  benches throughout the city that play notable Chopin compositions by pressing a button.

Following obligatory photo session at the Chopin Monument, D’Ella and I snuck away for what is rapidly becoming her twice daily fix of lodi, ice cream. It tastes completely different here, something like a cross between a rich custard and a sherbet. She must order and pay for it herself and is becoming quite proficient at doing so. In fact, her frowing sense of independence her charming.

We joined the rest of the group in front of the Palace on the Water. These

 reworked royal baths are surrounded by canals, and small lakes as a means of cooling from the seasonal heat. The highlight there is the free roaming, almost tame peacocks that entertain the guests with the showing of their feathers and honking to make their presence known. You can little gondola rides in the lake over to the amphitheater where plays are performed even today on the detached little island. Walking thru this beautiful park you can see why it is the thing for Warsaw families to do each Sunday.

On our way back to our vans , I was delighted to come across the monument to another familiar name: King Jan III Sobieski. Known recently for vodka, his place in history really came from defeating the Turks at the Battle of Vienna in 1683 and being a huge patron of the arts nurturing Poland’s painters, musicians and writers.

We returned to the lobby for a quick bite after which D’Ella retired for some needed Ninetendo DS time. I joined the rest of the group for prearranged meeting with expatriate journalist and genealogist, Robert Stryble. In addition to a set of great resource sheets, he offered several new tips on researching on our families and heraldry.

I retrieved D’Ella afterward because it seemed too early to stay in and she, Mitch and I walked the area streets for awhile enjoying the novelty of city life.

When we returned, we enjoyed a surprise visit from Agnieszka Kotlarsic, director of Cleveland’s Piast Folk Ensemble. She is a native of Warsaw and comes to Poland for about two months every summer with her children to visit her parents and sister. As someone who lives with her IPhone in hand, this is hard adjustment for me. So to be able to visit with someone from home was a great treat.

June 17/Thurs -
 Since they didn’t have the chance the previous day, most of our group chose to spend the day in Warsaw visiting the zoo, shopping in Stary Miasto and just people watching on the Rynek. Mitch, D’Ella and I headed out with Jacek about an hour out of town for a private tour of Matecznik, the new performing arts center of the Mazowsze State Polish Folk Dance and Song Ensemble. To understand what a big deal this was for me, you have to understand that my love of Polish culture started in a little decorated vest and red boots. Upon our arrival we were greeted by Elzbieta Kulfan-Skora, curator of the Mazowsze museum. She enlightened us with a history of the troupe as well as a show and tell with some of the souvenirs and gifts received from hosts thru the years.

She then took us to the troupe’s costume museum. This beautiful collection is displayed by region and Elzbieta enlighten us about the acquisition of the original pieces from area villagers. She explained the group’s founder was a former cabaret performer so as a result was very involved in adjusting the costumes to make them enticing from the stage, not in keeping them authentic.

We were then invited us to watch the group’s rehearsal as they prepared for a festival performance this week. This was too cool. Sitting in a small auditorium watching the premiere group in their field performing what is considered the premiere choreographer of Polish folk dance. Across the aisle from us was the director, artistic director, choreographer and others, shouting and tweaking as the dancers worked thru their numbers D’Ella recognized them-and the quality of their version. To hear these experts being told they “look like elephants” or as if they were “walking thru a cemetery” tickled D’Ella too.

I was delighted afterward to be invited by Production Director Krysztof Kurlej to meet over coffee and discuss plans for the group’s visit to NE Ohio in December. As a result of this meeting, the group will be conducting a workshop and special Koledy Christmas event in Youngstown on Sunday Dec. 5th. Mark you calendars now for this special event. More details to follow.

While I was talking shop, D’Ella found a playmate. Krzysztof’s daughter Natalia is the same age and hit it off swimmingly. Speaking about the same amount of each other’s native language they made it work together..riding bikes, having snacks and talking about school and interests. D’Ella told her all about SillyBandz and even gave her one off of her wrist. The girls exchanged emails and have already written corresponded. I was hoping something like this would happen.

I returned to Warsaw floating on air and fulfilled D’Ella’s wish of checking out the mall. Yes, if you are a Tween it is important to see the place where peers hang out, what they buy and wear. So we went to Zloty Tarasy and explored its four levels of nonstop retail. She didn’t buy anything but treated herself to her favorite Subway turkey sandwich for dinner.

An adventurous tram ride home followed—such city dwellers we are—in time for Mitch and the others to leave for dinner. D’Ella and I instead went to meet Jaroslaw Nowacki, a young Warsaw attorney and representative of the Olszytyn Friends of the PNA. The group is interested in exploring a Sister City relationship between their North Central Poland city and Youngstown. We met to discuss the possibilities and share ideas. We did so over a beer in the Stary Miasto rynek…a mere tram ride plus 12 block walk away. Oj, city living will take some getting used to for these girls from the suburbs. Olsztyn, like Youngstown, is a very university driven now so Jarek and I decided we would start there. Our goal is to achieve our first cooperative effort by this time next year.
Needing to go home and get some work done, Jarek left us to play in the city. We eat ice cream (of course), watched street theatre and just enjoyed the ambiance. We even attempted to make it back to the tram but gave up and finally took a cab home for a well-earned rest.

June 18/Fri - Today we left for the eight hour drive to Zakopane, the mountain resort of Poland. Traveling as with the rest of the trip in two vans, our group didn’t suffer to greatly on the drive. We were like little children and asleep within 30 minutes of beginning the drive. After a break, Mitch and Jacek alternated sharing personal and folk tales related to certain castles or other sites along the way. The distance is 260 miles, but there was no highways along the way.  Instead, it was the equivalent of driving RT 422 to Cleveland instead of the Ohio Turnpike with Washington, DC-style Friday summer traffic thrown in around the cities to make it complicated.

After dropping Jacek off in Krakow, we picked up Joanna, our athletic, mountaineer travel guide. A young mother of an eight month old son, Joanna has a PhD in Chemistry. However, having worked for less than a decade for two international firms, she felt she was tired of her planned career and decided she would rather climb for living. She is certified in all types of guiding and will be taking groups to the Italian Pyrenees next month. We are not going to be challenging her skills merely her patience. She found us a charming mountaineer style restaurant that D’Ella and I were thrilled to discover had internet so we could check in. We arrived at our hotel in the Zakopane at 5 PM ready to stretch and relax. We  spent the evening exploring the Boardwalk-like atmosphere near our inner city hotel a charming little ice cream shop where I can write about our trip.

June 19/Sat -  We knew that we would have to pay for the incredible weather we had in Warsaw…today’s high was 10C with cold rain and it isn’t scheduled to change. Ah, well. We don’t have mountains in Youngstown so let’s enjoy it anyway. Out come the rain jackets and off we go!

First stop, the ski jump. Obviously this snowy area is a place where you would think of skiing. But other than the Olympic training ground, there are only two real slopes. The rest of the area is reserved for hiking.

Industry is limited here too: sheep herding, mining iron ore and robbery—the famous Zobjnicki. The men (and some women) would travel through over the mountains stealing from the neighbor residents and bringing back their riches to share here. There also are tales of secret caves in the mountains where treasures can still be found even now. Hope to learn more about this to share in a Krakowiaki skit when we return…

It is impossible to separate the cultural of Poland from the faith of its people so visiting churches is part of any trip. Our first was the Jaszczurowka Chapel, a charming example of Zakopanski style. This termed is applied only to the work of an architect by the name of native architect Wyspanski who the region feels best incorporated the mountaineer style in modern design.  The region around the city was owned by three landowners. This chapel was built in 1907 to honor one of these landowners upon his death. Asia stressed that the glass windows reflected the liberal nature of the area because even during Communist times it installed white eagles and symbols of their friends in Lithuania on another window. It is not a parish but has regular masses. A fun fact, Asia says that she didn’t have her wedding here because the story is that marriages sealed there do not stay happy.  

The modern church in the area is the Church of Our Lady of Fatima. When Pope John Paul II was shot in May 1984 the people of the area vowed that if recovered they would build a church to honor Fatima. It opened with a mass by the Pope in May of 1997. It is not just beautiful, but unique in that it incorporates JP into EVERYTHING: the stained glass, the statues, the way of the cross, etc. Every Saturday evening mass is celebrated for the intentions of visitors. I filled out a slip asking for special blessings for all of us.

From there we traveled to the ancient village of Chocholow. The old houses here look like they are built with Lincoln Logs without a single nail. There are no foundations underneath and between the wood cracks are straw, mud and moss. Only made of two rooms: a black room with fireplace and no chimney so literally things turned black. That is where the family lived. The other room was a white room: it was the guest room and where they stored all their valuable things. Rooms were made of timbers and each had a symbol of the rising sun. All the houses face the south so the tiny windows and door can allow the rooms to be warmed by the sun. They are as simple as possible. In this town, before Easter, all houses are scrubbed with a soap and brush as an annual cleaning.

An exciting bonus of our visit was going to the studio of glass painting artist Aniela Stanek. Self taught, Pani Stanek told us her art works in reverse two ways. Not only does she have to be painted backward. But she also starts with a black or brown sketch then begins painting the smallest things first. She commented that it is very difficult to fix later. Her paintings of religious icons and Podhale lifestyle are now painted in acrylics since it is more readily available. During Communist times she used water color since that was what was available.  Although Mitch and I were enamored with her depictions of the Nativity and holidays in the mountains, neither were available for purchase. She said that she is a Babcia now and that has limited her painting time so she has to save those seasonal items for a large show she does in December.

A frequent sight along the way are cheese huts. The gorale are known for oscypek made from at least 33 percent sheep milk. The remaining could be cow, goat or whatever you might have on hand. It is placed in a cast iron witches kettle over a bonfire and stirred with large wooden mallets. The resulting curds are removed and kneeded together with a chemical additive to hold it together. That is shaped into a cone and molded with a wooden strap to give it decoration. They soak it for 24 hours in salt water then smoke it for 3-5 days. It creates a protective skin that allows it to keep for up to two months if you don’t cut it. What type of milk and how much salt and smoke decides the cheese’s flavor. You would choose your provider based on his style.

It was back to braving the cold rain in town after that to see the Stary Kosiul of the Matka Boska. Built in the 1840s, it is considered the pinnacle of mountain style. The Stations of the Cross are painted on glass and interior is completely carved from a fragrant native pine. Asia shared some fun stories of challenges ministering to the independent nature of the highlanders. The locals would not go to mass, but instead go to the inn across the street.  When they did arrive, they would not remove their signature hats and insisted on lighting their pipes with the internal flame. :) The nearby graveyard is a great example of the unique tombstones with statues, wooden carvings and other personalization.

We rebelled after that and requested a break. The nearby piekarnia bakery was a perfect haven.  Hot coffee and tasty treats of many kinds.  Of course we had to try their paczki, but several other treats too. I took pictures hoping to inspire our local bakeries and the members of the Polish Day bakery table.

Dried out and renewed we were ready to head to the targ marketplace and barter with the vendors. Sheep skin rugs, shearling jackets, leather shoes were in abundance as were every variety of mountain cheese, flowered scarves, gorale hats and other goodies. D’Ella found the puppy vendors and began a two-day nonstop campaign to bring home one particularly charming pup as her pamientki. Oj!
We rejoined our group later that evening for a trip up into the mountains for our cookout. The shish-kabobs and other grilled meats set a new standard for our BBQs.  Although we laugh about the teeny, tiny ice cream cones, they make up for it with the supersized chunks of meat and vegetables on those skewers! Alas, the weather continued to be wet and cold, but the mountaineer tea (strong with vodka) made that all easier :)
When we returned to town we couldn’t resist going out for one of those mini cones and listening to some music. Musicians are in the streets and at the restaurants in Zakopane for both tourists and the locals. Instead of just the discordant mountaineer singing of the earlier video, here they mix Highlander, Hungarian and Slovak sounds because of the mixed nationalities of the locals.

June 20/Sun - Today was Election Day here in Poland but you would never know it in Zakopane. There is a ban on advertising and candidates have to disappear for about 24 hours before the polls open so it is quite different from our election scenarios. Asia arose early to get to vote before coming to us but declined to reveal her selection. \
Our driver Henryk was more forthcoming noting that he predicted a win for Bronislaw Komoroski. The policies that were being put in place by Lech Kaczynski as president and his brother, Jarowslaw as prime minister, are too conservative and unpopular with the working class Poles, he said. As a result, on the run off on July 4th voters will be voting more against Jarowslaw Kaczynski then in favor of Komoroski.

Despite the cold and rain the cable car up the mountain to Kasprowy Wierch was too important to miss. The highest point in Poland, the 64-people can fit in each car. The system was built in 1935 and is refurbished with regularity so it is reliable for the 1,985 meter climb. 

Asia told an interesting story of an Olympic skier, working for the Polish Underground during WWII, who got recognized by Nazi soldiers while on tram. He jumped out midway like today’s extreme athletes and not only escaped but got the information he was carrying across the border to his contacts. Seeing how high up we were, it is really unbelievable.
There were swaths of trees down on the mountain as if a tornado had ripped thru. Asia explained it was the result of halny, strong winds that whip thru the Tatras with frequency. It is sunny and beautiful yet damaging and then followed by rain or snow. It is said that the winds cause personality changes and fights.

The top of this peak is home to a regional meteorological center that sits literally on the boarder of Slovakia. It is also the starting point for the two primary ski runs in the western Tatras. It was overcast when we got there and got progressively more so during our stay. It was zero visability on our way down yet hikers, including families, were still headed up to then hike down. Yikes!

Our group parted missions at the bottom with some traveling an hour in one direction to Morskie Oko,the famous “eye of the sea” crystal clear mountain lake. Even with the weather, they decribed it as a great hike and cool experience.

I was part of the group that went to explore the 250 km Koscieliska Dolina, a picturesque valley visited by more than 3.5 mil visitors annually. Frankly most of us chose it because we thought it would be a less taxing trip. Wrong. Two hours of hiking in the rain is not easy even if it is not uphill. So the fact that we still enjoyed it gives you an idea of how beautiful it really is. Mountain sheep roam the pastures. Wildflowers were in bloom—a particular delight to horticultural fans in our group. The roaring river swollen from the rain made D’Ella and I think about playing the stick game in the icy water. The area used to be the site of an iron ore mine so there remains the 18th C Ave Maria Chapel enforcing again that faith is critical here. There was a cool natural spring too that bubbled up in the creek from nearly 5 meters away up the mountain. This is where Wojcich and Kasia Mateja, Zbojnicki robbers, are believed to have lived and hid their treasures in the mountain caves surrounding us. There were horse and carriages available for rides back to our car, but alas, none came.

Cold, wet and tired but with a sense of accomplishment, our van load of women decided to reward ourselves with a trip to the spa. A nearby hotel featured all the chic accoutrements of a European spa experience. I passed on the massage to leave room for others and D’Ella and I hit the pool instead. A stunning infinity mineral pool with an attached spa called out to us. It was surprisingly chilly, but we embraced the refreshment and reveled in the relaxation.
The clerk had encouraged us to explore the nearby salt cave. What we found was a darkened room complete top to bottom made of salt. It had reclining chairs, an exercise bike and small table with with chairs for children. Soft music is piped in and the only lighting is subdued multicolor Christmas lights embedded in mini stalagmites (or tites?) in the ceiling. Moments after sitting down I was fast asleep.
We left refreshed and reach to go we walked back to our hotel determined to eat and drink more like we do at home. The abundance of pierogi, nalesznicki and kanapki consumed at this point was overwhelming. D’Ella determinedly went to the front desk and asked where to find good pizza. Our clerk didn’t let us down.  A roaring fire in the a old fashioned fireplace, big glasses of Hungarian red wine and a pferronni pizza with crust as tasty as Inner Circles’ was exactly what we needed to become ourselves again!
When we got to the hotel and sat down to write, the hotel desk clerk asked if I was skyping my family in the USA. I had thoroughly forgotten that my son was now home and we could try it. Incredibly it was a success and we talked and laughed for more than an hour, even going outside with the laptop and interviewing people on the street for their entertainment.

June 21/Mon - Our scheduled Dunajec River raft ride was cancelled because of the weather so instead we headed down the winding road to Spisz to visit the 14th century Niedzicy Castle.  Unique because its individual ownership and residency continued all the way until WWII, the supposedly haunted castle sits 70 meters up, high above the huge lake created by damming the Dunajec River. They are is heavily influenced by its former Hungarian owners in style and colors. The castle hosts a carriage museum in which we learned about that styles vary by country and profession. My favorite was the sleigh with the painting of Kulig on it. It even had hooks built into to drag sleds along behind! D’Ella like the kid-fashioned one where  children rode sideways as a means of keeping them safer. While others walked out on the dam, I slipped over to the nearby Spisz Museum. I wanted to capture pictures of the examples of village dress and the architecture of a neighboring inn.

A favorite story of the castle is about Brunhilde and Boguslaw, a young couple with a reputation for quarreling. The relationship ended when he accidently pushed her out the tower window she fell into the deep well below.

The castle is recognizable to most Poles for its role as a setting for the popular movie “Janosik.” The famous Zobjnicki robber was supposed to have been captured, tortured and later survived after a harrowing escape out a small, high window.
A side trip on the way home went even deeper into the village of Poronin to see the handiwork of  Pani Stella, a local seamstress who makes her living creating the traditional folk costumes for mountaineer weddings. Asia hoped she would be of useto me for Krakowiaki costumes. I was a kid in a candy store and I am sure the quality of my photos can’t possibly reflect the quality of her handiwork. A noteworthy point, Pani can create one of these hand-sewn, embroidered and beaded vests in less than 7 days. It is not a surprise that her work has been discovered by folk groups from as far away as Australia.
We got to town in time to run back to the market before it closed, make last minute purchases and dry off for dinner. A lovely mountain style restaurant with a big fire and home-style cooking made it seem like a cozy winter night. There we were visited by Pani Ewa, another local embroidery artist who we had discovered while in town.  Her items had a distinctive mixing embroidery, beading and a little shine. The style and the price was right to bring some home. Both ladies will likely be enjoying more business from us in the future.

June 22/Tues - After struggling to pack up our luggage AND the goodies we have already purchased, we were to drive to Krakow. En route we watched the scenary change from the winding streets of the mountains with their distinctive architecture to the rolling hills of the Beskidy Mountains. It looked like a storybook with green hills and red-roofed houses.  We were also able to enjoy the reappearance of the sun as we approached Wadowice, the birthplace of Pope John Paul II. A smallish town, it is now chock full of all things pope-related. However, visiting his parish church and neighborhood was quite special. He grew up in the apartment directly next door and had an affinity for treating himself to a custard dessert in area restaurants. Now papierski kremowka is a must have while stopping in the city. We enjoyed ours in a Benedictine-owned cellar café and its creamy nature inspired Asia to share with us some of her favorite recipes while the ladies took notes.

After entering Krakow, we went to the convent where St. Faustina served as a nun. Having dozed off along the way, this was a church too far for D’Ella. I roused her to have a snack but allowed her to go back to sleep in the car and stayed behind while the others entered the huge monastery. Word has it that the young nun who greeted the group for their tour took the opportunity to evangelize; speaking less about St Faustina and more about her mission.


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