Well, Day five is history, but I sure learned a lot today. And it really made me question some things. Ask yourself this question… How come, after over 100 years of “no Poland” on the map, and 20-some years of a new Poland, then 6 years again of “no Poland”, then 45 years of “communist Poland”, has Poland emerged as a great and free country in the world, a shining example to many, and in reality, the one country that was almost single-handedly able to do what 40+ years of cold war could not do…..bring down the Soviet Union. Well, I found myself thinking about that late tonight, and I have some thoughts about that. But first, about my day…
We got up early this morning and got ready for our trip. Of course, as you may guess, breakfast was on tap first. We had rolls with butter, gołąbki, galaretka, and sałatka. It was, of course, all very good. Eventually we were all showered, shaved, packed and ready to go. We took off about 6:40 AM on our way.
It was a long day of travel, and our first destination was the Zamoyski Palace which is located not too far from Lublin, in the town of Kozłówka. We had a bit of trouble finding the place, and got some bad directions on the way. But on the way I saw some of the most amazing scenery. We started out in the żuławy area of the lowlands near the Baltic. Eventually we crossed the Wisła river, then started to get into some hills. Later we were in a lot of wooded territory with very tall pine trees. Eventually we came to Warszawa and drove past the old city. Then we drove sort of along the Wisła , again on a scenic route, until we eventually broke away to get to Kozłówka. It was some amazing scenery. Fields of various grain, farms, hay, apple orchards, black currant patches, gardens, and small (and some not so small) dotted our path. We really did see a lot of the heartland of Poland, from areas with big combines collecting grain, to areas with poor farmers tilling soil and even a horse-drawn wagon or two! It was an amazing trip, for sure.
The Zamoyski palace at Kozłówka is really quite the place. I really enjoyed it and took lost of pictures. The Zamoyski family has been very prominent in Polish history. If you’d like to learn more about it (and I suggest that you do!), check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koz%C5%82%C3%B3wka_Palace.
Eventually, we headed into some traffic and made our way to Lublin, our resting place for the night. We found our hotel OK. It is very quaint, and very historic. If you’d like to find out more about it–and I suggest you do–check this link: http://www.waksman.pl/site/witamy_e.htm.
Once we got settled, we went out for a bit of a walk. A short summer storm kept us from straying too far. We did make it to the castle, but it was closed. We’ll go there in the morning. We stopped at a local restaurant (about 20 meters from our hotel) during the rain and had a beer there. Eventually, Filip tired, and Wojtek took him back to his room. During that time, Alicja and I took off on a tour of the old town of Lublin. It is fantastic. Well, actually, words cannot describe it. Lublin dates from at least the 13th century, and it is very historic. We saw some extremely old buildings, alleys, and the like. Eventually we ended up at a church where there was a service going on, and we went in and attended it. But more about that at the end of this post, because it really made me ask and maybe answer some hard questions about Poland and it’s history.
Eventually, we got back to our hotel. It turns out Filip was not that tired , so we took off again, this time to a bar/restaurant a mere 11 meters or so from our hotel door. We ate and had a few beers there. Well, maybe more than a few. I had the most wonderful soup there. I do not remember the name of it, but it was creamy and I think had spinach in it, besides some mushrooms and garlic. It was divine. I also had some zubrowka, besides a few of the local brew, Perla. Right now, I can still hear the party in the street through the open window in my hotel room.
Ok, it’s time to ask the big question. And maybe provide some clues. In the history of the world, various countries and civilizations have come and went. Same in recent history. But think about Poland. At one time, Poland was the largest and most powerful country in Europe, a fact that most modern day history books totally ignore. But Poland also tried to be all things to all people. It was kind to Jews. Though a Catholic country, it was kind to protestants. It had the second constitution in the history of the world, only a few years after the US. But along the way, it’s attempt to be fair to everyone led to it being torn apart by less fair neighbors: Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia. For many years, Poland did not exist. Then after World War I, it was reborn. Yet it was the first country to fall, though definitely not easily, to Hitler and the Germans, while countries sworn to its defense (like Britain and France) stood idly by–and then torn in half by a secret treaty between Hitler and Stalin. Then after World War II, Poland was “sacrificed” by Roosevelt and the US and “given” to the communists. And yes, in all of this, the People of Poland did not lose sight of the hope of being a free country again.
And then, in the midst of the terrible cold war, and amazing thing happened, the Catholic Church elected a Pope–and he died a month later. So the elected another Pope, a Polish man, as Pope. I firmly believe that you have to be totally ingnorant of history and live in a hole in the ground to not realize that the fall of communism began with this action. Some may credit the American president, Reagan, with his help in this, and I’m inclined to agree. But I believe that the root of the liberation of Poland, into a really free Poland, was the result of years of profound belief, hope and prayer. The Polish people are deeply religious, and it was their beliefs who helped propel a man like Karol Wojtyła to become Pope, and to inspire the movement that led to the fall of communism. The whole world is a much better place because of this. Many people in many countries were liberated by this, and it all began in Poland, because a people have remained steadfast in their culture and their believe in god over many, many years.
So, that is what I’ve discovered today. It still has me wondering, and has left me nearly speechless. But I believe you can thank the Polish people and their faith in god for the free world we and they live in today. In that freedom is a message and a promise for our future. Don’t miss it!