Today was a busy day, and one in which I best got to put my Polish (and some Ponglish) to use. It was also a day full of food, and I mean Full with a capital “F.” But of course, I’ll start at the beginning.
Last night I was pretty tired from our long trip and went to bed early. And I slept a good night, waking up about 7 AM or so. I was up and about for a while, but eventually Alicja had breakfast…well, more like a feast! It started with a sort of stew called leczno or leczo–I think. Whatever it was called, it was excellent, a combinations of vegetables (including zucchini, onion, mushrooms, and tomatoes) and some kielbasa. It’s flavoring was paprika based. It’s supposedly somewhat Czech in origin. But it was excellent. And gołąbki. And bread. And various meats and some cheese. Suffice it to say I had a big breakfast. After getting ready, I was all set for the day’s adventures, and what a day it was.
Irena picked me up around 10 or so. Irena is my third cousin. I spent a lot of time with her today and was able to put a lot more of the pieces of the puzzle together. And you know what? Irena does not speak English, but we communicated fine. I guess my Polish is not that bad after all. Our first stop was at the cemetery where we put fresh flowers, new plants, and candles at the grave of her parents, deceased for 25 years now. Poles do not forget, by the way. They do not forget about family or friends or anything important. It was a great experience.
After that we headed to Tczew, Irena’s home town. We started out at the restaurant run by her daughter, Barbara. It is a very nice restaurant, and there we had the first (for us and second for me) of several meals. We had cake and coffee, it was very good. I also met Irena’s sister-in-law, Teresa. Teresa’s husband (Irena’s brother) died about a year ago. After a nice visit with the help of one of Barbara’s restaurant employees who spoke English, Irena and Teresa and I took off for Irena’s home where we viewed a lot of old family photos. She had two photos of my great-grandparents there too, and a lot of here family. I was able to put some names with faces and took a lot of notes for my family tree. I also found that Irena has Skype and we exchanged Skype addresses.
After that we went back to the restaurant for obiad–lunch. What a feast it was, with potatoes, roasted port with cabbage and mushrooms and onions, and cucumbers and tomatoes. It was excellent and I had two helpings.
After lunch, Barbara took us on a tour. We went to a museum in Tczew. It is a very old city with ancient artifacts dating back to thousands of years BC. It’s a small but nice museum. We saw a lot of interesting things there. Then it was on to the Wisla. Tczew has a famous bridge over the Wisla and we saw that. Then we saw two very old churches, one very plain because the last invaders (the German Nazis) took everything of important, and one very nice. We also saw the town square and other sights in Tczew. It was a great time. We also saw Barbara’s apartment/home and had a bit of a rest there as well.
Eventually we headed back to the restaurant for lunch #2. The main features this tme were several types of galaretka, all very good. The first was a plate of chicken that was seasoned and served in a gelatin. It was outstanding. Then there were smaller portions of galaretka, one with halibut, one with chicken. Both excellent. Bread and meats and cheese complimented our meal.
Did I mention that in this time, we spoke predominantly Polish? There were a few times when we didn’t have words to communicate, but I think my Polish skills are somewhat OK, at least at a basic level. Eventually, it was time to head back and Irena and Teresa delivered me safe and sound, along with a lot of newfound information about relatives.
I was only back a few minutes before it was time to head to Zygmut and Patricja’s. They are neighbors and friends of Alicja and Wojtek, and live only a short walk away. Patricja had a wonderful meal prepared, and so I ate again. Every bite was wonderfull, she really is a good cook. Zygmut was very liberal with the vodka as well as his own homemade flavored vodka which is very good. We had a nice time and some great conversation about various topics. Suffice it to say that I learned a lot about Poland as well as shared my impressions of Poland with them. It was a great time.
But eventually the day had to come to an end. It was a treasure trove of a day, especially with all the pictures I saw of Irena’s, and the information I got from here about my family. It really was something. And so as I am about to go to bed tonight I am again filled with thankfulness for the wonderful family I have and for all I have learned so far on this trip. I have lots more to learn and I realize it will take months or more for me to incorporate it all into my soul. But it will be worth the effort!