POLAND, JULY 2010
PART FOUR: July 16 - July 20
Includes hotel ratings
Debbie's Polish Pictures Home Page
JULY 16, Friday
Cloudy but temperatures will hit about 33C/92F
We awoke at 7:45 a.m.. We did not sleep well. It was hot and the smell of campfires or burning kerosene from nearby campers wafted through the open window/door. I should explain something about Polish windows. Polish windows can open from the top or from the side. There is a handle that can be turned in one of three directions depending in what position you want the window. In our room at Hotel Energetyk, we had a balcony door which could open at the top or the side. When open at the side you could walk onto the balcony.
I'm thinking of starting my own hotel rating system. I may include this in the last diary posting.
This was the first day of the wedding celebration. In this region there is a tradition called, "Tłuczenie Butelek" (twoo CHAIN ee eh boo TEL ek) which means "Bottle Breaking." I will be censoring what I write about this event to protect people, mainly myself.
Dave and I had breakfast in the restaurant at about 10:00 a.m. where the staff was still getting the room ready for the reception. Breakfast was served from 7-11 a.m. Breakfast was from a menu with two choices. I have to say that for 15 złoty the food was a bit skimpy. We ordered Zestaw 1 (Meal 1) which consisted of tea or coffee, breads, butter, cheese, thinly sliced ham, scrambled eggs, sliced tomatoes and sliced cucumbers.
Karol Tomalski always acted as our interpreter when we visited his family. Since it was his wedding I hired a translator I had met at the Polish Genealogical Society's of Connecticut and the Northeast conference in August, 2009 and (lucky me) who lived in Grudziądz! I contacted Aleksandra Kacprzak several months prior to the wedding to make sure she would be available. Within a month prior to my needing Aleksandra she worked for two other people I know. I am always pleased to hear when good researchers/translators (Aleks is a great researcher and writes articles for the PGSCT&NE bulletin) are being utilized by English speakers. If we give them our business they'll stay in business and be there for us (everyone) next time.
Aleksandra had emailed me about a week prior to our coming to Grudziądz to see if I needed an appointment at the hairdresser's on Saturday. I thought that was so considerate of her! I declined. Aleksandra was more than willing to show us around Grudziądz before the parties started. Dave and I had stopped in this city in 2008 but only saw the granaries and took photographs of them. Though we were interested in seeing Grudziądz it was too hot and I didn't want to wilt before that evening's festivities. So, Dave and I decided to go for an air conditioned ride in our car. On our way out we bumped into Karol and his future in-laws, Darek and Ewa Rams and their son, Wiktor, 18. They were making sure the decorating of the hall was going according to plans. I told them they had a beautiful daughter and how pleased we were to be attending the wedding. They were very nice to us.
Karol told us that his parents, Stefan and Barbara (Basia) Tomalski (our ages) would arrive at the hotel about 2:00 p.m. They had water problems at home. It sounded like something leaked.
Dave and I drove around town and took photographs of an old church in the center of town and also of the church in which Karol and Natalia would be getting married. I figured if we took the photos on this day we wouldn't have to take the time to do it on the wedding day when time wouldn't be on our side. We intended to be back at the hotel around 2:00 p.m. when the Tomalskis arrived.
We called Aleksandra and asked her to have dinner with us and to meet us at the hotel at about 5:15 p.m. The Tłuczenie Butelek was to start at about 7:00 p.m. My only requirement for a restaurant was that it either be air conditioned or have outside tables.
We returned to the hotel a little after 2:00 p.m. and I noticed a car parked in the lot with a bumper sticker which read, "Unmarked Police Car." I recognized that bumper sticker! I had sent it to Karol. This meant his folks had arrived. I was so excited to see them! We went inside the hotel and the clerk indicated that the maid was still cleaning our room. Some hotels only have one key to the rooms and that’s why they want you to turn them in before you go out for the day. They know when to clean the room because the key is in its slot at the front desk. The clerk went into the office and brought out Mrs. Tomaszewska who was the owner/owner's wife. I was a bit confused by this. Pani Tomaszewska mentioned that she knew we were there for the wedding and that more people had arrived and asked for us; Tomalscy (Tomalskis) and they were in room #10 on our floor. Oh, this was all in excellent English. Tomaszewska said if we needed anything or wanted our room cleaned daily or wanted clean towels to let her know. Unless you requested it, the hotel did not clean your room nor change the towels daily. I wanted to tell Tomaszewska that the reception hall needed a few large fans for the party but resisted interfering. I don't know why the owner felt compelled to approach us unless it was because we were Americans.
Dave and I walked up the two Polish flights of stairs. Stefan and Barbara were just bringing in a second load from their car. Basia saw me through the stairwell railing and her face lit up. We joined them in their room with hugs and kisses all around. All I could say was, "To jest cudowne" ("This is wonderful"). Basia and I both got teary-eyed. Even with the language barrier we've become very close over the last 14 years. Stefan asked if we had a bottle for the Tłuczenie Butelek that night and I said yes but it was "Nie Pełna" ("not full"). He laughed. Barbara and I agreed that they would settle-in and then she'd come to our room down the hall.
The linens had not been changed in our room but the beds had been made. The maid left soap, szampon (shampoo) and an extra roll of toilet paper. The room was hot and the sun was unfortunately breaking through the clouds. Generally Poles are happy when it's hot because their winters are so cold but enough is enough!
While we waited for Barbara I checked my emails since I hadn't been online in two days. Basia showed up. She and Stefan wanted to have dinner with us. I hadn't suggested this because I didn't want them to feel like they had to entertain us when they had a wedding to deal with. Basia called Aleksandra and between the three of us we decided to have dinner earlier at 3:00 p.m. Once that was arranged Basia and I "talked" in our room. This is when a phrase book and/or dictionary come in handy. I gave Basia a few gifts for her and Stefan. I usually bring more but I was sure she would not feel slighted.
At 3:00 p.m. we met Aleksandra in the hotel lobby where she ran into a friend of hers! I drove our car (air conditioned) to the restaurant in the Hotel Villa which was air conditioned and in the basement which meant it would be even cooler. Very interesting decor. http://www.hotel-villa.pl/galeriazdjec,restauraca
We had a wonderful dinner and when finished sat and talked - until 5:30 p.m. Stefan sneakily paid for all of our dinners. Dave thought Stefan got up to have a cigarette outside but instead he paid the check.
I drove us back to the hotel so we could pick up our empty bottles for the party. The Tłuczenie Butelek took place outside of the bride's parents' fourth floor apartment in Grudziądz. Have you tried to picture this bottle breaking? The Rams live on the top floor of their Communist era apartment building. Can you imagine someone breaking glass in your stairwell?
The Rams apartment building is about two blocks from the church in which Karol and Natalia would be wed. We parked near the apartment building, rang the buzzer and were buzzed in. When we reached the landing between the third and fourth floors there was a huge refrigerator size box set in the corner with upper sections of cardboard laid flat against the corner of the walls. Inside was a brick on which to break the bottles. Not being used to breaking things in this way it took me three tries before my empty vodka bottle broke. Phew! I'd get my shot of vodka! Stefan and Basia each broke a bottle and gave Dave one to break too.
Tłuczenie Butelek tradition explanation:
1. The breaking of bottles or jars represents the bride's impending no longer “being a virgin.”
2. Verifies that the bride (and the groom) will be a good housekeeper.
3. Announces to the area males that the woman in this house is no longer available.
Each time a person breaks a bottle they receive a shot of vodka. If you don’t break a bottle you can’t have a shot.
We were welcomed into the Rams apartment with kisses and asked to sit down in the living room. This is a typical Communist era apartment, very small. There is a separate room for the bath tub and a separate room for the toilet. The toilet room is not inside the bath tub room. Each has a separate door off the hallway. The hallway leads to the kitchen, combination living room/bedroom/dining room, Natalia's bedroom and Wiktor's bedroom.
It was hot and there was very little cross ventilation. Dave, Aleksandra and I sat on the long couch (it would eventually hold three more people). Stefan and Basia sat on little chairs and Darek and Ewa sat on little chairs. This filled up the room and made it difficult to leave the room even if you were sober.
Ewa had set out plates of cakes and finger foods. The only finger food I can remember is toothpicks with different olives and onions on them. I only had one piece of cake. I probably should have had more.
We had a great time! Aleksandra kept the translating going so we understood what was going on. There were many questions directed at us and many questions from us. I think everyone laughed most of the time. Darek, the bride's father, apparently liked the movie, "Yes, Man," because he kept saying that, "Yes, man." Friends and relatives of the bride and groom broke bottles, drank vodka, stayed awhile and then left. The family, including Dave and I had to also drink every time someone broke a bottle. Dave is now telling people that he only remembers what happened up to the 12th vodka!
Stefan doesn't drink so he drove us to and from the Tłuczenie Butelek. Aleksandra drove herself so she also did not drink and as she explained several times, she was working. I was so glad that we were asked to be a part of this Polish tradition. However, it was a couple days later that I found out we left the party at 12:30 a.m. - with help. I felt fine until I stood up!
We fell into bed around 1:00 a.m. that night - I guess.
JULY 17, Saturday
Sunny 39C/102F Are you kidding me?
DAY OF THE WEDDING
I awoke at about 9:30 a.m. but stayed in bed. Karol (!) came to the room with two cold bottles of water. That was really nice. He told us that the hotel had to change his room due to a water problem. At 11:00 we received a phone call from our youngest son, Josh, who still lives with us. I immediately did the math and realized it was 4:00 a.m. back home. This could not be a good call. Josh fell asleep in the living room. He was awakened by water dripping from the ceiling down the ceiling fan and onto him. Great. We figured it had something to do with the air conditioning. We told him what stopgap measures to take and went back to bed.
Well, we missed breakfast. Good thing. We needed to sleep. When I woke up I decided I would not be drinking much at the wedding reception regardless of how much I was encouraged. I wasn’t hung over but I didn’t feel great. I started getting ready for the wedding at noon. We had been invited to attend the parents' blessing at the bride's home. When Basia asked if we wanted to attend the blessing I could hardly answer her, I was so choked up. We had to be ready to leave by 3:45 p.m. The wedding ceremony would take place at 5:00 p.m.
I had to have both table fans on me while I was getting ready so my make-up wouldn't run down my face. The curling iron I brought from home stopped working. I only had a smaller Polish one. Nice timing.
We had decided to take our car (for the air conditioning) to the blessing and wedding with Dave driving and Stefan in the front passenger seat. Everyone looked so nice all dressed up. The women's high heels sunk into the soft asphalt in front of the Rams' apartment building. That's how hot it was.
Several years ago before Karol even met Natalia I had told him that when the day came, I wanted to attend his wedding but that he should not have it in July or August because it was too hot. He didn’t listen to me obviously. Saturday, July 17, turned out to be the hottest day in decades.
Kisses for everyone when we entered the apartment. Ewa was helping Natalia get ready while Karol walked around sweating profusely. I felt so bad for him. The photographer and videographer were also in the apartment taking pictures of everyone. When Natalia came out of her bedroom she looked like a princess and Karol's face lit up. The photographers immediately went into action taking pictures of Natalia in different poses in the living room. I am sure I've seen her dress on the TV show, "Say Yes to the Dress." It was absolutely gorgeous. She was a beautiful bride.
The coffee table in the living room/dining room/bedroom had a lace cloth on it on top of which was a stand-up crucifix from the Tomalski home, a bowl of holy water and a sprinkler to dip in the holy water. The sprinkler looked like a mini-straw broom.
Natalia and Karol knelt down and Natalia's parents each gave them a blessing. I don't know what was said because we didn't have an interpreter with us. I couldn't get close enough to hear the parents for fear of being in the pictures the photographer was taking. Ewa Rams sprinkled holy water on the couple and Darek held the crucifix for each of them to kiss. Then Stefan and Barbara gave their blessings. Barbara sprinkled the couple with holy water and Stefan held the crucifix for each of them to kiss. It was so moving and what a wonderful way for a couple to start their life together.
Karol, his father and soon-to-be father-in-law each wore a flower on their lapels. The bride's and groom's mothers did not have flowers. Natalia's bouquet was made up of orange flowers.
There was no rehearsal for the wedding. I asked. The priest just told Karol and Natalia what they should do.
It was time for the wedding. Karol's witness was his cousin, Hubert Małecki. Hubert's father, Marek Małecki, is the owner of Solbet a very large concrete block manufacturer whose main office is in Solec Kujawski. These blocks are used to build most homes in Poland and Solbet has 1/3 of the Polish market. Since we first met Marek and his family, the company has really grown with plants around Poland and in two other countries. More about Marek later.
Karol had said to me, "Wait until you see the car we will be in." In Poland it is not unusual for the wedding couple to rent a late model American car such as a Cadillac or a late model convertible. Karol had talked to me about buying my own 1993 Cadillac DeVille so I was anxious to see what he'd chosen. I don't know if the car was Hubert's or if it was a rental but it was a brand new white Lincoln Navigator, an SUV! It was big enough for Natalia's dress and it was air conditioned. The hood of the car was decorated with a floral arrangement and each of the door handles had flowers on it.
We followed the wedding car in our own car. When we arrived at the church there were already a lot of people waiting outside. The bride and groom hurried into the church. We said hello aka kisses to one of Barbara's sisters and her family, Zofia, Janek, Tomasz and Paulina Zuchowski whom we'd known since 1998. Zosia said I looked, "Eleganty." She was used to seeing me in shorts! This does bring up an issue I had in buying a dress for the wedding. I knew Poles really dressed up for weddings so whatever I bought had to be on that same par. I also realized the dress would be packed most of the trip so it had to be easy to iron and because it was July I knew it couldn't be heavy or hot. Well, it was fancy enough and easy to iron. I don't know that anything would have been cool enough.
We met Aleksandra at the church and took our seats near the front. Guests do not sit on one side or the other depending on whether they know the bride or groom. There were no windows in the church and no fans. I, however, had a round nylon hand fan (also known as a Flexi-Flyer) which I used constantly. Karol and Hubert took their places at the front of the church. There were four chairs at the head of the aisle for the bride and groom and their two witnesses, Hubert and Agnieszka, Natalia’s girlfriend. The priest came up the aisle followed by Natalia and her father. No bridesmaids, no flower girl, no ring bearer, no ushers. Darek kissed Natalia, shook Karol's hand and then gave Natalia's hand to Karol. Both sets of parents and Natalia's brother, Wiktor, were seated in the first pew on the right as you faced the altar.
The church was a modern one inside and out. Lengths of tulle decorated each end of a pew. There were a couple of large flower arrangements on the altar. Most guests brought gorgeous flowers for the couple. Karol had said he thought they were a waste of money and was going to ask people to bring wine instead of flowers, so we did. I have to say that Polish florists really do a beautiful job on their flower bouquets; very creative.
Everyone carried their flowers into the church. I thought they did this rather than let them die in the hot cars but I was wrong.
I expected to cry during the wedding ceremony, but not understanding the language made a difference. I did cry when the married couple walked back down the aisle to the music of Mendelssohn's "Wedding March."
Since the wedding was held in a Catholic church we sat through a high mass. I was sure someone was going to faint. The priest was continuously mopping his brow. Not only his brow, his whole face. At one point I even considered going outside for a few minutes.
Everyone was given the opportunity to take communion. A collection was taken which I thought was a bit odd. Afterwards the priest held up a crucifix and again everyone went up to the alter and kissed the crucifix. Neither Aleksandra nor I knew what this was all about. I don't recall how the ceremony ended but I'm pretty sure the priest did not introduce Karol and Natalia as "Mr. and Mrs." Tomalscy, they kissed and then walked down the aisle. They were beaming.
Everyone followed the married couple out of the church to a sort of receiving line. At this point people who brought flowers gave them to Karol and Natalia who in turn handed them over to Hubert and Agnieszka who eventually put them in the Lincoln. Only Karol and Natalia were receiving guests. Their parents were mingling with the guests. We waited our turn to give our congratulations. I told Karol to be good to Natalia.
I saw Marek Małecki, Karol's cousin and owner of Solbet, standing to the side with his wife who was wearing a haute couture dress she bought at a Warsaw fashion show. Marek was not wearing a suit jacket which surprised me but considering how hot it was, understandable. Dave, Aleksandra and I walked over and greeted Marek and his wife. Marek immediately started in on me, as is his way. He doesn't like Obama, Bush liked Poland, the U.S. is ruining the environment (BP oil spill), and on and on. I couldn't even respond to anything because he was going so fast. I think he had this tirade planned. He also mentioned that he hadn't learned any English and I hadn't learned any Polish since the last time we met. HA! I had Aleksandra tell him that I in fact did know some Polish! A few years ago Marek tried to get me drunk at the Tomalski's house so that I couldn't argue coherently. We were arguing, nicely, about the differences between the U.S. and Poland. I was able to keep up with him though. Marek is a very important person in Solec Kujawski and Karol, Stefan and Barbara all work for him. Stefan and Basia have supervisory positions but right now Karol is doing grunt work even though he has a master's degree in marketing.
Back to the wedding.
When everyone had congratulated Karol and Natalia they threw groszę at them. The person who picked up the most coins would control the money in the house. I couldn't help notice how Natalia's beautiful white dress had been dragging over filthy sidewalks, stairs and the like.
Karol, Natalia, Agnieszka and Hubert tried to leave the church in the Lincoln but were blocked by people with locked arms. The tradition is for the married couple to pay their way out with vodka. Notice a theme here with vodka? The group disbanded only to rock the SUV! Finally the SUV got free and headed for the Hotel Energetyk for the reception. We were the second car behind the Lincoln and everyone was honking their horns and had their emergency lights flashing. People on the street were waving and yelling "Sto Lat." It was so cool!
As soon as we arrived at the hotel/reception hall everyone went inside. Each person was given a glass of champagne. Karol picked up Natalia and carried her over the threshold of the reception hall. Ewa and Basia gave them bread and salt signifying the “Gift of God” and the Gift of Life.”
Everyone had been given wine as they entered the reception hall. Right after the mothers’ welcome the guests toasted the bride and groom. The couple also drank at this point but threw their glasses behind them to the floor. I'm not sure what that was all about since the broken glass then had to be swept up.
We picked out seats next to Marek and his wife which were close to the head table. The head table held the parents of the couple, Karol and Natalia, their witnesses and their witnesses' spouses. The guests were allowed to sit wherever they wanted. There was a three piece band which started playing almost immediately and loudly, very loudly. Food, served family style, started coming out of the kitchen. I've never seen so much food and it kept coming! Soft drink and water bottles were on the tables. Cold vodka was being opened and served. There was also wine available. Ice in buckets was used mostly for the soft drinks. Dave and I filled our water glasses. Only the vodka had been kept cold.
People started eating right away. Marek had one young man take a bottle of vodka and make sure that people had full glasses. I accepted the first shot but after that I filled my glass with water. Only one person saw me and that was one of Karol's buddies who was sitting across the table from me. Karol was a member of 12 men who had been friends for a long time. Karol was the second to last to get married. The last fellow was the one Marek had pegged to keep the vodka flowing. Dawid was a really nice young man. This group of Karol's friends were seated across from us and to our right. Kirin and his wife sat next to my husband. Kirin was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, but had moved to Solec Kujawski eight years prior. He, and the rest of the group, spoke pretty good English. In fact, when I tried to speak in Polish they asked that I speak in English. True, it could have been a comment on my Polish language skills, or lack thereof, but I prefer to think they wanted to practice their English.
Shortly after dinner started someone stood up and started singing, "Sto Lat." Everyone joined in and the whole song was sung. You're supposed to toast at the end of the song however, someone said "Kiss" in Polish so Karol and Natalia kissed. The guests didn't think the kiss was good enough so they had to kiss again. Holy smokes! I've never seen such kissing at a wedding! Finally the guests approved and we were able to drink our vodkas. This sort of thing went on every so often.
Food kept coming. Vodka and wine kept coming
The band introduced the married couple for their first dance. It was choreographed just like in the U.S. I knew Karol could and liked to dance, going to disko ever since he was about 18 but dancing a waltz can be a different story. He and Natalia looked so cute; he twirled her, bent her backwards and even swung her around off the floor. They did a pretty good job. Natalia looked beautiful. Now everyone started dancing. I like to dance too but it was just too hot for me. I didn't think I'd last long if I started dancing. The band was so loud we couldn't talk to people so we sat at the table, eating. Once in awhile
we'd go outside so we could talk. My hair had wilted and my make-up was gone.
The reception started at about 6:30 p.m. At about 7:30 p.m. a storm came through with pouring rain and wind. The doors at opposite ends of the reception hall were opened so some of the breeze would come in. That helped a lot. I was glad the reception had started before the rain though.
Food kept coming. Vodka and wine kept coming.
During the band's breaks music still played but not as loud as the band so we were able to visit with people. I met Basia's other two sisters (three altogether), Stasia and Anna and one of her brothers, Piotr. I had met her other brother, Adam, on a couple of occasions but he was not at the wedding. His wife had just returned from surgery and Basia's mother, who lived with this brother, was not doing well either. They seemed as pleased to meet me as I was to finally meet them. Stasia, the oldest, grabbed my arm and wouldn't let go. She was so sweet. All the sisters, including Zofia and her husband, Janek went outside when the rain stopped. We sat under an umbrella and . . . toasted with vodka! OMG! I'm telling you, the vodka flowed like water. In fact, as Dave pointed out, there was more vodka available than there was water. Everyone was carrying a bottle. Most of the vodka served was Finlandia! Perhaps because it was more expensive than the Polish wódka.
Aleksandra talked Marek's wife and I into dancing with her. Just like the Polish weddings I attended as a kid. I swear, almost every Pole could dance and dance well. I wanted to dance with everyone! Watching Karol and Natalia's friends dancing was delightful. They weren't feeling any pain but no one was getting sloppy. The band played Polish and American songs but nothing traditional; lots of ABBA and disco, dancing music. Besides dancing with Dave, my husband, I danced with Stefan and Karol. Dave danced with Basia and Ewa, Natalia's mom. There was a lot of group dancing going on too. At one point the wedding cake was brought out and the couple cut the first slice and fed each other a piece. Unlike the American tradition, the cake was small but soooo good. A separate table was set-up with various dessert cakes. Food, food, and more food. Platters of food sat on the table and still more food was brought out. Incredible.
Every once in awhile someone would spot my empty shot glass and fill it with vodka. I was doing OK though. I'd down that baby and fill the glass with water. Poles will drink a shot of vodka followed either by water or a swallow of soft drink. I wasn't taught to drink that way. I pointed it out to one of Karol's friends and teasingly called him a baby in Polish. He thought that was pretty funny.
Food, food, and more food. More dancing, more vodka. Aleksandra was having a wonderful time dancing. I was glad. One song was sung by everyone as we held hands and danced around the room. Some of the words were easy to understand and sing, "Bara bara bara, tyki tyki tak," so I sang along enjoying myself. Afterwards Aleksandra explained that some of the Polish songs are a bit "racey" and the one we just finished was about having sex. Nice.
The photographer and videographer were everywhere. It was as if Natalia especially, was being followed by paparazzi. Their shirts were drenched with sweat.
This was the same day as an aunt's birthday so the band announced it and Karol and Natalia gave her a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Someone else celebrated an occasion and again was given flowers by the bride and groom. By the way, bride, in Polish is, pana młoda and groom is pan młody.
At about midnight it was time for the oczepiny. This traditional custom has changed through the years, modern couples preferring to discard some of the old ways. In fact, there was no oczepiny at this wedding. Natalia preferred not to exchange her veil for the married woman's cap. Instead she and Karol sat on chairs in the middle of the dance floor. Ewa took off Natalia's veil and Barbara took off Karol's tie. Karol left the dance floor and Natalia, blindfolded, was surrounded by all the single girls who danced around her to the song, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" by Beyonce. When Natalia was ready she threw her veil which was caught by the next girl to get married.
Karol was then blindfolded and the single men walked around him. When he was ready he threw his tie which was caught by the next man to get married. Odd thing. The woman who caught the veil is the girlfriend of the man who caught the tie. I smell a set-up.
I found this page on the internet which gives a good explanation of what to expect at a Polish wedding though Karol and Natalia did not do all of it. The table arrangement was as mentioned on the site below as was the dinner sequence. There was no czepek dance (money dance) and though Natalia has long hair, it was not cut.
I gave our gifts, two presents, a bottle of wine and money in an envelope, to Hubert Małecki who put it in the Lincoln with the other gifts.
Though I didn't have a conversation with Marek Małecki, Karol's cousin and the owner of the company for whom he worked, I did let him know how generous it was of him to give Karol and Natalia a free apartment for three years. During this time Karol’s parents, Stefan and Barbara will add on three rooms to their house with a separate entrance. The own a rather large as it is. There were five people living in it at one time. I know Karol wanted to have his own house but unless you're rich, that's just not practical. Since he was the only child of Stefan and Barbara I was pretty sure he and his bride would end up in the family home. Since Stefan and Barbara bought the house in 1997 they have made numerous improvements and added on. In fact Barbara’s kitchen remodel was the impetus for me to have my own kitchen updated.
The problem with Karol and Natalia living in Solec Kujawski is Natalia will be about an hour from her parents. Karol’s job is in Solec Kujawski (Solca) though so there really is no choice.
Hubert, the son of Marek, gave Karol and Natalia a 10 day trip to Italy! Wow! Honeymoons are not the norm in Poland. Young people do not have that kind of disposable income and usually go right back to work after the wedding so this was quite a surprise.
One of the dances we did during the wedding was the duck dance. Yep! It's the same in any language. I knew this though. When Karol visited us in 2008 we attended a Brave Combo (Polka band) concert and they played the duck dance song. I was surprised to see that Karol knew all about it.
We also danced a sort of follow the person in front of you dance though I don't know what it was.
At one point some of the young women kidnapped the bride and would not return her to Karol without a trade of bottles of vodka. This sort of bartering happened several times during the evening.
As I said, most of the Poles handled the drinking just fine, but there were a couple of exceptions. Just as we were ready to leave the reception a drunk relative asked me to dance. I guessed that’s what he wanted since he spoke to me in Polish. I wasn’t interested in this and politely said “No, thank you.” To say he was persistent is an understatement. I finally had to enlist Karol’s help (Aleksandra had already left) to get rid of the guy. I felt bad about that but I just did not have the vocabulary to handle the situation. Well, a few words came to mind but I didn’t think they would be appropriate.
The wedding reception was very enjoyable. I noticed that the bride and groom were careful not to drink too much. At about 1:00 a.m we decided to go to bed. The reception would go on until the last guest left. This meant the bride and groom had to stay until then. We thanked the Tomalskis, Rams, Karol, Natalia and said good night to a few other people. Aleksandra drove home with the plan to return the next day at 3:00 p.m. for the poprawiny.
This time Dave and I had no trouble getting upstairs and into the room on our own. I went into the bathroom and water was pouring from the ceiling. The rain. I thought perhaps it would be OK once the rain stopped but decided against this and went downstairs to the front desk. What was going on with everyone having water problems? First Stefan and Barbara, then Karol, then our son at home and now us!
With the help of Basia's niece, Paulina Zuchowska (21) , I explained the problem. The clerk gave us another room. At first we were only going to move the essentials and take care of the rest in the morning but we changed our minds. We completely moved everything to the new smaller room including a table. We got to bed at 3:30 a.m. We found out the next day that the last guest left the reception at 4:00 a.m. That means the band stayed until then too!
The third day of the wedding would start at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday.
JULY 18, Sunday
Partly cloudy 26C/78F with 100% humidity.
Did you figure out how long that wedding reception lasted? 10 hours! The whole day from the parents’ blessing to the end was more than 12 hours! The bride and groom must have been running on pure adrenalin.
The Poprowiny is the party the day after the wedding. Karol told us this was the day when people would really drink. I noticed he and Natalia did not appear to drink much at the wedding which, of course, was smart. However, several people did not hold back and considering how the vodka flowed the day before I wasn't sure what to expect.
Many people, especially family were asked to spend the wedding night in the hotel. Many more people were put-up in nearby hotels with a bus shuttling guests back and forth so they could drink as much as they wanted and not have to worry about driving. How considerate! All of this was paid for by Karol and Natalia. I mentioned to them that this would not happen in the U.S. Everybody here is pretty much on their own.
We got out of bed at 11:00 a.m. feeling much better than we did the morning after the Tłuczenie Butelek. The poprowiny was to start at 3:00 p.m. Basia told us that breakfast was going to be served in the morning but considering how late we stayed up changing rooms we decided to sleep in knowing there would again be tables full of food at the party.
We decided to start packing our suitcases since we would be leaving Grudziądz for Warsaw the next day and we wanted to know where we stood luggage-wise. As I had hoped we were able to leave a suitcase with Basia which the family could keep. We eventually gave her the two fans, a can of bug spray, packaging tape, scissors and scotch tape. I also had time to check my emails.
Not only was this room smaller, so was the shower. Most showers in Poland are prefabricated, one piece units that fit into a corner. This one could not have been more than three feet wide. The room did not have an extension cord either as our old room had and there were only two outlets in this room and one in the bathroom. Back in 2000 I bought a Polish extension cord so I did have this to use.
We were ready on time. Today I decided to bring a little notebook so I could make notes about the festivities. Downstairs we noticed that people were outside the front of the hotel/reception hall so we joined them. We thought it would be cooler outside, at least for a little while. After a few minutes of conversation we all went inside and took the same seats we had the night before. Aleksandra was already in her seat. There were a lot of empty seats. I don't know if some people went home or if some people were too hung over to come to the poprowiny or if some people were not invited to the poprowiny. I knew there would be "new" people at this function, some of whom I'd met on previous trips.
Natalia wore a short, one shoulder, flowered dress and cute purple shoes. Her veil was replaced with a flower. She sort of looked Hawaiian. Karol was wearing slacks and a short sleeved shirt. Dave had decided to wear a short sleeved casual shirt rather than another long sleeved dress shirt. Most of the men had worn short sleeved dress shirts to the wedding and were, I'm sure, not as hot as Dave, Karol and a few other men. I wore slacks and a fancy blouse. I was concerned about wearing slacks but as it turned out I wasn't the only woman doing so and I figured my excuse was that I was from America.
The tables were loaded with food - again, with more coming. Soft drink and water bottles and vodka were also on the tables and the vodka starting flowing. OK, OK. It was 3:00 p.m. but this is a tradition in Poland!
The photographers were gone but the band reappeared. The party itself was more relaxed and I had the feeling that Karol and Natalia would be enjoying it a little more too. Watching them dancing and interacting was heart-warming and brought tears to my eyes several times. I was able to visit with people I had met during previous trips and met their children and grandchildren. The man whose DNA sample I had taken (to see if his Chojnacki family was related to mine) several years before was there with his wife whom I hadn’t met. When we met Krzysztof Chojnacki (cousin of Stefan Tomalski) his wife was in another country working. She apologized for not being home when we were there in 2008 but I told her that her family had been very hospitable. Aleksandra, of course did most of the translating for us. I had to drag her from family group to family group so I could visit with people. Though none of these people were family, it didn’t feel that way.
I danced some at the poprowiny and when I wasn’t dancing or visiting with people I was thinking how nice it would be for my sons to marry a nice Polish girl. Certainly there were plenty of pretty ones in Poland! The father of the bride asked me to dance but by the time he did the dance was just about over and it turned out to be the last dance of the evening. I think it was about 9:00 p.m. I was disappointed because Darek was a good dancer. I should have asked him to dance! I told him (through Aleksandra) that he owed me one. I said perhaps it would be at Wiktor's wedding but Darek thought it might be at the baptism of Karol and Natalia's first baby. Dancing at a baptism? OK! I'm not sure we would go to Poland for that unless it happened in a year we already planned to visit.
Stefan told me he was coming to the U.S.! He, Marek and about 17 other men were taking a long wonderful trip. This group often travels together. I don't think Stefan and Basia have taken very many vacations together. In September Stefan et al, would be flying into New York City and then to Colorado, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Hawaii and then some cities in other countries. Not Texas! I asked Stefan, "What about Basia?" He replied, "She went to Croatia." I laughed and asked how that could compare with his trip. It's funny because Dave and I have toyed with the idea of bringing them both (and now Karol and Natalia) to the U.S. either in 2011 (when we both will be 60) or for our 25th wedding anniversary in 2012 but that's the year we should be going back to Poland. We'll see.
The party broke up earlier than the night before. There was so much food left on the tables I couldn't believe it. Several guests were given a bottle of vodka as they left. Karol gave us a litre of vodka and a beer for Dave to drink in the room that night. Dave and I thanked both sets of parents and Karol and Natalia. Basia gave us a gift of candlesticks. I was surprised and moved that she took the time to buy us a gift considering everything else that was going in her life. During our goodbyes we were joined by two young men who were friends of Natalia's. In English they asked if there were any differences between weddings in Poland and weddings in the U.S. I told them all the differences that came to mind. Occasionally they would say something in Polish and were surprised when I responded appropriately in Polish. I can understand more than I can speak. So there, Marek! I had wished these young men had approached us earlier as I would have liked to talk to them more. In fact, while looking through the photos taken at the Tłuczenie Butelek, I realized these same young men were at there and at the wedding reception! Maybe next time I should just walk around asking people if they want to speak English.
Tearily, we said goodnight and decided to meet for breakfast at 9:00 a.m. as we were hoping to leave for Warsaw by 11:00 a.m., the latest. Aleksandra gave me a CD with photos she took of the last three days' festivities. Dave took pictures of us sitting at one of the tables and then I paid Aleksandra telling her how much I enjoyed meeting and working with her and then she went home.
Before leaving the poprowiny I talked to Karol about who was paying what at the hotel. I didn't want him to pay for the two nights he had arranged with the hotel. Dave thought it might cause a problem if we just went ahead and paid for the four nights without talking to Karol. This backfired on me. Karol told the desk clerk to make sure that I did not pay for anything. Phooey. Dave and I went up to bed.
JULY 19, Monday
Beautiful weather, clear and not hot.
Well, the parties are over.
I was up at 5:15 a.m. I couldn't sleep. I was concerned about the weight of our luggage and whether we could fit everything into it. Once we left Grudziądz and had given our extra suitcase to the Tomalskis, we'd be out of luck if we needed more space. On past trips I've sent books, magazines, CDs, brochures, comic books and the like to our house using an M-bag. However, I didn't have the time to deal with that on this trip. The other concern was whether our suitcases were too heavy. We had called all the airlines involved (American Airlines, Lufthansa, LOT) before we left the U.S. in order to find out what our limits were. Because of Dave's Frequent Flier status we were allowed higher weight limits but we were flying on two other airlines which did not have agreements with American Airlines. When flying within Europe for example, the weight limits are actually lower than allowed on U.S. airplanes. Nice. We had booked the whole trip through American Airlines so even though we couldn't get a definitive answer from Lufthansa and LOT about the weight, I was going to take the stand that the flight was booked through American and therefore their weight restrictions should apply to the other airlines. If the clerk tried to charge us for the weight I was going to get tough and ask for a supervisor and explain that everyone we talked to on the phones said we should be allowed the higher limits (this is true).
Dave and I went down to breakfast at 8:20 a.m. even though we were to meet everyone at 9:00. I felt like having coffee without all the talking and so on. I wasn't hung over at all since I didn't have much to drink the night before (or during the wedding reception). I just wanted to write in my notebook (notes for my Trip Diary) and relax. I was able to communicate with the waitress that we only wanted coffee right then and that we would order breakfast later when our friends arrived.
Dave figured out our route to Warsaw. We were going to take secondary roads thinking that there might be detours on the main roads. The main roads are considered highways in Poland but that's a misnomer. They are really two lane roads on which you can travel 90 kph. I can go faster on secondary roads and have less traffic to contend with.
A little before 9:00 a.m. Darek, Ewa, Stefan, Barbara, Karol and Natalia appeared. I wasn't sure if Darek and Ewa stayed in the hotel since they lived in town but Ewa was wearing the same outfit she wore at the poprowiny. I think Ewa had a "good time" during the poprowiny, even whistling loudly (fingers in mouth) a couple of times. If I had time to spend with her I'd have her teach me how to do that. Natalia was also in her poprowiny dress but everyone else, including Karol were dressed much more casually.
Barbara handled ordering breakfast though it was pretty much what was offered on the menu. Dave and I asked for the scrambled eggs as opposed to the "hot dog" (sausage). We left a tip for the whole group. The waitress came after us with the money thinking we had forgotten it on the table. I said, "Prosze," and she understood. Clearly some service personnel in Poland are not used to receiving a gratuity. Now, I'm not a fan of U.S. restaurants and so on paying employees a lower wage so that customers feel they have to make up for the low wage by leaving 20% tips but Polish labor is cheap across the board and I know these people need the money. Believe me, we did not leave vast sums of złoty. Generally, at a breakfast buffet we'd leave two złoty. That's less than a U.S. dollar.
At breakfast we talked about the wedding, Tłuczenie Butelek (lots of laughter about this!), the poprowiny and our trip in general. Darek asked which route we were taking to Warsaw and he agreed that the one we chose was a good one. Natalia had been working for her father but now that she'd be living in Solec Kujawski she was looking for other work. She had interviewed for a job the previous Wednesday as a receptionist. Her degree was in accounting but as happens, sometimes you have to take the job that’s available.
I told Karol I wanted to buy wedding photos and a video from the photographer but apparently it is Karol's responsibility to send me the CDs/DVDs and I can then have prints made (from the CD) if I like. I told him that the daughter of a very close friend of mine just got married and I had to purchase the photos directly from the photographer. He was surprised that it’s done that way in the U.S.
We were finished with breakfast early so I helped the women gather the flower arrangements from around the room. I think they were going to be taken to Natalia's grandparents' graves. I took some close-up photos of these flower arrangements but I don't know if the pictures will do the flowers justice. Karol and Natalia took the huge balloon hearts down after I took a photo of them peeking through the hearts. Not sure what they were going to do with them. Karol wanted to give us more vodka but I convinced him our customs’ agents wouldn't allow us to bring in any more than we already had. The flowers and left-over vodka and some food was being put into Darek's company truck. He owns a fire extinguisher/fire prevention company. I took a photo of the truck and Darek gave me a pen with the company's logo on it. I had some Budweiser key chains left so I gave those to him.
Dave and I brought down our luggage and gave the extra suitcase, two fans and stuff to the Tomalskis. Everyone was gathered out front of the hotel where we'd parked two days before. I asked Karol to translate the printing on the t-shirt I gave Stefan. It read, "Dad rules until Mom gets home." Everyone thought that was pretty funny and of course the women agreed with this statement. Poland is still a very chauvinistic country. The conversation moved around to Karol and Natalia having children so I suggested (no one else could understand me) to take their time and get to know each other as husband and wife before having babies. I hugged Karol and told him to be kind and considerate of Natalia and to help her around the house (as if). I hugged Natalia and she told me that Karol was a good boy. I cried. Good grief! He's not my kid! In turn, Dave and I hugged Darek and Ewa. The hugs between us, Stefan and Basia were longer with Basia and I crying - as usual. We enjoy visiting the Tomalskis so much. They are so hospitable and kind to us. We know so much about their families and they know so much about ours. Darek and Ewa tried to talk us into staying longer and joining them at their lake house. There was no way we could do this.
I finally said, "Do zobaczenie" and we drove off. Our first stop was at the kantor in "REAL" a grocery store/department store which anchors a very small indoor strip center. Since we didn't have to pay for this last hotel we had too much left in złoty. I always bring złoty home to send priests at Christmas and to have a little when we land in Poland the next trip but we still had way too much.
We actually left Grudziądz at 10:45 a.m. and arrived in Warsaw at 2:00 p.m. but actually getting to the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel at the Okecie airport at 2:45 p.m. It took a lot less time than we expected but that was OK. We stopped once for gas and once or twice to take photographs.
We parked the car at the front of the hotel, checked-in and unpacked a little. The plan was to eat, add gas to the car and then return the car to LeCar. We never stay in U.S. owned hotels in Poland but I received such a great deal at this hotel I couldn't pass it up, plus it was literally under 100 feet to the terminal! Our rate included breakfast but I knew we wouldn't have breakfast because we had to be at the airport at 4:30 a.m. since the flight for Frankfurt left at 6:30 a.m. I mentioned this to the desk clerk and he said he would arrange to have a breakfast box waiting for us and to just remind the morning desk clerk. There would also be coffee and tea available. The room was great! Air conditioned, good-sized, easy-to-use bathroom. Internet in the room was not free though. It cost 10 Euro.
We had not eaten at a McDonald's during this trip so we decided to eat there. Even though Dave had not had bigos at all (his favorite) we didn't want to drive to the stary miasto just for that. Parking would be an issue and we would be up later than we wanted to be. Besides, Dave should have had bigos during the trip instead of having golonka all the time!
There was a McDonald's close to the hotel and a gas station right next to it. This was the second McDonald's we'd seen in Warsaw that was new and advertising the McCafe. This McDonald's had a separate area from the restaurant offering various coffees, frappes, pastries and free WiFi. A large cappuccino cost $2.79. A large Cafe Latte cost $3.11. A yummy brownie cost $1.70.
McDonald's was offering a free Coke glass with the purchase of a meal (zestaw) and I really wanted these but we could not fit one more thing in our suitcases and I had no one to give them to in Poland now. Usually I buy Happy Meals or just the Happy Meal toys in Poland because they're different than in the U.S. but again, no room. (The current promotional toys were from "Shrek III.") Even our carry-ons were full. I ordered two Big Mac meals with no problems. After we ate we bought some sweets to take back to the room. It was difficult to choose from all the offerings at the McCafe.
In an email from LeCar I knew that they were going to move their Warsaw office while we were in Poland but I had the address. The address was actually a veterinarian’s office! We lucked out though because a Brit who spoke perfect Polish called LeCar and got their correct address. It was on a cross street a few blocks away. I never did find out what happened with this address mix-up.
We found the rental car company with little trouble. Everyone who deals with the public speaks English. The man who checked us in found a scratch which ran the length of the passenger side of the car. What? I had no idea how it got there. It wasn’t there when we washed the car and then it had sat at the Hotel Energetyk for two days. The man suggested a key but I pointed out that a key would have gone into the paint and clearly this "scratch" was only in the clear coat. In fact, I scratched the clear coat with my finger nail. What's up with that? Realizing how easy the clear coat could be scratched I didn't put up a fight but I did point out that I thought the scratch could be buffed out. LeCar said they would have their mechanic look at it and try to buff it out but if that didn't work then we would be responsible for whatever it cost to fix the car. Interesting, since when we picked-up the car numerous scratches were noted (by LeCar). Did I mention the car was a deep purple?
Our credit card company insured us so they would pay for the damage. The problem is that LeCar would charge our credit card for the cost of repair (incurring another exchange rate fee from the bank) and we would have to be reimbursed by the credit card company. I filled out some reports in English. The date of the scratch was an issue. According to LeCar our credit card company wanted notice within 48 hours of the incident. Knowing we couldn't possibly call our credit card company until Wednesday morning, we set the date of the incident to that morning (Monday). We were given copies of everything and assured that by the time we arrived home on Tuesday, an email would be waiting with the results of the mechanic as well as other paperwork.
We were driven back to the hotel. It dawned on me at that point that I should take photos of the scratch, which I did. Not that it would help. We were screwed. Perhaps if we had stayed another day in Warsaw I could have followed this situation but we weren't.
Back at the hotel we re-packed for traveling on airplanes, ate our sweets and I checked my emails. As much as I don't like paying for internet in a hotel anywhere, I did. We had one hour of internet for 10 Euro. We could have had free internet if we went down to the lobby but I wasn't interested in checking emails in my jammies in public.I went to bed at 7:00 p.m. but Dave stayed up and read for awhile. It was nice to able to sleep in an air conditioned room again even though it wasn't very hot outside.
JULY 20, Tuesday
Weather: up too early to know.
Our last morning in Poland.
Dave and I awoke at 2:00 a.m. and we felt pretty good. We wanted to be in the hotel lobby around 4:00 a.m. so we could have a relaxing cup of coffee. The room had a coffee maker so I made two cups for myself while I got ready. Dave doesn't care for room coffee. The hotel's room key card had to be inserted in a box near the door in order for the electricity in the room to work. We stayed in a hotel in 2008 that had this feature as well. Interesting that in some respects Poland was way ahead of U.S. hotels with respect to saving energy.
I ended up leaving a can of hairspray, a spiral notebook, and my cheap slippers in the room. Our suitcases each weighed just under our 50 pound allowance. We walked the two miles of hallway to the elevator and traveled down to the lobby, only four floors. We checked out paying in złoty. The clerk gave us our breakfast boxes and we stopped to pick up coffees to go. Hmmm. Juggling two suitcases, Dave's backpack, my diaper bag, two large plastic containers of food and two coffees was really tricky. I knew we'd have to wait in line at the airport for awhile before the counters opened so I was determined to take this food and coffee all the way. Plus, I didn't know if any of the stores or food venues in the terminal would be open at 4:30 in the morning.
There is a lot of construction going on at the Warsaw Okecie airport and right in front of the hotel. We had no trouble walking to the terminal though. We did however, have trouble figuring out where we were supposed to be. We knew we were supposed to be in Terminal 2 but we didn't know which terminal we were in! Ah, memories of leaving Poland from Okecie airport. The signs leave a lot to be desired and there aren't any airline clerks at their counters. This is always an issue at this airport. After nine visits to Poland this chaos still puzzles me. Terminals one and two are not marked inside or outside the building. We could see our flight listed on the Departures board but didn't know where we were supposed to line up. The airport was already full of people queuing up in various lines but none looked like the one we wanted. Finally, Dave found an employee who told us we were in the wrong terminal and pointed us in the right direction. It was then that we noticed a second type of Departure Board that listed enough information so that we could figure out where to go. We didn't have to walk very far to the other terminal. Once again though, there was no indication as to where to line up. We knew we were actually flying on a LOT plane to Frankfurt even though Lufthansa sold the ticket. I stopped a young LOT employee who pointed us to the correct counter. We were first in line. Figuring we had some time before the counters actually opened, we ate our breakfasts standing up. We had a container of yogurt, a big sandwich, kiwi (!), a juice box and a candy bar. We didn't eat the kiwi because we couldn’t peel it.
When the airline employees opened for business I showed the agent our American Airlines ticket thinking that would end the discussion about weight (our luggage weight, that is, not ours)! Each bag weighed in just under 50# and nothing was said. The agent tagged our carry-on even though we had our own identification tags on them and we were off. Dave didn't eat his yogurt or drink his juice and I just couldn't throw it away. I approached a woman who was with a little girl and tried to explain in lousy Polish that I wanted to give her daughter these things while trying to convey that the items were not open but still sealed. I guess my Polish is bad early in the morning (HA!) because the mother had no idea what I was trying to say. My concern was that the mother would be worried about a stranger giving her child food. The mother called over a friend who did speak English. The friend said of course I could give the items to the little girl!
Stores and small restaurants were in fact open. I couldn't pass the duty free shop without stopping. I ended up buying two mini-bottles of vodka and some chocolate. I wanted more but I really couldn't fit anything else in my bag. This wouldn't have been such an issue if I'd finished the book I brought over to read. I had originally planned to read it on the plane over. I didn't.
About an hour before take-off we went through security. You don't have to take your shoes off in Europe but they are very careful with electronics and going through the metal detectors. I see more people pulled to the side for "wanding" than in the U.S. We didn't go through passport control since we were flying into another European Union (EU) country. Will I ever receive another Poland stamp in my passport?
The plane to Frankfurt left a little late but arrived on time and was not full. "Do zobaczenie," I said quietly and sadly as I watched the ground move farther and farther away from our plane. We were served a small sandwich, cookies, crackers and a beverage. The flight was only 1 1/2 hours. You can't fly three hours in the U.S. and get a free meal! We were only in the Frankfurt airport for two hours. We had checked our luggage all the way through to Dallas/Fort Worth at the airport in Poland but we still had to check ourselves in at Frankfurt. There was no problem here either. We decided to spend some time in the Admiral's Club so we could plug-in the computer. I needed to get caught-up with my trip diaries! And, we could have some decent snacks and drinks, even alcohol if we wanted. We had coffees and fresh rolls with cheese and jam. I had finished my book on the flight from Poland to Frankfurt. When we left the Admiral's Club I gave it to one of the agents who manned the desk explaining the situation. Why take a finished paperback book home, even though it was pretty good? This way someone who could read English might enjoy the book. I find it interesting that most, if not all of the agents who work in the Admiral's Club in Frankfurt are American or at least have American accents.
About 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time we went through security. It was tourist season now in Europe so we didn't know long it would take to get through security. I also remembered that either in 2006 or 2008 we ended up going through several different security areas due to heightened security in the U.S. at the time. Of course this time we got right through security. We were taking American Airlines home from Frankfurt.
On board the plane I realized that so far, we had no issue with American Airlines. Unbelievable! Oh, wait. Someone in first class was so sick they had to be taken off the plane. Oh, wait again! His luggage also had to be found and removed from the plane. What? Now we were an hour late leaving Frankfurt. I still wonder who that first class passenger was. A famous person who was drunk or just someone who was sicker than he thought when he boarded the plane? The late take-off didn't affect us but it certainly affected other people who had to make connections in Dallas.
Again, every seat had its own little TV monitor with choices of movies, T.V. shows and so on. Unfortunately they were the same programs we saw on the way over. I typed up my diaries until the four hour battery died and then watched movies; even movies I didn't want to watch. We were flying during the day so it was difficult to fall asleep. We were given several meals. Dave and I had two mini-bottles of scotch that we had brought from home so we asked for water with ice and made our own drinks. The airlines doesn't like this so we were discreet.
We arrived in Dallas/Fort Worth after a nine hour flight. We went through passport control which was terribly slow, picked up our luggage and went through customs. I had filled out our custom's declaration aboard the plane. I listed everything I could remember that we bought or were given including the vodka. I always keep our receipts so I used those as well to jog my memory. We had no problem. Josh met us at the curb and whisked us away. Now to deal with the house air conditioning problems, no brakes on Josh's car, sorting everything we brought back including records, developing my film, doing laundry, working on Micheline Serfaty's (Grześ, Chrząszcz, Hujsak) family and . . . life.
I’ve already started a TO DO Poland 2012 file.
MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION ABOUT THIS TRIP (actually stuff I remembered later) :
Wind turbines (the new windmill) which generate electricity are showing up all over Poland.
BP Gas stations (responsible for the oil well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, 2010) seemed to have plenty of business.
Stores do not use paper bags. Plastic bags are not free. They cost approximately 8 groszę each. Good incentive to use reusable bags!
We were approached by cygan (gypsies/Roma) in Łódż. I don’t think I’d seen any since we were last in Gniezno. Kraków had signs posted in the rynek asking people not to give money to beggars or children who were working for money as this was exploitation. I didn’t see these signs in Łódż.
My HOTEL STAR rating system: 1-5 with 5 stars being the best.
An example of a one star * hotel in Poland would be the “Zajazd pod Bukowica” in Bukowsko:
the “Zajazd Rybaki” in Płock:
Keep in mind the photos on these web sites were probably taken a long time ago and these rooms never looked this good again. The bathrooms in both of the above zajazd were "scary." We have stayed in both of these hotels on previous trips and our rooms didn't look this good.
PLN = złoty
JAŚ WĘDROWNICZEK in Rymanów
Room #8, two people/two beds with breakfast = 160 PLN = $47.75 p/night.
Two nights, free parking, free internet
Total 320 PLN = $95.50
JAGIELLOŃSKI HOTEL in Sanok
Room #46, two people/two beds with breakfast = 170 PLN = $52.73 p/night
Eight nights, laundry done at no charge, free parking, free internet
Total 1360 PLN = $421.82
JAGIELLOŃSKI HOTEL in Sanok
One person/one bed w/ breakfast = 120 PLN = $37.29
Five nights (hired photographer), free parking, free internet
Total 600 PLN = $186.43
U PANA COGITO, Kraków
*** an elevator would boost this to a **** hotel
Room #11, two people/two beds w/ breakfast = 280 PLN = $86.80
Two nights, free parking, free internet; 6.40 PLN town fee ($1.98)
Total 566.40 PLN = $175.59
GRAND HOTEL in Łódż
Room #433 two people/two beds w/ breakfast = 390 PLN p/night = $122.12
One night, free parking, free internet, elevator
Total 390 PLN = $122.12
ENERGETYK HOTEL in Grudziądz
If I could figure out how to type half a star I would have given this hotel one and a half stars.
Room #18/15 two people/two beds w/ breakfast = 170 PLN = $52.88
Four nights, free parking, free internet
Total 680 PLN = $211.54
Note we did not pay for this hotel. The groom took care of it.
COURTYARD by MARRIOTT in Warsaw
Room #349 two people/two beds w/ breakfast = 251.45 PLN = $78.72
One night, (no car to park), elevator,
internet = 11.81 PLN = $3.70 per hour
Total 263.26 PLN = $82.42
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