Thursday, April 12, 2007

Easter in Poland

After my previous boring post about wasting time and doing absolutely nothing, I hope to bring some life back into this blog with my latest adventure in Poland. Be warned, I have a lot to say!

So I hadn't done a lot of traveling since Christmas, apart from the back and forth between Prague and Zilina while I was still living in Slovakia (definitely not missing that train ride) and with spring coming, I decided it was time to kick up into high gear again.

Before I get to Poland, I have to mention the trip we did 2 weekends ago to Kutna Hora, a small town west of Prague that is famous for its so called Bone Church (actually it is a cemetery chapel with an ossuary that contains the remains of some 40,000 people). I'd heard a lot about it because practically everyone living here had seen it other than Alex and I. We'd decided we were going and then I convinced our friend Cedric (from Belgium) to join us as well because he missed out on the big trip with others while helping me move into our new place. Such a nice guy! Luckily Cedric has a car here so we drove there, parked the car and headed out to explore the area. The biggest attraction is this bone church, but there are lots of nice cathedrals and statues as well. Especially St. Barbara's cathedral seen below.

We walked around all day, then finally made it to the bone church. In all honesty, I was a bit disappointed. Yes it was definitely original and like nothing I had ever seen before, but I really thought that it would be bigger. This is what happens when you see lots of pics and ads for a place. I also thought it would be more creepy, but it really wasn't at all. It was almost comical especially with Cedric and Alex goofing around. While I understand the history behind it (you can read more about it here), I'm still a bit divided on whether I think this whole idea behind the church it is disrespectful to the dead or a tribute to them.

OK, moving on to Easter in Poland. Our friend Lukasz had suggested that we come and spend Easter with his family at his home town in Poland after Alex and I were hard pressed to find somewhere else to go where tourist attractions would be open, it being Easter and all. We packed our bags and headed out early from work on Friday. Lets just say that the ride to Wroclaw, the city of the University that Lukasz attends, was not enjoyable in the least. Not because the scenery wasn't beautiful, but because it was wizzing past me too quickly and I was completely focused on the cars approaching us as Lukasz continually passed the cars in front. I could be over exaggerating but I'm not a fan of fast driving. We had a good laugh about their drivers licences because the picture needs to show a side profile with one of their ears showing. I suggested that this was because they constantly have their head turned looking for the chance to pass the car in front!
We made it to Wroclaw safely and headed out for dinner that night. Because Poland is a VERY Catholic country, there wasn't many people out for the night and several of the bars were closed. After a nice dinner with some friends of Lukasz, we headed to a lounge and had a couple more drinks. Unfortunately I had a migraine that day, so I asked that we pack it in early that night. The city square was beautiful at night though and we got up early the next day so that we could have a walk around before heading to Zielona Gora. The town hall is really impressive with its Gothic exterior and there was many other beautiful buildings that have recently been reconstructed although you could definitely notice that communism had reigned here before because just outside the square, there was still some very functional, ugly buildings. My favorite part of the square is this big area where tonnes and tonnes of flowers are being sold. Lukasz said it was a great way to end a date by purchasing a beautiful flower for the lady. I like!

Then we were off for another exciting drive to Zielona Gora, Lukasz's home town. He continually warned us that his parents don't speak English and that they might be shy but it turned out that we had no problems communicating with them through Lukasz as our translator. And not to mention that they were extremely nice and accommodating. Our first mission in Zielona Gora was to take the Easter basket to church and have it blessed. Being that I was the youngest lady, but most probably because I was a guest, I got to carry the basket. Lot of pressure, let me tell ya. I survived and no eggs were harmed on the way.

The rest of the day was spent basically eating, drinking, and even a nice little nap in between. That night it was off to church for a 3 hour mass. Wow, I'd never attended a mass that long. Apparently they had combined the midnight mass with the Sunday morning mass and made it one long one from 10-12:30 am. One of the neat things that they do at the mass is that all of the lights are turned out, then the priests go outside, light a fire, from which they light the big Easter candle that will be used in the church for the next year. Then as they make their procession inside, everyone in the pews lights their own candles from this light. Of course when we got home, another meal was long overdue! And more Vodka (Polish love their vodka)

In Poland, Easter breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The food that was blessed the day before is served with numerous other traditional dishes. Everyone in the family puts on their best suit and it is quite formal in a sense. Alex and I felt a bit under dressed for the occasion but nevertheless, it was really interesting to see.

That afternoon we headed to a sporting event known as Speedway. I would describe it as drag racing, where 4 guys get on to these special dirt bikes, and speed around a track with no breaks, so when they take the corners, they are literally sliding on the track. Its so popular and people were standing everywhere in the stadium to watch this. I thought it was cool, but after about 5 races, I got the jest of it.

In the end the home team lost and so there was some not so impressed fans, who had had more then their share of booze for the day. Many of them started throwing things onto the field, and even going onto the field toward the other teams cheering section. I wouldn't say it was out of control or a riot, but there was no security to be seen. Finally after about 15 mins of this, the riot police came out and all those oh so tough guys came running off. Really cool experience though, with such passionate fans.

Sunday night we headed to a "club" in Zielona Gora and I got to do some great people watching which is always fun! It got pretty busy and loud I might add so we headed to a nice, quieter establishment to continue to chat with some people whom we met. We headed back for Prague on Monday afternoon after another nice meal with all of Lukasz's family. The ride back was through the mountainous area of Poland, so a lot of winding roads, enough to make me car sick! We stopped of at a national park with a nice waterfall. Getting back into the Czech Republic, the boarder guard tried giving me a hard time because I hadn't received a stamp going into Poland (not my fault he didn't stamp my passport). Then he tried to give me a load of you know what about how much money I need per day to stay in the Czech Republic, health insurence, blah, blah, blah (tough guy act). It really pissed me off becuase I know my rights as a Canadian citizen, not to mention that I'd crossed into the Czech Republic many times before this with none of these requirements.

All in all, it was great being able to spend Easter with a family and getting to experience their Easter traditions. We owe a world of thanks to Lukasz and his family, especially his mom for the good cookin!

Off to Istanbul this weekend; I get to step onto Asia for the first time-can't wait to tell you all about it! Oh and more pictures from both weekends are up on my picture site.


At 5:37 AM, Blogger Aibek D. said...

Blanka, and where are the Istanbul photos?! :)


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