Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The journey continues...

Well...no photos today!  I was attempting to upload some again but the windows program on the computer is in Polish, so I am just clicking random buttons and its not working out so well!  We made it to Andrew's parent's house in Krasienen, a small village.  Until last night we did not have internet access so I have not updated the blog. 
We spent 12 hours in the car going back to Warsaw from Gdansk.  It was only about a 200 mile drive but since there are not "freeways", we had to take the back roads through the villages.  The scenery was beautiful but the drive did get loooong.  We stopped in Malbor to tour a HUGE castle.  Ena was looking for princesses but didn't find any.... The castle built in the 13th century by the teutonic knights during the period that they were Christianizing the Peagans.  Its not my particular area of interest, but still pretty awe inspiring and amazing to think of all the work as well as the history behind the castle.
We finally arrived in Warsaw around 10:30 at night only to discover that they had closed down the main highway and turned it into a temporary parking lot for a huge concert/party and soccer game!  We sat in bottle necked traffic for about an hour before we were forced to make a u-turn.  At that point all we could do was laugh!  We were all going a little crazy at that point!  :-)
The next morning we headed to Andrew's parents' village, Krasienen right outside of the city he grew up in (Lublin).  His father grew up in the house next door (where cousin Franek and his family now live on their farm) to the new house that they built a few years ago.  There are a lot of tragic and incredible stories about his family's experiences here during the war.  Its wierd to think that while Americans were baking cookies and sipping coca-cola while living in ignorant bliss during the 1950's, there were families like Andrew's father's, whose lives were at risk every day and threatened by soldiers at any given moment.  It really makes me appreciate the sense of security that we as Americans are lucky to have (even if things aren't perfect, they could be a hell of a lot worse!).
Franek has an 8 year old son named Piotr and we LOVE him!  He is the sweetest little dude and can always be found with a smile on his face!  His happiness is contagious and we are so glad to have him around.  Yesterday Ania and I took Piotr and Ena to the local village store to buy candy, and that was thrilling for all of us.  Piotr is so sweet with Ena and she loves to play with him.  Franek also has a 3 year old son, Pawel, but we have not met him yet because he has strep throat. 
Thankfully I found a gas station that sells iced coffee (almost impossible to find anything but instant coffee at the grocery store...no Dunn Brother's here!).  I pretty much bought out their entire supply (which was fully stocked because I'm probably one of the only people buying them!), and I am happy ;-). 
Today it was raining so Basia offered to make an appointment for Andrew and I to get our nails done by the woman who did them for our wedding party 2 years ago.  She has been a friend of Basia's for years and Andrew remembers waiting in the salon as a little boy and watching all the ladies (and reading women's magazines) while Basia chatted with her friend and had her nails done.  The lady (I forgot her name) has been doing her job for years and is quite a talker.  She has a lot of interesting stories and knows everyone in town and all their business.  She told us about a woman that came in who told her a horrifying story.  Some people from China rented an apartment above the woman for the purpose of selling poisonous and exotic species of spiders.  The woman was not aware that they were selling them until one night she was overcome with a bad feeling and went to check on her baby.  When she went into the baby's room there were hundreds of species of spiders crawling ALL over the room!!!! She called the police immediately and the police arrested the people that were selling spiders.  The baby did not get bit and was fine, but I am sure it was so traumatic for them.  Speaking of insects....
There are a lot of flies in the village and Ena is now a qualified fly killer.  I can never catch them so she frequently reminds me that I am not good at killing flies and that her and daddy do a better job.  I think I will let them keep that job!
Tomorrow in the morning we are taking Ena to see a children's play in the park then we will have dinner with Bogden and Ania.  They are really cool and I am looking forward to spending some time with them.  On Friday is Andrew's father's name day (name days are more important than birthdays) so we will have another party (we had one the first night we got here and we ate food from Franek's farm and drank Basia's home-made alcohol...quite a wild experience!).

Friday, June 24, 2011

More exploring!

Today we went to a part of the city that had huge, old ships (but are still fully functional and used today).  It was pretty cool but claustrophobic! There were lots of things to do around the pier but we didn't stay too long because it started to rain.  I saw some gypsies scoping out a couple that was dressed up, so I wear my purse under my sweatshirt.  For the most part its safe here but Andrew is pretty tough so I take him seriously when he tells us to be on guard.  I think there are more thieves and gypsies in areas that have a lot of tourists, so its good to travel with native Polish speakers.
We ate at the Vegetarian Bar again and it was great!  I am SO happy that there is at least one veggie place near us.  We also went to an amazing exhibition of industrial modern design that Adam suggested.  I spent a ton of time there photographing furniture for reference and spent a few hours checking out the building!  I am in an artist's heaven with all this new stuff to draw and photograph :-) I can't wait to get back to my studio to start painting!  Ena didn't have patience to go through the entire exhibition (especially since I was taking my time), and conveniently there was a kid area attached to the building (sweeeeeeeeeeet!!!!!) so Andrew took her there while Adam and I looked around.  The kid area was SO cool, they had all these science experiments and lots of interesting interactive things for kids.  Ena loved it and left there red-cheeked.  We are leaving tomorrow morning to head back to Warsaw, so we will spend the rest of the evening at the playground and then cleaning the apartment that desperately needs tidying!  Ha ha!  I will post more pictures tonight!  We miss everyone but are having an awesome time! 
Gosia and Jacek left yesterday because they already had another trip set up. We will meet up with them again in a week at Basia and Marion's house. Last night Andrzej, Adam, Ania, Ena and I walked about 10 minutes to the beach and hung out until the sun set. There were a lot of people on the beach for the sunset and I guess it's expected that you bring your own beer to sip on! A few guys had a few too many and were skinny dipping in the freezing cold water!  It was free entertainment for us!  Ena was really wild yesterday, she had ice cream and I think all the sugar made her a little crazy. Eariler in the day Andrew, Adam, Ania and Ena went to check out an old castle where the war began. I'll let Andrew explain more about that later. I was at the "flat" working on stuff (this blog, drawing, e-mails etc...) and hanging the laundry on our drying rack. I'm not sure why dryers haven't caught on here....
I forgot to mention in my other post that when we went to Hel, Ena noticed some huge roses blooming in a garden and was insistent that I take pictures for Jeepie! It was cute and I thought I posted them but it looks like once again there was a technical difficulty, I'll try again. There was also a nun on the ferry....fascinating!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Photos From Hel.


After we finally arrived in Warsaw after our long journey, we ate some delicous home-made Polish cuisine that tasted especially good after eating nothing but airplane food and junk food for an entire day.  Andrew's sister (Gosia) has a nice "flat" in Warsaw and we slept comfortably our first night.  The way our flight schedule worked out was perfect and we basically adjusted to the 7 hour time difference almost right away, so early the next morning we left for our trip to Gdansk!  It was about a 6 hour drive and we stopped in a really cool old city where Andrew briefly studied law.  It is also the home of Nicolas Copernicus, without whom we may never know that the earth orbits the sun!  We hung out there for about an hour and hit the road again so we could get to Gdansk as soon as possible.  I was expecting a small coastal town...but I was wrong.  Its a huge city full of buildings, metro trains (which Poles refer to as "slicers" because if you are not watching when you drive across the tracks, they will slice your car in half), and some mediocre graffiti.  One of the graffiti stencil I noticed said, "Tired of waiting, for things to get better, for things to change, tired of waiting for a sign", so that was sad.  My favorite part of Gdansk is the old town where they sell all the amber jewelry and junky souvineers!  Polish people are not afraid to push their sales so I learned quickly to be friendly but not too friendly while browsing for goods!  In the old town are all of the beautiful historic buildings.  It is really amazing to see the architecture and the city has a good and lively energy.  The street is filled with cafe's, musicians, and tourists (mostly other Polish people but probably other Eastern Europeans as well).
We are staying in a small but comfortable flat just outside of the old town.  We have a perfect view of the longest building in Europe that stretches for 3 bus stops!  Its pretty hideous, but it makes sense because in typical Polish style, function trumps aesthetics.
Since we've been here we have crammed as many activities into each day as we can!  I love vacationing with extroverts!  We've gone to old town several times to shop, drink beer, eat food and bum around.  We also went to the amber museum which is in a mid-evil castle that was incredible!  At some point the amber museum became a mid-evil torture museum!  Maybe we took a wrong turn somewhere but we ended up in a wing of the castle that had scary prisoner cells and mannequins set up to show torture techniques, it was disturbing but very captiva
ting!  I am certainly glad that I did not live during that wild time period!  After the museum I happened to discover a "Vegetarian Bar" that served some of the best vegetarian food I have ever had!  I wanted to take some of the food to go, just like the other American pigs, but they don't have to go boxes.  I ate every savory morsel on my plate and didn't need to eat again until the following afternoon.  We also went to a huge indoor water park one evening.  It was seriously the biggest and coolest water park I have ever seen.  But...since I haven't found a decent swim suit yet, and because they don't allow skinny dipping, I was a spectator.  I couldn't have been happier though because I was able to draw in my sketchbook and rock out to my iPod for a few hours while everyone was swimming...ahhhh-bliss!!! 
Yesterday we (Jacek, Andrew, Ena and I) took a ferry boat to a Peninsula called Hel.  Seriously, we went to Hel.  The boat ride took about an hour, so Ena had time to hang out with a few other little girls on the boat.  She seemed happy to hang out with other kids and I don't really know what they were doing or talking about, but they were giggling like school girls the entire way.  When we got to Hel there wasn't too much there shopping wise, just more junky souvineers and lots of soft serve ice cream stands which of course we took advantage of!  We hiked it a few miles through the forest to the Baltic Sea coast.  It was stunning!  Soft white sand, crystal clear water and Polish tourists in speedos!!!  The water was pretty cold so we put our feet in and Ena was ecstatic!  We all worked together to build a sand castle but the sand was too soft and it caved in while we were constructing the moat. When we left the beach we stopped at the porta potties which were guarded by some chain smoking Polish women that charged us 2 zwloty to use the toilets.  After that we hurried back to the harbor to catch our ferry.  The little girls that Ena met on the way there, were also on the ride home.  Ena was super friendly and happy to see them again.  She insisted that I give her my iPod so her and the girls could play games and laugh together.  They seemed fascinated with Ena because she spoke English.  That evening Gosia watched Ena so Andrew and I could hit the "Veggie Bar" again, but to my utter disappointment it was already closed by the time we got there.  We ended up eating at a more American style burger place (since I already had perogies for lunch!) called "Original Burger".  I got a delicous veggie burger that was taller than it was wide, and a side of fries. Yum. 

This is just a quick summary of a few things we've done so far, and now that I have this blog up and running, hopefully I will be able to make more regular updates.
We have TONS of photos but I am having trouble getting most of them on the computer, so these are only the ones that I took from our trip to Hel. Enjoy!