I went to Poland once before, back in second grade, but it was to the North- where my dad’s from. My family and I had been wanting to do a trip back to Poland for a while now, but it’s been an incredible pain trying to get all the details worked out. We went with my grandparents, aptly called Babcia and Dziadek- the Polish words for grandma and grandpa. We arrived in Warsaw, the capital, around ten o’clock in the morning at the local time, but due to the six hour delay on our internal body clocks, we slept in the hotel until almost five. After that, we had dinner and went exploring in the Old Town.
Fortunately, we decided to have two days in Warsaw before the beginning of our bus tour and one day after. We took the time to hardcore explore the city and the places not covered by the tour. Overall I had immense fun, but it was exorbitantly hectic and crazy busy! My family knows how to pack a ton of sightseeing in a minuscule amount of time. One of my favorite aspects of European culture is the coffee served not just at breakfast, but after dinner as well. My sister and I had cappuccinos, espresso, and excessive amounts of European dark coffee.
We visited numerous churches, as Catholicism is a major part of Polish culture. Throughout the tour, we saw the Black Madonna, the Holy Cross Church with the heart of Chopin, the church of young Pope John Paul II, and a multitude of others. The gilded decorations in the church shows how much the congregation values the faith and the beauty of the basilicas. Funny side bar- in European History my senior year of high school, I answered a question about the meaning of the word gilded and my teacher made me say the word an excessive amount of times during the one class period. People I didn’t know at all would talk to me after and identify me as the girl who was forced to repeat “gilded.”
The tour included two meals a day, complete with three courses. We often had a soup, the main course, dessert, and coffee. My favorite soup was definitely a barley vegetable soup we had after rafting down the Dunajec River. Two men pushed us down the river in a raft made of many square canoes attached to make one large raft. The men had to pass numerous qualifications in order to control the rafts, like having to be born in the local town and often rowing with a father or grandfather.
By far my favorite dessert from the whole trip was the creme cake we had in Wadowice- the town the Pope was born in and his favorite dessert as well! It’s a cake with a hard, flaky pastry top and a thick layer of creme. We also tried it in Zakopane, but it wasn’t quite as tasty.
Zakopane is an old mountain town in the Tatra Mountains. They are known for their cheese and their style of architecture featuring elaborate carvings and buildings made completely out of wood with tin roofs. We visited a seventeenth century church built with this technic in an alcove in a vast forest, pictured below.
I’ve included some pictures from our exploring and a blurb on what we were doing with each. I hope it gives a small virtual tour of the south of Poland and the gems my family journeyed around.
I love the Polish heritage of my family, and I’m so grateful that my family was able to go back to visit the country connected to me. Although Poland has been through a lot, *cough* its multiple destructions, being taken over countless times, and only recent full independence in 1991 *cough* it’s amazing that the country can continue to flourish and cherish its heritage dating throughout its complicated history.