Friday, July 3, 2009

Two and a Half Weeks and a few pounds later...

Well, friends, I am back and not too much worse for wear. We love visiting Poland, but it always becomes clear quickly that we are very spoiled, and we miss our luxuries. We all had our own hang-ups. My son survived on dried sausage and strawberries...he hated every single piece of food that was Polish in nature (what the hey?!). My daughter officially lost her mind halfway through the trip by her lack of understanding the language, and the grandparents constantly chatting with her like she did. I never did catch up with laundry, with the lack of clothes dryers. However, we had some wonderful adventures, and is precious to spend time with our family.

I boarded the plane two and a half weeks ago loaded for bear. I was ready to go on an official reading rampage. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite the rampage I'd hoped it would be. I shouldn't be surprised I guess. But I did finish and write reviews for the following books:

* Sashenka - Simon Montefiore
* Say You're One of Them - Uwem Akpan
* When Katie Wakes: A Memoir - Connie May Fowler
* Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor E. Frankl
* The Wordy Shipmates - Sarah Vowell
Posts to follow in the next week or so!
I have hundreds of pictures from the trip. I've been tossing around the idea of posting these pictures via my Wordless Wednesdays over the next few months, probably with more explanation than a "wordless" post would have.
Here is another very exciting project that I'm undertaking, and I'd like your opinion. My husband was able to get his hands on a diary written by his grandfather. It is written in Polish and requires translation and interpretation. My husband and I have started on this already, and is absolutely fascinating. The diary was kept while his grandfather was fighting in WWI for the Tzarist forces (he was forcibly recruited), then participated in the Bolshevik Revolution. Amazing stuff. I am thinking of posting the translated diary in segments on my blog. Would you be interested in reading this?

Besides the highs and lows of Poland that I've already listed for you over the past weeks, I have a few more observations that I wanted to share with you...
1. Polish drivers are rude as hell. Maybe they don't pull out guns and blow you away in fits of road rage like they do here, but I don't think they have ever heard of stopping and letting you into the traffic, and would be happy to cut you off and run you off the road.

2. The Poles have a deep love for flowers. There's a flower shop every block or two. Really. I looked. And they stay in business. The average person keeps fresh flowers in display in their homes.

3. The Polish people honor and remember their deceased loved ones. Not that we don't. But when you drive by cemeteries, some miles wide, nearly 75% or more of them have fresh flowers and candles on them. It is an incredible sight.

4. The mega stores have moved in. The Polish version of Sams, Costco, Home Depot, Circuit City (a profitable one) are all popping up on the outskirts of the bigger towns. IKEA has been over there for years. No Wal Mart moving into the smaller towns putting mom & pops out of business yet, though.

5. Ice cream-eating is a national pastime. There are as many ice cream shops in Poland as there are flower shops.

6. Twenty years after the fact, Poland is still struggling to recover from the effects of communism. Neglected transportation systems, roads, butt-ugly architecture, those nasty pay toilets...they are all leftovers. They are slowly trying to rebuild and mend the problems, but is very slow.

7. I noticed not alot of book love going on. Not many bookshops, not very many people sitting and reading.

8. Polish people, and most likely Europeans in general, are very fit as a whole. You don't see the excessive fitness "mania" you have here, but everyone walks wherever they go. Gas is expensive and the traffic is a nightmare. It is the better option. When we visited a medieval castle, we noticed a large tour group of retirees, all over 80 most likely, that were hiking up steps to the top like they were my age. You likely wouldn't see that over here. Also, when we arrived at national park, intending to hitch a ride on horse-pulled wagons to the top of a mountain, we learned that the roads had been washed out, and would need to walk the entire way. This amounted to about 6 miles up and 6 miles back. It didn't stop anybody, including my 72-year-old mother-in-law.

9. They have bad toilet paper, paper towls and napkins. This isn't a Nawrot problem, it is a national crisis. I don't understand it. Can't they import Bounty?

10. We discovered the latest craze in Poland...line parks. You wear mountain-climbing gear with various clips and ropes, and you climb up obstacles to high places and scale lines, swinging ropes, etc to get from one tree to another. It is an absolute BALL, and they were everywhere. I'm thinking they will never make it over here, to the land of liability, insurance and lawyers.

11. The Poles have awesome gas stations, at least the Polish-owned chain "Orlen". (We chose not to give our business to the Russian ones.) They are so clean you could eat off the floors, they have attendants that clean the pumps in their spare time, they upsell snacks and windshield liquid, they have kids play areas, and respectable restaurants that serve their food on china.

12. Bathing and washing clothes are a real pain in the neck. It explains why the average Polish person is just a tad bit stinky on certain days. I found myself sympathizing with their plight.

13. The women have really bad dye jobs. Are they doing it themselves? I see alot of hair salons, so I'm not sure. I started to play a little game with myself called "spot the good dye job". I never found one.

14. In general, things are still cheaper in Poland. In a moment of weakness and the need for a potty break, we stopped at a McDonalds, and the four of us ate for $12. The average meal out for 6 was $50. Not bad.

Thank you all for bearing with me in my struggles to publish daily posts. It all worked out, and I've been reunited with the object of my addiction...


Iliana said...

So glad to have you back, Sandy! I would love to see the blog posts from your husband's grandfather's journal. How cool that you guys have that. Definitely looking forward to pictures and more stories from your Poland adventures :)

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...


We missed you. I just realized I did not have you in my google reader for some strange reason; sorry. My grandparents came from Poland, but they died in the 1960's and 70's. My parents or us kids never visited Poland.

ds said...

Hooray, you're back!!Loved reading about your adventures and am impressed, as always by the amount of reading, blogging and reviewing you did despite swinging between trees, climbing mountains and hunting for good "dye jobs."
Absolutely keen on reading posts about the grandfather's journal (also found it cool that your FIL played a part in Solidarity)--fascinating stuff, and a perspective available to very few. So, please do it--and fill us in on the rest of your adventures.
You were missed(and thank you know).

Kathleen said...

I would love to see posts from the grandfather's journal. You are quite fortunate to have discovered such a treasure!

Frances said...

Fascinating post! Why don't you post all those great photos on a Picasa web album and share the link with all of us? I would love that! Just like I love having you back, my fellow wino!

Unknown said...

It is great to have you back! I loved reading your thoughts on Poland.

I would also love to see your grandfather's diary - it must be fascinating.

I look forward to seeing the photos how ever you decide to display them.

Enjoy a luxurious weekend!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Iliana - I'm glad to be back! I started pre-posting my pictures for WW and I think I've got enough for about six months!

Diane - Wouldn't it be fun to track down your grandparents' history? It is a beautiful country, rich is history and heritage.

ds - I AM very excited about our project in translating the diary. I am already appreciating how hard it is to capture the essence of what he was trying to say. I am very appreciative for your help with the guest post. You're the best!

Kathleen - I'm going to get right on this then. Hopefully, my husband and I can get enough started that I can start posting it later this summer!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Frances - well, I was running out of good WW pictures, so I think I am going to ride this one out. I'm going to try to get some posted on Facebook soon too...are you on FB?

Jackie - Even though I leave again in a week for my parents, at least they have Internet!! I am really glad to be back, and be back blogging with all of you!

Darlene said...

I missed you Sandy! It's good to have you back. I think posting your pics via Wordless Wednesday with words is a great idea. lol. The diary in segments is a fantastic idea. I'd love to be able to read it and how great that you have it. Can't wait to see some pics.

christina said...

Yum. Those perogies (spelling?) look awesome.

Great listed post. Welcome back.

Gavin said...

Sandy - I'm so glad you are back and that you had a good trip. I'm leaving on Monday and won't have access for 10 days (unless I get lucky) but I'm not as prepared as you were. No stockpile of posts!

The diary sounds fascinating and I hope you post some photos. Welcome back!

Amy said...

I"m so glad you had a good trip! I can't wait to see your pictures. Any chance the diary could be published?

Carrie K. said...

Welcome, welcome home! I'm so glad you had a wonderful trip, but I'm very glad you're back - and I'm looking forward to your reviews of the books you read - especially The Wordy Shipmates.

And, I, too would love to read the translation of your grandfather-in-law's journal - it sounds fascinating!

Susan said...

Sandy, welcome home! You were greatly missed! I can't wait to see what's in store for us in the journal. It sounds fascinating! I did my senior (h.s.) paper on the Bolshevik revolution, 38 years ago. Sheesh, I'm old.

Your trip sounds great, even the bad parts, because it's then that you really know you're alive. Can't wait to see the pics!

Beth F said...

All in all sounds like a successful trip. I haven't spent much time in eastern Europe, but bad toilet paper is a problem in the west, too.

Can't wait to see photos! You'll be set for (not so) Wordless Wednesday for months.

And I'd love to read the diary. My grandfather was born in Russia (late 1800s) and was recruited as a teenager to fight the Germans. He escaped during the revolution.

I'll be looking forward to seeing you around the blogs again! You were missed.

JoAnn said...

Welcome back! The diary sounds fascinating and I'd love to see some pictures, too. I also enjoyed reading your observations of Poland.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading the summary of your trip. I lived in Germany for several years when I was first teaching, and so much of what I experienced is what you wrote about in this post. It was weird to me that there weren't dryers for clothes; everyone hung things on the line. Still, I dearly love Europe/Eastern Europe, and I feel like I could move there any day. The people seem to be living lives of so much more value, such less superficiality, to me. Like, walk wherever you go instead of walk no where on a treadmill... ;)

Literary Feline said...

It's so good to have you home, Sandy. You've been missed! I am glad you had a nice trip though!

I would definitely be interested in reading your translations of your husband's grandfather. It sounds fascinating!

Melody said...

So glad to have you back, Sandy!!

I'd love to read your grandfather's journal. And I hope you'll be posting pics of your trip soon! :D

The Bumbles said...

Yes yes yes - share the journal. Maybe some of your photos could illustrate those posts?

Kim K said...

Sandy, I would LOVE to read the diary!!! AMAZING! How wonderful for you and your family to have! I must partner with the Poles for their love of flowers...I'm never without, nor is my mother-in-laws grave site (fresh cuttings from my garden, of course!). The rest sounds a bit horrible...Americans really are spoiled and take so many things for granted! So glad you had a great time, enjoyed your family, and are home to share with us!!!

Melissa said...

Welcome back!! Sounds like you had a great trip. And the diary sounds amazing. I would love to read pieces of it.

Can't wait to see the pics from your trip too.

Anna said...

Welcome back! Poland sounds like an interesting place, and I'd love to travel there some day.

Diary of an Eccentric

Anonymous said...

I would have no problem with florist at every corner, here in America we've got Starbucks. :) I wish I can eat ice cream as much as they Polish do and keep a nice physique. In my impression they are pretty much all fit. As to the paper towels, doesn't Costco sell the skin-soft ones?

Poland sounds so much fun and thank you for sharing these tidbits. :)