Strange is the fate of the Polish traveler. Here I am, in McDonald's, listening to the same corporate-mandated music videos and commercials. Except this time, my dad is here to enjoy it with me. If I were a sadist, I would make him watch the videos so he could attest, but I'll let him read the guidebook so he knows a little bit about where we are and what we can do in the next few days.
We just pulled into Wrocław about an hour and twenty minutes ago (bright and early at 5:20 AM). We took the night train from Gdańsk, and I slept a solid five and a half hours. It wasn't really all that bad, though. It was comfortable enough, besides my height. I tell you what, I found space for my feet in the smallest of crannies.
Last Thursday night totally changed the direction of my week. We went to the Gładun's house for dinner, and Beata cooked the most amazing żurek, which is my favorite Polish soup, and gołąbki, which are my favorite main course. Then her desserts--good criminy high heavens to the milky way they were AMAZING. As you all know, the cafeteria has been the great thorn in my eye this summer, so it was most welcome.
After that, we caught a bus to the philharmonic and watched the Poznań Nightingales, a boys' and men's choir, sing nine numbers. It was heavenly. And the conductor was 84 years old. The best part of it all, was that there were all these butcher-shop basses on the back row singing with human feeling. It totally changed my view of The Polish Male.
Then we got our diplomas and declined white wine.
Friday night was good and tiring. I went to the pub with some fellow BYUers and Karolina, the Polish girl that's so cool. It was an Irish pub, and Karolina had also invited some Irishmen at the school, so we watched part of the opening ceremonies in a strange mash of culture and drank fruit juice. And I got to bed at a reasonable hour to train to Warsaw the next morning.
Our time in Warsaw was fantastic. Saturday we got to the airport in good time and picked up my dad, then we went to my friends' Joanna and Tomek's house for a late Polish lunch. She's been wonderful about cooking poultry for me, and we had a really enjoyable afternoon. They're so hospitable.
That night we decided to try to go to Professor Whipple's fireside-recital. We thought it started at 7:00, but it started at 6:00, so we walk in, an hour late, with me in jeans and a polo shirt, in front of the mission president and everyone. I blushed. On the plus side, we only had to sit in the hot chapel for 20 minutes, then we got refreshments.
We also got to see the Boothe's, an American couple who helped me in my illness while I was here, and we got to meet the mission president and his wife, who are both charming people with lots of smiles and genuine interest.
Sunday we were late to meet Kathryn and her husband, and as I was supposed to lead them to the chapel, I was worried that they were also late, so we waited for a half an hour. When we walked into church, half an hour late, who should be sitting at the front of the room but the mission president. At least I was wearing slacks and a white shirt that time. I still blushed. (Kathryn had found the missionaries and gone ahead to the chapel.)
That afternoon we had dinner at Joanna and Tomek's again, then they went with us to Łazienki Park to enjoy the Chopin concert. It was almost perfect. The musicianship was of high quality, and the milieu was enchanting--except for the busy street that runs just a belt of trees away from the benches. Nonetheless, our time in the park was great. I practiced a lot of Polish, and Tomek practiced a lot of English.
That night at dinner, a South African (we found out later) man invited us to sit at his table, as there were none left, and we had a lovely conversation. He was a safari guide in Africa, met his wife from Australia on his last safari, and they've lived in London for five years with him being product manager for the safari tour company. Now they're traveling Europe for six months before moving to Australia. Beat that, interesting people.
Monday we spent again with Joanna, wandering around the old city, boating on the Wisła, touring the royal castle. Then that night we went to dinner with the Boothe's at a folksy little place with live music and dancing. Everyone agreed that I should have won the whip-cracking contest hands down, but they had a run-off and I lost. What can I say, I lost my form.
First thing Wednesday (by which I mean 10:30 because I couldn't wake up) we headed to Sopot and the beach. It was distinctly unromantic, walking in the sand in tennis shoes, but it was pleasant weather. We went out onto the wharf to see about a boat on the harbor, and instead decided to spend that money on lunch on the wharf. We had just started our meal when a gust of wind popped the tarp roof of the restaurant next to us, and seagull poop rained down on us. Needless to say, we moved inside, and they were nice enough to give us new meals. Oh it was so gross.
Later that afternoon a withering storm blew through Gdańsk. We took refuge in a church (the biggest brick church in the world), but we saw the broken umbrella's being carried away from the restaurants, and Dad got pictures.
The next event of note was the night train here, which was bumpy and cramped, but we slept and it wasn't all bad, though we've been stuck in the train station for two hours and have another hour and a half to wait. But I got time to write this blog.
And in the comments on the last post it was delicately insinuated that I am not satisfactorily optimistic. I must differ, however, as I am looking forward to my return to America with skads of positive energy. Well, and I'm currently quite satisfied; getting away from that cafeteria helped change my attitude as well. I challenge anyone to eat cabbage pancakes with a smile on their face, though I do appreciate the appeal to the positive tenth of my personality :).