I flew from Warsaw to Gdansk and was picked up by my friend Iwona (Ifka in my pronunciation) and my new friend Anna (Darek’s sister). We drove straight to the Tropical hospital in Gdynia to drop off Iwona for some testing..U may ask why a Tropical hospital in the North of Poland but Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot are all Port Cities.. A majority of the Polish people from this area are all in the Ship/Yachting industry and are World travelers (and Iwona lived in Ft. Laiuderdale, travaveld on Yachts and visited Columbia, hence the need to visit the Tropical hospital for specialized tests)! Gdansk has over a 1000 year history (from medieval days, Malbork Castle, late 13th century, considered the largest fortified Gothic Building in Europe!) with its Main Town square, Great Grand Harbor Crane, St. Marys Church, (medieval alter) and Gdansk has the most beautiful streets surrounding its Square . I found out that Amber-Baltic Gold came in more than 300 varieties and that Gdansk registered it 1st Amber artisans Guild in 1477… I especially loved the unique “Chinese dragon gutters” and I fell in love with this awe inspiring city!~ Anna took me around at dusk to the Shipyards where the Solidarity Movement began in 1980, it is no longer a stronghold in Shipping industry and is a little sad to see the big cranes unused as it was in its heyday. There is a grand plan for re-gentrification of the area. On our walk past the OLD buildings (passing Lech Walesa’s office, famous Solidarity citizen and past President), the pulse of this city was apparent. Anna shared her knowledge which was passed on to her from her grade school teacher who must have been a tour guide! She took me to a small restaurant where I had a bowl of fish soup; which was the best fish soup I ever had! The next day she took me to another famous church where we stayed and listened to an Organ concert and had Borscht and Lody (Ice Cream) from a favorite childhood stand outside the church. I met another pilgrim who was on a” roots expedition” in Gdansk and he (and his Archivist) found some old papers through the church plus he was given an honor of being allowed to play the enormous Organ (4,000 pipes) earlier that day. Anna assisted in changing dollars for Zloty at a great rate and we thoroughly enjoyed each others company as kindred souls! She also shared her house and her(and Dareks’) fabulous Mom and it was great to eat in their Polish veg. kitchen (Both Iwona and Darek were veg. while living in Ft. Lauderdale and I realized where it came from!)..Anna assisted in my plans to visit Poznan while Iwona was in the Tropical hospital and that is where I found out about Blah Blah cars! Anna found a lady who was driving to Poznan and she picked me up with in the hour and off we drove. The expense was nominal for the 4 hour drive which took me down a drive that was fun and exposed the beauty of the country. Speaking of being exposed, we drove through a forested area and there on the side of a small forest driveway was something that shocked me… It was a sparkly dressed woman of the “day” in hot pants , fishnet stockings and a revealing bodice dancing to a tune she seemed to know.. and then not one minute later was another lady of the “day”… My driver said that it was not unusual and there was a pimp standing near by to be sure and that the girls are probably from the Ukraine??? She stated that the closer to the Ukraine boarder it is more prevalent and not thought of as shocking.. Which I certainly was….. shocked! There was a truck stop about five minutes later at the end of where the road wound down to a truck stop. I have never in all my life in traveling along the highways and byways throughout the USA and Canada (and I have been coast to coast numerous times); have I seen these skimpily dressed woman of the “day” dancing to their own tunes on the roadside! Oh well, It is still in my mind as being a site I really don’t care to see (especially after seeing the movie Taken with Liam Nisson)…it was disheartening even though I know prostitution is one of the oldest profession. Anyway, I got dropped off in Poznan and my friend Pawel’s place of residence (door to door service). Pawel is one of my Polish friends I hosted back in Florida and he has the fivepiecesofadvice.com project he has been working on for the past few years. He was busy working on his project diligently when I arrived at the “green, smart zero energy house”. He took me out for some great vegetarian food at a place called Go Veg.. and we had some Lody at an infamous place that was very good! The next day, Pawel gave me a ride and dropped me off at the City Square.. I then got a map and explored the old town square…. “Stare Miastro” was typical in including a fountain, A church or Cathedral colorful buildings, pubs (in this square an archaeological dig was ongoing) and my favorite was the Poznan Town Hall “The Pearl of the Renaissance from the 16th century! This building houses the Poznan History Museum. This museum had two billy goats which appear in the tower and they butt heads 12 times everyday at noon time! In the museum I saw a manuscript (monograph) of Joseph Stall MD (from the 1500’s), he was the doctror who founded the Blood Vessel System! I also saw an original seal from the 1200’s which was the original seal of the founding father in Poznan. I spent a great deal of time in this museum fascinated with the history of the town. I then walked around the surrounding streets and walked by one of the renaissance tenement house which held the Poznan Croissant Museum! Yes it was founded to provide information/show on the making of Saint Martin Croissants. Besides the the kitschy show and a taste of the croissant the house that this “museum” had 500 year old painted ceilings and 600 year old brick walls with Saints and Latin lettering under the paintings of the Saints. I didn’t eat my croissant and John (Jan) asked me why and I said I would like to eat my croissant with a cup of coffee. He proceeded to give me a drawing on my map to to Erik Witsoe’s (hailing from Seattle, WA USA) BIGFOOT Coffee Shop in Pasazu (Passage) Apollo… It took a while for me to find this little gem of a shop and it was so worth it! I enjoyed chatting with Erik (and his clients) who started this shop 4 years ago when he moved to Poznan with his Polish wife so she can finish her PHd. Erik is an accomplished photographer and makes a wonderful cup of coffee and has a good command of the Polish language! I walked around and found a Doctor of Chinese Medicine office, a lovely little shop where I bought lunch and a small bath and body shop where I picked up some bath salts for a future bath to soak my tired feet and legs (walked 3-6 miles daily). Pawel picked me up and he took me out to dinner with his house mate Marek and his friend and we went out for Pirogies at the Old town square. The next day, Pawel dropped me off again in the old town square and I found my way to the Porta Posnania which is the first heritage interpretation center outside The Cathedral Island. This was a fabulously planned place which showed much of the history of Poznan such as the 3 brothers legend Czech, Lech and Rus who all founded Czech, Poland and Russia. Some of the interesting subjects aroused my interest in the late 11th century (which pointed to some of the artifacts I saw in the Poznan History Museum). The displays also explored Catholicism/Baptism and the local lifestyle for the early settlers of Poznan. The cultural heritage of Cathedral Island which was built in the 10th century, thew main alter from 1512 and the Cathedral housed early tombs and sarcophagi and statues of the first Polish rulers which was previewed in the interpretation center and then in the Cathedral itself! I took a tram afterwards to The Bigfoot Coffeehouse to ask Erik where to eat and he sent me to the local “Milk Bar”. Along the way I passed an interesting looking photography show of “Kressy” (from the early 20th century) in a library. At the Milk Bar I met a couple who helped me with the ordering of “spinach type crepes/pancakes”, the borscht I could point too; we shared the table and chatted up a storm. He was there on vacation from Lodz (he was the 2nd archivist I have met, the first one in Gdansk and I was to meet my own Archivist in Czestochowa for my own roots expedition) to see the INEA Stadium (footballer/soccer lover), which is the where the European Football Championship is held (for 43,000 viewers/fans). I wanted to introduce them to the Bigfoot Coffee house and Erik (which I did) and as we walked by the library I asked him about accompanying me into to see the Photography show. This gentle man went on to explain to his wife and I about the photos and which were still there in this part of Poland (near the Ukraine boarder) and which pictures depicted of places that were no longer standing (leave it to the archivist to know), and I felt like I had a personal showing/interpretive history lesson. After the coffee and the chats Pawel came by to pick me up on his motorcycle. I didn’t tell him the last time I was on a bike was 40 plus years ago! I held on tightly and he drove me through the Citadel Park which held the the Museum of of Arms and held old bunkers from WW2. It also had sculptures and held the cemetery of soldiers from both world wars. We got home safely and that evening he called Blah Blah car service and found someone who was driving back to Gdansk early in the morning. I drove with this guy who had to pick up a package in Torin (which had another old city square).
I got back to Gdansk to Annas house and we went to go meet with Iwona as she planned to go “awol” after her morning regime.. She met us outside the Tropical hospital and we drove a few minutes to the National Forest (in Gdynia) and walked down a path to the beach. Anna and I had picked up picnic foods for the beach and I walked along the beach to find rocks (and 1 piece of Amber) to bring back home (which I usually do in whatever country I go to). We had a great time together and I enjoyed my time with my girlfriends at the Baltic Sea (which I only put one toe in the frigid water). after dropping Iwona back to the hospital Anna and I went to Sopot , which is another quaint city and we bought my train billets/tickets to Czestochowa for my anticipated roots expedition and to see The Lady of Czestochowa (The Black Madonna).. I flew to Krakow from Gdansk and that wonderful city will be featured in my next blog.. Thanks for reading any comments are welcome. Ciao for now, Nanci |J.