|Mom and I in front of Wawel Castle|
|First photo of ETC in Krakow|
|Smoked cheese ...artistically created|
|Florian Gate - one of the entrances to Old Town Krakow|
|Mom and Ziggy....Our guide, our friend and our guardian angel here in Krakow|
|ETC at the Tyriec Monastery...with cake :)|
|The Santa Marta cake only found at the Benedictine Tyriec Monastery|
|The soup is always yummy in Krakow...and the lattes, divine :)|
The other factor that is the most honest but hardest to describe reason for not visiting Poland before is that we did not have THE feeling. THE feeling is something very difficult to explain if your name is not Estelle. We just know when it is time for us to visit a given location above all other places. It speaks to us. It is fair to say that for many years, we spoke to Poland but Poland did not speak back…until now.
Mom is 100% Polish so there is that element of wanting to visit a country that somewhere in its fabric has a piece of family history hiding here. We won’t find it during this trip but we have seen evidence of it in little ways….be it a “Does anyone speak English?” moment in a supermarket (because I was sent on a mission to find chicken broth which is not easy when one does not speak the native language. Did I cluck and mimic a chicken in the midst of the supermarket aisle? I sure did because after the day that Mom had today, when she says she wants chicken broth, I will accept no limitations to acquiring said broth.” People responded….and yes, of course, they laughed but it truly felt as if they were laughing with me (or I am kidding myself in a big way). The moral of the story is that we have encountered warm and friendly people at every turn. It is nice to know that from whence we come is from a land of genuinely good natured, fun loving, proud to be Polish, people.
As we sit on the precipice of Mom’s 74th birthday, I think to myself, “We all come from away.” Many years ago I promised my Mom that we would always be in a foreign country for her birthday. There is something very poignant and sweet and very emblematic of THE feeling in being able to give Mom the gift of a visit to her Motherland for this birthday.
Krakow is a town where the first impression one has can not be anything other than….fantastic! There is so much history. You can read about it in the latest Lonely Planet guide or do your research accordingly. Our introduction to Krakow was on a uncharacteristically hot day (for September) a few days ago. Krakow is definitely a walking town but as the sun beat down upon us it became very clear we weren’t walking anywhere except maybe back to grab a taxi back to the hotel . Because we do have a lovely suite at the Hotel Kosciusko (yes, we may have chose this hotel because we like Kosciusko mustard but do not judge us!! :) ) and it makes for a perfect place to just relax at day’s end. Peeking around a corner, I could see something in the distance that looked like the tail end of a golf cart…and a canopy that definitely had the word “Tour” on it. Wherever God calls home in the 135 churches and 7 synagogues (and yes, there are some Orthodox places of worship as well but I do not remember how many or of which orthodoxy) of Krakow, I would like to say "Praise Jesus" :) right now because what to our wondering eyes should appear but an electric car with a driver named “Ziggy.”
After much dialogue whilst standing in the shade on a corner in Old Town discussing everything from the documentary film Ziggy produced about Holocaust survivors to what brought us to Krakow on this particular day…and a deep discussion about the 10 words Mom remembers in Polish including words which loosely translate to, “Shut your mouth” (which comes in real handy in polite conversation), we decide that Ziggy is our guy. He is the one that is meant to introduce us to the wonders of Krakow. So we kidnap him for the day. We zoom away (okay, that is an exaggeration as the electric car does not zoom. It does not go more than 10-15 miles per hour).
We see all the sites that Krakow is famous for from Wawel Castle to the National Museum to other museums to St. Ann’s Church and well, pick a church, any church to the Cloth Hall and Market Square. One site is simply more beautiful than the next. We stop at a public market where the combination of an elderly woman selling intricately carved smoked cheese whilst knitting woolen mittens just fascinates me. We stumble upon a mass being offered at St. Ann’s. We take in the Baroque and Rococo influences and the murals that surround as by the great Old Masters. We simply take a moment to just…be.
We taste pierogies (think potato dumplings which can be fried and stuffed with potato, cheese, meat or fruit); we try some goat cheese….and then we get kidnapped by Ziggy. Turn about is fair play, I guess.
He asked us, “Would you like to see a monastery run by Benedictine Monks?” Of course, we would. Off we go in our no-zoom, slower than molasses electric car, holding up traffic in some points and watching all sorts of cars whiz by us at other points. We finally arrive at the Tyniec Monastery, a little slice of Heaven here on Earth (no pun intended).
Not only do the monks have a beautiful spot to do their monk-thing overlooking the river but they bake cakes!! Yes, a Santa Marta cake that makes the best Devil’s Food Cake you have ever had taste like Play-Doh!! :) They should call this cake Satan’s Cake because it defines temptation. My diet went right out the window. Combine it with a “divine” (get it?) cherry sauce and know that let there be no doubt, it is Heavenly Delicious :)
Someone mentioned that the monks sing their Gregorian chants on occasion. We inquired as to when. The answer : “Now.”
As we walked into the church to listen to their comforting and relaxing chants, I thought to myself, “The time to be in Poland could never have been any other time than now.”
THE feeling is always correct and truly Heaven sent :)
Happy 74th Birthday, my Mama. The real surprise comes the day after your birthday....stay tuned. It promises to be "Great!" ....our new friend Ziggy's favorite expression :)