Saturday 2 February 2019

Home From a Week in Poland

We were in Poznań for a week.
Last night I returned to Saint Benedict Over the Apple Tree after a week's holiday in Poland. It was the first time I came home to the new place after a week away, and it didn't feel like home yet. Maybe this will come after we put in the work and time to do it up.

The flat was absolutely freezing. I had much ado to get the boiler up and running and the heat to come on.

Benedict Ambrose had gone to a dinner party. We had a rushed and funny farewell when we alighted from the airport bus just short of the Caledonian Hotel. B.A. ran for one bus, and I trudged through the unexpected snow to a stop for our usual bus. B.A. had  texted his host from the tarmac to say he didn't think he'd make it to his (men-only) party at a decent hour, but his host, the Master of the Men's Schola, texted back to ask him to come anyway.  So off B.A. went, and I went home alone to wrestle with the boiler and have a hot bath.

B.A, and I spent five nights in Poznań and two nights in a country spa hotel with Polish Pretend Son and Polish Pretend Daughter-in-Law. Our mood was celebratory as PPS had on Friday passed his PhD dissertation defence and Saturday was my birthday.

It snowed in Poznań on Saturday morning, but after that the weather was fine: either sunny with a dry cold or cloudy with a damp cold. B.A. and I stayed in a bachelor flat on ulica Kopernika  (Copernicus St.), which is inside the limits of the Stare Miasto (Old Town). The bed was too small for an old married couple, and our boots tracked rock salt into the room, but the shower was powerful and there was a kitchen sink, a fridge and a coffee machine. There was also a fancy hot plate, but in the end we didn't cook: we ate heartily in restaurants, usually cafes and milk bars.
"The Watcher" is a frequent graffiti sight in Poznań,

We did go to a supermarket, though. We were a ten minute walk from the famous Stary Browar (Old Brewery), possibly Europe's largest and most beautiful shopping mall. If all shopping malls were created out of old brick industrial buildings, our cities would be prettier places. Anyway, the Stary Browar had a supermarket called Piotr i Paweł  (Peter and Paul), where we bought bread, cheese, ham, buns and coffee.

We went for many walks in the bitter cold, braving the bus only on the way to the airport and the tram, never. We went to the Stary Rynek (Old Market) and watched clockwork goats butt heads at noon while a live trumpeter stood high in the tower of the Town Hall and played the Hejnał. (I was much more impressed by the trumpeter than by the goats.) We visited the baroque Franciscan church nearby and returned there with PPS and PPDL on Sunday for the 2 PM Traditional Latin Mass. Afterwards PPS drove us all to the spa hotel, about which more anon.

We returned to Poznań by train late on Tuesday afternoon and bought rogale świętomarcinskie (St. Martin croissants) from Piotr i Paweł on our way back to our AirBnB bachelor flat. I consumed one--heavy with ground white poppy seeds and sugar--with coffee from the machine whereas BA fasted in anticipation of an evening pierogi feast. After this supper, we went for a long walk around the frosty city.

On Wednesday we sightsaw in earnest, visiting the ancient cathedral island where both Poland and Polish Catholicism were born. First we had a look at the much-renovated (after various destructions, the latest occurring during World War II) cathedral, and then we went to the Archdiocesan museum. (I think a visitor can safely skip the Archdiocesan museum and go to the archeological museum instead.)  Afterwards we walked back to the Stary Rynek area and had a delicious and cheap pork schnitzel lunch at Od Dziadka at ul. Szkolna 7.
Archdiocesan Museum

Stuffed to the gills, we went went to the Narodowe Muzeum (National Gallery) to look at Art, but unfortunately the Muzeum was closing in 15 minutes, so instead we went to the famous Raczyński Library across the street. Our guide book had assured us that no building in Poznań was like it. This was true, insofar as the handsome Renaissance-inspired front part was not very deep, used principally for offices, and attached to a very modern-looking library. Here B.A. was prodded by a security guard when he fell asleep over a copy of the Spectator, and I read a few things, just because we were there. My limited vocabulary oppressed me, as did the cold and hyper-contemporary architecture.

We had a much better time in the Imperial Castle, which was Kaiser Wilhelm's last palace, and too useful for the Poles to knock down once we and they had rid themselves of Kaiser Wilhelm. The wing currently in use is a cultural centre, with stages and a cinema, a bookshop and a snazzy cafe-bar.    Here B.A. and I had coffee (and later beer and lemonade), bought books, and saw an American film with Polish subtitles. I read B.A. placards about the carvings of animals around the front of the castle, and we were both impressed that I could do that. I hasten to say that my spoken Polish was pretty rubbishy all week although it always got the job done. I suspect that after a week or two in a Polish city, my speaking skills would be as good as they are when I am speaking to my Edinburgh tutor and the case endings would automatically fall into place.

On Thursday morning around 8 AM I got into trouble with an elderly lady and a security guard in the Stary Browar when I pushed the automatically revolving revolving door. "I'm sorry, I didn't understand," I said (in Polish) and rushed off to Piotr i Paweł for buns. B.A. and I spent the post-bun morning in the National Museum where we very much enjoyed looking at 19th century Polish art and the very earliest of the 20th century art.

The 3-D painting in Sródka
Afterwards we ate a pierogi lunch in the Stary Rynek, and then B.A. went back to the flat to do some work. I walked to the cathedral island and then over it to the other side, where I had a look at the 3-D mural in the Sródka district.  It was pretty cool--worth the icy walk.  After visiting the outsides of the Poznań Museum and the Archeological Museum (and looking at the cold, cold Warta River from the safety of a glass-covered walkway), I went back to the flat to fetch B.A. and go with him to the nearby Sowa (Owl) cafe for coffee and cake.

In the evening we went to the commie-throwback Pyra (stuffed potato) Bar and then to the "Multikino"  (multiplex) in the Stary Browar where we watched Glass (subtitles, no dubbing) in unusual comfort--in enormous padded seats with oodles of legroom. We aren't normally superhero film people, but English-language pickings were a little slim and B.A. refused to see A Star is Born.

Friday was our last day, and after we stashed our enormous suitcase in a locker in the bus station, we went for a very cold walk in the Jeżyce district, where we had lunch in a rather grimmer bar mleczny (canteen)  than we were used to, and then hit upon the inspired notion of going for a walk around Sołacz Park. The Sołacz district is full of "villas" built by then-rich people, and so is worth going to see if you are, as we are, big fans of domestic architecture.

I lost one of my gloves on the way to Sołacz, as I discovered only when I was in the coin-operated and self-cleaning loo in Sołacz Park. While looking around the loo for this glove, I hit a wrong button and was attacked from below by great jets of water and a good deal of noise which made me scream. The loss and the fright made me rather irritable, and as usual I sinned terribly against all the Stoic principles I keep reading about. However, B.A. prayed fervently (and I prayed briefly and grumpily) to St. Anthony of Padua, and on the way back from Sołacz the saint threw the glove under my feet.

The Watcher jogging in Sołacz Park.
It was quite mystifying, really. We retraced our steps carefully to find the glove, eyes on the pavement, and we didn't see it.  B.A., who was ahead of me, didn't see it at all. I didn't see it until I found myself tripping on it. At first I thought its mate had fallen from my bag, but no. It was the glove, suddenly appearing between my ankles. Thus our trip to Poland seemed to end with a mini-miracle and we gave short thanks outside the Church of St. Florian as we walked the long walk to the bus station.

After we came home, we concluded that Poznań was well worth a week's visit and that there was much more to see and do then one Polish friend in Edinburgh alleged. Some parts were, of course, rather grim, and even the lovely historical buildings appeared rather battered, but that is not unusual for Poland, to say nothing of any city (besides super-rich London) that suffered massive destruction in two World Wars.

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