I have lived in Europe for over 3 years and this past weekend finally made a trip to one of my 4 ancestral homelands. I have been meaning to start making these trips almost since arrival in January 2006 but for one reason or another it never worked out. I am 3/4 Eastern European by ancestry and the rest Sicilian. I had been in Prague in Dec/Jan 2005 on my first trip to Europe and remember feeling a hint of familiarity in that foreign land in the architecture, food and faces of the people.

Over the last year I have become good friend's with a colleauge's wife, A., who is Polish. Although they live in Singapore now, she is home for a couple of months visiting family and friends and we had agreed to meet up somewhere in Europe. I knew it was time to make the trip, the first one in 4 generations so last Thursday afternoon I flew to Krakow for what can only be described as an amazing trip.

I have been reading up on the history of Poland and so had the basics. However, my friend A. is a history and language buff and explained so much to me over the weekend. She was an amazing hostess. As luck would have it, it was also Constitution Day on Sunday so we got even more of a dose of history and culture including a parade and an assembly for national and religious singing in one of the squares. The experience touched me more than my past travels. This time and this place had a personal relevance.

Lest it sound too serious we also had fun like crazy Eastern Europeans, did our fair share of eating and drinking, shopping and cafe hopping, A.'s friends coming and going throughout the day and evening to meet up and share their stories and their humor. It was absolutely impossible to pay for anything myself and everyone was on board for showing me around, recommending their favorite nook, view, food and whatever else they could offer to make the experience special. We got steamrolled one night from Polish vodka and apple juice and I was kindly asked to assure all non-Polish that this really wasn't typical but I didn't quite believe them. All in good fun!

I was supposed to fly home on Monday morning but on Sunday, at the insistence of my new friends, I rebooked to stay one more day. A. went back home in the afternoon and left me to spend the evening with her friend from university, S. We made a last tour of the city, stopping several times in cafes for the last Polish apple cake, plum ice cream and finally for a late dinner at a Hungarian restaurant. I liked hearing his stories about growing up in Poland, Communism, challenges working in the global economy, outlook for the future, impressions of Americans and other foreigners, Catholicism, food and the age old questions of the meaning of life.

I hope it is not too long before I go back to Poland. I miss it already.

Posted from Munich


cliff1976 said...

I too have four ancestral homelands. I'm sorta living in one of them (but then again sorta not...since I've never visited Schleswig-Holstein...though I've been meaning too...) and I guess I've visited the rest of them.

We gotta get moving on one of my wife's ancestral homelands — did Ireland (loved it), only stopped in Dubrovnik on a cruise stop (loved it, need more).

I can't believe I've been living in Germany for 5 years without having visited Kiel or any place along the Baltic.

Tell me more about the hint of familiarity you felt — I haven't really gotten that from my travels through Germany, Italy or the Czech Republic.

My open roads said...

sounds like such a fun relaxing trip :) wonderful pictures, thank you!

aimee said...

would love to hear more about the familiarity you felt. i'm welsh, english, irish, german, and french. i don't know why but i've always been obsessed with knowing where people are from. "from" meaning their european ancestry. though i've always thought to myself that i have the bones of the french, the work ethic of the german, and the english view of life and love, i could very likely be humoring myself and romanticizing it all. i felt an eerie connection with scotland but can't claim any scottish blood that i'm aware of. ha

ps - glad you enjoyed yourself!

Expat Traveler said...

beautiful! I just love the photos and I totally understand that feeling. I get it when I am in Switzerland.. :) Glad you had a great time.