Yesterday, we received a nice comment from a Polish woman named Janka who lives in Warsaw. Though she wasn't sure if we would be passing through her hometown, she generously took the time to offer us a place to stay, just in case. Conveniently, we were already in the city! Though we had planned on leaving the following morning (today), we gladly changed our plans to meet Janka and her family.
After exchanging numerous emails, we agreed to meet at her home today, early in the afternoon. This morning, on our way over, I suggested we stop by a nearby sports store to look at hats. I've been wanting one ever since Tyler got his! We did, and with much deliberation, I managed to find one I liked.
Tyler thinks it makes me look like Linda Hamilton (as Sarah Connor) in the Terminator movies (photos of me later):
On our way to Janka's we got a bit lost due to an incorrectly saved waypoint in our GPS. It took some roundabout backtracking, but we managed to find her street without too much trouble. Once there, we met the kind young woman herself, and the first of her three lovable dogs, Sherlock.
We've really had great luck meeting people lately! Just moments after our cheery greeting, we felt sure it was going to be a nice day. Introductions out of the way, we grabbed our backpacks and climbed four flights of stairs to her family's apartment. There, we were greeted by her brother, sisters, and mom (who gave us each a big hug). Then, they sat us right down to have something to eat!
Lunch was a traditional creamy soup called chlodnik. Served cold, it features cucumber, beets, hardboiled eggs and a goodly amount of dill.
I liked it, but Tyler wasn't so keen (nor was Janka), opting instead to dig into these ethereal coffee-cream filled meringues. YUM!
While we ate, we got to know our hosts, especially Janka. Her kindness, quirky sense of humor, and intrepid nature won us over immediately. As we ate, she told us about her first bicycle tour. Last year, she and her sister had spent two weeks cycling in Sweden. I love hearing about women-only cycle tours, so I was especially excited when she said she was leaving on her first solo tour in just a few days: Norway for seven weeks!
Properly fed, the three of us took the bus to Warsaw's old town. As we wandered through the picturesque streets once more, Janka bought herself a waffle, and each of us an ice cream. We told her she didn't have to, but she insisted. We still have to work on accepting hospitality more graciously. Thank you, Janka!
The main attraction for our visit was a botanical garden on the roof of her University's library building. On the way, she told us about going to school and working in Poland. She had specialized in climatology and meteorology, and recently turned down a job working at a weather station. Her refusal was in part because they declined her request to start after her tour, and also because she "didn't spend four years studying geography to sit in an office twelve hours a day." Go Janka!
As we walked, Tyler asked Janka to teach us one of his favorite foreign language phrase: "How do you say ____?" (said while pointing at something). She burst into laughter while Tyler intently repeated the words a few times. Apparently, it sounded as if whatever it was he wanted to know the name for was v e r y important.
Between snickers, she translated it back to English as, "Oh. MyGod. How. Do-you-say-it? HOW DO YOU SAY IT IN POLISH?"
When we arrived at the rooftop garden, we discovered it was closed to the public because a graduation party was being held there. Crap! Back to the old town we went.
After a bit, we decided it was too hot to continue walking, and took the bus back to home. Moments after we arrived, we were treated to even more of her mother's home cooking. Over a yummy meal of chicken, noodles, and salad, the talking continued. This time, Janka told us about the dream she'd had before we came to visit!
Actually, it was a nightmare. In it, the house was a mess, and her aunt came to cook dinner, but didn't make any food for us. Janka was incredibly embarrassed. Then, apparently, Tyler and I locked ourselves in our room, cranked up the TV and the stereo, and didn't speak to anyone for the entire visit. Amidst all of this chaos, there were banana-sized dust bunnies floating everywhere!
Her hilarious retelling of the dream involved running around the house to get the details she'd forgotten from her family members (whom she had confided in as soon as she awoke). Both Tyler and I are fellow bizarre-dream-havers, so we all had a good laugh about her nightmare.
Our own dinner finished, we spent some time tossing pieces of noodles to the family dogs who would sit and shake and leap to catch them.
The final activity Janka had planned for the day was an evening bike ride. Not far from Janka's apartment was a forest! In just a few kilometers we were cycling through the woods on a nicely graded dirt trail.
The light was beautiful as the sun set.
When we returned from our ride, there was yet another meal on the table! It was ten o'clock! It seemed a bit strange to have a big meal this late at night, so I asked Janka if this was normal. Now it was her turn to be confused—didn't we have meals directly before bed?! When we said no, she and her siblings explained the traditional Polish meal routine. As we listened, our eyes grew wider and wider—it was like they were Hobbits!
First they have breakfast, and then a bit later, they have second breakfast (not kidding, that is what they called it!). Then lunch, then an early dinner around 4:00PM. Then, before bed, the table is set for supper! Phew. Always happy to join in traditional foreign activities, we had our late-night meal, talked, laughed and shared tongue twisters.
Even more laughing ensued when Tyler accidentally hit his head on a decorative bell hanging above the table. Every time he turned his head, he would inadvertently announce his presence with a resounding "DING!" Janka and I bonded over P&P (Pride and Prejudice) and were happy to find that we agreed on the most important debate: BBC version vs. New Version. Definitely new version. Sorry Colin Firth lovers!
It was quite a day! To Janka and family, thank you so much for having us!