14 January 2011

My Husband's First Trip to Poland

 After being together for 6 years (I was the one who wanted to wait a while to get married, I wanted to go to college, and be sure of what I wanted to do in life, plus we met when we were young), my husband and I got married. 

Meadow with flowers 02
From poland.gov.pl , Fot. Mariusz Cieszewski / www.fotcom.biz";

The wedding itself was not as tricky to plan as the honeymoon.  After all, I and every I knew, wanted us to go to Poland to meet my family.  My husband, and his family, did not want us to.

"Let's go to the Grand Canyon for our honeymoon.  I bet it's amazing", he said. 

"The Grand Canyon isn't going anywhere, it's right down the road from us (alright, it's more like many hours down several highways from us, but it's in the same country).  My Babcia is getting older.  And I feel that if we don't go for our honeymoon, you will never want to go and I'll never be able to visit there again if you don't go with me.  It's important you meet my family, see where I am from, where I was born, where I was baptized, understand me", were my arguments for going.

"I don't speak Polish.  I won't be able to talk to anyone there.  I'll be in the corner all alone and confused in some foreign country while you are off talking to your family", was the argument he would answer with.

"I will translate for you.  Many of them speak English.  And we are planning this a year ahead of time, you can start learning now so that you speak and understand some.  People learn a new language in less than half a year, you can do this", I would answer.

I have no idea why his family was against the idea of having our honeymoon in Poland.  Some of his family suggested a local resort town which we had been to many times before, others suggested Florida, Los Vegas (I don't gamble and just don't find the whole "Sin City" thing to be my cup of tea), or on a cruise to a Caribbean Island somewhere. 

I did hear one argument from them against Poland over and over that he did not speak the language.  In fact, I think that was the contention point, the fact that they thought it was unfair of me to expect him to "suddenly" learn Polish for me, while I believed that, since we had been together at that point for 5 years already before we started planning the honeymoon, he should already speak Polish. 

Don't get me wrong, I love my In-laws, as I should.  And I understood what my husband was feeling.  But my father was already paying entirely for our wedding and our honeymoon.  Meanwhile, my husband and his family had originally intended on inviting 150+ people on his side of the family, most of whom did not really get along in the first place while I had only 3 people present for my side.  I was once again (for what seemed like the millionth time in my life) being reminded that I was not born in the US, that my family was far away from me, not states away, but far away, hundreds of miles via airplane away.

I'm not sure exactly why my husband ended up agreeing with me on Poland as our honeymoon.  Perhaps because my bosses, who were as passionately Greek as I am passionately Polish, offered to give me a paid 2 week vacation if I went to Poland instead of a one week paid vacation as I was originally entitled to, and because they sat down and discussed with my now-husband how important this was, for us, for our relationship, for his future children, for himself to start seeing the world.  Perhaps it was because my father had the same conversation with him, that my father was willing to pay for our entire honeymoon if we went to Poland, even though he didn't have to since he paid for the entire wedding himself.  Perhaps it was because my then-fiance spoke to a few of my family members shortly on the phone and they were genuinely warm and spoke English to him.  I don't know, but I thank God for whatever made him change his mind and agree to go.

That does not mean he was a smiling cooperative person at first.  I still remember how grouchy he was that he would have to fly for his first time ever.  He was angry , nervous, complaining and regretting coming even as we collected our luggage in the Warsaw Airport.  But then...

Warsaw surroundings
Photo by krewetka Ania Krawet on Flickr.com

My Wujek (pronounced Voo-Yehk, and meaning Uncle) and two of my dearest cousins were there to greet us both with warm open smiles, hugs and kisses on both cheeks.  Not just for me, also for him.  My cousins spoke English to him and sincerely showed they wanted to communicate to him and told him "You are now Family".

Following our greetings, we went for a daytrip to Warsaw.  We then drove from Warsaw on roads, lined with trees kissed with the beauty of Polish Autumn. 

Jesień w Polsce
From poland.gov.pl , Fot. Mariusz Cieszewski / www.fotcom.biz"

We drove to my home city in Silesia, winding down tree covered roads, through countryside, passing farms, houses, villages, railroad stations, towns, and stopping to eat in a little spot which sums up the charm of traveling through the Polish countryside, to me. 

We took a break and enjoyed what was my husband's first meal in Poland
Further on the road and we eventually reached my home city.  During the ride, my cousins asked many questions and offered answers to any questions we had, and the conversation was very natural and friendly, toward myself and my husband.  We listened to Bach until my cousins made my Wujek turn off his music and put on something modern, and I giggled, discussing with my Wujek about his preference for Bach and my fathers preference for Beethoven.

My personal photo from our trip to Wroclaw

The week and a half in Poland went by in a blur, a fantastic fairytale blur.  Our apartment in which we stayed was breathtaking.  It was a gift from our family to stay there, although I had intended on our renting a hotel room.  The view was stupendous with the tram rolling by several stories below, the Botanical Garden and oldest part of the city around us, and multicolored houses on our street.  I have a wonderful picture I personally treasure of my husband on our balcony once we were alone just smiling ear to ear.

My personal photo from our trip to Wroclaw

We spent time with my Babcia and Dziadek, who greeted my husband with warm hugs, kisses on both cheeks, and proclamations of him belonging to our family now.  My Dziadek attempted to get us drunk on his brandy and another time took us to his favorite store, Tesco, which is a bit like a Sam's Club or Aldi's.  We ate cake together with him at IKEA.  My Babcia made us Bigos (pronounced Bee-Gohs and meaning Hunter's stew, also my husbands all-time favorite Polish dish which he calls "The Big Stuff") and Crepes filled with her very own homemade Applebutter.  My Babcia was so pleased to watch him eat 6 bowls of her Bigos, and my Dziadek, who never cared for it, ended up joining in and eating 3 of his own bowls.

My cousins and their husbands took us to a fantastic local bar for beers and wine, which was in the basement of what used to be a very old bakery.  Later during the trip, we went with them to another local bar which used to be a part of a nobleman's house. 

We went with my family picking mushrooms in the Polish Mountains

We spent time during our honeymoon holding hands strolling together through the streets of my home city, walking along the park trails that my mother had taken me on "spaceri" (pronounced "Spah-TSEH-rih" and meaning strolls) as a baby before we left Poland, and feeding ducks in the ancient river that my home city sprang up around centuries upon centuries ago. 

My personal photo from our trip to Wroclaw

We visited the church I was baptized at, a Gothic Catholic building in which my husband finally felt what I had told him about before, that in the churches of Poland, you walk in and suddenly feel the blood, sweat and tears with which they were built, something you generally did not feel in American churches, as they weren't so old or built by the peasants and their sons and their sons. 

Stare miasto we Wrocławiu
From poland.gov.pl , Fot. Mariusz Cieszewski / www.fotcom.biz"

We purchased flowers for my Babcia from the abundant flower stands in the Rynek Solny (pronounced "Rih-nehk Sool-Nihk" and meaning the Salt Square), I explained to him briefly the importance of flowers to Polish hearts and the history of the minor Square, where once Salt was weighed as more precious than gold and Poland was an important ecopower in Europe and Asia, where caravans stopped to purchase this life-giving mineral and transport it hundreds of miles through major trade routes.

My personal photo from our trip to Wroclaw

We walked around the Rynek, gazed at the Town Hall, I reminisced how beautifully my home town had changed, from the renovations taking place after Communism when I had first returned, to the vibrantly colored facades.  And enjoyed the popular restaurants and stores which are now open and celebrating European living. 

When asked about his trip to Poland, my husband always tells people about his experience at a well known restaurant in Poland

From my home city, we took the train back to Warsaw, which was also my husband's first train ride ever.

Sochaczewska kolej wąskotorowa
Fot. Mariusz Cieszewski / www.fotcom.biz

All in all, the experience for me was one of the most romantic weeks of my life, sharing with my husband a true piece of who I am.  You can tell someone about yourself, show pictures, and everything like that.  But you can't really explain to them fully who you are until they see where you are from and they meet your family. 

Taking my husband to Poland was easier than telling him about what it was like for me growing up as an immigrant.

So, how successful was the trip?  My husband now has a Polish tattoo, encourages me to call my family overseas, looks for recipes for me to make for him, and has since sent me twice to Poland to visit my family without him because he now understands how important it is to me and how wonderful it is.  He wants our daughters to also share in my heritage, to have their Feet in Two Worlds. 

I hope this inspires you to travel and see the world and enjoy the wonderful people, culture, and sights it has to offer. 

Wroclaw's Market Square 01
From poland.gov.pl , Fot. Mariusz Cieszewski / www.fotcom.biz"
Who knows?  Maybe I will see you sometime in Poland...


May said...

Such a beautiful post!!! Its actually great that your husband did make it to Poland and get to know your roots.

Procam and Ruggerpix said...

A really interesting read, glad you got there. I didn't visit Poland from here in the UK until five years ago, my Polish partner persuaded me to go and now I cannot keep away. Love the place, its beautiful and historic, full of culture and style.
Peter (Imagine Poland)