Friday, December 02, 2016

Poland revisited

My last post mentioned there would be something of a hiatus in my postings because of the NaNofiWriMo challenge I was undertaking, didn't it? Well, I'm happy to report I kept up the challenge and although I haven't actually finished my travelogue yet, I now have fifty thousand words of it instead of the fifteen I started with. Another week should see the first draft completed, so I'm really happy with the progress I made.

There was another reason for my blogging hiatus though, and that was a visit to Poland that began last Wednesday and finished yesterday. Koos and I had planned it well in advance as it was at a hiatus in my work schedule as well. I must admit, I booked it then because I was worried that any later would be too cold. Well, this last week was already much too cold for me. I love Poland and the Poles, but I've learnt that their winters are just not for me.

That aside, we had a great time and visited some beautiful places. The highlights for me were Toszek and Mikolow, two towns we went to just by sticking a pin on the map and catching buses. Toszek had a magnificent castle on the top of a very high hill, a huge surprise. There has been a fortification or gord there since the tenth century, and today, only parts of the castle are habitable, but I loved the combination of ruins with a fully functional and restored castle building. We spent some time just sitting on a bench there watching the sun go down. A magical interlude.

Toszek Castle from the bottom of the hill


In the grounds of Toszek Castle

The main gateway to Toszek Castle, fully restored

 Mikolow has seven hundred years of history and in one of its guises it had the German name of Nikolai and was home to a huge printing/publishing works. Silesia, the region of Poland where we have spent most of our time, has been a conflicted area for so much of its history, it's hard to know which influences have been the strongest, but German architecture is quite prominent in this area. 



The rynek or main square at Mikolow

We arrived on an icy cold morning and had to dive into a café to warm up quite quickly. All the same it was a lovely place with a pretty square (rynek) and a lively market. Quite a discovery given that we thought we were on the bus to nowhere.

I just loved the colour on these buildings

Street off the main square

The three clocks
Lovely shop fronts in Mikolow

One other special trip we did was into the mountains to Zwardon. Our train took us through Bielsko Biala, meaning white-white (yes, seriously! They are two different dialects and both refer to the White River on which the town was built), a beautiful classical town that has the added attraction of being the starting point for a cable car up into the mountains. We only stopped here on the way back, by which time it was dark, so it's somewhere to revisit, perhaps in the summer when the days are longer. Nevertheless, Zwardon was quite an experience. The further we climbed, the more it snowed, so by the time we arrived three hours after leaving Gliwice, the snow was more than ankle deep.

Zwardon church



Zwardon


We had a wonderful guide in our train conductor who was full of fascinating information and kept us entertained for most of the journey. He even invited Koos into the driver's cabin as a special concession so he could take photos and film a bit of our ascent. Thank you so much, Tomasz!

Our train at Zwardon


Zwardon hillsides. It is only 640 metres altitude
at the station, but the hills rise higher around it

The rest of our trip involved many tram and bus rides courtesy of our seven day travel card that cost the princely sum of about €11 and covered the entire network. We visited the mining museum and the Silesia museum. These were both quite moving experiences because I learnt so much about the struggles the people in this region have been subjected to, during centuries of conflict and even as recently as the 1980s when contamination of the environment by industry was at national disaster levels and then martial law was imposed, followed by mining strikes that cost many lives.

Gliwice town square

Gliwice

Lastly there was the Katowice Christmas Market, a beautiful set up in the centre of this much improved city, and a bief visit to my favourite town of all, Gliwice. But I have to confess, a lot of the time, we were diving into coffee shops just to get out of the cold. I love Poland, but next time I go, it will be in spring again. For me, that is the best time, and then, it might even be by boat....who knows?

Christmas market food

Stalls at the christmas market

Trinkets at the Christmas market



17 comments:

  1. Lovely pics, Val - and I hope you are now warm and snug on your boat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a relief to be back in NL, Jo. It's not nearly so cold here!

      Delete
  2. You have done so well with the writing! Poland looks so clean and tidy. I must admit the cold wouldn't suit me it seems to make my lungs stop working even when it's very cold here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Anne. I'm keeping on keeping on till I reach The End :) And no, that level of cold would be very bad for you! x

      Delete
  3. Love the snow pics!! Looks like you had a fabulous time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jo! It was good, but as you see, verrrrry cold...the snow pics are just for you :)

      Delete
  4. Poland looks to be a good country to visit, though not in the winter months - I think, well not unless you are quite hardy and I am not now as tough as I used to be.
    These days I am a fire companion :-)
    Very much enjoyed your photo's Val for I have heard a lot about of the country from my many Polish friends.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mel, I'd definitely recommend a visit in the spring. I went in May last year and it was just lovely!

      Delete
  5. Lovely pics and commentary, Val. Thanks for sharing! It looks and sounds like an interesting place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is surprisingly interesting, Roger. There are lots of these small towns that have pretty impressive histories.

      Delete
  6. I've only been to Poland in the summer but I've been to many other freezing places, and don't really mind them. But I feel tremendously sorry for people who were poor, in the past. How did they survive without adequate clothing? I often wonder.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Goodness knows, Jenny. I saw people walking round with open coats and no scarves and hats, so maybe some people are just better at coping, especially if they have grown up with it. I actually get dermatitis from the cold, so I have to avoid it wherever possible. Winter is wretched for me, always.

      Delete
  7. Oh, I love all your snowy pictures of Poland, which looks very beautiful despite the cold. Everything is really interesting, and I like those green buildings too. How adventurous you are, just catching a bus to see what is there - great idea!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We like our buses and trams, Patricia :)

      Delete
  8. Well done with the writing - I'm impressed. Poland looks amazing - it's on our list....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is lovely! So big, though, Stephanie! I've only see a corner of it all!

      Delete
  9. Great to see your photos, Val. We'll be stopping in Poland in late August. I've done no research yet, and seeing as you have experience there, how would you fill in this blank? "After Warsaw, go to _____."
    Haaa!

    ReplyDelete