Warning, warning: the below post is a whole heap of sugary smugness. Brush teeth after reading.
Being in Poland was like stepping back in time. I felt we’ve spun through the centuries as my heels clattered over Krakowian cobbles, and we ducked away from the freezing fog into cockeyed coffee shops, lined with wood and candles and frightening, fairytale puppet characters twisted from wire and cloth. I imagined G’s forefathers chatting over coffee swirling thickly with grounds, in Kazimierz, the old Jewish Quarter (his Grandma’s family were Lithuanian- sort of Polish- and definitely Jewish, so this might not be solely a product of my fanciful mind).
In other moments it seemed we had travelled back just a couple of decades. Away from the cosmopolitan centre of Krakow, in the mountains where the wedding we attended was held, it was easy to see how recently the iron curtain was lifted- the shops were basic, the faces weathered and the advertising seriously 80s. Chatting with the few natives who spoke English, Communism was quick to enter the conversation, with people keen to impress on us that the Polish people are resilient, but only just emerging from what was, essentially, almost a century of war and occupation. And the prices reflected a still-developing country: seven quid for a day’s ski pass and less than £2 for a hearty bowl of pig soup (not its real name, but that’s basically what it was).
But, more immediately, from the moment we touched tarmac, it was as though we’d gone back in time only one month. It was unashamedly, chocolate-boxily still Christmas in Poland (I think it is celebrated in January there). Doorways were adorned with Christmas lights; thick fingers of snow weighed down the branches of fir trees; mulled wine and cherry grog were advertised enticingly on chalkboards outside bars . I can safely say that this was the twinkliest place I ever been, and this pleased me no end.
All the twinkliness and Christmassiness and lashings of snow made for a bona fide, no holds barred white wedding: a beautiful day and a beautiful ceremony in a wooden church, which was only marred by getting snow in my stilettos as we made our way in, bundled in gloves and fake fur which stayed on as the lovely couple got hitched- even the bride wore her winter coat. Back at the hotel, long tables were laden for an opulent feast, with bowls of fruit, plates of cold meat and cheese, and towers of cakes. This was in addition to the multiple-course meal which was served. Luckily(?) there was plenty of vodka with which to wash this all down- though I confess that I pretended to down a fair few of the shots, for the sake of my liver- and several sessions of inter-course dancing (heh) to break up the eating. But I have to say that the midnight pork kebab with piles of pickled beetroot and cabbage did finally defeat me and my impressive appetite.
Fabulous though the wedding was, I enjoyed the remainder of the week even more. We went snowboarding with the bride and groom and a couple of their nearest and dearest (the ultimate honeymoon birth control: take along your best man, your mate and his girlfriend, and your bride’s brother!) whom I now hope to count as official New Friends . Though fairly useless, I wasn’t quite as boofus as predicted. I did, however, split the aforementioned trendy salopettes when I tumbled literally headfirst down the mountain in particularly spectular style. This fall sent me trembling to the bar and put the lid on my winter sports adventures, as I turned to hot beer (er, yum?) and a trashy novel, and watched the others tramp merrily on to the ski lift for the twelve hundredth time.
All told, this was one of the best weeks ever, and though I’m sad it’s over, I always love the feeling of being home.
ps Our resident photographer took many a snap which I’d love to link to here, once they have been fiddled with and uploaded. For now, he’s put one pic on Flickr, which is of, I think, the area where the wedding was held. In fact, the only blot on the snowy horizon was that from I can gather, Britain looked much the same. But I’m not bitter.