Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jazda na rynek Główny.

[ Riding to the market square ]

The train all the way from Göttingen, Germany was finally pulling into Kraków Głowny station. One platform change on the sprawling criss-cross train station of Berlin and 12 hours later I was finally arriving at my destination in Poland.

Outside my train window I saw my cousins, Kaśka and Michał, standing and waiting for me at the platform – at least with these relatives I knew what they looked like and didn’t have to resort to almost two decade old photos to know their faces! Even after only about half a dozen short skype calls with each other over the past few months, right from our first handshakes and hugs on the platform, it felt as if we were always well acquainted family.

The following events were a blur - going down a ramp, an escalator here, into the tramway there, finding the apartment – stop and breath – woah I am actually in Poland!

Kaśka has a nice little apartment not so far from the center of Kraków – 15 minute walk! – but being night, there was nothing to catch sight of to begin familiarizing myself with where I was – that feeling of being lost and dragged around like a little kid was back.

Having dinner inside the apartment was really nice – even with the disoriented feeling after dragging a suitcase once more around a strange new place. After only minutes chatting with Kaśka and Michał it really felt as if I have been in contact and known them for a really long time – in reality, Kaśka and I had really only talked on skype together about 5 times ever – and they were generally short calls just to see each other’s faces, talk about coming to Poland, and calling to share my arrival time at the train station in Kraków. In fact, our entire connection was a bit of coincidence with the play of events this past year.

This past summer – very soon after I departed for Germany – my mom had told me that a relative of mine was visiting Michigan from Poland. Kaśka had utilized her vacation period during the summer to visit her aunt [from her dad’s side] in Canada. While there, she decided to go on a whim and utilize her first trip to North America and get in contact with her “relatives that live in Michigan.” The detour was actually pretty adventurous for her as well since she largely didn’t know my part of the family and only remembered my Babcia from when she was a young teenager. Kaśka is the granddaughter of the sister of my Babcia – whom I have always referred to as Ciocia Hanka.

Babcia is the youngest from her siblings and the last that is still living. This was one of the main reasons that Kaśka found it very important to connect with this side of the family, and also learn about her roots and grandmother as much as possible as well by staying with Babcia. During her stay in Michigan was the first time that I skype called with Kaśka and she shared that she really wanted me to visit her in Poland that year. Now, a few months later, a bit of free time during my very busy year in Germany, and a little drive for adventure, I am in Poland with cousins that I have only talked to for virtually minutes over the internet ready to explore with them the country that will provide me with a much deeper understanding of my family.

Kaśka and Michał were extremely easy to get along with. After our dinner it was dark and late, and after 12 hours of traveling I was pretty numb – but when Michał proposed checking out the city center, how could I possible pass that up.

It was pretty cold outside, so we bundled up with hoodies and jackets, and Kaśka pulled out her new proud purchase – the quintessential European Vespa. A growl and hum from the the engine, I jumped on clutching my arms around Kaśka’s waist and the streets of Kraków, possibly the city I have been most excited to see in Poland, began whipping by. The streets were chilly and dark, with the glow of the streetlamp light hazed by a late night fog – but with the wind streaming by your face, and the undiscovered city passing by I was blinking twice realizing that I was really there.

We parked the vespa and Michał caught up with his bike, and they told me that just down the street was the market square – the largest market square in Europe [I had no idea!]. It was really one thing after another in that evening that was capturing my amazement. The square had terrace covered café’s, churches, colorful buildings with flower draped windows lining the edges of the market. It was actually very empty since it was late night on a weekday but nonetheless, with the glow of the evening light it displayed a grand heart of the city.

Walking a few other nearby streets there were things every direction that Kaśka would say “ We will make sure to see this,” which was an early sign for me that my excursions in Poland were going to be full of opportunities and excitement.

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