Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Tale of the Honeymoon: Part I

I failed conspicuously to keep a travel diary on our recent honeymoon. I suppose it's easier to write every evening when you're traveling with your parents and not with your husband of less than one month! So I am going to try to write an account of our trip here, before I forget some of the best details.

Part I: Travel and Arrival in Krakow, May 22-23

After our usual frenzy of preparations for traveling, Keegan and I managed to pull out of the house very early for our drive to Richmond. We arrived at the Richmond airport waaaay too early (better than waaaay too late, I suppose) and settled in to wait for our flight. As we sat at our gate, I saw what looked like a familiar couple walking down the terminal. Sure enough, upon closer investigation, the couple turned out to be Peter, our wedding officiant, and his wife Kim. They were on their way to another wedding (no, he was not going to officiate this one) in Texas. Virginia is indeed a small state.

The flight to Chicago was uneventful, but once we got to the Chicago airport, things got interesting. As you may or may not know, Chicago is jokingly referred to as the second biggest Polish city because of the number of Polish immigrants living there. As soon as we found our way at last to the Lot (Polish national airline) ticket counter, we were surrounded by Poles, and almost no one was speaking English. The flight to Krakow was jam-packed with people who looked, dressed, and sounded Polish.

I mentioned before that Keegan and I were not able to sit together on the flight, which was too bad. I was sitting next to a young boy whose mother was assigned to a seat a few rows back. After some clumsy attempts at Polish on my part, I was able to negotiate a switch and was a couple rows closer to Keegan, but his seatmate didn't want to switch. I was able to order all my drinks and meals in Polish on the plane, so I was happy that my Polish is still up to at least minor tourist tasks.

After a seemingly-interminable flight, the plane landed in Krakow, accompanied by the typical Polish applause for the landing. We wearily made our way through customs and the baggage claim and found ourselves in a huge throng of people, from which Sylwia and Marek emerged. It was wonderful to see them and to be able to load our heavy bags into their car instead of taking the bus. They drove us to their new apartment, which was still being built the last time we were in Poland. It's beautiful! They have made very good use of their small amount of space and have furnished things beautifully. Keegan said several times that he felt much better about the prospect of living in a tiny apartment in Korea after seeing the Smets' living arrangments.

Sylwia cooked us a "small snack" of delicious homemade pierogi ruskie (dumplings with potatoes and cheese), and we washed up a bit before heading out to Chlopskie Jadlo, a restaurant purporting to serve authentic Polish peasant cuisine. We parked near Wawel castle and walked our way through the Old Town to get to the restaurant. I hoped that Keegan was suitably impressed by the winding medieval streets, the huge market square, and the glorious Mariacki Church.

The restaurant was decked out like a Polish peasant home, complete with a giant bed in the corner. When Sylwia told the waiter that we had a reservation, he told her that we would be eating in the bed! Fortunately, it turned out to be two high-backed benches covered in "bedding" with a table in between, a very clever disguise. We got a sampler of four Polish soups, including what would become Keegan's favorite, zurek (sour soup), and barszcz (beet soup) and mushroom soup as well. The men were disappointed in the size of their entrees, and Marek mentioned a similar restaurant in a town close to Krakow, run by his uncle, where portions were much more generous. More on that later...

After dinner we went to a small bar called "Buddha," which reminded me a bit of the teahouse in Charlottesville. The walls were painted a deep red, and seating was very cozy. Keegan had a chance to try Zubrowka (Polish vodka) and apple juice, which he enjoyed. Afterwards, on our way back to the car, we stopped by an intriguing store with shelves lined by large glass bottles full of richly colored liquids. It turned out to be a bar with all sorts of differently flavored liqueurs. Sylwia quickly made herself popular by showing a group of rowdy American university boys to the honey vodka with the highest alcohol content. Not to be outdone, Keegan and Marek also ordered glasses. I had some coffee liqueur with about half the alcohol content and was immediately rendered zombie-esque. Time to go home and prepare for our trip to Debica on Saturday!

1 comment:

chrissy said...

Yum pierogies! Keep writing Ellen, I can't wait to hear everything. The pictures were awesome too!