Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Early on Friday morning (22nd) we bid our farewells to Jim and Sheila. They were heading for Warsaw to look for some of Jim's family roots and then on to Budapest for the remainder of the month. The Wilebski cousins however were off to see the ancestoral home of the Wilebskis and Januziks in the Poznan area.
The train ride from Krakow to Posnan was long, but it again provided a glimpse at the countryside. A lot of agricultural areas, a few fading factories that may have been holdovers from the communist regime, and some large cities. One thing in particular that struck us was the little garden plots on the edges of the bigger cities. They weren't all that large, but every family in the city must have had one. And, in addition to the vegetables and fruit trees, there would always be flowers. In some cases these little postage stamp plots were almost entirely comprised of flowers. I've included a couple of pictures from the train ride.
As previously mentioned, we were a little unsure what to expect in Posnan. Frank had been in touch with our distant relative Maria Wielebski and we were under the impression that she would be lining up a room for us. Yes, we were a little apprehensive during the 10 hour ride, but we were here for an adventure, so we were ready for anything.
Much to our surprise when we got off the train in Posnan in the late afternoon, a nice young man came up to us and asked us if we were from the U.S. Perhaps Posnan is not high on the tourist spots, since I don't think there were 4 others that got off with all of the luggage we had. Saint Joan even carried off an additional acquired piece of "baggage" which she toted down and up the train station. Joan, Joan, Joan!
In any event, the young man was named Dominic and his grandmother is Maria. She along with her grandaughter Marta were also there at the station waiting for us with presents, food and flowers. Introductions and hugs ensued, but the English was very limited since Dominic was their interpreter, and his English left a lot to be desired. On the other hand, it was a hell of a lot better than the combined Polish our group of 4 spoke. We already knew the pivo part, but after that we were pretty much at the mercy of the country and its citizens.
They shuttled us into awaiting taxis which took us to our room. There we unpacked and tried to converse with our relatives. I probably already mentioned that Maria's favorite color was pink, so thought I'd pass along a picture of our room with St. Joan and Susan toasting their morning beverages. That's the partriach taking yet another of his mini naps sprawled out on the bed in front of them.
Anyway back to our arrival. Dominic told us that Maria had been cooking all week in antipation of our arrival and that we were to go to her apartment this evening for supper. Although we were bushed from the travel, we pulled ourselves together and asked them to give us an hour to get ready. Given we had no gifts in hand when we met our relatives, Frank and I were designated to go get some flowers and drink to give our host. We dutifully did just that and when we returned with the goodies, our loyal guide Dominic was waiting for us with tram tickets in hand.
We ended up several miles away at a very nice apartment building. As we understand it, the apartment is used by Dominic and his father during the week when they work and Maria stays there all the time. It was cute but very cramped.
As soon as we arrived we were shown to a table with all kinds of china settings. As we came to realize, these multiple rounds of china place settings is the custom here. A dishwasher salesman would be in heaven, for sure. Maria served up about 15 different dishes. Many were starters like pickled mushrooms, dill pickles, assorted meats and cheeses, breads,and of course an absolutely excellent mushroom cream soup. Best I have ever had for sure. Then it was on to courses of sausage. One the girls didn't exactly care for was dark in color and didn't suit their palates. When asked what kind of meat it was, we didn't really get a good answer. So, that is probably part of the reason why they didn't care for it. I think they referred to it as "pudding".
As we were finishing the 15th course and toasting with a small glass of wine (too small for me), another young girl arrived who we were informed was our interpreter. Her name was Natalia. She was a cute young blonde thing and her English was a major improvement over Dominic's. But, it was still quite a stretch at times to complete the conversation. We chatted for several hours about family and of course the Wielebskis over there in Posnan. It still is not clear just how Maria's family and ours may be related, but then again we need more research. I'm guessing that cousin Kathy (Schafer) will continue down that path until we get a definitive answer.
I've included a shot of Maria with her grandchildren Dominic and Marta. They were all great people and even if we never confirm them to be relatives, they treated us like royalty our entire time there.
Eventually we concluded our conversations and made plans for the next few days. One of the unknowns was that of trying to get to the Januzik and Wilebski home villages. Renting a cab for the day seemed to be the way to go. But, since Maria wanted us to see Posnan and be our guide, we decided to see the city the next day while we firmed up plans for the countryside.
We made it back to the pink palace and crashed immediately thereafter