Last weekend I went to Przeworsk where my family lives. Przeworsk is a small town to the east of poland, just outside of Ukraine. It takes about 3 hours to get there by train but the trip is well worth it. All I did was eat and talk polish! They really know how to treat their family well. Or maybe they just know how to treat a poor, hungry student well. I call them family, but they don’t necessarily feel like close family yet. I just met them 5 weeks ago and have only visited them twice. They feel more like close friends who I love to see. My dad met them 30 years ago when he traveled to Poland with his dad. If he had never kept their address and information, I would be missing out on some of the best meals I’ve ever had and some of the best people I’ve ever met!
The train on the way back to Kraków was fantastic. It was as if I was traveling on some kind of communist-era Harry Potter train (that’s how most of the train’s are in Poland). And to top it off, we were traveling through thick, early-morning fog. As the train was pulling away from Przeworsk, I poked my head out the window and waved goodbye to my polish grandparents. I’ve never experienced anything more dreamy. The scenery on the way to Krakow is beautiful too. Small farm towns seperate the larger towns like Tarnów and Rzeszów. And inbetween the small farm towns are beautiful rustic forests. Along the horizon there are small hills that eventually lead up to the Carpathian mountains. And at every railroad crossing, there are usually two or three old Polish men riding their old bicycles. I could go to Przeworsk every weekend.
Of course, I’m excluding the fact that there were five old men sharing a cabin with me, four of which smoked and drank the whole time even though it was only 7 am. That’s Poland.
A few weekends before that I was invited to Prague by a friend, Richard, I met during the first week I was in Kraków. I went with a friend from the United Kingdom. He lives just outside of Prague in a small farm town. Yes, he owns a farm with cows and pigs. And yes, I got to farm! Besides all of the beauty (and ridiculous tourist traps) of Prague, the best part of my trip was my time as a farmer. Before we started working on Sunday, he brought us to church in this small town outside of his small town. To get there we had to drive through the rolling hills and rustic, old towns of eastern Czech. Once we got there, we drove through the original 700 year old town gate that led up to his church which was about 600 years old. Church service was interesting, but I couldn’t understand anything. (It was also interesting because it was “All-Saints-day” and no one was in church. It turns out the Czech Republic is not very religious. However, Poland has a very unique way of celebrating this day. Everyone- religious or not- goes to the cemetary and lights a candle. Unfortunately, I was in Prague and didn’t get to see it).
After church, we hopped in his big, white, VW hippie van and drove to this warehouse where he had 2000 pounds of potatoes waiting to be carried to his farm. They don’t make much money, so to feed their cows, they trade cow meat for potatoes with other farmers. Once we got all of the potatoes sacks in his van, we drove to his farm where his uncle and brother were waiting to help unload. The first thing I saw when we got to his farm was his big rottweiler knawing on a head that most likely came from a duck. I will always remember that.
I only helped him “farm” for one day, but in that one day I was able to see a Czech Republic that most tourists never see. Everyone in the world should see Prague, but after the beauty and the history, the city turns into a money eater. The American dollar was worth nothing. It was enough to buy an eigth of a Burger King cheeseburger (I had to go there because the exchange office took a lot more commission than they said they would – 0% – never trust a sign that says “0%”.) I left Prague with no money, cow sh**t on my pants and shoes, potatoe resin on my sweater, and dog slober on my jacket. I loved it.
My next adventure is France. But more on that later. Now, I have to get back to Poland.
– John Kotleta