Part 3: Operation Iraqi Freedom vacation - in Europe!Author: Ben Shakman (More Trip Reviews by Ben Shakman)
Date of Trip: March 2006
Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of the entire old town area was a picture I noticed on the way out of the palace -- it showed the damage sustained by the area during WWII and the devastation was total. I found out later that something like 70% of the buildings in
We stopped in a small town outside of
We drove on towards
We followed Adam over to his parent's home and found that another one of my friends was already there, waiting for us. We let the kids out of the car to meet everyone and they immediately spotted the chickens in the yard. They chased and chased those chickens until Lizzy caught one and Allison cornered one. They both came back from around the side of the house toting chickens. Of note: Allison is unwaveringly our sweet kid while Lizzy has a mean streak a mile wide. Nowhere is this difference more evident than in one of the photos of the two kids with the chickens. Allison was gently cradling the one she caught and petting it to calm it down while Lizzy had an iron grip on the one she caught, with a hand wrapped around its neck to prevent it from getting away. I guess that is just one more bit of proof that each child is different.
We left our car parked at Adam's house and we all rode in the two other cars. It was a refreshing change for me to be a passenger and I enjoyed being able to look around without having to constantly keep my eyes on the road and the other cars.
Adam and Jarek took us down to the old section of town and parked very close to the pedestrian area.
With ten of us evenly divided between adults and children it was probably for the best that the place was not very crowded. I had the chance to try a traditional Polish winter drink as well. I was very put -- off by the name and the description, but tried it anyway. Warm beer. It is basically mulled cider made with beer instead of cider and it was really tasty. I was surprised that I liked it, but I guess that was due to the fact that the spices made a significant difference in the taste.
I let Adam order for me while Charleen requested something billed as roast beef. She wound up with tournedos of beef and her dinner was out of this world. I had a bowl of cabbage soup followed by potato pancakes with goulash and we all shared some pierogis. Naturally, Lizzy wound up eating a bunch of pierogis instead of whatever was ordered for her while Allison was too busy playing with the other kids to eat much of her food at all. Adam and Jarek had a teenager and two preteen girls between them, and the girls were fascinated with the big kids. They spent most of the evening holding one of the big kids' hands. They also had the big kids spinning them around in the restaurant, until we noticed what was going on and put the kibosh on it.
We had a very long and leisurely dinner and the kids occupied themselves quite well. They are both very taken with older girls and they had three of them to play with at the restaurant. It was wonderful for me to be able to spend some time catching up with friends who I had not seen for about 18 months, but who I worked, traveled, and lived with for a half year during my tour in
After dinner, we drove back to Adam's parent's house and said our good -- byes before leaving for the hour -- long drive in to
We had called the Hotel Pod Orlem from the road and discovered that they did not have any adjoining rooms, even though that was what had been specified on the reservation. They had not bothered to contact us to let us know that they were unable to give us what we requested. As a result, we wound up with a suite instead. It turned out that the suite was on their executive level and was enormous. Not merely big, but enormous. So enormous that the living room included a dining area with a table that would seat at least 8 diners. Our bedroom was not that large, but the living room/dining room really made the place. It was tastefully decorated and very comfortable. When in
April 1st (Day 15)
We had a good breakfast at the Pod Orlem, albeit not as good as we had at Jan III Sobieski and then met my friend Marcin at our hotel. He had his wife and his daughters with him. The girls are identical twins and only a few months younger than Allison so the four of them were instant friends even if there was a language barrier. It is simply amazing to me how adept our children are at making friends and using non -- verbal communication to start playing with children from other countries. I doubt that a statistically relevant number of American children ever experience this, but I do believe that it is a positive experience that we are enabling our children to have.
The kids' shoes got saturated with water in
With the shoe debacle behind us, we were finally able to see some of the old town area in
We headed back to the hotel to pick up the cars so that we could drive out to a place in the country for another traditional Polish meal. This time, Charleen and I both had a rye soup served in a bread bowl. It was scrumptious and Lizzy took an immediate liking to it as well. She told Charleen repeatedly not too eat too much because she wanted more bites. What a character! Naturally, she had pierogis and ate a huge portion of those as well. It is astonishing that she is 5 years old, weighs less than 40 pounds, and eats like a longshoreman. The kids found a playground outside and spent a lot of time playing with their new friends.
Our next step after lunch was at the local botanical gardens. Charleen was exhausted, so she took a nap while we took the four little girls for an hour -- long hike. They were so excited to be out in the fresh air that they ran all over the place and climbed on everything they saw. At one point, Allison slipped and skinned her palm a little bit. She was crying when she asked me to look at it for her and I told her that I thought she was probably done climbing on things for the day. The tears disappeared instantly and she ran off, telling me over her shoulder that she was feeling much better.
The botanical park was filled with statues, rocks, and hills and I think that it was an excellent idea to bring them out there to run off some of their energy and also to do something more enjoyable for children then looking at old stuff. Again, another advantage to seeing an area with someone who lives there.
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