To the motherland! We hail from Lithuania on my Mother’s side. I grew up eating pierogies and sour rye bread when my Grammie would visit from Wilkes-Barre, PA where her father arrived in the early 20th century to work in coal mines. I was in Lithuania in 1989 when it was still the Soviet Union. It’ll be interesting to see changes.
Emma and Lily are with me on this trip and know little of Lithuania except when I blame my hotheadedness on the ancestry. Amanda is not with us this time and we miss her. She claims to be sad that work keeps her behind, but we all know she’s blasting music, eating chocolates and lounging in the house gloriously alone.
Hi Honey! We know your game.
Lithuania and Poland share much common ancestry and our trip this Spring will take us from the Southwest in Krakow to the Northeast in Vilnius, Lithuania with stops in Gdansk and Warsaw. It’s a fast moving trip as we like to do. We won’t be ‘getting to know the natives’ and exploring small town markets. There is something to be said for slow travel but it’s not our style and I’m not ashamed of that.
There’s something to be said about Lily and Emma’s style as we board the plane and it’s shameful. SWEATPANTS WITH THE SHIRT TUCKED IN? We fly SAS for the first time and despite a 3 hour late departure due to bad weather in DC (tornado watch) we make our connection to Krakow. SAS in economy is fine, nothing special, nothing disappointing. We only get a few hours sleep at best, but we’re used to it.
I have a moment of panic when I think I have forgotten the PIN to the Schwab ATM card I bring (no international fees) but I guess it and get a few hundred Zloty (4PLN to a $). Poland is part of the Schengen area (no passport control) and the Eurozone (free-trade) but does not use the Euro (yet, though they are obliged to someday).
We’re staying at a Holiday Inn again using points. We got a million points from HI as a gift in 2014 when we they sponsored the short film with the New York Times. I’ve been able to stretch it out and I hope to get 50 nights or so.
One of the themes of this trip is the history of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. Tomorrow is a trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, presumably the most grim day of our vacation. Both girls are interested in the history but not very knowledgable yet (‘Anne Frank was from Denmark’ Lily says. She admits she only read the Spark Notes and never read the book. She also thought Copenhagen was the place in Europe where everyone smokes pot.)
I had planned on watching the 2005 five part Aushwitz documentary by the BBC but oddly our Netflix does not have the rights to show it here in Europe. Instead we watch a less informative but still interesting Discovery channel one narrated by a teen girl survivor that had Lily in tears. Tomorrow will be moving.
It’s raining outside and about 50 degrees. This is the Europe weather we know. We tend to go to southern Europe in the winter and northern in the Spring partly to avoid crowds, but more because these are our shorter trips and we save the Asia/Africa trips for the longer summer trip. We have not been to South America/Caribbean for a while because of Zika concerns.
Krakow looks like…a European city. We walk along the edge of the old town that we’ll explore more over the next few days. We have trouble finding our destination because it’s down an alley and in a basement, but once inside we marvel at the pings and clacks and glow of 50 pinball machines in excellent playable condition: the Krakow Pinball museum.
This is one of the biggest pinball collections in the world, top ten for sure and it has games as old as 1971. We pay $20 for the four of us to play unlimited games for the day and the bumpers start bumpin.
Pinball was Trish’s favorite arcade games. When I think of her now I get wistful, not weepy. I just know she would love to see these dorky kids play pinball. I never liked it much and I spend as much time playing Ms. PacMan and Galaga, one of only a few video games they have. Emma and I both like the Ghostbusters game from the late 80s, an early 70s game called Amigo! and a creepy circus game called Circus Royale.
It’s really fun that they charge one fee and the games aren’t metered. Putting coins in makes it feel more expensive even though we probably spent the same amount. I think we’ll go back here.
On our way to dinner we pass an obilisk-like statue that I recognize as a copy of a famous pre-Christian Slavic idol to the god Swiatowid. In fact it’s the only statue from Pre-Christianity that survives today. The god is a local version of the high god Perun who was kind of the god of a lot of stuff- fire, mountains, thunder, war and horses to name a few.
We want potato pancakes but I think we will have to find them in Kazimirez, the former jewish quarter of Krakow. Lily eats potato pancakes almost every week when she goes to our local restaurant ‘Mark’s Kitchen’ They aren’t particularly good there, but who can argue with crispy potatoes? Instead we get pierogies and some pasta at an expensive place on the main square. It’s still only $20 for dinner (although none of us drink, we are always cheap eaters).
That first night of lie-flat mattress sleeping after a red-eye in economy is sooooo glorious.