This last weekend Hannah, Tabitha and I visited Siân in Görlitz, the easternmost town in Germany. It’s where she’s working in a school for the year, as part of her year abroad with the European Voluntary Scheme. It’s also, as it turns out, where ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and ‘The Book Thief’ were filmed.
We flew to Wroclaw (pronounced Vrotswaf) and got a bus and a couple of trains to Zgorzelec (pronounced Zgor-zjhay-lits). We met Siân and Inma there, in the pouring rain, and got the bus into Görlitz together. There was a little bit of confusion as the bus was supposedly meant to be there only two minutes after our train got in, so we ran towards a red van, because what constitutes a ‘bus’ in Poland isn’t always clear-cut, only to find that it was actually just a red van.
The bus did then actually turn up, and soon after we made it back to Siân and Inma’s apartment.
There we settled down, witnessed the unusual set-up that is an apartment with a shower in the kitchen, and ate cake!
There we shared all the excitement of having reached our intended destination, it being Hannah and Tabitha’s first time in Germany (and mine in Poland), and also Tabitha’s first time seeing a tram(?!) This was also the day that I learned that mistletoe does not in fact grow as a bush, but rather attaches itself to trees in such a way that, when it really gets going, it makes trees look not unlike illustrations from Dr Seuss books.
Siân at this point told us a long anticipated surprise – the guy that runs the extra-curricular games club that Siân helps with had given us use of a holiday flat for the time we were there! This news was a little too much for me to comprehend… I was already very happy about a) the end of term b) travelling c) spending the day with friends d) arriving at an apartment which I’d only ever seen over Skype e) seeing Siân after a month apart f) the provision of cake and tea. The additional excitement/absolute perfection of the weekend already, prompted (embarrassingly enough) a few happy tears.
The holiday flat was a really wonderful surprise! We would have had the best time anyway, just being in the apartment as we were expecting, but having the flat meant none of us having to sleep on the floor, a really lovely bath, a big comfy sofa and a lot of space. It also made it feel like a proper holiday for all of us. Our excitement levels were high!
It was then time to commence a nice quiet evening in after all the busy of the travelling (for us) and the school kids (Siân). Pasta bake and wine was where it was at!
Pasta bake made with… frozen spinach?!
Saturday – walking, Tierpark + pizza
Saturday morning we went round the town of Görlitz, and then across the river to Poland. It was a joy to see all of Siân’s favourite views and places, and get more of a sense of where she has been living since last July.
The town has a Whispering Arch: whisper into one end and you’ll be heard clearly at the other. I love this photo because even though Hannah is not facing the camera you can tell that she is slightly bewildered as to just what is happening.
After a couple of hours walking, we went back to the apartment, just as the sun was coming out. Siân and Inma live on the ground floor apartment, attached to the church building pictured here.
Lunch was mango and chicken salad. Inma is Spanish, and has been converting Siân to her Spanish salad seasoning ways (a lot of olive oil and balsamic vinegar). We were also converted.
After lunch, we got the tram to the Tierpark (animal park), and had a little wander – enjoying the English translations (particularly the promise that we’d be able to ‘enjoy mother nature and have flings on various playgrounds’), emerging blue sky, and the sleeping raccoons in the trees.
(My favourite photo from the whole trip is this one with the alpaca, so much so that it is now my computer screensaver:)
In the evening we went to a little Italian restaurant called Casanova, where Tabitha and I sampled the local beer, and we all ate some really good food. Afterwards we wandered back to the apartment along the river, played the German version of Ludo, drank some wine, ate some pralines, and chatted before drifting off to sleep. A great end to a wonderful day.
Sunday – church, Landeskrone + brownies
In the morning we went to church with Siân, and had lunch with some of the church members afterwards. I enjoyed getting to worship in another language, and occasionally understanding the words of songs and prayers (phrases like ‘ohne dich können wir gar nichts tun’, ‘without you we can do nothing’, are just within my grasping). I especially enjoyed the way the church uses the projector to write up their prayer requests, ‘Gebetsangliegen’, so that everyone can see, before spending time all together praying through the requests that have been made.
At lunch afterwards I learned of Siân’s distaste for Knödeln (what looks like potato in the picture, but is more dumpling-y), that there is a special 12% fat milk for coffee, and that the Polish call the English ‘5 o’clock people’ because they think there is a daily 5pm tea break for everyone in England.
The drizzle returned after lunch and the weather started getting more miserable. But we nevertheless set out to climb the Landeskrone, a small mountain in Görlitz. I really like walking and hills, so I was very happy, but possibly this feeling was not shared in its entirety by everyone else!
When we got back we were looking decidedly more bedraggled than when we had set out, so we had a very chilled late afternoon and evening – baking brownies with Marlene (the 9 year old daughter of the family that had given us the holiday flat), colouring in Psalms and generally relaxing.
We were becoming increasingly aware that the weekend was coming to a close at this point, and whilst that was sad, we had a really good time in the evening, enjoying each other’s company and praying together, and that awareness helped make me more thankful.
Monday – school, a goodbye + a dodgy bus ticket machine
On our last day we visited the school Siân works in. The school day starts at 7.30am, so we had an early get up so that we would make it on time. I loved going to the school because it meant understanding Siân’s everyday better, and suddenly being able to put a lot of names to faces! We enjoyed our few hours with the kids and our respect for all the work Siân has been doing this year definitely increased by the minute!
Sadly, we suddenly had to face up to a goodbye 😦
Our return journey took us back through Poland, as we contrasted the two train stations we saw and then had one of those terrible moments (having found that the ticket machine coin slot was jammed) where we realised we would have to fulfil the English stereotype of awful foreign language skills and go and talk to someone at a kiosk without using a single Polish word… We did however get the tickets we needed, and reached home safely that evening.
And with this, our very own ‘Adventure in Nearly Poland’ came to an end. If you aren’t yet familiar with Siân’s blog about her year abroad, adventuresinnearlypoland, I recommend getting familiar. A really good place to start is her post ‘Things I am learning‘, but my favourite is still ‘Wilkommen in Görlitz!‘
And, if you are familiar with Siân’s blog because you are, in fact, Siân, then let me tell you how thankful I am that I got to spend this last weekend with you. You were, as always, the perfect host and I am so aware of just how precious it was for all of us to have the time together that we did. You are most loved ❤