Friday, September 28, 2007

Back in Alberta

We are safely back in Alberta after a long day of travelling and a few minor delays. Our exciting European adventure (so named after the amazing Asian adventure we had last year) was a wonderful time in every way possible. Mel and Tyler were great hosts, Edward and Linda were fun to travel with and we experienced so many new things. It was good to sleep in our own bed last night but we were both wide awake at 5:30 a.m. this morning! I guess it will take a few days to adjust.

I still have lots to write about and many pictures to share so I'll carry on with the travel entries for awhile longer, if you don't mind!

On our last morning, Andrzjei (Mel and Tyler's landlord)took us on a walking tour of Ligota, the suburb of Katowice that he's lived in all of his life. It's a busy little community of about 70,000, especially in the mornings when everyone's going to the market or heading to work.

This little flower shop just up the street had lovely outside displays.

I love this gentle portrayal of the patron saint of the abbey and the attached hospital.

The local cemetery is across the street from the church. It is so colorful, with nearly every grave having candles burning and flowers blooming. You could always see people visiting, praying and tidying up. Maria's parents are buried here. Many of the family plots have 1 headstone with several names on it, as over the years burials are added.

We were so surprised to find this family name!! It would be so interesting to trace and see if Jonathan's family has any connections here.

This part of the cemetery is where nuns from the local abbey are buried. All the graves had these bright marigolds blooming around them.

The outside of the local basilica - it's so huge!! First established in 1902, this building was completed in 1959 and is part of the Franciscan order. There is a monastery attached to it. There are several more churches, just as big as this one, in the city of Katowice.

The main altar is a beautiful open carved wood structure. During Advent and Christmas, this is covered with an elegant and intricate Nativity scene that is visited by busloads of people.

This little chapel was painted the most amazing blue color! This a replica of the Black Madonna, a famous icon that is in another Polish city.

The roof line of the church gives you a little glimpse of the chapels and nooks you would see inside.

A 7 metre high statue stands on one dome of the church.

The church property includes several acres of parkland and many quiet places to reflect and pray. The fall colors were beautiful and it was very serene - except for one spot where the wild boars had been rooting around the night before. Bob complains about mole hills in the fields here but that problem is mild compared to the damage the boars did while rooting around for food!

People have flowers growing in every little garden nook and from their balconies so these little garden shops are on many street corners.

This morning was a 'behind the scenes', local look at the community that Mel and Tyler call home. We are thankful Andrzjei and Maria have adopted them as their own family and they have such a pleasant place to call home.

And now, I'm off to restock the fridge! It's very bare and we are getting a little hungry!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Heading Home

It's seems like we've only been here a day or two and already we are packed to head home again! The suitcases are closed, the last Polish donuts eaten and we are just heading to bed before our 3:30 a.m. wake up call. We've had a wonderful, wonderful time with Melinda and Tyler and are so happy that we had this chance to visit them in their home in Poland. These two have found themselves in some very interesting places in the last 3 years. We have been blessed to visit them and experience a taste of new cultures and amazing history in new and exotic places that are worlds away from Alberta.

But saying good-bye is hard so this evening is a tearful one for Mel and I. Good think Christmas is less than 3 months away!! And I am excited to see the rest of our family that are in Canada - we'll be home in 24 hours by the clock, 32 hours including the time changes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Med Students

Tonight we walked over to the dorms at the university to have tea with Bonita (from Regina, SK) and birthday cake with Shikha (from Virginia, USA).

These are some of the other med school students that Mel and Tyler are happy to have as their friends. Bobby (from New York, US) was part of the crowd too. It was fun to see their dorms, hang out, listen to them chat about school and know that they are here for each other when the assignments are long and the tests are hard. Mel's the chief caregiver, hosting potluck suppers and sharing her baking treats!

The party group, including Shikha's mom, who came for her birthday and brought the cake from home, and the Canadians.

One of our favourite parts of travelling is to see the countryside and get out of the city. These show you a little of what we saw as we took the train to Krakow today.

I'm going to save the pictures of Krakow and the stories to share with you when I can do justice to the trip. I've just spent a very long time (no surprise about that, right?!) downloading and filing our pictures so we can burn them to CD tomorrow.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tour Katowice

This is our last week in Poland and today Mel took us around this city that they call home now. Katowice has several suburbs and this area has a population of about 3 million people. The province of Silesia is an industrial area with many coal mines and lots of industry. The city is a working city and today we discovered some of the special places in it. Come along and see!

One of the many small parks that dot the city. The benches are always filled with elderly people, visiting and relaxing.

More of the fascinating windows that I love.

The Jewish cemetary here in Katowice is a sobering sight, neglected and a reminder of this dark time in history.

They have the best bakeries here! The plums baked on sweet yeast bread were sooooo delicious.

A high school in the downtown area.

These little carts selling delicious soft pretzels are on many street corners.

Mel is working at this private language school while they are in Poland.

One of the classrooms where Melinda teaches and practices conversational English with students.

An elementary school - the kids were just leaving for the day - running away from each other, banging backpacks, eating snacks - typical kids!

By mid-afternoon we met up with our second tour guide and Tyler showed us the university where he is studying medicine.

Tomorrow we are taking the train back to Krakow for another look at the most beautiful and historic city in Poland.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Just a few random tidbits from our Saturday:

- Tyler took Edward, Linda and Bob to the zoo this afternoon
- he studied in the park while they toured
- Mel and I had a day at home
- went to the market, downloaded pictures, did laundry, baked cookies
- cooking up perogies, mushrooms (fresh picked from the fields) and scrambled eggs for supper
- enjoying more autumn colors and sunshine

Mel says this is all they've seen of me since I arrived in Europe! Not quite - but I have enjoyed taking lots of pictures.

Bob is in heaven - herring heaven, that is! There are so many different kinds on the store shelves that it's really hard for him to make a decision. But along with Edward and Tyler he's taste tested a few.

A tired crew walking home with suitcases and bags from shopping (alot!) in Prague.

Charles Bridge

One of the dominating features of Prague is the Charles Bridge. Constructed a very long time ago, it's a pedestrian bridge with 12 arches supporting it and 12 sculptures along the way. Let me show you!!

A photographer's delight!

Yeah - it was busy! We walked across the bridge 3 times during the day and once at night and it was filled with people every time. But it didn't matter because there was so much to see and everyone was fascinated so we just strolled along and enjoyed!

I'll tell you about the castle in another post. For now, let's just say it was spectacular and every view of it from the city was compelling!

My facination with European buildings continues!

The view from the very top of the tower! You can see the bridge on the left and Prague Castle in the background. From the vantage points on every side of this tower, you could look out over the whole city - indeed an impressive sight!

City of spires - the opposite view from the castle.

It was a gorgeous time for visiting the city - autumn colors and beautiful sunshine. I'm off to download more pictures :)) I hope it's a gorgeous autumn weekend for you!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


On Tuesday we took the train (5.5 hrs.) to Prague and are spending some time here. This city is so beautiful - 8 bridges, a castle, Old Town, Lesser Town, New Town, the Jewish center - so, so much to see!! Yesterday we took a tour including lunch and a boat cruise which introduced us to the history here. Then we walked over Charles Bridge, the oldest and most beautiful bridge you have ever seen. We actually walked over it twice - once in daylight and once at night with all the lights of the city shining on the water. We also attended a classical music concert in an old church. It was so perfect! Ave Maria with trumpet and pipe organ was the most wonderful music I think I've ever heard. I don't have any pictures today (using the free internet in the hotel lobby here!) but I've taken hundreds on my camera (again!) so I'll have lots to share later. Today it's off to the Prague Castle and maybe some shopping. We'll be back in Katowice later tomorrow afternoon. We miss you all! Thanks for staying tuned!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Around Katowice

Today was a shopping day in Katowice and we started out at the local market. The fridge was pretty empty, even though we stocked it last Thursday. Mel's not used to having a 'family of 6'!

There's a huge Catholic church just down the street and this statue stands in the garden.

Mel's favourite produce stand has wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables. The owner is so patient, always tries to give you the best he has and is so efficient. There's always a lineup at his stall.

Mel buys from this lady, who is just the sweetest person! She has so many choices of fresh produce and is so helpful with everything. I wish we had a little market like this close by. It's the best place and everything is so reasonably priced.

Eggs at the market are sold by weight and always in groups of 10, not a dozen!

I bought these flowers for $1 from an elderly lady who was sitting on the sidewalk with bunches of posies and apples. Bob carried them home while Edward carried some of the vegetables we'd bought.

The weather here was gorgeous today - sunny and +23 C - a true Indian summer day! It was wonderful to be outside. The little yard here at the apartment has just a few flowers still blooming but they are just lovely. Andrej takes very good care of the plants and makes excellent use of every bit of space.

Tonight we went upstairs and had dessert with Mel and Tyler's landlords, Andrej and Maria. They have a new granddaughter, Nathalia, and are definitely proud grandparents. This is Maria with her just before bedtime. Mel and Tyler are so blessed to have this family caring for them and helping them adjust to life in Poland.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Somber Day

Today we visited the Auschwitz and Birkenau Concentration Camps and there are really no words to express what we saw and felt. It was ever so sad and the images I am sharing are just a few of the things we saw. They speak for themselves.

The reason for a visit to a place like this

"Remember this place is not just a museum. It's a place where millions of people died and their ashes are still here." (paraphrased from Thomas, our tour guide)

The receiving platform where trains arrived

Men's camp at Birkenau

Women's camp

30 strands of electrified barb wire surrounded the camp at Birkenau

Main gate at Auschwitz
(you see this in the movie, Schindler's List)

Watch tower

Doors to one of the blocks

Crematorium chimney

The memorial site

In remembrance