Okay, this is MY blog, I can do what I want, right? So I’m going to write a blog entry OUT OF CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER. Now this really offends my personal sense of story and sequence, but viewed in the light of human history, this doesn’t even rate a bug’s fart. So here goes. This is what I’m chewing on today. Officially I should be showing you the amazing wonders of Krakow (and believe you me, there ARE amazing wonders of Krakow), but instead of feeling like a deputized member of the local Chamber of Commerce, I’m going to tell you about my day traveling from that faire city to Rzeszow (“SJAYS-shoof”) and then on to Lublin.
There are at least four distinct Polands that I have seen so far (keep in mind I am on Day 6 of my trip). First, of course, there’s the Poland I came nominally to see – the centers of culture, architecture, and history, the parts crawling with churches, palaces, museums, tourists, fancy hotels, restaurants with English menus, the easy stuff. Then second there is the Poland I travel through without much thought or regard – rural village countryside Poland, whose denizens still follow the cycles of the seasons like their relatives throughout time and who have seen, perhaps, slightly less change than the folks in the cities.
Third there is “Socialism Strikes Again” Poland – the blocks and blocks of dreary grey apartment buildings just outside the city centers with tiny little shops on the ground floor, low nondescript stucco buildings and factories, graffiti on the facades and missing tiles in the sidewalk. This Poland is populated with elderly men and women plodding slowly down the streets or waiting for the innumerable buses, usually carrying plastic or string bags filled with…stuff. The men have grey or beige fabric or black leather jackets to the hip and woolen golf caps, often smoking a cigarette or cigar and chatting with a compadre or two. The women are slightly more fashionable in long woolen or fur coats of various shades, lovingly preserved for some decades now, accessorized with cozy felt or fur caps of various shades, usually worn at a slightly jaunty angle. And finally there is modern-urbane-hip-glitzy-Eurotrash-mall-McDonalds-tight-jeans-and-boots Poland, filled with basically everyone else – the young, the middle-aged, the hopeful, the restless, the bleached, the moussed, the aspiring new EU Polish citizens wondering, it seems to me, how to buy and wear and be everything that Western Europe is currently holding out to them as their future and the Right Way To Be.
Appropo of which, my Polskibus trip today was composed of two parts: Krakow to Rzeszow and Rzeszow to Lublin, and those clever Poles have started to build glitzy Eurotrash malls right next to the train and bus stations. In this way, we ‘sitting duck’ budget travelers, facing a wait of some hours between connections, have a slightly more positive alternative than slowly pacing the concrete floor of the terminal and drinking lukewarm Nescafe out of the machine. Like the rest of the herd, during my 90-minute layover in Rzeszow I hoofed to the Galeria Rzeszow for a look-see:
I quickly ducked into the building in hopes of something more colorful and I was not disappointed:
I can’t say there really are a heck of a lot of reasons to visit this particular burg – aside from: being a subject of the long complicated history typical of the region; being a center of Polish resistance during WWII, and being the home of the Rzeszow Institute of Technology, there’s not a lot to commend it in my mind, until now. But I am going to have to give you one honest reason to stop by for a bit, and that is the Deli Wine@Coffee bar located incongruous between two clothing stores on the ground floor on the mall.
Passion shows itself in many ways, but it is immediate and it is authentic, and the young man minding the store today (facing us above) was a wonder to behold. First and foremost, he greeted me warmly and in rapid if not altogether fluent English. Second, knew his wines, local wines, regional wines, international wines, even Oregon wines. I now possess a map of the Carpathian wine growing regions in seven countries (see table), and as a result of my visit have half a mind to rent a minivan next fall and go exploring. Third, he is a charming, well-spoken, thoughtful, and articulate representative of his country and his generation, integrating his educational background in tourism with his passion for oenology and viticulture. After our chat and before I had to scadaddle back to the bus, he gifted me with a generous pour of an Hungarian almond vermouth that was out.of.this.world. and sweetened the prospect of the remaining three hours of my ride to Lublin. Cheers to you, mate. Long may you prosper. Hey, do me a favor, willya? Go “like” his page on Facebook: