AU in Krakow

6 American University students, 1 coordinator, and 1 professor--in Poland. This should get interesting.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Was God in Auschwitz?

After leaving Auschwitz and waiting to go to Birkenau Jenny asked me something quite interesting; she said: “did you feel like there is no God there?” It is interesting because since WWII people have been asking where God was during the Jews’ extermination, more than that, many were questioning His existence because how could God allow something like Holocaust to happen? Well, by no means I feel knowledgeable enough to answer his question, but I have few modest ideas about it.
First, I believe that the answer to the above question will depend on a very notion of how we see God. Those that believe that God actively participates in our lives and sometimes intervenes are more than likely to conclude that God, indeed, was absent in the death camps. However, those who are stronger believers in human free will and see God as more of a observer, who one day will judge all of us can better experience God’s presence during the Holocaust.
Ellie Wiesel (spelling?) is a good example of the first group. After surviving Auschwitz he questions his faith and humanity. He cannot comprehend the fact God could allow for such atrocities, therefore, He must not exist. Mira Ryczke-Kimmelman, also an Auschwitz survivor, has a quite opposite outlook on things. In her memoirs she claims that faith was one of the few things that helped her through the war and the camp. She wrote about how sadden and disappointed in people God must have been and she believed that they will be punished when the time comes. Same place, similar experiences, yet absolutely different attitudes.
Of course, I won’t and don’t want to answer if God was present in Auschwitz. This question is way too complicated for me to handle. However, I think it motivates one to think about his/her individual faith. There have been way too many horrible events in our history, events that we can contribute to men and men only. It is easy to question God? Because he is this sort of safety net, which is supposed to protect us when needed. If it doesn’t protect us we panic. What about our choices? What about our free will? Everyone appears to want to have a freedom of choice and will, but if these choices are evil we wish they were controlled or stopped by the higher power. It doesn’t work that way, we cannot have it all. Just because God cannot save us from our own mistakes doesn’t mean He is not there.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Withdrawal symptoms

This morning someone held the door open for me while I was going into office building here on campus. Unbidden, the first thing that jumped into my mind was "jenquia," which is a kind of phonetic spelling for the Polish word for "thank-you." (Actually, what jumped into my head started with a D, but I have no idea how to spell it properly and at the moment I am too lazy to look it up.)

I have discovered, since getting back to the US a few days ago, that I miss Krakow. I miss the cheap but good food, I miss having the Rynek right nearby as a place to go and sit and read, I miss running down by the banks of the Visła and around the Wavel Castle (suburbs are not as pretty). But I especially miss the total immersion teaching -- the fact that for the last month I have been able to use every waking moment as a teachable example, and continue conversations in one context that began in quite another one. Everything was so compressed over the course of the month that I felt like we were able to get to a very profound level of discussion by the end; it takes much longer to get there under "normal" semester conditions. We hit the ground running and hardly stopped, but I think that helped the experience along.

The problem, of course, comes when you then have to readjust to the rhythms of everyday life in another context entirely. As Jen put it in a conversation, there is a kind of feeling that one wants to go home and show off the "new clothes" and new facets of identity that one has acquired, but there is also the gravitational pull of older social arrangements that has to be resisted in order to keep a space for that new understanding and new mode of being oneself. Combine that with the withdrawal pangs -- the sudden, inexplicable longing for a pierogi or one of those Polish bagel-things that everyone sells on the street corners -- and the whole experience of coming home is somewhat bittersweet.

Fortunately, teaching is therapy (among other things), and I suspect that later classes will be enriched by my public working-through of these issues. That's how social bounding processes work, after all: if no one acknowledges a boundary, whether explicitly or in the orientation of their meaningful actions, there is no analytical sense in identifying a boundary at all. (There may be a normative or political sense, but that's another matter.) Withdrawal is all about boundaries, about settling into some kind of habit of life that integrates various facets in such a way that they are liveable for all concerned. And at the moment I find myself in the thick of it, which is probably where I am supposed to be at the moment.

Two things that I do know: there will be a Polish case in my next book, and I will run a study abroad program like this one again in the not-too-distant future.

[Posted with ecto]

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Farewell Krakow

This past month has certainly been eventful. A bit hectic and intense at times, but a good experience overall. I really enjoyed spending an extended time in Poland - especially not knowing when I will have the opportunity to return as the real world is quickly approaching. I found that this time around I felt much more connected to the country than I have any other time I have visited Poland. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that I was with foreigners (except for Agnieszka) who were unfamiliar with the country and the language - this contrast between them and myself made me feel more connected as a result. Or perhaps simply spending a month so fully emerged in the culture causes one to connect deeper on some level. Regardless of the cause, I felt more Polish and more proud to be half-Polish than I think I have ever felt before. Growing up, I was often reluctant to go back and visit the country with my mom. I felt bored and different while we were there - before the fall of the wall one could easily spot us to be expatriates just by looking at the clothing we wore. Then there was the obvious poverty that I never faced growing up in Scandinavia. I suppose that as a kid it was hard to really understand why this country, only a few hundred kilometres from the shores of Sweden, was so different in every way. Now that I more fully understand these differences, it is also easier to appreciate those and recognize the bright spots that did exist even during the gloomiest periods of Polish history; people's kindness (except for certain state employees of course) and curiosity, appreciation of history, optimism in the future, and aspiration to make their country a better place to live in. Although I know I will be back, I leave with a bit of sadness knowing that it may be a while before I return. I will certainly miss this place more than before.

Friday, July 30, 2004

postscript

Class is officially over. We shared a toast to its outcome and I am now nursing the effects of a late night of celebrating. As I begin to answer the waxing flow of e-mail asking me about my experience in Krakow (usually a sophisticated version of what did you learn while you were there?), I fully grasp how little I learned inside the classroom. Of the top 10 things that I am taking back with me (the serious version, although the David Letterman spin has been kicked around as well), 8 of them stemed from experiences outside of the "academic" environment - in this case books and classroom discussions. One could argue that this is correlated to my predisposition for kinetic learning, but I think that it says more about the subject matter that I have been studying than my learning capability: Identity is formed through a continual subjective process that can be best understood through witnessing and participatory experience (and of course a lot of vodka consumption). And because we have been "participants" in studying identity, our own personal identities have been irevocabley modified. In a twist of scholarly irony, my study of another's identity has added to the construction of my own personal identity.
As I silently whisper good-bye to St.Mary's and the Rynek, I can not help but feel my chest tighten and my eyes brim with tears. I immediately question this highly emotional response: afterall, I am one of the few in the group that have absolutely no ties to Poland - no pre-existing family, heritage, or friends; I just came along for the ride. So why grieve at leaving? I think of Milosz' warnings to "Love no country: countries soon disappear/Love no city: cities are soon rubble"(Child of Europe) and challenge myself even more strongly to understand why I am saddened to leave buildings. Buildings! Which are man-made compilations of brick and mortor, inanimate objects.
As I continue my slow walk through the Plank, I understand that Milosz is correct: countries and cities are objects. But I mourn my impending separation because these objects are the physical reminders of my identity in Poland. My identity as student and traveler is emphasized here in Poland in a very unique and contextually specific way. This part of my identity will begin to fade upon take off from the Krakow airport. And I will ache for it: perhaps this what is meant to have "left" a piece of yourself. I hope to return one day to reclaim it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Italy as the Center of Europe?

Last night in the Rynek, while again singing the odd Franco-English version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Jenny, Jenn, and I were approached by two Italien men, the oldest of which informed me that “Rome is the center of the world.” The layers and complexities that can be inferred from this statement are innumerable. Was he making reference merely to its geographical location? Was their a religious spin placed on it with Rome as the Catholic center of the World? Or perhaps historical, given the legacy of the Roman Empire? Due to our inability to communicate very well (we were speaking in a mixture of french and English, neither of which was well understood), I didn’t press the Italien in question to delve into the meanings behind his words, and perhaps he would not read as much into them as I do..chalking it up to simple nationalism or a common Italien saying, and not a question of personal and national identity. These “centers” keep changing. Prague one day, Rome the next. Is there such a thing as a “TRUE” cultural / geographical center? Probably not. Otherwise as the European Union expands, and it will expand, the center would move along with it. While geographically and politically unlikely, imagine the implications should Moscow at some point become the “center” of Europe. How would this affect the “other” relations that have been in progress for so long. Or if not Moscow, what about Istanbul. I have a tendency to believe that even should geographical complexities lead the center to either of these places, it would never be recognized or adopted as such, at least not by those outside of the center. To do so would be to alter the perception of what it is to be European, a concept which has been developing for centuries. Prague or Rome. I’m not sure which one, if either, I would vote for, but it does invoke some interesting debate over how different countries infer their own relative position, and the possibiltiy that such an inferrence and specificity will become more important as Europe contintues to expand.

My two identities brought together by Zakopane trip

I couldn't’t wait for our trip to Zakopane, not because it would be a fun trip, but because it was a part of me that I have never before had an opportunity to share with my American friends. It appears that I have these two lives/identities. One in Poland with a family, friends, and great memories. The other is in the US. It also consists of a family, friends, and great memories. However, I feel like I am two different people in these two different words. I act a little different, my friends are different, expectations and experiences are different as well. Thus, it was very important to me to be able to bring those two worlds together and see what will come out of it.
I am not going to describe how the trip went because we were all there and I think everyone has their own opinion about it. I had a great time. It was awesome to have everyone in the program at my house and hang out with my father. My crazy aunt said that those American girls are very nice and she cried when we were leaving. What does that mean? It means, I think, that our different identities don’t necessarily need to be separated just because they differ from each other. I think that it also means, that all of our identities are part of what I would call the “big identity”, identity which makes us who we are. Thus, my Polish, Catholic, European, Highlander, student, etc. Identities are building blocks of the “Big Agnieszka Identity”. The trouble is that sometimes some of the parts don’t fit together so perfectly; however, we are constantly evolving and changing so maybe with time we can make it all work.

Monday, July 26, 2004

When We Became Old Polish Women

July 20
As I have said before I feel as though sometimes I am in a fish bowl, being watched and questioned. I especially feel this as I walk in and out of our flat each day. I am so used to this, I would actually be concerned if I didn’t see a little head pop up behind a window. But as I have come to live and understand Poland’s culture, identity, and history I can forgive the nosy neighbors. Our next door neighbor has been in our flat complex since she was born. She survived World War II, communism, and the filming of Shindler’s list. Poland has a history of occupations, partitions, and redefinitions. She and the others that peer through windows have something at stake-a feeling that what they have could be taken away in the blink of an eye. They have not fogotten the recent history of Krakow and greater Poland.
       I too can relate to this staring in a smaller way. I came back late Sunday night with my flatemate Brooke. As usual I was tempted to wave at the woman in the corner unit, who yells at us in Polish when she’s not passively staring from a window. As Brooke and I waited late Monday evening for our other 2 flatmates (Monica and Agnieska) to return from Warsaw we became those old Polish women. Every noise in the corridor and central quad made us curious when noise did not produce Monica and Agnieska. It wasn’t a paranoia. We just wanted to know what to expect, just like the other Polish women in our complex. When you know what to expect you’re better prepared for what lies ahead. I guess it is only human to want to know what’s or who is coming into the quad of the flat complex.



Irony and Contrast in Warsaw

My first impression of Warsaw was the faster pace, the nicer cars, and the noise of a city. It looked and acted like a city. It also had a stronger reminder of communism in the architecture. The architecture gives Warsaw a sense of a working atmosphere. The large, boxy, boring, buildings, statues, and monuments impart a communist feeling. Warsaw is the place to come and work, not play. It is like there is a gray cloud saying "work, work, work" floating over Warsaw. This is mostly true, except inside the seemingly post-communist shops, that have their own character. In contrast
My first impression of Warsaw was the faster pace, the nicer cars, and the noise of a city. It looked and acted like a city. It also had a stronger reminder of communism in the architecture. The archictecture gives Warsaw a sense of “working” atmosphere. The large, boxy, boring, and uncreative buildings, statues, and monuments impart a communist feeling. Warsaw is the place to come and work, not play. It’s almost like there is a gray cloud saying “work, work, work” floats over Warsaw. This is mostly true except inside the newer shops that are seemingly post-communist, that have their own character. In contrast Wajinkski park is a paradise within this tormented city. The grass, trees, ponds, and music festivals are a huge contrast to the Kultural palace. An ironic escape into a secret world away from the constant noise of the city.
Warsaw is a place of contrast. A few blocks away from the reconstructed old town was a facinating monument to the bravery and betrayl of those in the Warsaw uprising. The civilians depicted rise out of the seemingly rubble of a sculpture. Some with guns, grenades, and strickingly one with a bottle. A simple glass bottle would not kill a well armed German soldier-but it brings to light the Polish pride and dedication to defending Poland. In another part of the sculpture a Polish solider is holding a baby. Although I am sure there was not a live baby in the uprising it shows a deeper sense of the uprising that goes beyond a mere retaliation. This uprising was for future children and the existance of Poland. A few blocks away the new, bright colorful old town buzzed with tourists, street muscians, and merchants selling their wares. It’s difficult to imagine the old town was once leveled to the ground. But life now goes on, children play in the water of the fountain, splashing with happiness on a summer day.  Lazienki park is a paradise within this tormented city. The grass, trees, ponds, and music festivals are a huge contrast to the Kultural Palace.  Lazienki park is an ironic escape into a secret world away from the constant noise of the city.
   Warsaw is a place of contrast. A few blocks away from the reconstructed old town was a fascinating monument to the bravery and betrayal of those in the Warsaw uprising. The civilians depicted arise out of the seemingly rubble of a sculpture. Some with guns, grenades, and strikingly one with a bottle. A simple glass bottle would not kill a well armed German soldier-but it brings to light the Polish pride and dedication to defending Poland. In another part of the sculpture a Polish soldier is holding a baby. Although I am sure there was not a live baby in the uprising, it shows a deeper sense that goes beyond a mere retaliation. This uprising was for future children and the existence of Poland. A few blocks away the new bright and colorful old town buzzes with tourists, street musicians, and merchants selling their wares. It’s difficult to imagine the old town was once leveled to the ground. But life goes on now, children play in the water of a fountain, splashing with happiness on a summer day.


A Sense of Familiarity

           It's funny how this place seems different, yet familiar to me at the same time. The countryside looks like countryside I've seen in Western Europe. Through the windows on the train I see houses that look just like the ones I use to live in in Belgium. If not for the street signs in Polish, I may forget what country I'm in. In Zakopane this weekend, I noticed that the Tatry mountains reminded me of other mountains I had hiked in Greece and Scotland. While thinking about the similarities, it seemed real odd to stumble upon a border crossing way up at the top of one of the peaks. To my right, where my right leg was planted, were the Slovakian mountains. To my left, where my left leg was planted, were the Polish Mountains. Both sides looks exactly the same, except they were comprised of different people, with different nationalities, who speak different languages.
           By drawing lines straight through the mountains we differentiate between groups of people and throw them into neat little boxes defining their culture and terrain. This makes life a lot more simple for people who want to theorize about one group of people and compare them to another. It makes each group distinct and different. But the reality is that borders are quite a bit more fluid than one can see from a map. The architecture shares similarities, the landscape’s are reminiscent of each other and even the people look like memories of those I once knew.
             When we were in Zakopane, Agnieszka's uncle drove us around and I was struck by the similarity between him and my host father in Belgium. Both smoked like chimneys, drove like maniacs and were missing quite a few teeth. It's funny because if he didn't open his mouth, I'd swear I'd be able to talk to him in French. The Radio is also a constant reminder of a general "Europeaness" that seems to be shared by these countries. The same songs that I danced to in Belgium seven years ago, and in Germany three years ago, are still being played on the radio. These songs bring back a kind of nostalgia about living in Europe and of doing European things.
           Since I've been here, I've felt a greater sense of familiarity than I had imagined. Since Poland was on the East side of the Wall, I always thought that it had to be different from the West- but it's not real. Poland is not Siberia. In many ways it looks and feels like countries in the West.

The People of Oscwiecim

Today I went to Auschwitz-Birkenau for the second time. Needless to say, there are no adequate words to describe what one feels while touring this place. Since this was my second visit, however, I feel as though I managed to detach myself (at least a bit) from the emotion and horror one feels in a place that symbolizes such evil and suffering. This time I chose to reflect more on what it must be like for the people of Oswiecim (Auschwitz in Polish – also the name of the town right by the concentration camp site) to live with such a painful symbol literally in their backyards. I have to wonder if being a citizen of Oswiecim isn’t terribly depressing since everyone associates their town as the site of mass murder and deat? To some Jews, the entire country of Poland is merely a cemetery and a site of the attempted destruction of their people. If that is so, then what is the town of Oswiecim? Is it merely a specific cite of that mass murder? Or is it a real community with all that goes along with that word? As we approached the city limits of Oswiecim, I got an overwhelming feeling of sadness and regret. Regret that so many people had to perish because of the insanity of a few mad men. I wonder if that is how everyone who sets foot in Oswiecim feels? If so, how can life there be bearable? I suppose that the answer to that is detachment. If you detach yourself from the fact that over 1.5 million Jews, Poles, Gypsies and other peoples were murdered here, perhaps life here is bearable. And if you are born into this community (as was our excellent tour guide was) you may not even think about it until you see the next busload of tourists coming through. As we sat on a bench immediately after the end of the tour of Birkenau, we noticed that the name of one of the streets leading away from it was called “Ulica Ofiary Fascitow” – “the Victims of Fascism Street.” To me this symbolized the fact that no matter how many years pass, the people living in Oswiecim will have a constant reminder of the atrocities committed on the outskirts of their town. And although detaching yourself from that specific event might sometimes work, I am sure that life in this place is forever a bit more sad than elsewhere.

The City of Warsaw: Sad yet Attractive

Warsaw was never my one of my favorite Polish cities yet I have always known that sooner or later I will end up there for a while. This is just what Warsaw does to you it draws you in either you like it or not. It is not as charming as Krakow, not as pretty as Gdansk, and not as fun as Zakopane. After all it was completely destroyed during the WWII. When Communists rebuilt it they used their very well known “sense of style”, which resulted in massive gray buildings and hideous Palace of Culture and Science in the city center. Thus, when one travels around Europe he or she is often filled with its culture, history and never ending charm. Then, one stumbles upon Warsaw and is often hit with the cold shower of ugly architecture and the lack of so called historical atmosphere.
The interesting thing is that after a while one can sympathize with this sad city because aren’t most of us sort of misplaced and not always put together? This capital city, behind its gray walls, hides the power and strength of Poland. After all, it is here where the opportunities are, it is here where the money is, and finally it is here, where most Polish youth at some point wants to end up if wanting to be successful.
I am going to live in Warsaw for 4 months and I must admit that I am scared of that city. In the same time, I have many great friends and relatives that are from there and love it dearly. They claim that Warsaw has a lot to offer and that it is open to everyone. We are taught not to judge a book by its cover; thus, I truly believe we should apply this idea to Warsaw as well.

Differences

      Waiting in line for the bathroom yesterday a woman in from of me turned around and just stared me down, For about two uncomfortable minutes I looked off in a bunch of different directions pretending I didn't see her and hoping she would stop and turn back around. If your an American, you know how it's done. But, like a true Pole she continued to stare. Finally, I decided to look her straight in the eyes and let her know I was not ok with her behavior. According to the American script, she should have quickly looked away. But unfortunately I was forced to hold her gazed for what seemed like forever before she turned back around.
      This is just one of many examples of something I've learned quite well about the Polish people. They like to stare, a lot. As an American, I become very uncomfortable when someone stares at me for an extended period of time. Where I'm from, staring is considered rude. Not that Americans don't stare- I just think that we hide it better, because it's not socially accepted. Here, it's ok to stare. It's ok to stand right next to someone and look them up and down, up and down. They study every detail about me with no expression on their faces. No smile, no frown, no anything- just a blank expression with a hint of curiosity. But that's just it. They stare because they are curious, and because in their culture it's not considered rude. Still, it's hard to get use to.
       Another thing that I've found a little difficult to get use to is the differences in the understanding of personal space. Knocking into someone does not necessarily warrant a "przepraszam." Whereas in the States, we would go out of our way to offer many apologies, even our first born child, if we just barley brush up beside someone. Sometimes this invasion of space can get really overwhelming when standing in line at the check out counter- if you can even call it a line. Everyone just crowds up behind you, as if somehow this will make the checker go faster. It's funny. First I feel annoyed and want to push them away. Then I feel guilty because I'm in their country and I feel like a spoiled, bratty American. I just doesn't seem to bother them, so I guess I can't let it bother me.

Loud Americans

The scene: a very good Hungarian restaurant, just off the Rynek in downtown Krakow. Myself and three students having dinner, laughing and generally having a good time -- not overly dramatically, although we were perhaps being a little causally rowdy. Nothing too extreme. Then an older woman dressed in some kind of purple outfit (for some reason the color of it, including the color of her hat, sticks in my mind), walked over and began to berate us in English: those people at the next table are making comments about how uncivilized and unruly Americans are, and how loud and disrespectful we were being; at this point in time, she went on, when "they" are looking for excuses to hate "us" (her English was heavily accented, as though she had been an expat for a long time), we had to be more careful. Then she went to sit down, leaving us all stunned. We paid the bill and exited rather quickly.

Several striking things for me about this encounter. First of all, how easily we were hailed into the very subject-position -- obnoxious, disrespectful tourists -- that we had previously criticized others (the British stag parties in Prague, for example) for occupying. When she activated the script, we were all chastened. Speaking for myself, I felt a kind of tightness in my chest and throat, a fear that maybe in fact we were in fact enacting the role that we despised. It was as though that possibility had simply been lurking around us in a cloud of potentiality, and when she spoke to us it crystallized and became actual. (Indeed, this is probably a good account of what happened: her admonition wouldn't have been as powerful, or as effective, had it not already been "objectively" [in the specific, Weberian sense of the term: the potentiality was apparently there whether we knew it or not, but the only way that we could come to know that was through the historically contingent course of events that produced this specific outcome] present in our social context, and present at several levels of nesting -- our own specific histories in critiquing others, our self-images as sensitive travelers as opposed to obnoxious tourists, and so on.) She couldn't have known -- we never completely grasp the results of our interventions, whether in advance or in retrospect -- but she invoked something and, as Andrew Abbott describes it, the tumblers turned and spat out an outcome. A psychologically crushing one.

Second, the anger. Walking out of the restaurant (after we had several minutes of sputtering silence) we began to process the experience, and I was somewhat surprised to find that I was deeply angry at her. Angry that she might be right, even though I remain convinced that we were not being loud and obnoxious at all. Angry that she took it upon her self to act in loco parentis, as though we were a group of naive teenagers intruding into a formal dinner party. Angry that we might in fact have been setting people off without knowing it. And finally, angry that we didn't use the best comeback line ever, the one that we came up with afterwards: "um, we're Canadian."

Third, the subsequent analysis. We talked it out and generally agreed that we might have fallen into a situation where we couldn't have done much differently, since the muttering diners seemed to already be predisposed to criticize Americans, and were only looking for an excuse or for some "evidence" to use in supporting their case. We ran several counterfactual situations (what if we had all been speaking Polish, or German? What if it had been later in the evening, or earlier, or another restaurant?) and also noted the fact that "they have no manners" is one of those floating condemnations that is traditionally used against outgroups, and is closely related to "they smell bad because of their inferior hygiene." So in a sense we shouldn't take it personally.

But we did, and I now feel a little chastened. I don't want to be thought of as a loud American, even by disgruntled expats in odd purple outfits. Here we see the delivery of the "other transcript" provoking identity effects, as we struggle to determine whether or not we do or should fit into it -- and what the proper response ought to be to the declaration that we do fit.

Still working on a decent response.

[Posted with ecto]

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Experiencing the Highlands

This weekend I observed a different Polish culture. Although I knew that Polish highlanders (thanks to Agnieszka we now know that the “real” highlanders are the peoples of the Tatra mountains, not the smaller mountains nearby) spoke a “funny” dialect and had some different words from mainstream Polish, I had never really reflected on what a distinct and interesting culture they really have. Not only is their vocabulary and pronunciation slightly different, they also have their own customs, history, music, food items, and architecture.
              After Agnieszka explained to us what a traditional highlander wedding is like, several of the girls in the group instantly expressed interest in marrying a highlander as a result of that very detailed and animated description. 
              She also informed us that during World War II, the Nazis decided that the highlanders (or the “goralenvolk”) were deemed “different” from the other Slavs and were therefore to be spared the treatment inflicted upon most other Poles. I had never even heard of such a thing until this weekend.
              The highlander music was a lot of fun. Although most songs were hard to understand and many were a bit dirty in content, the music was really enjoyable and very unique.
              As for the food, well I tried the traditional highlander goat cheese “Oscypek.” Smoky in taste and apparently very long-lasting (can be stored for up to a month without refrigeration), it was served hot with lingonberry jam.
              And lastly there was the architecture. The houses in the mountains were all made out of wood with very steep A-shaped roofs and elaborate wood carvings. I am sure that during the winter the scenery looks like it was out of a fairly tale. There was a very rustic and cozy feel to the inside of the houses as well, something we got to experience when Agnieszka’s father was kind enough to throw us a party in his home on Saturday night. Actually, the houses reminded me a great deal of the summer cottages and ski lodges in Scandinavia.
Overall, the weekend in Zakopane was wonderful. After a long, beautiful and in retrospect rather painful hike (we are now feeling the effects of a 15 km hike up and down mountains), two failed attempts to go out and experience the nightlife (we did go out but yours truly was too tired to really participate), and meeting many very kind and sincere people, I have promised myself to return to Zakopane again as soon as I can. Only this time I would like to explore the ski slopes.