to Opole Lubelskie

Tuesday 18, Oct. 2011

I’m going to apologize up front if this post is a bit scattered. My notes are a little chaotic with some linear writings and some random thoughts interspersed. I’ll do my best to make it coherent.

I will start with something of little consequence that amuses me probably a bit too much. I’ve become somewhat obsessed with signs here. There are a few street signs I haven’t made sense of yet. However, the little running man now has a purpose. He is running to the door behind which there are stairs.

This morning we had a guide. He arrived at a little after 09:00 to take us to Opole Lubelskie. But first my mom needed to find a bank or ATM. We found one in a Lublin Mall. Apparently, “Coffee Heaven” is something like “Starbucks” in its ubiquity.

UPS trucks are the Renault equivalent of Sprinter vans. I see a lot of this style of vehicle (mostly for work use like Ambulances, delivery, etc.). There are Renault, the Sprinter van which is Mercedes here but I think it’s Ford in the U.S., Citroen and Fiat and little Renault Kangoo vans.

The drive to Opole Lubelskie is quite pretty.

This trip seems to have a soundtrack of 1980’s American pop music. We are in our guide’s car and “Abracadabra” is playing on the radio.

I spend the drive listening to my mom and guide (whose name I have regrettably forgotten) discuss the history of Poland. I am not very knowledgeable on the subject so I share with you what I gleaned: in 1968 there was an abundance of anti-Semitic sentiment from the Polish government and a lot of Jews left. Not that there were many left to leave…. But lemme go back a ways…My great-grandfather left here about 1907 after he got tired of Russian pogroms. Poland belonged to Austria in the 1790’s. Napoleon Wars happened and somewhere in there Poland was somewhat independent 1805-1809, I think. Then from 1809 – 1815 this part of Poland was Austrian, but Austria was weak so Poland went back to  Russia from 1815 – 1915. I have in my notes “1915 – 1918,” but I’m not sure what I mean there. Poland independence happened in 1918. Whew.

The main industry in Opole Lubelskie is this 19th century sugar factory. The sugar is made from locally grown sugar beets.The guard gives me a funny look when I took the picture. “Why would anyone want a photo of a factory?”

This is the place for me – parking on the sidewalk is fine! (Same in Lublin). This is our guide, whose name I have regrettably forgotten (oops).

Apparently a UFO landed in Opole Lubelskie at some point and so now the spot is an attraction.

I want to go see it, but instead we go to a craft museum. On the way, I see yet another little Fiat 126. I like these little cars.

“Tak” apparently means “Yes.” I also learned how to say “Thank you” in Polish -> “dziękuję” Of course, I keep forgetting, so I have to refer to my notebook where I wrote it semi-phonetically “Zchinqueya”  with the emphasis on the “que”. Yep.

I find it interesting how after listening to a language for a while, I can start to make out meaning even without knowing the words. It’s inflection, emphasis, and tone that convey meaning. I am able to get the gist often of what is being said. Neat!

We are at a little craft museum. I am not terribly interested. Perhaps part of my apathy is because of a strong craving for coffee. The curator shows my mom a local book of Lublin history. Apparently, it’s impossible to find for purchase.

I do quite like some of the batiks, however.

We finally leave the museum in search of coffee. I like this little shop. It’s pretty.

Yay! Espresso!

I have two.

We find a nice pizza place to have our coffee. It is 11:00. Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” is playing overhead. Followed by The Pretenders “Stop Your Sobbing” and Huey Lewis. It is odd hearing this music with a backdrop of Polish murmur.

Why is there a stove-pipe coming out of this door?

This house is old. My mom and our guide like it.

This guy owns the house. His mother lives here.

He tells us it’s over 118 years old. Then he invites us in and I make a new friend.

I don’t get their names, but the man and his mother are fantastic. Turns out he’s a local historian and was one of the people who created that book the museum lady showed us! Neither of them speak one bit of English, and since all my mom and I know how to say is “tak” and “dziękuję” so it’s very helpful to have our guide with us.

The mother ushers me into the kitchen to show off her secondary money-making venture. Making cigarettes in bulk. She has dry tobacco leaves which she cuts up and then shreds with this little manual shreddy contraption. Then she rolls the shreds with the blue cigarette making device.

She is quite proud of this but apologizes for the mess. The tobacco leaves are under the table and spill out on the floor.

I try to get a photo of the hamster that lives in a Sisyphean little cage on top of the small fridge. When she notices this, she tells her son. I tell them that I used to have hamsters. He says that he also has a snake. I reply that I used to have snakes as well! We have a bond. He brings out his pretty snake (I think it is a Smooth Snake, except his has a lot more red) and I play with it for a few moments. (sounds all like a bad sex joke, doesn’t it? well, it isn’t.)

The man offers to show us around town. We accept and since he has to get back to Lublin today, we offer him a ride in exchange. We are all happy.

This sidewalk was built on top of Jewish headstones. On occasion part of an inscribed stone pokes out of the concrete.

We come to a schoolhouse. I don’t remember what it used to be, but apparently legend has it that it is haunted by a headless woman from the French Revolution.

This plaque on the side of the school is in Polish Latin. Latin Polish? Latin.

It’s quite pretty inside.

I have always been fascinated by doorways. Gates can be included in that sometimes, but not usually. I don’t know what this says, I just like the way it looks. I held myself back from taking a couple of photos of doorways earlier today and now I wish I hadn’t.

Here is an actual doorway. Fascinating, isn’t it?

This building has been here, just like this, since our new second guide friend can remember. He did not know how that upstairs doorway was used.

We drive with our two guides to an old cemetery. I am too hungry to get out of the car. I am glad we brought a breakfast roll and a banana with us, but I am annoyed at myself for leaving my energy-bars back at the hotel. When they get back into the car, the man suggests if I am not feeling well I need to have “beer soup.” Or just beer.

There is a small memorial along the road between Opole Lubelskie and Lublin. There was a small death camp here and the area still bears the burden of the double-row barbed wire fence. The memorial is close to the road and easily accessible. There is another memorial inside the building, but it is closed right now.

Apparently, I am jet-lagged and I fall asleep for almost the entire one hour drive back to Lublin. At our hotel, we say goodbye to our new friend and will see our guide tomorrow morning for Fun Wednesday at the death camps.

I can’t figure out why the elevator has two door open buttons but no close door buttons.

It is dinner time and are both starving. We head out to the old section of Lublin on foot to find a traditional Jewish restaurant.

On the way, I see this cool motorcycle. It has a sidecar and I don’t know the make.

Unfortunately, my flash kinda wipes out the logo.

It is neat looking though.

We find a little restaurant that looks promising. My mom found it online or in a tour book, so we figure we’ll give it a shot.

At the restaurant, a man at the next table buys us vodka. This little glass is only a few inches tall and full of tasty vodka.

As we walk back to the hotel in the crisp (brrrr) night, my mom is talking about “inter-ethnic relations” and I’m thinking about doorways.

There are more photos from today here: Pictures!

Time for me to (try to) sleep.

Good night!

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