An Easter Celebration in Poland

One of the great things about living in Europe is the accessibility to other countries.  Driving to Poland from Switzerland is like driving from Chicago to Ohio.  Tony’s sister, Veronica, lives outside of Krakow, and we wanted to celebrate the Easter holiday with family.  It was the perfect opportunity to introduce Matilda to her aunt and cousins.  On Tuesday we made the decision to rent a car, and by Thursday night we were on our way!

Now normally, the drive should take 10-12 hours, but driving over the holiday weekend and through Polish construction topped the drive off at 20 hours – yikes!  Luckily Matilda was a true champ about the whole thing.  I feel like my daughter is already a better traveler than most!

Even though it took almost twice as long to arrive, it was worth every second on the road.  Seeing Matilda with her three cousins brought tears to my eyes – their introduction was the absolute sweetest moment.  They loved stroking her chubby baby cheeks and kissing the top of her head.

easter in poland

easter in poland

easter in poland

Veronica invited us to spend a typical Polish Easter brunch with her husband’s family.  Having been with Tony almost 10 years, I’ve been exposed to my fair share of Polish food, but never like this!

Veronica’s sister-in-law set out a long table with breads, sausages (kiełbasa), fresh horseradish, beets, hard boiled eggs and black tea.  The family members took turns trying to crack the hard boiled eggs on each other’s forehead – the more caught of guard the person was, the bigger the laugh!  We passed around the delicious food and ate until we almost popped.  The food was simple but incredibly tasty.  It was even better because it was coupled with the sound of hearty laughter brought on by Polish jokes.  Even though we didn’t understand the language, this made the atmosphere extremely warm and inviting.

easter in poland

easter in poland

The brunch ended with passing the vodka.  Tony and I kicked it off by doing a shot and toasting the person on our left.  The vodka and shots were then passed around the table this way until the bottle was empty.  I knew it was time to leave as soon as they opened up a second bottle…  😆

This has already been a very memorable and special Easter, and the day isn’t even over yet!  I look forward to continuing the vodka passing later this evening….

Happy Easter, everyone!

easter in poland

Krakow, Poland – A Family Visit

I’ve known Tony since I was 14 years old, but it took until my mid-20s to realize how perfect he was for me.  One of the first questions I asked when vetting him as a potential partner was if he had a passport.  His response?  “I have two.”  It was the sexiest thing I had ever heard.

My husband’s father is from Poland, and as such, Tony and his siblings have dual citizenship.  My sister-in-law married a Polish man and settled with her 3 adorable kids an hour outside of Krakow.  They recently finished building their dream home and Tony and I visited this weekend for some quality family time.

I haven’t been back to Krakow since her wedding 7 years ago.  So much of her town has changed since I last saw it.  But what I was most looking forward to was seeing how much my nieces and nephew had grown.

2009 Krakow

2009 Krakow

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2009 Polish Wedding

Upon arrival to their house, the kids ran to us for big hugs.  I scooped them up and squeezed super tight.  It was such a treat to be with them again!  Throughout our visit, they also blew my mind with how easily they could flip between English and Polish.  They had been attending school in Poland for about a year and while nervous at first, had clearly found their way.

Tony's little doppelganger

Tony’s little doppelganger

The weather started off really beautiful as well – sunny and 75 degrees for 3 days straight.  One day Tony and I took our niece and nephew out for ice cream to beat the heat.  When we arrived, we had no idea how to order, so relying on a 6 and 5 year old was hysterical.

We also spent a whole day together in Krakow.  It was great to be back in this amazing city, which boasts one of the best and largest squares in Europe.  It is my personal favorite, as there is so much to do and see.  To top it off, Polish food is incredible, and Tony and I couldn’t get enough of the pierogis.

krakow

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According to Wikipedia, Krakow has been around since the 7th century and is Poland’s second largest city.  The city wasn’t destroyed during WWII – in fact, it became a completely German city, and many of the original, medieval structures remained intact.  Tony and I didn’t exactly bar hop with my baby belly, but in 2009, the bars we visited all had low ceilings and small doorways, evidence of the days of old.

St. Mary’s Basilica, which is the large church in the square, has a unique story to it.  Wikipedia says “On every hour, a trumpet signal—called the Hejnał mariacki—is played from the top of the taller of St. Mary’s two towers. The plaintive tune breaks off in mid-stream, to commemorate the famous 13th century trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city.”  We got to hear this a couple of times throughout the day.

Krakow

St. Mary's Basilica

St. Mary’s Basilica

Additionally, Krakow is known to have a dragon, called the Wawel Dragon (pronounced “va-vel”), who lives at the bottom at Wawel Hill.  There are a many tales associated with this dragon, and Tony and I made sure to purchase a dragon magnet to commemorate our trip.

Many tears were shed when it was time to leave, but I am thrilled to have my sister-in-law and her family come visit us at Christmas.  It will be their first time to see our place in Zurich, and I am sure Clark will be so happy to see the kids again.

The Missus’ Picks:

Tony and I didn’t do much sight seeing on this trip, but there are certainly a few things you must see when visiting Krakow.

  • Free walking tours are always high on my list, and there are many to choose from in Krakow.
  • Visit the Jewish Quarter and eat a meal at Ariel
  • Check out Wawel Castle and try to spot the dragon
  • Eat as many pierogis as you can get your hands on – yum!

Happy travels, everyone, and dziękuję za przeczytanie (thanks for reading)!

 

Sweet Home Chicago

Another successful visit to my home town has sadly come to a close.

I arrived on July 20th ago, shaken at the reminder of what American domestic airline travel entails.  I had flown United from Zurich to Newark which was wonderful, but Newark to Chicago involved delays and hours on the tarmac.   I exited O’Hare Airport, walking into a sauna, I mean, the humid Chicago summer heat, and hugged my parents tight.  We headed over to my sister’s right away so I could start the endless snuggle fest with my nephew, Adrian.  He had grown so much since I last saw him, but with the power of technology and digital photos, I didn’t feel like I had missed any of it.  To my joyous surprise, he seemed remarkably comfortable with me right away.  Maybe it was from all of those times I had screamed “this is your Auntie!” at my sister’s stomach when pregnant.  He clearly recognized my voice.

As can be imagined, in 10 days time, there was a lot of ground to be covered with friends and family.  Thursday and Friday I spent at my downtown office, catching up with co-workers and eating way too much Chipotle.  Thursday after work, my best friend Ashley and I got the chance to catch up over drinks.  Ashley is my friend that hosted the gorgeous wedding in Wisconsin last August.

The highlights from the rest of my visit included:

Friday

My dad hosted a 60th birthday/retirement party.  My aunts and uncles from all sides came to my parents house and I got to catch up with all extended family at once.  The best part about Friday night (aside from my tipsy father’s humor when opening presents) was that my brother and his girlfriend arrived for a family filled weekend.

Daddio

Saturday

Saturday was spent with the family, swimming in my parent’s pool and lounging about.  That evening, my father was my date to my dear friend Francesca’s wedding.  It was held downtown at the top of the Wyndham, and we had an incredible view of that night’s thunderstorm.  My heart swelled with happiness at the marriage of my dear friend.  It was also another opportunity to be together with some of my best high school friends.  We call ourselves the “guidettes” – 3 Italian-American gals that went to rival Catholic grammar schools and became besties when in high school.  Aside from the guidette mini-reunion, one of the best parts of the evening was the flower girl approaching my father to “play with her”.  Clearly my dad has a way with children.  A big congrats to Francesca and Jeff!

Daddio

The Guidettes

The Guidettes

Sunday

Sunday my sister hosted Adrian’s baptism, and I was honored to be his God mother. He was so well-behaved during this very long day.  He was a champ when they poured the water on his head, and allowed all the aunts and uncles to pass him around at his party afterwards.  It was a great opportunity to catch up with all of my aunts, uncles, in-laws and Grandfather as well.  Plus it was such a treat to eat crazy amounts of sugar in the form of Adrian’s baptism cake – yum!!!

Baptism

Monday

Monday I was back in the office and was pleased to have woken up to the presence of my brother, who’s Sunday night flight back to New York had been cancelled.  I ended my work day with a drink with my former colleague, Audra, and we caught up on all that had passed since I had last seen her.

Monday night, lo and behold, my brother’s flight had been cancelled again!  This time, he was hanging out at my sister’s house (my parents ran out of clean sheets!) and so I got to spend even more time with both of my siblings.  His flight did not leave until the following evening.

Tuesday

I finished up the last bit of my work in the morning and spent the afternoon and evening with my brother and sister.  As much as he was annoyed at his flight cancellations, it was such a treat to spend two extra and very unexpected days with him.  Thank goodness for him, but sad for me, he finally made it home Tuesday night.

Wednesday

Wednesday was my first full vacation day of the trip.  I spent the morning visiting IHOP with my dad (YES!) and then unloaded the last of our condo storage unit.  We had finally sold our Chicago condo!  I then spent some time with Dana Bana and her adorable kids.

Thursday

The day started off with breakfast in Schaumburg with some of my first and most favorite co-workers from United Airlines – Lesley and Lea.  The last time I had seen them was before I first left for Switzerland, so there was plenty to catch up on!  From there I headed over to Marissa’s house, one of the guidettes, as I had some kinder egg treats for her adorable daughter.  Thursday night was a date night with my sister, where we did dinner and a movie.  I loved having an entire evening with just her – she is one of my favorite people in the whole world!

Sisters

Friday

Friday I spent the day with my sister and Adrian again – this was truly the trip of family time – and Friday evening was pizza and dessert with my Aunt Gina and her family.

Saturday

Saturday was the annual birthday dinner with some of my very best friends – the 17th to be exact!  We ate at Homestead on the Roof  which was incredibly delicious.  I couldn’t believe we had been hosting this tradition for 17 years! We truly are best friends forever.

Birthday Dinner

Birthday Dinner

Sunday

After spending most of the morning crying, I visited my sister and Adrian for one last round of tight hugs, and then spent the day with my parents in their pool.  The time to leave approached way too quickly, and before I knew it I was on a plane back to Zurich.

 

Visits back to Chicago are always bittersweet and filled with a bit of the old and a bit of new.  Since coming back, I have already been off on my next adventure in Russia, so stay tuned for another blog soon!