Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Polish Pottery is Pretty!

Feel like I've got myself in such a backlog sort of mode. Somehow this time of year makes it so much more difficult to keep caught up on things. I've been quite busy every weekend, then it takes me a while to catch up in my journal, and the lovely weather just calls me outside, rather than to my computer. But now I'll see what I can do to remedy that a bit.
Last week I had a really long week. Tammy was busy at one of her other schools, and then she had visitors, so I covered a couple extra classes for her, plus it was already my long week when I have 5 classes on Thursday (10 teaching hours) but now I get to reap the benefits. Tammy can only fill in for me on Fridays, so I get two three day weekends in a row! Now I just have to figure out what to do with them. Laura's family is coming this weekend, so I'll be on my own to fill the time up. Sure I'll manage somehow ;)
Anyhow, two weekends ago (May 15-17) I went with Laura and Kelly to Poland to go pottery shopping. Perhaps Polish pottery is not something that rings a bell in your mind, but believe me, it's pretty impressive stuff. Kelly has visited the factory shops in Poland about 7 times now, bringing back all sorts of lovely pieces which she uses to tempt the people who come and visit her to dream of pottery shopping. It worked perfectly on Laura, and she began scheming right away how to get us to Poland. If you still aren't getting the picture, check this link It's pretty amazing stuff, I must confess. All the same, besides always liking to travel and be where my friends are, I was more exciting about the chance to drive than I was about the pottery shopping. Silly me.
We have a student at Winfield who works at a car dealership and he was able to hook us up with a rental car. We got a Mazda 6 for the weekend. It was silver and really so nice. This was my first time driving a car in Europe and I could hardly wait. I really enjoy living someplace where it is easy to travel on public transport, and where I can walk to work every day, but I still miss my car. (sigh) This was the perfect chance to get behind the wheel and really go for it!
Kelly, Laura and I headed out of Cheb around 2:30 on Friday afternoon and were soon cruising our way through Germany. The most efficient route we found took us up past Chemnitz and Dresden, then we curved into Poland and on to BOLESŁAWIEC, a small town not far over the border where there are a large number of pottery factories. The trip only took about 4 hours, so it was still early in the evening when we arrived. After checking in to our little hotel, we headed off to see what the town had to offer. Kelly has always traveled there from Prague on short day trips, so she'd never actually looked around the town either so it was perfect.
There is a cute town square that we enjoyed wandering around and photographing. It's amazing the way the posing just takes over us!

Laura and I worked on our contemplative stances, and then Kelly and Laura decided to work on the new look for the Central Europe Directors circle for next year :)

It took a couple tries for us to find a place to eat. The first place we went looked really good, but the menus were exclusively in Polish, and it's just not quite close enough Czech for us to feel comfortable. In the end we had pirogies in the main building in the square. They were super tasty, filled with potatoes and cheese, and topped with caramelized onions.
After dinner we wandered around a bit more then headed back to our hotel for the evening. Several tour buses had deposited their crews in the hotel while we were away, but fortunately none of them ended up in our little suite as we didn't really want to have to share our bathroom with total strangers. We tried to watch TV, but weren't very successful. There was a really poorly dubbed movie on (Bird on a Wire with Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn from the mid-80s) but we couldn't take the voice overs or the acting, so we gave up. Instead, Kelly entertained us with shadow puppets. I know, I know, it sounds juvenile, but her ferret had us laughing so hard we could hardly stop.
Hard beds are not my friends. It's just the truth. I tried to sleep, and as the driver they'd decided I could have the last shower, but I ended up before the others anyway. Ah well. We had breakfast in the hotel, and then we were off to shop, shop, Shop! Kelly, having done this sooo many times, has a system. The plan is to go to all the different shops first, taking notes about models and prices, then have lunch to think about what you really want. After that the buying actually begins.
We headed off to the first shop and were immediately overwhelmed. You can't begin to imagine how much stuff there was to look at. It was really endless and all so beautiful. Then there were all these people speaking English. It seems that the Americans stationed at military bases in Germany really like to take tour buses out there to load up on pottery. Some of them apparently even take it back and resell it at better prices than you can get online. On top of all that, there were the window washer boys. It was a rather drippy day, but there were a couple teenage boys out to make a buck or two. They pounced on our cute little rental car the instant we were inside and began circling it, washing the windows endlessly. Rainy day kids! Not very effective! But they made us nervous, so we left one person watching them at all times.
Shopping for general, but shopping for pottery specifically, is not exactly a male dominated pass time. Needless to say, it wasn't surprising that the military man who was there with his wife, was happy to have something to put his mind to. He chatted with me for a few minutes about where we were from, what we were doing here, etc., as well as the situation with the window washers. We decided they didn't really have plans to break into the car, but they definitely were going to want some sort of financial gain from their "work," and we certainly weren't going to give it to them. After all, we didn't ask them to wash our windows. It was nice to have another person taking note of the situation. When we moved to another store, he continued to keep an eye for us, and a few minutes later came and found me with a proposition. He asked if I'd like him to give them a dollar to get them to go away. Well...if he was offering...And so money exchanged hands and they finally stopped scrubbing the rain drops off the windows. There was still one lurking about, hoping we'd double pay before we left, but we escaped with no broken windows or money spent.
We proceeded to travel from shop to shop. Some of them were just so immense I had trouble taking it all in. It was interesting to see how patterns quickly emerged for all of us. Laura, who wanted to get a set of dishes for her new life in the US, was drawn to patterns involving grapes. Kelly looked to traditional patterns in swirling blue circles. Randomly enough, I was sucked in by butterflies. I wouldn't generally categorize myself as a butterfly sort of girl, but all the butterfly patterns seemed to be calling to me. They spoke of summer days and the whimsy of children in flowered meadows. Fascinating.
After several hours of searching, and picking up a couple gifts and a lovely butterfly vase, we took a break for lunch in order to recollect and refuel. Once again we treated ourselves to pirogies. Seriously good stuff!

Then we headed back to make actual purchases. I'd been feeling poor, and like I shouldn't spend very much money, but in the end I decided, I'd spent enough getting there, I probably wouldn't get there again, I might as well buy some things to make it all worth while. And the butterflies just sang such lovely songs to me, rather siren like I suppose, that in the end, I caved. I bought 4 butterfly mugs, one of each pattern, a couple of bowls to match, and then some gifts for people. In all, it was a very successful day for all of us.
Once the shopping frenzy was complete we headed out of town and back toward Germany. It was a great day to be on the road, and while Kelly thought about all the work she has to get done, and Laura dreamed of serving delicious dinners to guests on her new dishes, I basked in the joy of driving.
Our last mission for the day was to find a Burger King to have dinner. Today Laura's brother graduated from High School, and he's a huge BK fan so she wanted to honor him in this way. Plus, we don't have BK in Czech (except one new one in Prague that we've never been to), so we don't get there often. We were almost out of Germany and still hadn't seen one, though Kelly had seen a couple at truck stops along the way on Friday. We were about to give up and just go out to dinner in Cheb, when Kelly looked back at one last stop on the opposite side of the road and shouted gleefully, "Burger King!" We then faced the task of finding a way to get to the other side. It did take a little doing, but eventually we made it and the day was complete. Perfect!
That's the end of the pottery trip, but I just wanted to throw in a couple more fun pictures from Sunday. We had our CA meeting here in Cheb and went out to our favorite Italian restaurant, Pulcinella. They have a wide assortment of amazing pizzas there, and we were excited to show the place to David and Kelly. Much to our horror, however, David opted to buy the most disgraceful pizza on the menu: USA pizza. And what, you ask me, is a USA pizza? Well, I'll tell you. It's got a base sauce of ketchup, covered in mozzarella, with chopped up hot dogs and French fries on top! Can we say horrifying? David, however, refused to cave in to our insults, and even put up with harassment from the waitress, and maintained that it was really tasty.

The pizzas there are huge, and definitely for more than one person or more than one meal. David was not up to the challenge of polishing the whole thing off, and, therefore, decided to leave it for us. We were all pretty grossed out by it, and yet curious. So in the end, against our better judgment, we all tried out the pizza. To make it even more ridiculous I even put beautiful yellow American Mustard on top. And the verdict? Well, it was surprisingly edible. It actually tasted like a corn dog. So bizarre!

So there you have the Polish Pottery and pathetic pizza weekend!

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