Heading to the Family Village...

Trip Start Jun 08, 2008
Trip End Jul 09, 2008

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Flag of Poland  ,
Friday, June 13, 2008

After having spent a few days in the port city of Szczecin we had planned to head down to our grandparent's old house to visit some family in the village of Stany, Poland.  The husband of our cousin Gosha, Tomek, drove five hours from Stany to Szczecin to pick us up, and then back.  I was asleep for a good part of the trip, and it is a good thing I was; otherwise I would have been peeing in my pants due to how people drive in Poland.  They say New Jersey drivers are bad, but you don't know bad driving until you have taken a five hour long ride down one of Poland's so called "highways." 
The Polish highways aren't what we have in America; their version of a highway is a paved road that has just enough room for one car to travel on.  But of course the single lane is used for both directions, so in the event that you are traveling one way and the other car is approaching from the opposing way a fun little game of chicken occurs.  Both drivers will refuse to make room for the other car to pass until the very last moment, when one driver's common sense will finally kick in and they will swerve halfway off the road to avoid the car (all this happening at nearly 60mph mind you). 
But you may ask yourself, what if the car in front of you is going slow and there are cars also going in the opposite direction?  You can't just make a third "express lane" for yourself, can you?  Yes, yes you can.  And that is exactly what they do.  They roar down the middle of the road in between two opposing directions of traffic barely avoiding side swiping each passing car.  I'm telling you, if they brand driving in Poland as a "action sport" and charge for it, millions of dollars can be made.
After barely surviving the trip down to Stany, I finally saw the village for the first time in about fifteen years.  The only things I remembered of my times in the village were about three houses, dirt roads, cows, horses, and chickens everywhere.  I would spend my summers in between those three houses usually just chasing the chickens around the dirt paths.  I also distinctly remember being in the middle of a field while a cow charged at me, the cousin who was watching ran off with my sister leaving me behind with the cow.
Fifteen years later I realize that the village was actually quite large and has closer to fifty houses.  Most of the cows and horses that I remember have disappeared, as well as my family's chickens.  The chicken coop is still in the backyard, but it is now a storage shed for dirt bikes and other equipment.  Many of the older people who live in the village have died off, leaving many houses empty and deserted.  Walking down the road it isn't surprising to see caved in roofs in old decrepit houses.  But at least one childhood memory remains, being the dirt roads.  When you drive down that road you create a dust cloud that engulfs just about everything in its path and leaves a layer of dirt on all surfaces (including the inside of your lungs). 
The house I was staying in was my paternal grandparent's, where my cousin Gosha, her husband, and two kids currently live.  It was built sometime around the 1800s by the Germans, when they were occupying this area of Poland.  The fact that it is still standing to this day is pretty amazing, but because it is so old there is no shortage of ghost stories surrounding it.  Nearly everyone in my family has claimed to see Dido in the house after his death, and thus Gosha feels the need to thoroughly terrify me with the stories.  She then goes on to show me my sleeping area which is located in the attic, where she then says "Hmmm, I don't remember leaving all these doors and windows open."  That was my cue to change my bed to the couch in the living room; I don't need privacy that much. 
The first night was spent eating and drinking with the family, as well as trying to keep my niece Julia amused.  I've never seen a kid with that much energy in my life.  I also met my nephew Bartek for the first time; he's a little baby.  Not a fan of babies, they scare me quite a bit.
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