Winter Wonderland: White Forest

Day 12
December 15th, 2018

We awoke to yet more snow. So in the morning; Dominic, Anna, Felix, Prunella and Lucas played in the snow. We even made a snow turtle…

Then a priest came over in traditional frock for a Christmas visit (he goes to all the houses). The family had prepared candles, a cross, a donation and hot tea. They also served Pierniki, traditional gingerbread cookies, decorated with icing. The father recorded an update on the family and listened to the children’s sacramental progress.

He was a jovial fellow. He was watched over by two older local boys, who seemed to be enjoying their job. It is a lovely tradition that is slowly disappearing in Poland. We watched out the window as he and his two helpers trudged away through the thick snow.

Poland is one of the most Catholic countries in the world. It is mainly Roman Catholic with a  3% mix of Greek Catholic, Armenian Catholic, and Byzantine-Slavic Catholic. Catholicism became the dominant religion in Poland in the 13th century when there was also a significant Jewish population. Prior to World War two, 10% of the population was Jewish. Sadly, the Holocaust took more than three million lives, most were Polish Jews.

Now the Polish constitution allows freedom of religion for all. Still, many young Polish resent the political and social influence of the Catholic church. So, there is a growing non-religious population that does not answer when the priest knocks.

Today we would be driving to more mountainous areas to have a walk in the snowy wilderness. The forest covered in snow was truely magnificent. We walked the Red Bicycle track ( Kaszebsko Stegna Cycling Route) into the Kashubian hills. It lead us through the most beautiful areas of Kaszuby, beginning at the foot of the highest hill in Pomerania – Wieżyca. The children brought a small toboggan and had a slide wherever they could find a slope.  We had come here to climb the observation tower and see the magnificent view. Unfortunately, the tower was closed.

Rebelliously, we climbed over the small barricade and went up anyway. this was a view we weren’t going to miss…

At 329 metres above sea level the view from Wieżyca hill is spectacular, especially in softly falling snow. We were grateful to be here in the quiet with few others crossing our path. It was one of those travel moments we would always remember.

Then we went to a man-made ski slope for more tobogganing, followed by lunch and hot chocolates in the restaurant.

Now weary, we trundled home together, for yet another amazing dinner and more games of ping pong. At dinner We were treated to many traditional Polish dishes. We ate the famous Jarzynowa Salata. This sweet yet tangy traditional vegetable salad is usually at any Polish table and delicious too. This was served with a traditional Christmas time dish Ryba po grecku, lightly fried white fish with the flavours of sweet root vegetables, lemon and spices. To drink we always had tea available and sweet homemade fruit kompot.

Our wonderful host family continued to lavish us with genuine hospitality and kindness. They introduced us to many of the Polish traditional food and customs we would see again and again in Polish homes. We were touched by their friendship and grateful for this chance, for a unique insight into Polish family life.

As our host family headed out yet again – we stayed home, enjoyed playing Mario Kart and went to bed early, still dreaming of snow…

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