Winter Wonderland: Home from Home

Day 16 – 18
December 19th – 21st, 2018

Day 16: The Light
A pretty lazy day today as we settled into our apartment in Sopot.

Felix woke us up really early this morning, excited by yet more snow. We went to another lovely school Christmas play and said our good byes as our house swap family left for our home in Australia.

Then Prunella and Graham went for a romantic, snow crunching walk into town. A coffee by the sea side and a chance to admire the beach together.

Later that evening, we walked into Sopot again as a family, to meet the local scout group. Prunella had contacted them online and we met up for a candle ceremony.

This ceremony happens all over Europe and is part of “The Bethlehem Light of Peace”. The candles that the scouts had here as they stood in a circle, were all lit from a single lantern which in turn had been lit from other lanterns. The original flame which spreads across Europe each December in this way, originates in the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Lit from it’s oil lamp, that has burned ceaselessly for centuries, it travels across the globe.

From here in Sopot, in front of the Church of St George, these scouts were charged to take their new flames to their local churches and in this way spread peace and goodwill.

The Light of Peace began in 1986 and now travels through thousands of scout troops in over 30 countries. We were privileged to be included in this simple evening, where families and siblings came together to support their scouts. It was a touching experience in the falling light with candles lighting the faces of our three scouts.

Back home for some reheated pizza dinner and to bed.

Day 17: Feasting and Friendship

Today we attempted a 10km hike along the beach from our home in Sopot to Gdynia. We made it about half way to the quaint town of Orlowo before being tempted by hot fresh pizza and then short on time, decided to catch the bus the rest of the way.

But this short trek was precious. We were mesmerised to see falling snow on the beach and enjoyed the dark forest trails. We knew we would be planning another hike soon…

First we met up with a local Joanna and her two girls, who discovered us via couchsurfing, at a local famous Gdynia pancake shop to warm ourselves with hot chocolate and the best stuffed pancakes.

Her family then kindly invited us to their home for dinner. This was not just any dinner it was a feast to the eyes and senses. Their family had made a huge effort to prepare a feast of Polish speciality dishes, in their tiny kitchen and we were warm and happy in their small apartment. It was a meal we would never forget and is remembered as one of our trip highlights. Not just for the food which was indeed delicious but for the genuine friendship and warm hospitality of this lovely family.

The Polish traditional foods we tried included; homemade sausage rolls, dill potatoes, Barszcz Czysty Czerwon (Polish beet soup), Peirogi (Thin rolled dough stuffed with mushrooms or other delicacies), Rosół ( chicken noodle and vegetable soup), Klopsiki (polish meatballs on skewers) Gołąbki ( cabbage meat filled rolls), the famous Bigos (hunters stew) and the dish reserved for special family occasions Kulebiak (a kind of Salmon wellington). Dessert included homemade apple pie (Szarlotka) and traditional Christmas biscuits (pierniczki) made by Joanna’s daughters. We couldn’t eat another bite…

We shared stories, played games with her lovely daughters and soon felt a part of their family. They all kindly walked us to the station in the thick snow and waved us a cheery good bye, as we boarded the train home. We knew we had made some lifelong friends. We were sure to meet again.

Day 18: Our Turn Hosting Dinner

We had a lazy morning, and everyone took a bath. Prunella & Graham drove to the nearest ‘hypermarket’ (our first nervous trip out in our swap car) but not before spending some time getting snow off the car – something we are not used to. There we were first dazzled by the travel/camping goods in Decathlon and hatched a plan to return and deck out the boys with a few practical items, like zip-off pants and shoes.

That evening we cooked up a storm and hosted two local couchsurfers for a dinner event – they each were single mums with a daughter. Their daughters annihilated the Lego museum (our house swapper’s son had lovingly made) plus played secretly with wet toilet paper and soap, causing much mischief. We had a nice chat over wine with their mums, who seemed to tolerate the noisy mayhem. Then to slumber…

Thanks for reading STCT. So what do you think?

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