April, 2016

D-9, Apr 30, Pilzno to Tarnow

Edward has decided to leave his backpack behind because of his injuries sustained on the job years ago. He’s just carrying a small bag of essentials. 

Easy day of 21 km (13 mi). Lucky to find quarters at the rectory, but only one bed–so we’ll see. Just waiting for a wedding to end, then the priest will have time for us.

On the way we spotted examples of muddy patches that we missed for not taking the muddy route–we stick to the highway. Also saw a stork (good luck symbol) and an old Trabi (East German car during Communist times. The pic of the buildings was here in Tarnow dating from Soviet times.

The painting in Pilzno’s St John’s Church is the famous “Our Lady of Consolation” from earlier than 1241, destroyed, then recreated in ca. 1500.

D-8, Apr 29, Ropczyce to Pilzno

We trekked 27 km (17 mi) over rolling hills–a great walking day. After 2 1/2 hrs without coffee / breakfast, I couldn’t resist the call of a McDonalds. We try to avoid them, but …. There were no accommodations at the Carmelite Cloister, so we ended up at the Taurus Motel–a small little room, but clean and all that we need.

Importantly, I failed to mention before, my 2000-mile walk is taking me from the Polish state of Galicia to the Spanish state of Galicia–what a coincidence!

On the way, a car stopped and a fellow in all black came up to us to wish us “Buen Camino”–he had done the Frances last year and was so overjoyed to meet us. We first thought he was a priest! Today, as usual, we see lots of roadside memorials for someone who lost their life prematurely. We also saw another statue of St. John Paul II. 

And also, I noted that all the towns seem to adjoin: the end of one is always the beginning of the next. Probably a good way to set maintenance responsibility! Final pic is of the Pilzno Square: City Hall and Church.

D-7, Apr 28, Rzeszow to Ropczyce 

We pushed and did 21 miles and now stand at day 10 of the itinerary–3 days ahead!!! We’ve been waiting at the rectory for about 2 hours trying to obtain the head priest’s permission to stay. It’s not easy to “work the network,” but such a treat to be able to stay at the religious facilities.

Two comments on the day, one at the beginning and one at the end. At Rzeszow we passed a traffic circle surrounded by NATO flags, that we expected to guard a majestic statue at the flags’ center. Instead we saw a cell tower, important as well in its ability to bind the NATO nations together. 

Then at this end, at the church where we hope to find lodging, we encountered a statue of St. John Paul II, the former pope from Poland, and loved dearly by her people. I don’t think I found a single church where his likeness isn’t conspicuously displayed.

Here’s hoping we can stay.

D-6 (add-on) Apr 27, Lancut to Rzeszow

Trekked 17.4 km (11 mi) today to Rzeszow with a population of over 180,000. We had the benefit of a walking path set off from the highway nearly the whole time (see the pic). The city’s vibrancy was visible at the suburbs with mega-malls and mega traffic–all good things. Then came a McDonald’s–but only the second since starting my walk. That’s not bad.

We had lunch on the low walls of a nearly forsaken Soviet cemetery with burials of Russian soldiers through the liberation in 1944. There’s evidence like this here and there. Interestingly, Poland will not celebrate the 1st of May (brings back memories of the Soviet May Day); instead they celebrate the 3rd of May!

D-6, Apr 27, Lancut to Rzeszow 

This morning’s send-off by the nuns was special. One of the school staff took a picture that imprinted on my mind the best of what there is on the Via Regia/Camino: the love and caring these sisters exude for all, but especially to the children entrusted to their care. The picture says it all.

D-5, Apr 26, Przeworsk to Lancut

Brutal day: started w/36deg cold, but sunny getting all the way to 46 deg (Eddie loves the cold). Walked 14 miles, and felt it (am not yet in a groove, but am getting there; maybe another week. Everything aches, but I expected that. The good news is that we gained another day on our itinerary.

We walked again on a no-shoulder highway to avoid yesterday’s mud. Trucks are fabulously polite, changing lanes to avoid us–impressive. We theorize that the highway is a better semblance of the Via Regia than some zig-zag route through ag fields.

Eddie again has penetrated the ecclesiastical network and landed a nearly new Catholic School / Nuns’ Residence (same building) for overnight lodging and meals. One young nun speaks English perfectly and she as well as the Mother Superior are most hospitable. They’re all astounded by our goals! Six-o’clock mass after a scrumptious meal rounded out our day.

At the center of Lancut is the Castle, one of the most beautiful aristocratic residences in Poland dating back to the early 16 hundreds. We passed by (see the pic) but had no time to visit! 

The picture of the church (ext & Int) were the starting point of asking for lodging for two needy pilgrims. 

D-4, Apr 25, Jaroslaw to Przeworsk (Poland)

We learned our lesson avoiding mud yesterday, so we clung onto the highway route, a US 101 type route with an 8-inch shoulder! Most vehicles changed lanes to avoid us and/or keep from spritzing on us. Still drizzling all day and the temperature dropped to 43 deg F.

When we arrived at Przeworsk, we waited a bit at one of the churches,  and like many, the interior was locked except for an antechamber that allowed you to kneel, peek through, and pray (see pic). The kilometer marker has us tallying a good distance (today another 15 km–9 mi.)

Lucasz arranged for us a stay at another Benedictine Monastery for  Nuns, but not without feeding us a scrumptious lunch/dinner. Also learned that Lucasz has his doctorate ABD, scheduled for his final oral defense in June (dissertation is on the Polish Camino Neteork of some 5000 km).

Looking forward tomorrow to sunshine and warmer weather.

Day-3, Apr 24, Rokietnica to Jaroslaw (Poland)

Still one day ahead of schedule, we trekked a bit over 9 miles during a drizzle from the very start. We sloshed through muddy paths going between fields, but vowed to stay on paved roads, especially after falling in the mud.

The day started with our hosting pastor introducing Eddie and me at mass and mentioning that we were the first pilgrims and first Americans in his church (built, incidentally, in 1699!). After a huge breakfast and sandwiches made to go, we basically headed north to Jaroslaw, a city founded in 1031. The pastor had called ahead to arrange a room at the Monastery of the Benedictine Sisters founded in 1611. Our Spartan room (that makes a Motel 6 seem luxurious) is rather modern belying the cloister’s erection on 1635! We’re on grouds surrounded by defensive walls with eight observation towers. Although we’d like to see more, our chores of washing clothes and removing today’s mud left little time. Just happy to look outside at one of those towers.

The first pic shows our host last night in front of the church’s altar, a close-up of damage the Ottomans wreaked on a side door while trying to break into the church looking for gold (1700s some time) and a sampler of our mud encounter. The second pic shows the entrance to the monastery, one of the towers and a glimps at modern austerity. 

Day-2, Przemysl to Rokietnica

We finished day 1 with a sumptuous dinner of typically Polish cuisine, just like my on-line language course, Babel, drilled me: creamy tomato soup, pierogis, and Szarlotka (apple pie with merangue on top). (For 2 people and a beer, total bill: $17). And as a curiosity, the US Ambassador to Poland seemed to enjoy several of the same sites that we did at the same time: the Archcathedral and the main square at which we ate! No, there was no opportunity to exchange greetings.
Second day was a killer, but we had to do it to up our game. We blew through the planned 2d day goal and strove straight for the 3rd day goal, so now we’re ahead a day. Took 11 miles to get here, to Rokietnica, and we opted to try the Parish Church and were welcomed by the pastor. We were invited to stay in a guest room.

The house keeper fixed us an opulent lunch: meat dumplings in gravy, a type of barley grain, home-made claw, and an ample selection of cakes for dessert–unbelievable hospitality.

Most of the way was well waymarked with the exception of one point where there was a new fence that “lost” the arrow. That caused a half-mile overshoot–we took it in stride. Rapeseed fields are in near-full bloom lining the landscape with yellow carpets. Occasional homes showed off large crucifixes or mini-chapels in their front yards compelling one to stop and pay brief respects.

The way was mostly along no-shoulder country roads, but occasionally meandered through what seemed like virgin forests still crackling with winter foliage on the ground. And, of course, a plethora of hurdles challenged us (see the pic).


D-1 Apr 22, ’16: Medyka, Poland to Przemysl

JFK, then Oslo, on to Warsaw (with overnight at the very modern Caritas Center (for pilgrims, et al), and ending on the 21st of Apr. with a 7-hr train ride to the south-eastern Polish city of Przemysl.

Today our first walking day, we intended to walk the 15 km (9 mi) from Medyka to Przemysl but in fact went in reverse–better logistics. When we arrived in the border village of Medyka, we were welcomed by the two Parish Priests, one of whom opened the wooden church built in 1607, but it’s no longer in use since a new, much grander one was built next to it (just compare altars in the two pics). In 1997, the new church was dedicated by the Polish Pope John Paul II (since canonized in 2014). As you can see, the church also marks the 4053 km (2000+ miles) to Santiago!

Eddie, my Polish travel partner through Poland, and I are staying at the PTTK hostel in Przemysl for the second night (the night’s stay is a far cry from the one in Warsaw). This city has a rich history going back to the 8th century. WW I & II had significant impacts on the city–e.g., the Molotov Line split the city in half in WW II between Russia and Germany.