Thursday, April 21, 2016

Further observations on coffee

1.   Leipzig, or at least the small market in the train station, does not lock up its instant coffee.
2.  I have spotted decaf at a restaurant and for the coffeemaker in our hotel room.  So occasionally it exists.
3.  Our hotel room in Offenburg has a coffee maker, only the second time this entire visit.  (The first was Utrecht).

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Big, modern, "vibrant".  Big.  The new hauptbahnhof (main train station) shows some of what can be done when a city is bisected by no-mans-land, and then isn't.  Mostly you can tell where the wall was because of all the shiny new buildings.  Urban renewal without all the eminent domain fights.

I still have three unanswered questions:

Why all the big pink and blue pipes running around at roughly head level, with curves and corners?

Why was the instant coffee locked up in the grocery?  Literally behind a locked glass door, like expensive jewelry in some stores. Nescafe Gold isn't really, you know, guys.

Who was the group singing and cheering outside our hotel (at the hauptbahnhof) at 2:30 in the morning?  Sounded like a big group, not just a couple of people.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Warsaw architecture

Okay, we wandered around Warsaw for a couple of days.  Um.


R2D2 wannabe
Probably moving too slowly to actually engulf you.
Don't look now, but there's a hole in your building  
Wait, you can open these windows??

On the other hand, and more typical of what we've been seeing so far,  there's

Palace of Culture and Science (
Warsaw Old Town

The most startling thing about all this to me is that these buildings have all been built since 1950.  The glass fantasies, yes, obviously.  The Palace of Culture etc was built by the Soviets as a gift to the Poles (who don't seem terribly appreciative).  The Old Town was basically flattened during WW 2 and has been meticulously restored.  It was a fun wander, in any case.

Monday, April 11, 2016


Our trip included Vienna, so it's hardly surprising that there has been a lot of coffee around.  ("Starbucks comes to show us how to make coffee?  We had the first coffee place in the sixteenth century!" said a Viennese guide.)

It started in our first hotel, in Utrecht, where the free breakfast included a coffee machine.  The cruise had an even fancier machine in the lounge, including "Vienna Melange", which turned out to be coffee, milk, and chocolate.  And the lounge in the main Vienna train station had another, with a nice display helpfully showing you which cup/glass to use.
Utrecht coffee machine.  

Display of Vienna train lounge machine

Budapest was perhaps a bit less determined, but not much.  Similar machine at breakfast, although there was also a large urn with just coffee and hot milk for the simple folk.

What there wasn't, anywhere, was decaf.  When I asked about it at Utrecht I created a flurry which ended up with three people in the bar brewing me a cup.  Onboard ship I could get hot water and powder (but not milk, just packets of cream).  In Vienna they just laughed at me or looked confused.

Poland has thrown in a new wrinkle.  There are still plenty of cafes and coffee shops, with all the usual, but at the hotel there are two choices:  coffee in a big urn, and instant coffee powder.  Um? Visiting our relatives in Niebieszczany we were offered the same choices, brewed or instant.  Um again?  Apparently in Poland instant coffee is a thing.  Dave's young, English-speaking cousin, who is a student here in Krakow, attempted to explain.  As best I  understood, instant coffee means no grounds, no mess or sludge, and is highly desirable.  Okay...  Still not decaf, and his cousin did not see the point of coffee that didn't give you a caffeine jolt.

I'm typing this in a Coffee Corner in the Krakow main train station, and I note that they do actually have decaf.  Traveler influence, I suppose. .   I'm drinking a caffe latte, with.  By the time I get back to the US I am going to have to work to cut back to my "one or two cups in the morning".  It shouldn't be too hard; it just won't be as good!

Saturday, April 9, 2016


Krakow is in some ways unexpected.

A couple of blocks from our hotel is Stary Kleparz, the oldest continuing market in Krakow.  The Kleparz region dates from the eleventh century, and the market from the fourteenth.  It fills a complete square, with permanent wooden stalls all along the outside, tables filling the middle, and a roof over most of it, plus the occasional tree growing through the market and the roof.  It's cobbled, with narrow aisles, and looks like it hasn't really changed in a couple of centuries.  Inside there are butchers, bakers, candlesticks if not makers, tables of produce, pierogies, clothes, housewares, books...  Probably a kitchen sink in there somewhere, and piles of what looked like used clothing in one corner.  It was very full, not of tourists.  We heard little English, and our purchases mostly involved pointing and writing numbers down.  Food seems mostly aimed at "take home and make dinner", not at eating there.  Pierogies from the pierogie stand, for instance, turned out to be frozen, ready to cook.   It seemed like we could have been anywhere in Europe's old cities, and in any of the past several centuries.

We failed to get anything that was actually a lunch to be eaten right then, so we headed back toward the hotel, following a slightly different path.  It took us to a street across from the hotel, where is to be found

Galeria Krakowska, a recently completed shopping mall, adjacent to the recently updated main train station.  It could have been in any major 21st century city.  Clothes, electronics, music, food court, Levis, McDonalds, Starbucks, drug store, grocery store, liquor stores.  Etc.

Literally, three blocks apart.  And centuries.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Niebieszczany, step 3

Step 3:  Our driver knocked on the door, introduced himself, and explained what we were doing. And just like that, we found cousins!  Assorted comparing of notes, and we established that we were meeting with Dave's second cousin, the grandson of Paul, Stanislaw's brother.

We ended up sitting in their parlor, drinking coffee and comparing ancestor trees, and talking about both families, and then visiting various graves.  Paul came to the US briefly, but returned to the same homestead in Poland.  Frank, his grandson, still lives on the original property, although the original house (wood and thatch) is long gone.  Many other relatives live in the area, including two of Frank's daughters, who also came over to meet us.  None of the Polish Matuszeks spoke English, so it was a lot of smiling and patting and discussion going through our driver,  and as I think about what we learned I realize we still have a bunch of questions, but now we have postal and email addresses!  And they were charming people, and we had a lovely time, and, contrary to what I would have guessed six months ago, it all worked!

Matuszek house.  House where Dave's grandfather lived was in the front yard of this one.


 No, I can't pronounce it either.

I have been pursuing Matuszek  genealogy at a sort of background level  for years.  Since we knew we were going to Poland, I poked a bit more.  We know Dave's grandfather emigrated from "around   Krakow", and we know his birth date and father's name, more or less.  (Ancestry research is mostly more or less; what's a letter, or a month, here and there?). And my most recent poke at turned up some descendants of what is apparently Dave's great-uncle, which in turn led to some 25-year old information about the family.  If it's the family. 

So yesterday was the day to find out what we could.  The town mentioned is Niebieszczany, a village near Sanoc in far southeastern Poland.  It's not really near Krakow, but it's nearer than any other city anybody in the US  is likely to have heard of.  Plan  A: go there and see whether we can find a church, or town hall, or something with records.

Plan A failed immediately, when we realized that there is no easy way to get there except drive.  We could get to Sanoc by bus, a six hour ride, and then maybe rent a car.  Not happening.

So, Plan B:. Get help.  Andrew Durnan,, provides driver services, and also has some experience I helping people find ancestors. He also speaks English and can serve as a translator. Since neither of us speaks Polish, this seemed good.

So yesterday Andrew made an appointment with the village priest, and drove us to Niebieszczany.  We pored over old church records and found the right birth and baptismal record, which included names and an address.  We also found records for multiple siblings, all with the same address.  Step one complete, we've got the right Matuszek.  And we know where they lived 150 years ago.  The priest tells us that there are still Matuszeks in the parish.

Step 2:. It's lunch time, so we stopped  at a small snack/beer/vodka shop, where the proprietress sells us a loaf of bread and a stick of butter and some ham and cheese, and makes them into sandwiches for us. We take them to the room next to the store, which has  two tables, many pin up girl calendars and three guys drinking beer or vodka, two young and one ancient.  Much Polish ensued, of which I caught "Matuszek" and "America" and " touristen".    The net result was that after our sandwiches the ancient gentleman piled into the car with us, and directed us to a narrow dirt road leading down to some farms and a creek.

(To be continued)

Shrine which stands where original wooden church did at Niebieszczany.  The new church is brick and across the road.