Family

Family. A word with many different meanings. It could mean passion, heartbreak, love, or sorrow. It all depends on your personal meaning. For some it might mean parents and siblings, while other times it is the people who accept you as who you are, and anything in between. I myself, have found a few families, all ranging from blood relation, to friends, to people who help me embrace who I am.

These last few weeks I have been able to more of my blood related family than ever before. One night we got together to celebrate my aunt’s (once removed) 10th anniversary of her marriage. Before then, I had met her maybe once, but not the rest of her family. Most of the people there I did not know, but I was told they were family.

Because of the way that we live, my family is separated in all different countries. Me, my parents and Alex live in the U.S., while my mom’s sister lives in London. One of my mother’s cousins lives in Poland, while the other lives in Norway. One of my father’s uncles lives in Austria while the other lives in Poland. All of my grandparents live in Poland. Since I was young, that was my blood related family.

My parents have always had very close friends whom were always our “aunts/uncles” and “cousins”. Although these people are in no way actually related to us, I’ve always felt like they were family. With us all being so spread out around the world, it is hard to maintain contact, but as I think I have mentioned, we try to fly to Poland almost every other year. My parents grew up here, so it only makes sense.

At home, I have a group of friends that are like my family. Most are like my sisters. It’s not that we spend so much time together that we are practically living with each other, it’s that we all understand each other. We all feel like someone has our back if something happens, good or bad. We all have each others support, no matter what. It’s like my second family.

To everyone out there, your family is always different. I am very fortunate to have such a caring and supporting family in my life. But family is so much more. Family means you still love them, even after accidentally breaking your favorite mug. Family means you support them, even though you think them piling mattresses to make a makeshift trampoline is crazy.Family means you know they won’t be mad at you forever if you do go do that thing they  specifically told you not to do. And when you find those people, you will truly be happy. Because they will forever be your family.

London

Hello Everyone! My name is Nadia, and this is my first blog entry. I am 13 years old and I love to travel. Ever since our first sabbatical to Mexico, I have wanted to travel around the world. My goal, when I get older is to explore every continent and experience the different cultures on the planet.

As of now, we are in Poland. I have been flying here every other year since I was 3 years old, so it’s not a new sight. Last week we were in London, and it was beautiful. We haven’t traveled in a long time, so this felt like a breath of fresh air. The sights, the sounds, it was all breathtaking. Since we live in the middle of nowhere, the city was a whole other perspective. Everyone is always going somewhere, and it’s always busy. It’s way more interesting than the country.

In London we went to many museums (of course), and saw the Queen’s palace. Although we couldn’t go inside (obviously), the exterior was artfully designed, and beautifully made. We also visited Greenwich, which is the Prime meridian of the world. A Prime meridian is the line of Longitude that is 0°. This line forms a circle on the earth that divides it into 2 hemispheres, East and West. This line passes through Greenwich, England, France, Spain, Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ghana, and Antarctica. There we saw Queen Henrietta Maria’s house, and explored the inside. Everything there was amazing. As we walked around, we got to see the King and Queen’s chambres. The ceilings specifically were amazing. The kings was royal blue with tastefully added gold trim, as the Queens was a mural depicting images from the bible (probably I’m an atheist so I don’t know). Later that day we went to Platform 9 ¾, as I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. Fun fact! I learned that the movies were actually filmed between platforms 3&4, not 9&10 as it is said in the story. It was a great experience, especially for me. We left London the next day.

Since we go to Poland almost every other year, there is no new sights to see. We mostly have just visited family. Throughout this adventure, I hope to learn more about the world, and see the beauty that lies within.

We’re on the Road Again

The morning started like any other day. While a bit hectic, it wasn’t any different from just about any other weekday. We woke up at dawn and started getting ready for the day ahead. Kids dragged out from beds, ate breakfast and left for school. On surface everything seemed normal. Except, we knew it wasn’t. It was a Thursday, and I wasn’t leaving for work…

I quit my job the day before. They said, I left my employer to pursue “personal interests”. I call it a Sabbatical – an extended, unpaid leave of absence. Last time I took one, we spent over a year on the road wandering North America. Now it’s time to show our kids Europe. Like most our trips, the plan is not precisely plotted. We will map our travels as we go. For now, all we know is that our first stop will be London, then a few weeks on the roads of western Europe. We plan to return home in early September with couple of stops on the way back, in Norway and Iceland.

While Nadia was taking her last exam, and Alex trading farewells with his pals, Agnieszka and I were packing and getting the house ready. The flight was supposed to leave Toronto late night, but we needed to get there early to park our car with our Polish friends living in Hamilton. Everything was going relatively smooth. In fact, when I realized that we would be able to leave on time, I became suspicious. That has never happened before! We were about to lock the doors behind us, when I got a text message from Primera Air. It was short, and very clear. And yet I read it three times, disbelief giving way to anger. Our flight was… cancelled!

The text was followed by an email, confirming that the flight was indeed not going to leave Toronto that night. That message also contained some options. One of them was to book a flight with another airline, and seek a refund afterwards. Considering Primera Air’s reputation it was risky decision. Finding four open seats on another flight that same night seemed like mission impossible. And yet, somehow we got lucky! I booked a flight with Air Transat, and a few hours later we boarded the plane, and the next morning disembarked at Gatwick International.

The red eye flight was tiring. Our kids don’t have European passports (yet), so upon arrival we ended up in a non-EU immigration line. That morning several transatlantic flights arrived in London, making the lines crowded and long. Two hours later we caught a train to the city and arrived at the hotel early afternoon. Imagine my irritation when we learned that Priceline sold us a room with two single beds. Calling their customer support was a waste of time, they offered no solution, and no apology. “Josh”, their representative, speaking with heavy Indian accent from an undisclosed location, stated that this is my problem and I should talk to the hotel manager directly. I thanked him for this useless suggestion. Fortunately Chris, the Docklands Lodge hotel manager was able to rectify Priceline’s screw-up and gave us two adjacent, connected rooms.

We spent the next few days exploring London and taking pictures to document our discoveries.

On Tuesday night we boarded yet another cheap ($123.81 for four seats) and Europe’s most (in)famous airline, Ryanair. Despite horror stories about their services, we have no reasons to complain. Even though our departure was slightly delayed, the flight was uneventful and we arrived in Katowice (Poland) on time. I would even say that the flight comfort was very much comparable, if not higher than most american airlines.

Today, we are at my father’s house getting ready for the next chapter of our journey. I sincerely hope to not be the sole scribe of those travel records, and that Nadia, and Alex will use this journal to share their impressions of Europe with their friends back home.

Opava and vinicity

Main Square in Dolny Benesov

Apparently some of my ancestors in the XVIII century migrated from small villages around Opava to Chorzów. I’ve designed the European trip to be able make a short pause in Hlucin, Ludgierovice, Kozmice and Dolny Benesov.  In fact, most of the pictures below were taken in Donly Benesov, where we’ve visited couple of cemeteries looking for familiar sounding names. Unfortunately, the institutions were only about 100 or 150 years old and we didn’t find anything of interest. On the other hand we didn’t really come prepared.

16-Aug-2011 06:01, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
16-Aug-2011 05:56, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
16-Aug-2011 06:02, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
16-Aug-2011 06:07, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
16-Aug-2011 06:08, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
16-Aug-2011 06:13, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 135.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
16-Aug-2011 06:15, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
16-Aug-2011 06:26, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400
16-Aug-2011 06:30, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 85.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 800
 
16-Aug-2011 07:39, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
16-Aug-2011 08:13, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 45.0mm, 0.011 sec, ISO 200
16-Aug-2011 08:15, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
 

Vienna

Street artists in Vienna

After leaving my Uncle’s house in Gmunden, we headed East. It was raining in the morning, so we weren’t sure about making a stop anywhere. Fortunately, the bad weather was slow moving from the West to the East. Apparently, on the Autobahn we got couple of hours ahead of the storm. When we got to Vienna, the weather was picture perfect. After an hour or so the clouds cough up with us and we were forced to quickly evacuate from this lively, beautiful city.

 

 

Europa Kreuz

Europa Kreuz

After reaching the top of the Grünberg couple of days ago, we’ve decided that we’re all ready for something more than the mere 1,004 meters (3,294 ft) above the sea level. Our next target: Alberfeldkogel and the Europa Kreuz at 1709 meters (5,607 ft). The cross on top of the hill is 5 meters high and build from blocks symbolizing all European Union member countries.

Well, I don’t want to chat, we’ve conquered the first 1,585 meters in a cable car…

 

 

Agrarium

Zorbing in Agrarium

Due to several Family members recommendations, we’ve spent a day at an Agrarium.  I’m not sure if that’s a real word, but it clearly defines what it actually was: a farm made for city kids for quick profits. Our kids were born and raised in the country, so the attractions were really not as exotic as the price tag promised, but in the end we all had a real good time. More over, we’ve picked up about four or five kilograms (9 to 10 pounds) of apples and pears, which at least partially offset the extremely high priced entry to this overrated country side “lunapark”.

 

 

Grünberg

The way to the Grünberg

Grünberg, translated as Green Mountain is a peak at 1,004 meter (3,294 ft) above sea level in the Northern Limestone Alps. On Thursday, August 11th 2011, this peak has been conquered by the Bajans team. What’s most important, is that the trip to the top and back to the parking lot has been completed by each and every team member using their very own (little) feet. As such, from now on, we consider the Grünberg a symbol of positive thinking, which defeats any difficulties we encounter on our way.

Thanks to that trip we’ve also checked the Austrian health system. In the woods Nadia acquired a new fried – a tick, that attempted to make himself comfortable just above her ear. Fortunately our Captain, alert as always, spotted this little invader and announced a quick visit to Austrian ambulance. We’ve been through the formalities quickly and in the doctor’s face in just few minutes after arrival. However, in the very few moments between my Uncle’s house and the hospital, the tick managed to secretly disappear.  Imagine my embarrassment, when as the only one speaking German I had to explain that there actually WAS a reason for us to inspect the institution. The smirks at the nurses faces were not well covered. Still, the Captain was uneasy. It took a phone call to Nadia’s pediatrician in the US  to put away all her worries.

 

 

Munich

Munich, Public Market

On our way from Germany to Austria, we’ve made a few hours stop in Munich. It’s the capital city of the Bavaria region. The city has been grounded by the monks of the Benedictine order. Therefore the monk depicted on the city’s coat of arms. Black and gold are the colors of the Holy Roman Empire and also a symbol of the city since the time of Ludwig the Bavarian (i.e. damn long time ago).

After almost an hour of leaving the highway, we’ve managed to find a free parking spot near old town. What a bargain: only EUR 3.5 (i.e. USD $ 5) per hour! Fortunately, it’s only been few steps from the Viktuelen Markt (sort of Public Market), so we had a chance for a good lunch: kaiser-rolls with pickled Bismark herring and onions, Donner Kebab and Weissen Beer. Well, that’s not exactly a typical Bavarian meal, but I’m sure the local wheat beer counts triple at noon, so we should be OK.

While walking around the city we stumbled upon a film crew several times and I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up as background for some  German television hit series this season. Even though it’s much more probable that we’ll be “photoshop’ed out” before the production hits the screens.

Finally, we only have a few pictures this time. That’s because batteries in my camera hold charge for a very long time, but when they go bad, they really die unexpectedly…

After traveling around Europe for almost two weeks now, I have to admit that I’m sick and tired of old buildings, wonderful cities and everything being two or three times more expensive than in the US. I’m looking forward to the small towns and villages of Upper Austria, where I hope not everything got so commercialized as in the big cities we’ve visited so far.