We take a break from India this week for guest blogger Dan Keel’s account of a family shopping trip for Polish pottery. The rustic and colorful pottery has been growing in popularity (and price), particularly among American families living in Germany. Poland makes a popular weekend destination from Germany, both with and without pottery plunder.
We made it safe and sound to Poland over the last weekend to do a little pottery shopping and sightseeing around the vicinity of Boleslawiec, Poland. (see http://www.um.boleslawiec.pl/for/index.php?LANG=EN ). This was our first trip to Poland and pretty much a “recon” for future shopping trips. My wife did pick up a few pieces of pottery, but more than anything now knows the right questions to ask, and what to research before the next trip.
Bolesławiec is famous for its ceramics due to rich deposits of stoneware clay occurring in the river basin of the Bóbr and Kwisa. The town gained the rank of an important pottery center in the 17th century. Presently, the characteristic of Bolesławiec bowls, pitchers and plates are decorations made with a stamping method, and they are exported to many countries. The pottery being shopped for and purchased at the source was not as cheap as I thought it was going to be, albeit better slection. Plates could be purchased on average for 10 dollars and large coffee mugs for around 7 dollars each. These are not expensive when considering they are hand painted and have a hardy feel to each item. The internet is your friend for selecting stores according to your tastes and preferences and for getting addresses for your GPS.
Driving to and from Poland
Driving on the autobahn in our big Chevy van is about as relaxing as driving on I285 in Atlanta during rush hour. But going with the flow of traffic towards Dresden, Germany, presented little issues. One note, a person might think there would not be a lot of traffic on an autobahn at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning or late on a Sunday night, but that person would be wrong. That being said, the daylight part of the drive was very scenic. But one should bring change/coins if you have children that require frequent bathroom breaks. Pre-loading addresses in our GPS made the trip a lot easier; ensure your GPS has a Polish maps in it. One note on GPSs is some of the addresses we received from outlying stores were coordinates and not street addresses. Some GPS systems do not support grid coordinates.
No ESSO stations in Poland, but filling up in a Dresden ESSO station right off the autobahn which is also open on Sundays allowed us to spend the rest of Saturday and Sunday driving around in Poland and still make it back to Dresden with a quarter tank of fuel on the return trip. This ESSO has a bathroom that does not charge. The truck-stop-like places do charge, but the bathrooms were very clean.
Crossing into Poland
Crossing into Poland was uneventful with no border crossing inspections conducted. Polish law requires a vehicle fire extinguisher, tourist passports, international driver’s license, and emergency warning triangle and vest. My wife went by ADAC to see if a road tax vignette was required for Poland (the vignette is a form of tax on vehicles). Vignettes are required in Austria, Czech Republic, Montenegro, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland, but not required Poland for vehicles under 3.5 tons.
Polish Driving Conditions
The main roads to Bolesalwiec were pretty decent. On the way to the Elim Mission 22 km outside of Bolesalwiec on secondary roads, the roads were a little more bumpy at times and narrower than our experiences with German country roads. On my next trip, I will review the traffic light turn signals which are slightly different in regards to turning right and left off a main road. But generally found driving around in Poland to be issue free and similar to driving in Germany.
The following link is to the website for the Elim Mission where we spent the night, and shows a picture of the 450-year-old building that once was a Palace. http://www.elimcenter.pl/accom/page01.html
The website also has photos of the Nativity sets that are produced there and sold at the Christmas Bazaar at Ramstein and Heidelberg to support the Mission and local families who work on them. We drove our van through the opening in the front of the building to park in their courtyard. The people at the mission stated they had never had any problems with vehicle security. This is a wonderful thing to hear when you are in Poland. I have heard of stories of Americans coming up to an empty parking space where they last parked their vehicle.
We went with another family with their four kids to add to our five kids. The Elim Mission put us up in two bunk rooms (8 beds each) and one very nice bedroom. They offered us another bedroom if we wanted. But the kids were enjoying each other’s company. It was kind of fun camping indoors with them. The girls went in the upstairs bunkroom and the boys with my wife, and I slept in the downstairs bunk room. Our friends had an old fashioned bedroom with a traditional bed and some plush chairs which was also shared with their younger boy who became sick. We were provided a set of linens for each bed (by no means new looking, but were clean). We brought two duffel bags of sleeping bags and pillows to help keep the expenses of the mission down and declined their linens. We found the contact information and emailed them to ensure they could put us up for the night. They even asked us to bring a couple items from Germany if we had room.
The mission lodging cost is by donation only, but has a recommended rate of approximately 7-8 euros per person and a little less for kids under thirteen. We doubled that amount and still paid less than staying at other recommended hotels in the area like the Blue Beet Root,which is used to hosting Americans. Even traveling without the kids, I think I would prefer the mission for lodging. The Elim Mission has nice people, sitting rooms, and beautiful grounds. The bathrooms were a little different than what Americans are used to. They are not located in your bedroom. You walk into the bathroom and find common sinks, but it does have individual little closet-size rooms with locking doors for the toilet and shower for privacy. Had plenty of hot water. Also to note, the building might be described as a little cool to some, but pretty close to the temp we keep our house (with heating oil being expensive and fleece “pullovers” being cheap). It is not very often one spends the night in a 450-year-old building.
Beware: On the grounds of the Elim Mission, my five-year-old learned that not all animals are as nice as they are in children’s books. Great care should be taken when reaching up to pet a donkey. They are called an “ass” for good reason. The donkey clamped down on his hand and would not let go until his older sister smacked it on the head a couple of times. I believe my son’s feelings were hurt more than his hand, with no skin being broken.
Food is cheaper in Poland and even the popular restaurants are easy on your wallet for those used to eating out in Germany. It initially does not appear to be so until you remember the prices are in zlotys and not euros. Our debit cards did work in the Polish ATM in the grocery store.
The people seem happy to see tourists, especially those who clean the windshields. I can say I had the cleanest windshields in Poland after several cleanings. If waiting for your wife to come out of a store, have some zloty notes ready or immediately start cleaning your own windshields to ward off those who approach to clean. One method would be to sit outside away from your car and make a run for it before they can approach.
All-in-all, a good weekend adventure!