• Stolat! Cheers to Poland!

    Warsaw, Poland…today is my last day in my ancestral homeland of Poland. It’s been an amazing 12 days that totally flew by. If I eat one more pierogi or splurge on another carb, I may explode!

    This country provided everything I hoped it would…it put into focus so much for me! My sister and myself were able to bond over our shared nostalgic memories of my late grandmother, we had several “A-HA” moments about my father, and we finally were able to put a visual to the many stories heard over and over again!

    Warsaw is a city of resilience…a city whose beauty was totally destroyed yet rebuilt, a city haunted by a completely leveled ghetto that it continues to honor, and a city that freed itself from the tyrannic grip of Communism and is rising to new heights! It is inspiring to see all the monuments erected throughout Warsaw that celebrate and memorialize all the struggles this city has undertaken.

    I think this has become a re-occurring message that my visit to Poland is screaming out at me! I leave here feeling energized with an “you can -overcome anything” attitude and a new sense of pride in my own heritage…

    This visit to Poland will hold a special place in my heart! Wandering the Globe has opened my eyes to so much, but this may be the widest my eyes have been opened by a trip. Now I need to process these learnings in order to achieve more greatness in my life and be that much better of a person!





  • A Bit of Deco!

    Warsaw, Poland…I am enjoying my stay in this city and a large part is due to the little gem of a hotel I discovered. I am staying at Rialto Boutique City Center in Warsaw. It is located in a central location yet set back from the bustling city streets in a quiet residential neighborhood.

    It’s a fully restored Art Deco masterpiece! Amazing woodwork, period built ins, and lots of chrome! Everywhere you look you see an amazing historic touch. Even the light switches are period black turn knob style and thermostats look like chrome clocks. I always prefer boutique hotels over large chain hotels that lack uniqueness and charm; the sense of history married to modernity is terrific! It’s a total high to discover these kinds of undiscovered gems. Plus, this 5 star stunner was under 60 US dollars a night! What a steal!

    The sun is out, the city is at my feet, and I am living in a utterly memorable place! Life is good!







  • Back to the City!

    Warsaw, Poland…after another long bus ride, we made it to Poland’s largest city. A totally different vibe from anywhere else we have been in Poland; a bustling big city with traffic, high rise buildings, and a faster pace!

    Most of Warsaw was destroyed during WW II, so there is a lot of bland grey communist era architecture. But today, rising above it all is a lot of construction of new modern towers giving the city a sense of modernity.

    I notice the people I pass on the streets seem hipper, younger, more current, and definitely good looking; tall, thin, with terrific facial bone structure and crystal blue green eyes, many have fashion model looks! Obviously, Poles come to city of Warsaw for the opportunity to live their dreams apart from the vast farmlands of rural Poland.

    Old town Warsaw has been restored to its former glory. Beautiful Castle Square and bustling Old Town Square have a pristine look. As like all other squares, they are lined with street performers and outdoor cafes.

    From countryside to urban landscape, Poland spans a spectrum of lifestyles…it is nice to be able to take in all of Poland’s settings!






  • Family Riches!

    Tomaszow Lubelski, Poland…a day of visiting distant relatives throughout this picturesque farming area of Poland broadened my eyes to what a large presence my family has in this region. Everyone was excited to meet my sister and I and each home greeted us with a spread of delicious yet rich Polish cooking! Of course, we had to be polite and eat each yummy meal, yet the result of eating so many extravagant meals in one day left us feeling beyond stuffed!

    It’s a world of difference between where I grew up in Chicago and this simple farmland, yet I can see common family traits, mannerisms, and features that connect us. There is a love of art and of craft that I share with several cousins. One cousin in particular hand crafts beautiful embroideries that she so proudly displayed to us!
    Her intricate designs result in lace like fabric that is stunning, yet a bit old fashioned…I mention how I could modernize it by framing it in a slick contemporary way. She was thrilled and gave me one of her pieces with the promise that I would send her a photo of what I create from it.

    Now as I reflect, I am overwhelmed by 3 whirlwind days of meeting so many people, being bombarded with a lot of complicated family ties, and trying to absorb who is who and from where. My sister and I are confusing one another as we try to compile it all into something we can remember. Scribbling charts and connecting names so we can make sense of our visit here!

    Our history is important and connecting to it has been truly special for me. I am so thankful that I finally made this trip; after years of exploring the world’s riches, I am I finally connected with my own! I will leave here feeling just a bit more complete.




  • A Hidden Jewel!

    Zamosc, Poland…the old town’s center piece is the Great Market Square. The town has been called The Pearl of the Renaissance and has been compared to Sienna, Italy or referred to as the Padua of the North.

    The colorful Armenian houses line the square and the impressive town hall is a magnificent centerpiece. It is a grand place in a simple location that you would never expect to find such grandeur. Plus, it all seems still undiscovered by tourists and you can stroll without the crush of visitors like in Krakow.

    An official UNESCO heritage sight, work is being done to restore much of old town to it’s former glory.

    Zamosc is that one of a kind place located off the beaten track…but finding that hidden jewel is always a great thing when traveling!






  • Back to the Family Farm!

    Kolonia Rogozno, Poland…my cousin escorted us to my father’s village to meet one of the few living relatives of his generation! She still lives on the same farm down the road from where my father did almost 70 years ago. Obviously it’s not the same place my father may remember…time changes everything, but his land remains untouched, an Aunt’s land was donated to the church and is now a simple chapel, an Uncle’s plot has been sold to another family, and so on…but this last survivor we met today still lives in the same spot!

    It was like being connected back to another time…this simple woman spent her whole life here; she could still recall the 1930’s and 40’s like they were yesterday… We spent time talking about how she played with my father as a child, we tried to understand how we were cousins, and she lit up when we showed her pictures of people from Chicago that she has not seen since 1944!

    I channeled those so many vintage memories I have heard so much of and wanted to understand life on the farm first hand..I fed the pigs (I of course stepped in slop) and I walked and gave water to the cow!l

    As if that wasn’t enough, we went to the old church that my entire family once travelled miles to attend. My grandparents were wed there, my father baptized there, and my extended family spent holidays there! A stunning brown wood structure with metallic steeples and a humble yet beautiful interior!

    How fulfilling to be able to witness all this, it sheds so much light on so many things…especially whom my father is because I can for the first time see where he came from, what shaped him, and how he began his life!

    This voyage only keeps topping itself with amazing discovery after discovery!







  • The Family Tree!

    Zamosc, Poland…early riser today in order to get the bus from Krakow to Zamosc. A six hour journey on a mini bus is not a fun way to start the day, but I made the best of it with an IPad full of videos!

    Zamosc is the gateway to my father’s childhood home of Kolonia Rogozno. My father fled from here in WW II and has never been back! I was anxious to see it. Even though my cousin lives here and will show us around this weekend, I couldn’t wait…I was so close, I needed to get a glimpse! So I hired a taxi and my sister and I headed out to explore…this is a remote farming area of Poland and English is scarce, so my sister was going to have to rise to the occasion and channel her best childhood spoken Polish! She shined! When forced she was rolling that Polish vocabulary as if she never stopped speaking it. The taxi driver was impressed as I sat there like a big dummy not understanding a word!

    After a few wrong turns we found the tiny hamlet of Kol. Rogozno within the larger area of Tomaszow Lubelski. Looking around at farm animals and old barns, it really seemed as if time stood still…our driver became as excited and motivated as we were to find a relative or someone who knew my family. He pulled over to ask a simple gentleman if he knew anyone with my grandfather’s last name…next thing we know, this man is in the car with us directing our driver to some distant cousin’s house. We go from house to house unannounced gathering clues until we found my grandfather’s goddaughter who is now 86! Jackpot!

    This woman starts crying, I start crying, and she starts telling us stories of my grandfather, his farm, and the farms of all my Great Aunts and Uncles on the block! This is unbelievable that we can plop down in this tiny place as strangers and barge in on people’s homes and suddenly connect to my entire ancestry…

    I am totally shocked and I am pinching myself at today’s events…but it was the most exhilarating moment of this trip! Tomorrow we go digging further into my family history…






  • Ski Patrol!

    Zakopane, Poland…another day, another bus trip! Luckily, the weather has improved and the sun is out…so in order to take advantage of it we headed to Poland’s famous mountain resort of Zakopane. Known for its winter sports, it is a little over 2 hour ride from Krakow navigating past cows, sheep, and roosters before arriving at the busy village. It’s August which means the height of European vacation time and this getaway for Poles is brimming with holidaying residents from Krakow and Warsaw.

    Very scenic, the village is packed with shops and peddlers pushing the local speciality of grilled heavily smoked cheese served with cranberry compote. Not my cup of tea, but very popular! As I strolled past the various offerings, I loved the chunky Nordic sweaters and accessories handknit by Polish grandmas…One of these grandmas didn’t look too pleased with my picture taking.

    To get a birds eye view, a funicular, toboggan, or ski lift is available to get visitors up the mountainside. The sight from the top is gorgeous; rolling hills and valleys between mountain vistas dotted with chalet style houses. It must be breath taking in the winter when it’s all pristine white with snow!

    Multiple manners of transport were used today: car, bus, funicular, ski lift, horse and carriage, and a lot of walking! The ski lift proved to be the most visually stimulating and the horse and carriage driver’s Polish mountain man costume was the most entertaining.

    It is a lovely spot, but a bit over-run with commercialism…kids rides, bad souvenirs, bungee jumps, on and on! If you are looking for an unspoiled spot in the mountains, you will need to go further away from Zakopane to find it.

    I really did feel like a local today as you would have been hard pressed to find anyone other than Poles around, but that made the experience all that more fun for me..an authentic Polish outing!