Vrots-wav and Confusing Polish Spellings

Trip Start Jun 08, 2008
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Trip End Jul 09, 2008


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Flag of Poland  , Western Poland,
Monday, June 16, 2008

Another family member I visited while staying in Poland was my father's sister, Ciocia Yanka.  She and her daughter, Anita, live in Wroclaw, perhaps the most oddly spelled name for a city ever.  If one was to pronounce the word Wroclaw as it looks in English you would end up with a mouthful of w and r sounds; in essence you look and sound like a retarded person when saying it phonetically.  However in the Polish language the city is pronounced Vrots-wav, a much more pleasing sound to the ears than the tongue twisting other version. 
 
Why the Polish language decides to make w's sound like v's and l's sound like w's is beyond me.  This is a big reason why I like the Ukrainian Cyrillic alphabet; what you see is what you get and there are no tricky or silent letters.   But despite its seemingly inane manner of pronunciation, the Polish alphabet is kind of fun to use and makes sense in its own right once you get the hang of the letters.  It also gave my cousins lots of laughs when I tried to pronounce certain roads, apparently they sound funnier coming from my mouth.
 
Like much of Poland, Wroclaw was also occupied by Germany for some time.  To Germans the city is known as Breslau and up until the end of WWII in 1945 was known as Breslau to English speakers as well.  But unlike most Polish cities who scorn their old German names, Wroclaw seems to embrace its name's German counterpart.  In every souvenir shop I walked into there are dozens upon dozens of touristy items sporting the name Breslau rather than Wroclaw.  It seemed odd to me and apparently also perplexed my own family members, because they were not able to explain why the name Breslau is so popular with the Wroclaw citizens.
 
The ride to Wroclaw from Stany was much like the ride form Szczechin to Stany, narrow one lane roads being used by two to three lanes of traffic with each driver being too stubborn to ease off the gas pedal.  We arrived at Ciocia Yanka's house later than hoped due to several bathroom-related delays, which is to be expected when toddlers are involved.  When we finally made it to her home I was starving, which was a good thing because she is an incredible cook.  Spread on the table were pork chops, mushroom stuffed pork, roasted whole chicken, chicken cutlets, rice, mashed potatoes, cucumber salad, and regular salad; all home made and all absolutely delicious.  Despite the deliciousness of the food, there is an innate problem one will encounter when being a guest in an Eastern European or Slavic person's home.  They will feed you and feed you until you feel like you will burst, and then they will feed you again.  They try extremely hard to be a good host, and in Eastern European eyes presenting a guest with unlimited food is the way to be that sought after good host even if they may be bankrupting themselves doing so.
 
After nearly exploding from a meat overload, we said our goodbyes before heading out to Wroclaw's Rynek to meet our cousin Anita.  She was running a bit late after taking her final for Vetinerary School so my cousins and I took the time to explore the central square of Wroclaw.  The Rynek is one of the biggest town squares in all of Europe, and the town hall in the center of it is quite impressive.  The town hall is one of the few buildings in Wroclaw to survive the bombings of WWII, and towers above everything else in the Rynek. 
 
Wroclaw was also the first time in Europe that I had encountered a gypsy.  I was strolling along through the Rynek when a woman nearly ran into me and started to speak to me in Polish, I only assume she was trying to sell me something in her bag.  I try to tell her that I am no interested, but then suddenly another one comes up from behind me and starts talking to me as well.  I was being double teamed by the gypsies, and had to literally keep their hands out of my pockets.  Damn gypsies.
 
There were also many posters around the Rynek advertising an event called "Rock for Freedom," it seems that this event was to promote democracy in Belarus (a.k.a. removing the crazy man called Lukashenko from the presidency) as well as freedom for Tibet... a two for one job.  But the most interesting part was that the band The Ukrainians were going to play it, they are one of my favorite Ukrainian bands and it is a shame the concert wasn't going to be held until after I left Poland.  This upcoming concert along with the general vibe in the city made it seem that Wroclaw is a much more liberal and cosmopolitan city than others in Poland, something that might be due to the heavy student population in the city.
 
Anita eventually showed up and we all went to a quaint little café to have some coffee, since it was a chilly overcast day.  We talked about school, life, etc. for a while before she had to go back home to study for her next final.  We then departed back to Stany, hopefully in time to watch the Poland-Croatia soccer match.  Even though Tomek tried his hardest to make it back home in time for the match, we arrived around the time of the final whistle.  Poland ended up losing the must win match, and it seemed that everyone in Poland went to sleep a little bit sad that night.
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