It's always good to go back to Poland. Old friends, old granparents, potatoes and vodka.
Last year I traveled to Poland looking for the rest I needed after the weeks of preproduction and the 2 (two) days of actual filming on an impossible schedule for The Game They Play. I didn't get much rest with a wedding, hours on trains, drinking sessions and football matches.
This time I had to find a gap in my always busy calendar to go to Poznan. I'm a very busy man. So many things to do and so little time: the everlasting Seinfeld on the cable, Lost on C4, some random porn never watched before (this last only for research purposes!), football, drinks, food, sleep, eat, and work. Tough life.
Usual wake up at 2am in the morning to catch the bus to Victoria. 10 minutes.
Another bus to the Gatwick Airport. 1 hour.
Wait in the airport with so many zombies around me sleeping and dreaming about their cheap flight to Majorca, 4 hours, a quick poo after the check in, 30mins (I found a copy of the Daily Mirror in the hall and I spent time reading it). I sat with some English guy going for another stag night based on vodka and potatoes and, few hours later, I was in Warsaw.
Warsaw, the capital. Crap place. If you go to Poland, please explore Krakow, the Florence of Poland, of Gdansk, on the sea, or Poznan, or even Katowice, the Polish Slough, but stay away from the capital. The only interesting building, a gift from Stalin, the massive Palace of Culture is still there, but it has been surrounded by so many ugly buildings and skyscrapers that it has lost its stalinowsky appeal. Even the Old City. Rip off.
Another problem of the capital, and as I later realized of Poland, they replaced their great diet of beer & vodka & potatoes & cabbages & meat with kebabs.
People eating kebabs, people buying kebabs, people shitting kebabs. Go back to the zapiekanka! Stop the kebab invasion now! Long live the potatoes!
I met my mum, on a random visit to Poland, and after enjoying a kebab together (hey, you can't really find anything else!), we parted our ways and I jumped on the train to my final destination, the beautiful city of Poznan.
4 hours later I was already walking in the Poznan streets realizing how everything pretty much stayed the same since last year and only the cinema that I loved was now completely gone. Some new hotel, they said.
It was time to see my grandparents again.
When I was a little kid, at the time of the communism and few years later, when Poland changed completely, I really hated my grandma.
She never ever let me stay out after 10pm and she didn't like some of my friends, especially the football maniacs (we used to play every single day) and the girls, who, as she still remembers me, were just looking for a quick way to leave the country and live in Italy, conning me in malicious acts (I was 13, they were maybe 10 or 12. Fat chance.. Back then I had jus realized that my tool had other, interesting, purposes...).
My holidays were great. While every one of my friends in Italy had to stay in the country, moving down South to enjoy 35 degrees and a hot sea with the families or maybe flirting with the school girls left in the small town, I had to travel thousand of kilometers with dad, mum and my sister in some car to Poland.
Traveling back then was completely different: every custom was a battle.
The Austrian and West German borders weren't too difficult, but I still got the creeps remembering the East-West Germany border. 8-10 hours of wait in one, long, infinite line of cars, and then a total perquisition with police and soldiers dressed like they were ready to go to the war. Some again between East Germany and Poland. Hours of waiting. 5, maybe 10. My dad always bought a bottle of vodka to give it to the officer at the custom to allow him brings extra goods from and to Poland.
But I really did enjoy my time there. 2, maybe 3 months every year in Poland. I learnt a language for free (even if my mum always spoke to me in Polish) and I had my special holiday friends. 15 years later, they are ALL still there. Just like in Italy. It seems like I am the only guy who has ever moved away from the place where I was born.
Now I quite like my grandma. I'm always behaving outrageously because I like her old time reaction, but spending time with her it is not so bad. She still doesn't want to know much about what I do outside the house, but I know she has a spy network over the whole city that controls every single step. She always knows where I am and what I do. By grandpa just watches the television and talks about football and the great old times, where sissies weren't allowed to play.
The best part of my conversation with the grandma is when she starts showing me old pictures. She has an incredible collection of pictures from the 10's , the 20's and from my childhood, pictures that I've never seen before or pictures that I have long forgotten. She has an incredible memory, she remembers everything. Just like me, but I tend to store in my mind only stupid facts, gossips and events connected with football, sport, blood, army or sex.
She's my personal memory archive box. Maybe this is way every year I want to come here and talk with her, you'll never know when it going to be the last time.
And so I found some brilliant pictures, like me with my first (and for many years last) football trophy, and my sister's pictures from the time when she was rocking the gymnastique arenas.
I went to bed with a big smile, that night. I woke up cursing, because my head got locked in some weird position and the neck pain that started that morning followed me for the rest of the holiday.