Attractions near Poznan, like the Sroda Treasure museum and Beekeepers museum were not open the following day so we opted to return to the family village and get better photographs. The pastor was not in the village until supper time so our attempts at church research were postponed. This day the fog had lifted and we were amazed to see a restored palace in the park beyond the church. Yesterday we saw a large building inside an entrance gate along a driveway. We imagined the large building was the remains of a noble’s country home, a dwor. Today we realized that the building was only the carriage house and stable for the palace! The multi-storey palace sat opposite, across the park. It had been shrouded in fog the previous day. Following the fall of communism, an heir of the Bninski family reclaimed the property then willed the estate to the University of Poznan, including the grounds with a lake, extensive fields and landscape acreage, palace structures and the carriage house/stable building. The buildings are now leased for overnight stays and conferences through the university.
We returned to the carriage house to use the restroom before starting on the road this day. Zenon told the office secretary why we were in Gultowy. Suddenly we shared an AHA! moment. When Zenon mentioned the family surname, the receptionist told him that she was a descendant of the same family name. She provided information about a second marriage of a common ancestor, about marriages between our extended family, with names of other relatives who left for America. I recognized two related surnames immediately. Now we will exchange letters and attempt to connect our family lines. This unexpected meeting led to even more information about our now- extended family. I remarked to Zenon that this was a really amazing coincidence! Zenon replied: “There are NO coincidences”. He said that we were meant to find this information for a reason. Thank you, Zenon for your tenacity and courage in breaking through cultural barriers and establishing comfort levels that helped us discover more about our Polish families.
Outside of Gultowy we drove down narrow roads lined with ancient trees, looking for traces of a folwark. Those were 18th-19th century industrial type of farmstead operations with storage buildings for animals, grain, wagons, tools, and with forges for blacksmithing and sometimes had a brewery on site. Suddenly on our right appeared the brick facade of an old barn, very close to the road. Here lay the old folwark of Drzazgowo. This was where some of my relatives worked and paid corvee dues to the noble family who owned that village before emancipation of the serfs. Still standing were brick structures, granaries and storage buildings with one hundred year old architectural frameworks. The farm was still in use and tractors and trucks moved back and forth hauling crops and equipment. We stopped to take photos and pet the horses. No one bothered us, we were free to explore the grounds at will. Breathing the air on the old folwark and closing my eyes to imagine family being here was like a trip back in time.
Onward we drove toward Wroclaw for an overnight stay. At a crossroads in the middle of nowhere stood a HUGE basilica. Of course we had to stop and tour. This was part of a monastery complex with a brick- walled perimeter, gardens, and remaining living quarters for current religious members.
It was time for coffee and a rest stop. We soon saw a gas station near a McDonald’s, recognized by the trademark golden arches. But this was no ordinary McDonald’s. It was a “Mc Cafe“. Along with the regular fast food fare, we could order from a large assortment of fresh, dainty pastries and specialty coffees… and we did. The setting was modern and chic. Roadside food in Poland is excellent and fresh.
Finally we reached Wroclaw. We planned to tour the city but by 5 pm it was already foggy and getting too dark to take photos. Instead, we had dinner at the hotel and walked a block through a cobblestone alley, past a massive, closed church (turned into an architectural museum) to reach a modern shopping mall. We did this without Zenon and felt comfortable exploring the area on our own (I confess to walking down the center of the dimly lit street because there were so many cars parked along one side near the sidewalk. My city survival instincts warned me to be cautious).
At the mall, a group of young boys had just left a gelato shop where a motherly shopkeeper had given them all the broken waffle cones to snack on. The boys milled around us and tried to communicate… telling us in English, “I love you”. I am sure Arif missed his young family about that time… he hadn’t seen his children in three weeks.