Wroclaw Poland was our next adventure. So far our experiences in Southern Poland had been pretty rural. We were staying in an adorable little cottage in the woods, and we had been hiking in the forest with varying success. We'd found an ancient crumbling castle and had been hit with pottery fever in the town of Boleslawiec. But we were ready for something new, we were ready to hit the big city!
The nearest meetinghouse for our church was over two hours away in the city of Wroclaw, so we decided to head there on a Sunday and make a day of it. As always, the day contained unexpected frustrations and joys, and surprisingly, was filled with bubbles and dwarfs.
We were running late. And this time I do not have cool photos of free running horses taking up the road space to account for the lateness, it was just us. We actually might have made it on time but the parking was a bit of a nightmare and by the time we'd ran down the street and ushered our sweaty and frazzled selves into the meetinghouse, we were 5 minutes late. No big deal usually, but it meant that we didn't have time to organise any translation for the hour long meeting. We were then treated to an hour of undecipherable Polish after having traveled for two and a half hours. Yeah...the kids were not impressed.
After the first meeting was over, we talked with a lovely couple who spoke some English. The husband had spent some time in Siberia and it was fascinating to hear his stories about the culture and the cold. Note* if you ever go to Siberia, make sure it's in Summer!!
After church we'd planned to explore the town square. If we were like any other normal traveling family, that would have been the process of things - Church (probably on time), and then all people walking happily, smiling and enjoying the town square together. Is that a normal traveling family? It is in my imagination. That's probably what gets me into trouble. I imagine how things 'should' or 'could' be and I get all worked up about it.
Well, the kids were being really loud and honestly, a bit crazy. Probably they were just stir crazy from having to be still for so long. In hindsight I am very understanding about these things. But in the moment, I was embarrassed that my kids were being so loud and disrespectful while we were trying to talk to the nice people we'd met. They'd run around and fought and made a nuisance of themselves. We walked out, sat them down on a corner of the city somewhere and I'd lectured them loudly (not my finest moment).
I remember being so wound up and disappointed with the way things were going. I was frazzled from the monumental effort of trying to get 7 people out the door looking neat and clean and ready for church. I'd had to breast-feed the baby, and do the girls hair, and think about what we'd pack for lunch. It was all a bit mad and definitely not a good way to experience a country. Or life. But then, we're human and that's just how things are sometimes. Frazzled, mad and imperfect.
Eventually we realised that the only way to improve the situation was to try and enjoy what remained of the day. Ross and I had to let go of expectations and take our family as it was. Travel didn't magically turn us into the families of my imagination. You know, punctual, patient and sanguine. In fact, often our imperfections were amplified under stressful conditions. Sometimes it was difficult to face.
But face it we did. I wiped my tears and prayed for serentity. We turned around and headed towards the Wroclaw Market Square, the whole loud, large gaggle of Gilberts.
Before we even made it to the square, we started seeing them. The dwarfs. Tiny little bronze statues of dwarfs are scattered throughout the city of Wroclaw!
Each one represents a part of the city's daily life or history. The first one - 'Papa Dwarf', was placed on a main city street in 2001. It represented the Orange Alternative - an underground anti-communist movement that claimed the dwarf as it's symbol. The movement used to meet in the Eighties to protest against the authoritarianism of Poland’s Soviet masters. By adopting the imagery of a dwarf, the group was able to bring a lightness and hope to it's non-violent protests. Since Papa Dwarf, there are well over 300 statues around the city.
We needed a bit of lightness and hope to our family situation, and the dwarfs provided. It was so fun to find them in unexpected places, like a fantastical story treasure hunt.
We continued on to the Town Square. By this point on our journey we had seen many historical town squares. We'd been in Europe long enough to learn that if you get lost, just head to the town square and figure things out from there. But when we were planning our visit to Wroclaw, we had been told that the Market Square in Wroclaw was special and that there was always something fun going on. It did not disappoint.
The architecture is simply stunning. The square dates back to Medieval times but was rebuilt after WWII. It is one of the largest market squares in Europe!
First we found some amazing market stalls with hand-carved treasures for sale.
Then we found some street entertainers.
And then came the bubbles. Giant iridescent bubbles freely floating around a colourful medieval town square. I was beginning to remember why we were traveling. Why we would face all of our imperfections head on and try to live such a different life. Because sometimes, it is magic.
As we settled into a little picnic spot in the town square and watched around us, it was like we had stepped back in time.
And I also remembered how much I loved my little imperfect family, each of them. Even though they drove me nuts, and I was often frazzled and stressed, I wouldn't have wanted to be there without them. They were a part of the magic. They made the magic.
After a very long time of joyful slipping and sliding in bubble mixture, we walked around the market square to see what other treasures were to be discovered. Unfortunately there was a fountain.
No joke, my kids cannot help themselves. An inevitable compulsion overpowers them whenever they are within reach of water. Anywhere. It's usually fine if it's a stream or lake, or any other appropriate swimming venue. But town fountains in medieval European market squares were a challenge.
The kids trick me, you see. At first they look like they are just admiring the water, and I am lulled into a false sense of security. I think - 'oh good, they are socially savvy enough to realise that leaping into this public fountain would be culturally inappropriate.' And then, splash! One second later they are attempting to commune with the water spirits.
We quickly moved on around the corner. There were such gorgeous colourful buildings, and right in front of them, to my horror, was a dominant, inviting, glass water fountain.
I was concerned.
We didn't tarry.
We attempted to take a family photo. The end result was...er....Levi is missing, one child is refusing to turn around, there's a random dude in the background, and one child is licking the ground. Yep.
Dwarfs and bubbles, that's what I remember most about that day. It was full of other things too, those pesky imperfections that are a part of life. It was a beautiful, magical imperfect day in Wroclaw Poland. I loved it.