Friday, February 14, 2014

Looking for a Pot... to cook in

Looking for a pot on the trail of the Curzon Line

Bright and early we headed out with what looked like tons of gear, piled on 5 bikes and still we were without a large pot. We had one but it was to be used for coffee or tea over the fire. It was decided that somewhere along the way, we would buy an additional cooking pot. It needed to be large enough to cook spaghetti for five hungry people (four of whom were men).
As I remember, we took the train riding in the bicycle car and the plan was to get out up by Suwalki, this is a small town by the Polish Lithuanian border. Suwalki is a northeastern Polish town and the capital of Suwalki County. This town in Poland is around 30 km from the Lithuanian border in an area known as Suvalkija, sometimes referred to as Sudovia. This region has been in controversy over the true nation that Suvalkja should really belong to since World War II; however, the majority of Suvalkja has remained a part of Poland. If you don't know the history of Poland and its Polish towns is always intriguing and Suwalki is no different.The village was founded by Camaldolese monks who in 1667 were granted the area surrounding the future town by the Grand Duke of Lithuania and theKing of Poland John II Kaszimir. Soon afterward the monastic order built its headquarters inWigry where a monastery and a church were built. The new owners of the area started fast economic exploitation and development of the forests and brought enough settlers to build several new villages in the area. The village was first mentioned in 1688; two years later it was reported to have two houses. In 1688, Suwalki Poland was only a small village that was home on a trade route that connected Godno and Merecz with Koenigsberg. .By 1710, permission from King August II the Strong was given to Suwalki to hold markets and fairs. The small village grew with the population tripling by 1827. Suwalki Poland thrived during the inter-war period due to its position as a town in Poland dependent of commerce and trade. World War II came to the area, and Suwalki was then only a town that was incorporated into East Prussia. In the center of Suwalki, there are two parks and the Arkadia Lake that offers a variety of recreational activities and there are other attractions such as the monument and museum dedicated to Maria Konopnicka, the brewery of Waclaw Kunc, and the St. Alexander’s Church. Many of the cemeteries throughout Poland were desecrated by the Nazi’s, with one being in Suwalki. Today, at the Suwalki Jewish cemetery you will see a memorial at the location of where the cemetery once stood along with a few gravestones and only portions of markers left behind.

I love Poland for its people and natural landscapes and water; lakes are pristine ironically thanks to communism. In this northern region begins my favorite river the Czarna Hancza, cold cold cold. However, after a long train ride in the bicycle car, a dip that river was not what I was thinking of doing first. I was so ecstatic to discover that on the train station a pay as you use hot shower was available. I jumped right in.  Soon enough after my blissful experience at the train station, we were riding the open road and making interviews with locals. Later on, it was time to look for a place to pitch our tent. That night I think it was by one of the shallow sandy bottom lakes, crystal clear with swans swooning across. Dinner was scramble eggs with wild mushrooms done on rotation since we had only the one small pot. Of course, I was unsettled by not having a proper outdoor cooker but the guys did not seem to mind. However, the next morning nobody liked the taste of scrambled eggs in a pot after coffee and especially the way it was made, boiled grounds. So, we were all the more eager to buy a bigger pot.
We went from town to town making our way south. I was getting more and more desperate to find a bigger pot to cook our meals in, the odd thing was that not one store had a larger pot to sell us.  So we rode on and on... as it was on many day rides we stopped to talk to a local man sitting by the road, who was resting a bit since he was just after picking up some mushrooms. He told us that he was a beekeeper, Lithuania by blood, living locally in the area where generations of his family came from. We came to learn that borders did not matter for these people living on this Curzon line. They identified themselves as from here or there and or not over there but from here cause that is how it has always been.
The afternoon came quickly and so we left him continuing on our way hungrily discussing what to eat for dinner and I said "if only pots on trees"... rounding the road not much than a sandy path winding through the forests and meadows when one of us spotted something growing on a tree- it was a large blue pot.

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