Shifting Terms

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Bielsko-Biała: Sunday 02 July 2017

Today has been about waking up in a bed, following the humbling, overwhelming hospitality of our overnight hosts, Andrzej and Teresa. Their lovely home, situated in what could almost be a village on the outskirts of Bielsko-Biała, with a view of the surrounding mountains, awaited, along with a super warm welcome, a beer and a feast of food; followed by an evening of easy banter and a chilled bottle of vodka.

After a quick shower, we snuggled into the bed and hazily connected our devices to the Internet. So lovely to see the messages of support from our friends and acquaintances: really nice. Thank you one and all.

We awoke some time before 10am – such a nice sleep; and such lovely smells ascending from the kitchen. Smells like Teresa and Andrzej have had a fantastic breakfast. But no, they haven’t. Not yet. They’re waiting for us, with another feast fit for a championship start the day. Again, lovely food and easy banter go down great: thank you so much to you both, and to your daughter, Asia. Wonderful people.

Which makes us think of the owner of the land where we pitched our tent the previous night. Again, wonderful, but consumed by first night, first morning thoughts, we neglected to get a photo with him. But thank you, anyway, Jacek – we won’t forget you (for all the right reasons).

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With a rest day – so soon? – we leave our bikes for one day to check out the city of Bielsko-Biała, taking the second part of its hyphenated name from the river on which it sits. It’s a damp, drizzly, overcast day, and we’re tired, though buzzing through a blend of strange adrenalins based on excitement, wonder, joy and mystery, and maybe fear with a touch of panic, too.

We discover quite a small old town swallowed by various versions of modernity, and, as you make your way towards the centre, it takes its time to work its magic on you. Approaching the heart, you seem to rewind through various epochs until mid-twentieth century socialist realism shifts into a maze of winding, cobbled, medievality.

It’s like a work-in-progress that hasn’t decided what it wants to be yet. But its clashes of derelict and renovated, old and restored, new and nature, do inspire a range of thoughts and emotions, and feelings and ideas. Yes, an inspiring mixture makes for an inspiring place.

The cacophony of times in these human artefacts actually heightens your sense of time here, and the fact that you’re constantly aware of your situation in relation to the mountains means there’s also a very real sense of place, which is somehow, for want of a better word, humbling.

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I like it here.

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And now: sugar.

A wonderful ‘szarlotka’. Boy! does Poland know how to do apple-crumble – a long time favourite of mine 😊 I can understand how I made this place my home for so many years.

Epilogue

Every day is a new experience. There is nothing predictable except our most immediate concerns. That’s how we wanted it and how we are liking it. Lovely.

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