Members of four Surrey U3As visited central Poland as guests of a local branch. Phyllis Hughes reports from Poznan
Photos by Phyllis Hughes
We had been warned that the place we were staying would probably be a two-star hotel, so we were stunned when we turned into the drive of an elegant 19th–century country house hotel sumptuously furnished with bric-a-brac which included a stuffed boar’s head.
This was one of many surprises on a five-day U3A exchange trip to Poznan in Poland. Another was eating dinner at 5pm and then being served another meal at 10pm by our host families.
Poznan itself was destroyed during the Second World War but the town was rebuilt exactly with its medieval town square and beautiful cathedral. Designer stores in smart shopping malls now rub shoulders with lakeside parks featuring dry ski slopes and water theme parks. Not what we expected in a country that was under Soviet rule until 1990.
Our Polish hosts took nine English visitors to Ostrow Lednicki, a site dating from 966AD where the first Christian ruler of Poland was baptised. We saw the cathedral at Gniezo with its famous 12th–century bronze doors and marvelled at a two-kilometre long carpet of flowers in the village of Spycimierz created for the celebration of Corpus Christi.
We visited the ornately decorated St Nicholas Cathedral in Kalisz, where there is a memorial to the 1,800 Polish priests who died in Dachau concentration camp in the Second World War.
From there we travelled to Goluchow, a fairytale castle built like a French château and set in a vast park where European bison and wild boar still roam.
Finally we saw the palace at Rogalin, which was owned by a former president of the Polish Republic, Count Edward Raczynski, who left the estate to the Polish people.
In the grounds of the palace stand three ancient oak trees which, according to legend, are three brothers, Rus, Czech and Lech. Each brother left home to make their fortune. Rus went east and founded Russia, Czech went south to create the Czech Republic and Lech stayed put to set up Poland.
Any language difficulties with our hosts were reduced dramatically with each glass of vodka, much of which had been home brewed. By the third glass we understood each other perfectly.
The exchange was organised through the Surrey network with members from Dorking, Ashtead, Bookham and Farnham U3As taking part.