As we do each autumn, we took a trip to the Polish pottery mecca, the town of Bolesławiec in southwestern Poland. It was a bright, crisp day with blue skies and changing leaves. After packing our pottery purchases safely in the car, we stopped off in Jawor to visit some friends and spend a lovely afternoon in the backyard under the walnut tree – eating karkówka, smoking cigars, and soaking up the sun. It was a great way to spend our Saturday.
I don’t know what it is about that Polish pottery, but we Americans just really like it. I was initially attracted to it most likely because it’s incredibly expensive in the States, and I associated it with some kind of luxury. I know, lame of me.
I had held off on buying any because I planned to return to the US and that stuff is heavy. Additionally, I don’t like things matchy-matchy. I’m kind of a messy with my style. But then I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner hosted by two friends, one American and one British. They were roommates and shared a love of Bolesławiec pottery, but different patterns. Due to the number of guests, they had to mix up their sets, and it was lovely. After that I bought my first pieces and have continued to buy more and more each year.
Noticing that we were down to just one mug that wasn’t chipped and that we’ve recently broken a couple of bowls, we thought it was time to go for our trip – let’s say to replenish. As we pulled into the parking lot of our favorite shop, we were pleased to see that there were just two other cars there. Sweet shopping in peace – not like one time when a bus full of Americans from Germany converged on a bus of shop owners from Ukraine. It was chaos.
A bus pulls in.
Hundreds of people pour out. (OK, it sounded like hundreds)
We are surrounded by mom jeans, sensible shoes and “Oh my gaaawd. Isn’t this place so cuuute?!”
It’s as if a bus with my mom and all her friends have invaded the store.
If you are American and you have arrived here by Googling “Polish pottery”, you must know that I speak with the utmost affection for my fellow Americans who get their pottery fix here in Poland…and that I am so jealous the ladies from the military can ship the stuff home free (that’s what one lady from the group said).
I understand that these ladies (well, predominantly ladies) have been cooped up in a bus together for who knows how long. They are happy to get out and stretch their legs. They’ve got a bit of party bus atmosphere going on which is great. They take over the shop, talk, shout, compare sets, select what they want, pay for it, and get out of there. I have always wondered where they go after that, if they visit someplace else or if they are just coming back from some other trip destination.
Maybe I should ask them, but it’s kind of nosey, isn’t it? Anyhow, they share a lot of information amongst themselves so sometimes you don’t have to ask.
You know when you don’t understand a foreign language people are speaking and you think everybody is arguing or talking about you? I used to have that feeling in Poland, but it usually turned out to be my sister-in-law telling a story (she’s very expressive) or a group of German tourists who are a bit louder than the average group of Poles on the street. Well, American ladies, I understand what you are saying and I have to tell you that you are pretty loud there in those pottery shops. I know, I know, you’re excited to get off the bus and get your pottery on, but for the other shoppers you are really, really loud…but polite. You don’t push. You say excuse me. But you do shout at each from across the shop which is unusual for the other shoppers, and you often sit down on the floor to examine the selection on lower shelves which is so strange for the other shoppers that they comment on it. I wouldn’t even comment on it here except that every time I have been there, an American customer has plopped down on the floor to sort out his/her patterns and the other shoppers have commented on it. Because for them (I guess now I can say us) it is very unusual. Polish shoppers don’t do that and I haven’t noticed that German shoppers do it either. Plus, right before entering the store, I have lectured my kids on proper pottery store behavior, and it is pretty hard to explain to them why they can’t shout or sit on the floor if they other shoppers can do it.
So here I am torn. It’s like when you hate on your siblings, but look out when the neighbor kids start talking shite about your little brother. I guess it is like that. I just want you to know that it’s cool that you visit Poland and that you spread your pottery passion, but you should know that your behavior is unusual for others and they sometimes comment it. I’m not asking you to change. I’m just letting you know.
Anyhow, I overheard the best conversation. Maybe I don’t need to use the word overhear if the people were shouting –just hear. OK, I heard the best conversation. It was like listening to my mom and her best friend.
Joanne: Carol, Carol, Carol (clapping of hands to get Carol’s attention), Carol! I am talking to you!
Carol (pronounced here as Care – All) is way across the store and finally hears Joanne. Carol joins Joanne on the other side of the store.
Carol: Joanne, look at this pattern. Isn’t that just precious? It looks just like that one from the other place we were the last time we were here.
Joanne: Do you know if they have wi-fi here? They had wi-fi at the other place, but I do not know if they have wi-fi here.
Carol: Heavens, I do not know. Why do you need wi-fi?
Joanne: Well, I want to use my iPad. I wanted to take some pictures of these here dishes.
Carol: You do not need wi-fi to use your iPad to take pictures.
Joanne: Well, I did not realize that. Thank you very much for telling me that. I did not realize that. My, my.
It just made my day. Carol and Joanne, I am sending you a heartfelt “cheers” from my morning tea in my new Bolesławiec mug. To you!