Monday, May 30, 2011

5/29 Polish Wedding

 My airplane ticket stub for the first leg of my flight back to Albuquerque, the one from London to Chicago, reads World Traveler below my name. The leg from Warsaw to London just reads Euro Traveler and the leg from Chicago to Albuquerque doesn’t have a description.  The flying time in total should be 13 hours. I slept one hour last night before leaving for my return flight. Last night, it was Maciek’s and Natalia’s wedding in a smaller polish city about an hour from Warsaw. The wedding began very traditionally in a church at 5pm and commenced at 5am this morning. It will continue again today from 3pm-10pm, but I have to leave the country to make it back for an internship that begins tomorrow. In some families and towns, the wedding even lasts 3 days or a week.

The wedding was absolutely impressive and beautiful and I’m so happy I got to experience the first day of it. Maciek and Natalia have been preparing their lines and dance and getting all the many details ready for months. Also, in preparation they both had to go to confession this week. This part of the wedding necessities is especially infuriating to pass through. Often the priest will make you return twice for confession if, like most people, you tell him you have had sex before marriage, which means priests here are still trying to make people think that act is a sin. (often though, they will ask the women that question about virginity and not the man. Grrrh.)

Anyway, after the church part, which I didn’t understand since it was in Polish, we migrated to the reception 15 minutes drive away in a large building with banquet hall and dance floor near a forest and a park. Natalia and Maciek drove there in a vintage white automobile.

We were initiated into the building with a strawberry champagne toast and took our assigned seats at one of the numerous long banquet tables. Natalia, Maciek and close friends and families sat at a head table. My friend since Kindergarten, Jessica, sat beside me. We both became friends with Maciek and Natalia back in Maine where we worked with them cleaning B&B’s. That was a summer job during undergrad for me and the last time I saw Natalia was 4 years ago on a previous eurotrip post a volunteership in England. We picked things back up just as if it had been yesterday though. And it was great to see my friend Jessica, who I do get to see still every time I go home to Maine to visit family. Across from us sat a glamorous international couple: South Africa and Poland, who now work in the banking and film industries in London. Everyone was so beautifully dressed and it was wonderful to see what everyone had on. Natalia’s wedding dress, preordered from France, has to be one of the prettiest ones I have ever seen fit to someone – it had the perfect blend of simplicity and elegance.

The tables were decked with food already: varieties of cake slices, meets, cheeses, fruits, salads on trays. Waiters immediately came around and began filing the bowls of noodles sitting in front of us with broth and then they brought the first course: different kinds of meat in gravy, boiled potatoes, grated beets, grated cabbage/coleslaw, chopped onions and herring, and vanilla/marshmallow tasting pudding with chocolate sauce.

Vodka, 3 diff. kinds of wine, 3 diff. kinds of fruit juice and water grouped together on the tabels about every 5 people. Natalia & Maciek ordered 350 bottles of vodka for the 150 guests for the course of two days. Plus there was an open bar where you could get any drink you desired. Frequently toasts would be called out during the night and people participating would take another shot of vodka. After the first course and toast, we gathered into the dance hall and Maciek and Natalia danced the first dance. All of this to remember and be pressured by on the wedding day in addition to everything else, jeesh! They’d had a choreographer and lessons and the preparation showed in the spins, lifts and beauty of the dance. When they finished, everyone else joined for a while until we sat back down for the 2nd course. The waiters brought French fries, dumplings in butter sauces, varieties of pierroges, steamed vegetables, another beet dish, potato/cheese balls, and borsch (beet soup).

After this second round of eating, we returned to the dance hall for the tie and veil ceremony where Natalia and Maciek tossed these items into the spinning circle of unmarried people. The women and man who caught the tie and veil then had to start of the next dance together. The rounds of dancing and food would continue throughout the night and the live band played until the wee hours of the morning. With all of the food, I don’t even feel like I’ve been drinking, just the general feeling of lack of sleep this morning. (I did take a 1 hour catnap at the wedding by lining up 4 of the white silk chairs, trying to preserve myself for the traveling today).

We returned to the dance floor for Natalia and Maciek to cut the cake together. At least 6 tiered trays of white cake with mandarin oranges lit with firecracker candles rolled into the room. The waiters served us a third meal after this – mainly lighter appetizers and the traditional Polish soup – zurek – a sour rye soup with ham and egg.

In addition to all of this served food, a grand stand of finger foods, 3 diff. kinds of smoked and baked fish, and a fruit and cookie fondue, vanilla custard, chocolate custard, cakes, and mint panacota, cheeses and meets stood at the intersection between dance hall and banquet hall where people could help themselves whenever they pleased. It was absolutely a stunning show of foods and dance and merriment and everyone was linking arms and dancing around the tables and grabbing others to join in the dancing lines. Everyone brought a bottle of wine to give the newlyweds as well – so they will probably have at least 100 bottles to start of their new life together. All of the gifts will be opened by them in private or maybe this 2nd night when I am not there. It was such an honor to be at that wedding and it is an experience I will forever remember!