My time in Poland lost that traveling feeling years ago when it became an obligation rather than an adventure. Radek’s mother does not live in an inspiring or scenic place. The German border was demilitarized years ago leaving tracts of ugly military housing throughout the town. A tent city of kiosks selling cigarettes and manicures give the impression of impermanence along the main square. The church was once beautiful, but the roof was never replaced after it was bombed in the war, so it stands hollow, slowly reclaimed by nature. There are signs of improvement in the island peace park between the two countries, but even that new investment serves to highlight the ruins of an old theater. No young person with other options stays here. Even Radek’s mother’s life here is a relic; it was a doomed marriage that lured her here years ago.
You cannot come to this town and expect wonder to wash over you at random. But you can work at it. And it can be found in strange forms and places.
Within a short drive you can find one of the Europe’s last chain-pulled car ferries (not for the short on time), a lavish pink Renaissance castle decked out for Christmas, a museum of optical illusions, a spa with four types of healing waters on tap and a whole lot of granny attitude, and last (and probably least) a town famous for its preponderance of osprey nests. See, something for everyone.
And closer to home, at the end of a village road the cobblestone pavement gives way to a dirt path. Soon the path is swallowed by a deep wood, spongy with moss. I feel a shudder go down my spine and think, perhaps I should not have binged Dark on Netflix. But at least my imagination, my sense of wonder, and my sense of travel is working again.