There were so many things to see and do today that I did not have time to write much. The first big attraction came in the form of a small church in the countryside. I have traveled around quite a bit, but I don't remember ever seeing an Orthodox church before, or an Orthodox cemetery. The east and northeasts parts of Poland have lots of them and we happened to find the cutest one this morning. The old blue structure with its wooden shutters and signature onion-top bell tower was pretty cool. But what we found really interesting, is that even the graves are Orthodox because they have the "crossed" cross symbol on them instead of the standard Christian one. It makes you wonder who is orthodox and who is unorthodox!
The city had the large churches and pedestrian shopping area that would go along with its stature as a regional center. There was even a cute yellow palace that has been converted to a medical academy or something. We decided to take advantage of the cosmopolitan atmosphere by looking for some interesting food. We walked a long way over toward a warehouse district type of area to go to this hip "eco bar" restaurant only to find it closed today. Luckily, there was another recommended restaurant next door.
The rest of the morning was pretty smooth, if a little cold. Before noon, we pulled into Bialystock a huge city of almost half a million inhabitants. The most famous person to inhabit this place (past tense) was the founder of Esperanto, one of my favorite topics back in college. I can see why a guy living around here a hundred years ago would think that the multiple languages is a bit of a pain. Unfortunately, the idea never caught on much, but the city put up a statue to honor one of their greatest citizens, L.L. Zamenhof.
The Ulice Swiata is described as having themed interior decorating but so-so food. We were seated in the Mexican themed area and I ordered some fish. I was quite impressed with the food actually until I got the bill. The fish alone cost more than three times what any other meal had cost me in Poland. I asked the waitress if there was some problem, but she just showed me that the menu price was for 100grams and I evidently got a "big fish." I agreed that it looked big, but the price was unreasonable, especially since nobody mentioned that this fish would cost as much as a night in a hotel. Eventually, we left what we thought was a "reasonable" amount of cash on the table and just walked out. Mom was worried that they would send the police after us, so we high-tailed it back to our bikes and headed out of town. The perfect get-away vehicle, eh?
In the afternoon, we had another cultural treat, we were just minding our business riding through the countryside, when we came to this hill covered by huge crosses. There were visitors driving in to see this place and possibly place their own crosses, so we stopped to have a look. There was a modest church on the grounds, but a massive visitors center was under construction. I suspect this will be in the guidebook in the future, but for now we could only guess at what was going on here. Behind the church we found a fountain with a statue of Mary. People were lined up to fill their bottles with this holy spring water, so I got in line too. Someone realized that I was only trying to fill a small bottle for cycling so they offered to let me go first. At first I thought they were criticizing my outfit or something, but it turns out that they were just good Christians. Whoever smiled on this place (Mary, I assume) must be proud.
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