Monday, 1 October 2007


I couldn't possibly give you a full description of the wedding I attended on Saturday. I wouldn't do it justice. The bride looked utterly exquisite and the ceremony was lovely. *

But we all know that what I do best is recounting tales of misinterpretation and malcoordination.

Fortunately, at a Polish/American vodka-soaked wedding feast there was plenty of the above.

On Saturday morning, I found myself travelling to the nuptials sprawled across an osobowy local train with a group of other guests in the form of several strapping great former US marines.

Having recently got the camera back, I tried my hand at a few arty shots of the fields from the train window (I was enjoying the 1950s-style of the carriage. Although retro had nothing to do with it: most local trains actually do pre-date Solidarity). During the one and a half hour ride I and a friend from the language school took the opportunity to practice with a phrasebook, much to the poorly-suppressed hilarity of the Polish girl sitting next to us (eventually she ended up diving in and correcting us. They just can't help themselves).
Please note that the train ride there took an hour and a half. The ride home the day after took Several Weeks.

Once arrived in the city I kept working the camera skills. It was a beautiful day, and I have some fantastic pictures of: the scaffolding on the cathedral roof; some tables with empty glasses on; the happy couple with people standing in front of them; the best man's back; the groom's family with the sun in their eyes and (my personal favourite) the church aisle carpet with a corner of the bride's train just leaving the frame.

If you're thinking of getting hitched, don't hire me**.

As well as being great at correcting grammar, Poles know how to throw a party. Me and language-school girl were very excited to be cultural observers and resolved to throw ourselves into food, drink and Practising with Real Polish People. I was sitting next to a francophone Pole, so there was a fair bit of franglais to go with the polglais. We gave Polish our best shot, in spite of having only half finished the locative case ('on, in and about', but only in regular conjugations).

A wedding party here involves at least three hot meals in a row. But don't worry. In between courses (and vodka toasts) you get to work off the calories with some energetic folk dancing and musical games. The best dance by far involved handkerchiefs, kneeling on the floor and kissing. This is much easier (and your dancing skills are much improved) once the empty vodka bottles at either end of your table have been replaced a couple of times.
There was also a complicated game involving the guy who catches- and has to wear- the bow tie (in this case one of the Marines, who had by this point removed his dress shirt: the groom's aunt observed that it had been a long time since she'd seen a Chippendale) and the girl who catches the bouquet. Fortunately my hand-eye coordination or lack thereof should ensure that I stay safely single for a while yet...
Afterwards we staggered off the dance floor for a nice hot bowl of barszcz czerwony and a cabbage roll, only to find that the Americans had moved in on our table and were interrogating our Polish neighbours.
- So the girls spoke Polish to you?
- yes
- were they any good?
There was a long pause. The guy tried hard- bless him- to look encouraging, but didn't quite manage it.

Needless to say, after a stressful week in repairs, my camera battery had sputtered out shortly after the first bowl of rosół. I left it for dead and decided it was time to embrace local culture of the clear, spiritual variety.
By the time I limped upstairs to bed, a good ninety per cent of the total presence on the dance floor was American. I was surprised and disappointed by the poor show put on by the Poles- allowing yourselves to be beaten by a group of Anglo Saxons.

Next morning I made it to breakfast but was unable to swallow any of the black tea that was handed to me and could only watch queasily as language-school girl (who must weigh in at seven stone max) tucked into bread, cheese, ham and chocolate cookies before heading off to the early train. I dragged my sorry carcass back upstairs, following the sound of American voices to a door at the end of the third-floor landing. With some effort, I pushed it open.
On the other side, six or seven ex-Marines in their underpants were sprawled across the leather sofas in the bridal suite (the bride had long since escaped to her parents' house). There was a full bottle of Johnnie Walker black label on the coffee table. I made for the spare seat on one of the sofas, but hesitated just a fatal second too long by the bathroom door.
- Oh you wanna puke? Go right ahead.
Gratefully I made a dive for the bowl.
As I emerged, another underclad American entered, picked up the bottle, took a long swig and left without a word.
The bathroom beckoned again.

In spite of the carnage the next morning, it was a bloody fantastic wedding, and I'm now gently trying to nudge all my friends into marrying Poles so I can go to another. My brother is coming to visit next month: maybe I can set him up with a nice Polish girl...

*In fact, the ceremony was conducted in two languages: Polish for the traditional bits and English for the important (i.e. legally-binding) bits, although there was speculation as to whether the bride had slipped any sub-clauses into her (Polish) vows...

**(although after 50cl of Bordeaux I can render a cracking speech in French: 'noooonnnn, je ne regrette rieeeennnnnn....' etc.).


justyna said...

Congratulations on surviving your first Slav wedding!

Becca said...

I totally agree. As a girl who has attended 5 international weddings this year, two of which were Polish, I can wholeheartedly confirm Polish weddings are the best. It's the vodka. And the games. Well, clearly the combination of vodka and games really.
In answer to your question, the added bits on the blog have to be put into the template - I actually did most of it a while back, and have forgotten the details, but as far as I remember, there's a lot of useful info you can get through good old google. click on things on other blogs too, and they generally take you back to the page that blogger got it from. hope that helps - good luck!