On a bitter Warsaw morning the mob decamps, us by tram, the rest on bikes, to catch the Berlin train. We sit with the bikes, and are visited by twins driving tractors, getting in the way of the tea trolley, resenting the fact that the aisle does not belong to them.
The train only stops a few times. At Kutno (I think) I can’t resist the guard in natty cap and steal his image.
At Świebodzin we all get off, two kids, two bikes, three generations. Our lift is waiting with a car and a bit of English. He takes us via the Great White Jesus, tallest statue of Christ in the world, brainchild of a local megalomaniac priest. Tells us that Świebodzin was a German town before the war. Heads off on narrow roads into the country, which turn to cobblestones through villages built of brick. Stops and points up – a stork nesting on top of a pole.
We reach the maze of roads around Gryżyna, and then our house – steep thatched roof, and walls of pine logs.
We settle in, poke round and wait for the cyclists.
Our first excursion is down to the lake. Somehow there’s a myth afoot that a two kilometre walk is beyond my capacity, so I queen it in a car while everyone else free wheels on bikes. The area round the lake is an old communist era holiday camp, but it’s had a revamp since I was here last: the jetty replaced; a conference space where once there was a rough bar; new playground equipment; a restaurant of white and stainless steel, although it still operates like the communist era milk bars. Panels advertise the possibilities: meditation, forest walks, cross country skiing, swimming, fishing. I wander round remembering much smaller twins, until they arrive, perched behind mummy and dziadek.
Jaś and Maja head for the water, reaching down to roll up trousers as they go. They paddle, build droozle castles, dig holes, just as they did on my beach at home. They watch a snake with a yellow face-stripe swim across the water into the reeds, head held up above the ripples.
Then it’s time for lunch, and choosing ice creams.
That night we answer the village headman’s call and go to help plant sixty trees in the village park.
This communal land was once in the grounds of a German hunting lodge. On my first visit I was at another community gathering, that time to unearth the stone steps leading down from the villa. In the middle of the planting are the remnants of a concrete fountain, also part of the villa: tonight a fire pit.
Many of my daughter’s friends congregate at Gryżyna for a long weekend – a combination of Mayday and Constitution Day holidays – so there’s a lot of socialising, including going to ride the horses on the property next door to our house. The pony for the twins chomped sunflowers and let them pat him as he wrinkled his nose and grazed. I had a rare snuggle with both twins at once because a dog decided my lap was the place to be, and where there’s a dog there’s twin interest.
Back at our house, Maja and Jaś spend a lot of time climbing in the playground; or building with the pile of firewood (no red-backs or brown snakes to worry about here: a trail of very busy ants in the middle of the playground rushing backwards and forwards to their nest they cause no trouble); or inventing games such as Garlic Crasher, which involves them hurtling down the slippery dip while I sit at the bottom collecting bruises; or crouching over a variety of insects watching them intently; or becoming photographers, complete with appropriate body language, using a vaguely camera-like toy.
Unfortunately the holiday ends, after five deliciously sunny days.
It’s becoming a bit of a tradition heading off to Gryżyna for a holiday. This is my third visit. If you want to see more of forest, lake and twins in western Poland, have a look at these posts about past visits: