hidden europe 2

Polish mornings

by Nicky Gardner


In August 2002 at Kalwaria and in April 2005 at Cybinka: two Polish moments with papal connections.

Daylight comes slowly to the folded valleys in this part of southern Poland. Muted shades of grey eclipse black on the high ridges, but the sun has yet to make its morning dance with the mists of dawn. But already the country roads are full of people. From the village of Wozniki down in the valley, across the hill from Wysoka, and along the main road from the Pope's birthplace at nearby Wadowice. There are few cars on the roads to Kalwaria.

Families tread the trail towards the holy hill. Here a nun walking alone, there a troop of boy scouts in uniform, and now a group of young women in their early twenties, two of them carrying babies who sleep the pilgrim path. By the time the morning mist carries that pale yellow hue that hints of coming sun, the reverent lines have converged on the hill of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. The rough paths and wooded lanes that climb to the monastery are full of silent walkers. Only the breathless puffs of an older couple break the calm, and an unshaven young man standing at his cottage door offers the couple some black tea. Even the roadside traders conduct in silence their business of selling devotional trinkets.

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