Thursday, June 19, 2014

Church pilgrimage, fortress, and boat ride ~ Thursday, June 19, 2014

We woke up to Corpus Christi day – a Catholic occasion for honoring the body of Jesus – and so of course we had to go to the nearby pilgrimage site called Swieta Lipka and learn about the local traditions.  There were hundreds of people who came, and several masses scheduled throughout the day, with overflow crowds outside the church each time. 

The baroque Cathedral was awe inspiring, a true religious marvel depicting the devotion of its faithful in physical form.  Its walls were illuminated by a wide range of color, and adorned with intricate architectural designs.  One inside wall included elaborately positioned angels with trumpets that moved in time with the notes of the Cathedral organist (see video tab). 

The service was more musical and engaging than the one we’d seen in Warsaw.  Altar boys led a procession into the church with priests holding silver containers containing smoking incense.  The lovely voices of the choir resonated through the high-arched interior, and the priest chanted melodically.  Again, the sermon and prayers were entirely in Polish.  Then the entire group of clergy, choir, and altar boys, followed by the congregation, formed a procession that wound around the front of the church into the town. 

At several stopping points, the priest enacted a ritual that used holy water and tree branches, and after he moved on to the next site, people took the little branches and moved on.  

We, too, eventually moved on to a restaurant adjacent to the town square.  We are getting quite expert at de-coding Polish menus, however some of us are still surprised by what the waitress brings! 

This is how horror movies start.
We spent the afternoon in a 19th century fortress in Gizycko which had been built by an earlier Prussian king and named after his Minister of War, von Boyen.  The fortress was also used in World War I and II and is still intact.  There were other tourists there, and one stranger took the opportunity to photo-bomb Krystle as she posed next to a tunnel. 

The unique aspect of the fortress design is that it is placed between the two lakes next to Gizycko and it is shaped like a 7-pointed star; if the intruders penetrated to the center of the fortress, they would be completely surrounded by defenders at the points of the star.  The perimeter walls are actually reinforced by man-made hills.  It seems impossible to penetrate, and yet Prussia/Germany continually lost battles there.  We enjoyed walking on the paths, hiking through the dense trees along the edge, and exploring the empty buildings. 

First group's route 

Despite being in the fortress, we lacked military discipline and soon unintentionally split into three separate groups that lost each other.  One group ended up in the low fortress center trying to find a way back up, while the second group – trying to find the third group – went the opposite direction and meandered through dark tunnels in search of a path to the light.  The third group possessed the only map and easily reached the exit and spent some time wondering what happened to the others. 

Afterwards, we went for a relaxing boat ride on the Gizycko lakes and canal.  The boat had a large upper deck with rows of benches, tables, and a snack bar.  We watched sailboats, fishermen, and kids waving from the shore.  Some of us slept while others talked non-stop.  After landing, we again split into smaller groups in search of food and other entertainment. 

Calm waters 

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