Birgit with Flutterby or Fluby, Wankendorf, 26/3/2012
Birgit. That lady gave me pause and I had to take a break from the last post before I start on this enigma. A Mrs. Columbus on her blog, she was at once a mystery and yet an old friend. Her blog persona struck me as one extremely witty and bright. More importantly, I knew she must be kind because she loved bears and made them adorable. I also knew I had to meet her if I were to travel to Germany.
Birgit looking at presents, Wankendorf, 25/3/2012
Birgit up close, was one who woke up at 3 am on the morning of 25/3/2012 to make sure she was at the Neumunster train station to meet Ro and me because our train was scheduled to arrive at about 5 in the wee morning. Due to daylight saving, she was not sure whether the train would pull up at 4 or 5 so she waited an hour at the station in the wintry cold. Just so we would not be alone when we alighted at the station.
When we asked How do we recognise you? We don't know how you look like?, she told us to look for a lady wearing a wide grin on her face. That grin was easy to spot since there was only one other person at the station at that hour and he was a man.
Needless to say, she made me a bear and call him Singa P.Ore.
Needless to say, she made me a bear and call him Singa P.Ore.
Mama Silke at her kitchen window, Wankendorf 25/3/2012
And because she knew I love marzipan, she made sure there was a dish of the best marzipan chocolates in our room when we arrived, enough for our stay and then some, for me to bring home.
Unforgettable was the Sunday when Mama Silke baked this huge marzipan cake for tea. And it was she who quietly pointed out to us while we were at the table, the 2 blue birds that had found their garden. If Mother Earth is personified, I swear she will look just like Mama Silke.
Birgit and Fluby nosing, Wankendorf 26/3/2012
Unforgettable too was when Birgit showed us a Germany I didn't expect. An open air museum and acres upon acres of rural farm houses with flocks and flocks of birds over a clear blue sky. What more can I ask? And as if that is possible, there was more.
Most unforgettable- listening to Hey, Soul Sisters in Birgit's car while we drove through the most beautiful sunset strip I had ever seen after stopping at a most beautiful lake.
That 2 days with Birgit was like being in the Wonderful World of Disney. And like the perfect icing on a marzipan cake that last night at Wankendorf, I got a text message on my mobile asking me if I was ready for Poland tomorrow.
Ewa- main market square Krakow, 28/3/2012
Ewa, who must have been born between a Monday and a Tuesday for she is both fair of face and full of grace. I remember the 1st time I saw that face. It was a picture she had sent so I could recognise her at the crowded airport. I had thought she looked like a movie star.
Ewa at a flower shop, Gdynia,, 27/3/2012
It turned out that she is even more beautiful in person and in greater ways than I have expected. Yet, that beauty belies a diffidence that is almost vexing. You see, she doesn't know she's beautiful.
P'Nilli when I arrived, Gydnia, 26/3/2012
Ewa gave me her bed and bedroom, cooked me my 1st meal in Poland, a hearty and tasty Goulash and made me fall in love with Zurek. And just in case I still did not feel welcomed enough, she made her doll hold up a placard for me. How can I not be moved? I didn't even mind P'Nilli calling me Auntie although I think we are of the same age.
Me and Ewa @ lunch, main market square Krakow, 28/3/2012
Me and Ewa @ lunch, Gdansk, 27/3/2012
I don't know how 2 people who have never met can have so much to say to each other. From the moment Ewa and Papa Jacek picked me up at the Gdansk airport and in the cab ride to Gdynia, Ewa and I chatted and laughed without pausing, not even for air. And a good thing too that we hit it off immediately because we spent almost all our waking hours in the next 4 days in the company of one another.
Ewa, who made my dream trip to Krakow a reality. From visiting a dragon castle called Wawel, to staying at a convent with the nuns of the Ursuline Order, from experiencing Mariacki Blue to exploring the Wieliczka Salt Mine protected by UNESCO.
Papa Jacek cooking an incredible lunch just before we left for Krakow,27/3/2012
Those excursions paled however when compared to what was for me the most significant of what Ewa made possible. She made it possible for me to truly experience bigheartedness. To be embraced by her family like I was one of their own, to be indulged in so much giving and generosity, I was often loss for words. And finally, to feel a part of a tie so strong it didn't seem like they could ever lived apart (not even for just 2 days in Krakow) without talking or texting each other at least a few times a day.
Papa Jacek; now if Ewa is a Monday's Child, then he must be a Saturday's for he is full of loving and giving. He calls me Samantha even though Ewa told him it's Susan a few times. I think he knew that I have never really liked my name.
Unforgettable was the time he insisted Ewa show me that part of the bathroom wall where he stuck some paw prints on because he thought it would tickle me.
Most moving for me was how everyone, including Ewa's gentle and beautiful mother were packed into a cab to suffer the hour long journey to and from Gdansk just to see me off at the airport.
I am experiencing a little ache in my heart even as I typed, as if a part of it is missing. I think I must have left that little piece right there in their home.
Back in Spain,
Chicken Lunch at Eva's Terrace, 31/3/2012
And back to being spoiled by another loving family who went to great lengths to make my last 2 days no less memorable.
Eva made sure 31st of March was a big day for me, a day she planned for even before I left Singapore. This was the day I was to meet the other Spanish blogfriends.
Me showing MaLu Teresa's gifts, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012
Six of them arrived, promptly at 5, one or two after the other. And Teresa Martinez who could not make it, made sure her gifts were handed to me.
Ascension and me, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012
Firstly, Ascension who holds a special place in my heart because I know her the longest amongst the 6. She visited my blog so often and chatted with me so much, I felt we went through thick and thin together. If I ever learnt Spanish, I would have to credit her as my teacher for neither of us spoke the other's language.
Ascension, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012
From the moment she stepped through Eva's door, I could totally tell why we got along just by the way she dressed. This lady was clearly as eccentric as me. We both also share the same love for loud earrings. On her left ear, she wore the quintessential red and white toadstool, pretty but poisonous and on her right, a green gnome, both her creations. Crazy as they seem, I knew when she finally put them up for sale, they would be gone in 60 seconds.
Ascension is a gem and you don't need to meet her to know that. She is generous to a fault and will need an agent to manage her mini business fast because her gifts are too extravagant. Some of you may have already seen the overboard swap she did with me. Short of building her a house, I can never match what she did for me.
Maria Luisa (MaLu) pointing at the bowl of sweets from Ewa.
Next to her is her daughter, also Maria Luisa
Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012
MaLu too visited my blog all the time. Not only does she share the same name as her daughter, Maria Luisa, they share the same love for minis and even share the same blog. No one really knew who wrote which post sometime. Their bond and the love between them was clearly extraordinary. I think they had enjoyed so much love from each other that they were quick to shower others similarly. In the weeks running up to my European tour, MaLu sometime chatted with me through Facebook, telling me how much she looked forward to meeting me. I was drawn to her in no time.
Maria Luisa Jr was pregnant when we met. At the time of this post, baby POL was already born but not before MaLu gave me updates everytime she commented on a new post I made since I came back on whether POL has arrived or not. One and half hours after Pol Pol Poco came into this world, grandma MaLu already took a picture of him and emailed me.
Gina, Marta & Eva Fernandez, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012
2 of these friends I met for the 1st time.
The elegant Gina, amiable and charming , who sat in a corner for sometime quietly putting the finishing touches to the prettiest rag bears (Birgit, you will absolutely love it) so she could give each of us one.
And Marta who spoke rarely but when she did, she made so much sense that everyone listened. She was one of two of them who could speak and understand English, the other being Eva, and she helped interpret the excited chatter that went on so I would not feel left out.
Lastly, the effervescent Eva Fernandez who was so irresistibly lovable and warm and enthusiastic and spirited, she was decidedly the life of the party and made everything fun. She suggested I showed them how I rust plastic and while I did, oohed and aahed at the right places. And at one point, she made me take pictures with everyone as if we were at a wedding and I was the bride
Me & Eva Fernandez, Teressa, 31/3/2012
Me & Gina, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012
Me & Maria Luisa Jr with me feeling POL, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012
Me & MaLu, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012
Me & Marta Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012
Me & Ascension, Eva's Terrace, Teressa, 31/3/2012
How can I even begin to tell you this was what I had longed for for so long? Just to be able to finally meet these friends, who do not speak your language, who struggle to read your posts (especially my long, long ones) with lousy translation and then still try to tell you how great and wonderful you are. Just to be able to give them un abrazo and beso, the real ones, I mean. Just to be able to say a thank you but in person. I think only fellow blog friends in the mini community can truly appreciate how such seemingly simple gestures can really mean so much.
There was one point when Eva actually hushed everyone and asked me if there was something I would like to say to them. All eyes turned to me expectantly, waiting for The Speech, I guess. Of all the things, I began by rambling about the packet of Polish candies that Ewa had passed to me specially for the Spanish girls during this meet. I started to tell them about how Ewa had prepared the sweets even before I was in Poland and how she knew about this meet because I had been emailing her about it since before I left Singapore and how I talked about it so much because this meeting had meant so much ..and then
horror of horrors, my eyes started to well and a lump came to my throat and tears started to fall and I never finished that sentence, not to mention The Speech. It really didn't matter because apart from Marta and Eva, I bet you no one else knew what the hell I was going on about. Maybe even Eva and Marta didn't see how a packet of sweets could make me cry. It was embarrassing to say the least.
When I came back to Singapore, I found out on some of the girls' blogs that Ewa's bowl of sweets had become the subject matter of a few photos. Maybe my little episode made them see those sweets in a different light? As for me, I could never look at those candies again without wanting to crawl into a hole.
On the 20th Day,
Me and Dali, Figueres, 1/4/2012
I finally met the man I have been crazy about, the one I will never stop being infatuated with, my unrequited love.
Unforgettable is that magic he built in Figueres and a dream come true that I got a chance to finally see and experience the vision of this genius and understand what greatness is all about.
Eva and I , Dali Theatre Museum in Figueres, 1/4/2012
Unforgettable was also that day when I held Eva's iPad in my hand, attempting to navigate the roads of Spain, from Barcelona To Figueres, Peratallada to Pubol while she drove; how we had to cross that shallow river , drove that narrow road and how when we returned, we met with the car that was on fire. And me urging Eva to drive away before the car explode only to be told by Alex when we got home that cars only explode like that in the movies.
That was you, Eva, making the 20th day happened for me.
Talking to Petra on the phone, Figueres, 1/4/2012
And then as if the 20 days refuse to go away quietly,the phone rang when I was having lunch with Eva at Figueres. The caller was Petra.
Petra is a blog friend living in Germany whom I share an unusual connection with. Like some kind of good friends, we don't talk regularly but when we do, we share deeply. Petra knew I was in Europe so she emailed me and gave me her number so we could finally talk for real in the same time zone.
It was so good to finally put a voice to that name and like the promise of a sequel to a great movie, we made a pact for the next time. That is when we will meet, Petra and I so I can put a face to that voice.
One last thing I want to say before I pen off (of course it is already almost 2 am). Of all the photographs I have taken, I am most proud of the ones I have taken of my friends here. I didn't edit the photographs beyond converting them to greytones and cropping. I hope you see what I see in these photos; their unadulterated beauty.