3.5 months on the road now, and since Hungary (about 5 weeks) we have spent almost all nights at campsites. Almost never were there more than 4 guests, regularly we were alone or with one other couple of guests. “How do those camping owners manage?” we asked ourselves again and again. We sometimes heard complaints about energy costs, but it seemed like no one was surprised by the number of guests. Last week in Jankowice, the owner of the canoe-campsite told us that the season would start next Thursday. “Thursday, June 8?” “Yes, that’s a bank holiday in Poland. And then everyone has a four-day weekend off.” That sounds like Ascension in the Netherlands but weeks later. The Polish Catholic Church doesn’t have its own calendar like the Orthodox Church, does it? So we googled. June 8th is Sacrament Day, which also marks the end of the period when first communions take place in Poland. First communions here last a whole week (hence why we saw those children walking to church with their parents on weekday evenings) and are celebrated in May/June – to allow enough capacity for all the children – to be concluded on Sacrament Day. Interesting!
Sacrament Day in the Netherlands and many other countries is merged with the next Sunday mass, the Poles stick with the official date: the second Thursday after Pentecost.
Konrad, whom we met at the campsite in Dlugie Parcele on Wednesday 7 June, told us more. We had noticed that day that all crosses and holy statues (there is at least one on almost every crossing) had fresh ribbons and banners in white/blue (of the Vatican), white/yellow (of the church) and white/red (the Polish flag). The churches were also decorated with banners.
“Yes,” Konrad said, “and tomorrow there will also be little altars everywhere. Each village will have a prosession along (preferably) 12 small altars”. “Oh wow, so we are going to encounter that.” “Definitely.”
And so it happened. Thursday morning, the streets were dead quiet. Quieter than on a normal Sunday. Fine, we thought, as we searched for traces of prosessions. We had already spotted an empty altar with prayer bench in front of it that we forgot to photograph, but nothing else special. Until a little after 10.30am we saw the first stampede around a church. Something was clearly going on inside, but groups of people were also praying everywhere outside. It sounded a bit like a rosary. Across the street, a small altar with a bunch of men standing around. The fire brigade we soon understood. And from then until around noon, every village was abuzz. Sometimes in a big procession behind a priest dressed in gold.
Another special ritual unknown to us. And oh yes, indeed the campsites on Wednesday, Thursday and the weekend were clearly more crowded – but not overcrowded – but Sunday evening in Grudziadz we again found ourselves with 2 tents on a site that was meticulously raked by 5 men in the morning. And last night we were the only guests at the lake near Kwidzin. So the question remains when the season start here? We probably won’t find out from our own experience, because today we cycled to Gdansk where we have an Airbnb for 2 nights. On Thursday we will take the boat to Sweden!
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